Just confirmed! I’m very excited to be speaking at the Organizing 2.0 conference, a “Training in Online Skills for Labor and Social Justice Activists,” held in NYC on Sunday, February 13th. Last year’s event was terrific, and this time around I’m looking forward to learning a ton and meeting some great folks committed to making the world a better place.
At the December, 2009 edition, Charles Lenchner and I had a great conversation about applying the lessons of the ’08 Obama campaign to local political campaigns and issue advocacy efforts, and it lives on still through the magic of online video. Check it out below:
And finally, the oft-promised Online Politics 101 rewrite is just a few short hours away from completion — the content is complete with the publication of yesterday’s Twitter chapter, and all that’s left is to pull the various pieces together into the final PDF package. Woo hoo! Get ready to spread the word….
Twitter is the newest significant weapon in the online politics arsenal: while it was a very limited arena as recently as the 2008 elections (Barack Obama had all of 50,000 followers by Election Day!), it’s exploded in popularity since. Though the two sites are often lumped together in the popular mind, Twitter isn’t quite a mass medium in the same way Facebook has become — it’s more of a channel to reach the “network influentials,” since it’s particularly popular with bloggers, journalists and activists. In fact, a very high percentage of Twitter profiles people create are abandoned within months, making it a tool with more of a specialized following.
From five entries to eight — that’s how much the Simple Rules section has changed as the Online Politics 101 rewrite has progressed. Here’s the (final?) new rule, added today, which takes its place along two other new colleagues:
Look at Every Channel, But Go Where Your Audience Is
Once you’ve identified the audiences your message needs to reach, get out in front of them. If you’re trying to reach opinion leaders, journalists and other “network influentials”, you’re likely to focus on connecting via Twitter or (if possible) back-channel email discussions. But if you’re aiming directly at the general public, you’re likely to end up using Facebook outreach, YouTube videos and Google advertising to catch people where they spend their time online. If dedicated activists are your chosen targets, you may need to look at political blogs and Twitter, since these are havens for the political class — likewise for other niche audiences, for instance targeting the “mommy blogosphere” to reach women who are parents. The trick is to figure out whom you’re trying to reach and where they gather, and then to use those channels to persuade and recruit them.
Otherwise, the new Online Politics 101 is just about wrapped up — the website itself is updated and ready for the promotional blitz (note the new social media buttons below and to the right, for instance). The goal is to launch the new version on the morning of Monday, January 31, which as I write this is tomorrow! Wish me luck.
Hear that rustling and rumbling in the background? That’s the sound of thousands of activists, journalists, bloggers and advocacy groups getting ready to spin tonight’s State of the Union address as it happens, live and online. The “traditional” (broadcast-era) way to respond to the speech was quite limited — a few talking heads and politicos would take to the airwaves, while advocates would spew out press releases and statements in the hopes of ending up in the next day’s coverage of the affair.
Nowadays, we get to join in DURING the speech, and the fun isn’t constrained to the handful of people with access to a television camera or a reporter’s notebook — Twitter, Facebook and blogs will play host to an extended conversation involving thousands of us scattered across the country. The goal? To get noticed, of course, but also to influence the discussion as it occurs, and ultimately to color the final political conventional wisdom about the Meaning Of The Night.
As you might guess from the previous post, the Online Politics 101 rewrite is nearing its end. Whoo hoo! Twenty of the chapters are now updated and online, with two more to go: I still need to rewrite the section on social networks (Facebook, anyone?) and finish up an entirely new chapter on The Twitter. Almost there…we just need to stay on target for another day.
Whew, that was a long slog, wasn’t it? But after 20+ chapters, now YOU have the potential to be a master of online political communications, and if you’re lucky (and good), you might just get to spark changes that’ll affect millions of lives. Pretty cool, eh?
Of course, this version of Online Politics 101 (the fourth edition) was obsolete about five minutes after I finished the last draft, since someone in a basement or garage is already creating tools that’ll change the ways we do online politics forever. Great! We’ll have plenty to learn from (and plenty to write about) in the years to come, so keep coming back to Epolitics.com to learn the latest. And if you do something interesting online or if you see something that others might learn from, considering writing your own chapter in the digital politics saga — an Epolitics.com guest article is a great place to start.
But whether or not you want to contribute in public, always feel free to write in with questions, observations and corrections, since this document is far from perfect or even complete. But I hope you think it’s a good start, and I hope you’ve enjoyed and learned from the time you spent with it. Onward, through the fog.
As I’m wrapping the epic saga that is the Online Politics 101 rewrite, it’s been fascinating to note the changes we’ve seen over the past couple of years of internet activism and advocacy. One factor? The rise of entirely new platforms to spread ideas and find followers, particularly in the advertising space. Online video ads are something I think we’re definitely going to see more of, particularly on sites like Hulu that broadcast shows that first air on television, and conveniently enough, Karen Jagoda‘s Digital Politics Show today will focus on this very topic. Give it a listen:
The theme of the show this week is how candidates and advocacy campaigns are using online video advertising, what has motivated media strategists to start using more online video ads and which campaigns have used it successfully.
My first guest today is Anupam Gupta, president & CEO, Mixpo and in the second half Brian Rauschenbach, Chief Marketing Officer, Add Three.
The Digital Politics Radio show on Tuesday January 18 will be webcast live on wsRadio.com from 12-1 pm PACIFIC/3-4 EASTERN. If you miss the live show, the podcast will be posted by Thursday morning on Digital Politics Radio where you can find show archives from this week as well as previous shows.
And for that OP101 rewrite? Look for it dangerously soon…
In the political world, it’s easy to demonize the other side. Those bastards want to abolish the social safety net! Those freaks want to let men marry men! We often forget that, in most cases, the freaks and bastards aren’t being evil but instead sincerely believe that they’re working to make the world a better place.
If you’re involved in politics, regardless of which side you’re on, you likely started doing it because you wanted to advance some noble goal. Of course there are sleazoids out there, and of course humans are very good at rationalizing actions whose results will be bad for the rest of us, but I honestly believe that the majority of people in the political world are acting out of a reasonably sincere desire to improve things. Very few of us are villains in our own stories or our own minds.
With that reminder, let’s take a second to look at one of those moments when a person and his words really did change the world, when someone did succeed in making lives easier and prospects brighter, when someone did help make this often-ugly political process yield to a higher cause. On MLK Day, take a few minutes to watch, to listen and to dream of futures better.
Whew, this whole writing-on-the-side-while-you-have-a-new-day-job thing is a bit overwhelming, but the much-needed Online Politics 101 rewrite is moving along steadily. In the process, I’m also working on a piece that’ll look at the major changes in the world of digital politics since the LAST time I updated that little critter, waaaaay on back in the summer of 2008. Let’s see if we can put that upcoming long weekend to good use…in between pressing social engagements involving tasty beverages and the Ladies, of course. Damn the torpedoes — full speed ahead!
When people talk about the promise of social media, they often praise tools like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter for their ability to connect people, to remove barriers, to let us tell our own stories unfiltered and unmediated — to show us as we are. Yet Sarah Palin’s reliance this week on technologies like these shows us an ironic truth: making each of us our own broadcaster doesn’t necessarily make us more open, accessible or responsive to the outside world.
Jonathan Capehart nailed it today when he said that Palin had “emerged from the protective cloak of Twitter and e-mails to Glenn Beck to speak directly to the American people” and answer the criticism that has come her way since this weekend’s shooting in Arizona. A social media channel as a shield from prying eyes rather than the modern incarnation of the panopticon? Not a portrayal we commonly hear of Web 2.0 (its potential to allow “oversharing” is a far more common critique), but one that can be just as accurate, particularly when we’re talking about public figures.
Back in that distant, unwired summer of 1991, I was a wide-eyed recent college grad starting a brand-new job as a staffer for a member of the Texas Legislature. One of my first assignments? To prepare a detailed analysis of a recently passed, 100+ page government ethics bill for my boss, who surely already knew it in detail already but who wanted to make sure that I did, too.
Texas legislative ethics had an oxymoronic reputation back then, and within 18 months we would lose our fourth House Speaker in a row (the Honorable Gib Lewis) for playing fast and loose with the lobby. That ethics bill I analyzed was designed to stop such exciting habits as the handing out of campaign contribution checks on the Senate floor during a vote, but it also reaffirmed a long-standing ban on direct corporate and union money in Texas politics. That was a rule folks took seriously, and it was the one that ultimately guaranteed The Hammer a spell in a Texas slammer.
Knowing that you’re right isn’t the same as showing that you’re right
The internet is filled with people who think they’re right; for a taste, look at the comments on a popular political story on any news website. But unless you just want to vent your spleen in public, or you happen to have a cable news channel handy in your pocket, certainty alone isn’t enough — most of us in the political space will need to convince other people to join in on the fun.
In most cases, then, politics comes down to persuasion. And unless you can resort to force (“vote for this bill OR ELSE”), you’ll need to find ways to connect with people and bring them around. Sometimes that will involve appeals to logic or to facts (data presented in visual form can be a powerful persuasive tool), but at least as often activists use emotion to sway opinions. Another consideration: sometimes you’ll need to persuade a mass audience, but in many cases your target may be a single legislator, regulator or opinion leader. Fortunately, the internet can deliver all of these kinds of messages to just about any target — your mission is to match the available tools with your particular needs and resources.
Once the “knowing” vs. “showing” formulation popped into my head it seemed completely obvious, but as far as I can tell no one’s written down this idea in quite this way before (at least according to Google, the concept hasn’t previously appeared online). So, I’m laying claim to the idea…mine! mine! mine! But you get to use it at will — just cite e.politics when you do.