Now on Digital Politics Radio: Data Integration, Privacy, SXSW and How Wearable Tech Might Scare the Kids

Hi folks, I’m now officially a Contributing Editor to Karen Jagoda’s long-running Digital Politics Radio, meaning that I’ll be on the show at least monthly moving forward. So get yourself some good headphones and crank up the hifi, ’cause we’re going full-on audio here at

The first fruits of this relationship? On Wednesday, DPR host Karen Jagoda and I talked about South by Southwest, wearable tech, the “paradox of privacy,” data integration and other sexy topics that you won’t know about unless you click this link right here and give us a listen. Check it out! And look for more broadcasts — perhaps including interviews with fascinating folks in the community — in the months to come.


Add comment March 21st, 2014 Trackback

Can Google Glass Bring Wearable Tech To Politics?

Beware the Borg...

Beware the Borg…

The topic of Google Glass and other wearable tech was hot at South by Southwest Interactive this year…not that I saw more than one or two people actually USING Google’s information-displaying, photo-taking “glasses” in the crowd. But NPR’s Don Gonyea is looking ahead to a time when technology at least similar to Google Glass could become a political tool, and he’s found at least one potential innovator already:

But at this month’s Conservative Political Action Conference I encountered something I’d not seen before: an activist working the bustling hallways wearing Google Glass.

“I’m trying to figure out ways activists can use it in the field,” says Peter Ildefonso, a 25-year-old Republican and software developer from Severna Park, Md.

Ildefonso works for the nonprofit Leadership Institute, which trains young conservatives. In a webinar, two members of their team discuss Google Glass and its uses as a tool to capture video of the opposition at public events and rallies. They cite its advantages over a cellphone camera and its ability to capture more footage while moving around more freely, “without being as obvious.”

Recording video for opposition research is a useful task, but being slightly less obvious by performing it with Google Glass is hardly revolutionary. Gonyea also talks with Betsy Hoover (270 Strategies) and friend-of-Epolitics Danield Kreiss, who bring up wearable tech’s potential to improve field organizing and grassroots outreach (at SXSW, field was the primary potential application I considered as well).

But as Kreiss points out, we still don’t know if Google Glass will end up on everyone’s face or not — it could still fall completely flat. And if remains a niche product, using wearable tech for field organizing is likely to break a fundamental rule of politics: don’t weird people out. I.e., even at tech-heavy SXSW I heard people talking about feeling uncomfortable around someone wearing Google Glass because they weren’t sure if they were being photographed or not. Can you imagine how a voter might feel if when a volunteer shows up on the doorstep doing his or her best impression of a Borg soldier?

Google Glass MIGHT take off behind the scenes, though: what if a data visualization overlay could help field organizers cut turf and monitor teams’ locations? But tablets and laptops are pretty efficient at tasks like this now, and cell phone apps are already putting powerful tools (like NGPVAN’s MiniVAN) in grassroots volunteers’ hands. I’d argue that the potential for wearable tech to make a difference in politics is there, but it’s still far from obvious or inevitable — and for any kind of voter-facing use, it will depend on how widely Google Glass seeps into the general public because of that “weird” factor. Let’s see how this one shakes out.


Add comment March 19th, 2014 Trackback

How to Use Social Media to Build Your Email List, For Campaigns and Non-Profits

More from our friend Laura Packard with PowerThru Consulting! Learn the latest about the always-popular topic of list-building via social media in the article below, and be sure to check out her past articles. This piece first appeared on the PowerThru Consulting blog.

How to Use Social Media to Build Your Email List, For Campaigns and Non-Profits

By Laura Packard

Social media for list building

It’s been a couple years since my version 2.0 post about list-building via social media, and now there are so many cool tools out there (plus updates in how Facebook and Twitter work) that it’s time for an update! Here’s the very latest scoop on how you can use social media to build your email list, for both non-profits and political campaigns.

First of all, why do this? If people prefer to get your content on social media, why try so hard to get their email address? Two reasons – reach and control.

Three quarters of adults are connected to one or more social media platforms (via Pew). Facebook is the behemoth, with all other sites clocking in at fractions of their base. But as per usual, none of these stats guarantee that users check the sites every day, or even that they will see your content if you post it right before they log on.


Add comment March 19th, 2014 Trackback

Top Ten Progressive Advocacy Facebook Posts (3/10 to 3/17/2014)

Posted from the airport in Austin, on the way back from SXSW: check out last week’s top 10 over-performing Facebook posts, from the (roughly) 400 progressive groups followed by our friends at CrowdTangle. Of note this week: my dad’s old union (IBEW) makes the list, along with a scary fire video.

1. Moms Clean Air Force (199.6x)



Add comment March 17th, 2014 Trackback

Greetings from South by Southwest!

Hi folks, I’ve been at the SXSW Interactive Festival/Conference since Friday — hell of a time. I’ve been going to plenty of great panels (plus a couple of dogs…c’mon, people!) on the intersection of tech and politics/advocacy, but other fun topics have been on the menu as well. Government and Augmented Reality, anyone?

But of course, the best part of any event like this is meeting and talking with so many bright, interesting and motivated people — it’s a huge boost to the brain, and I’ll be walking out full of inspiration.

SXSW Interactive ends tonight; after that, I’ll plunge into four days of SXSW Music (4000 bands! 50-odd venues!). Look for an article or two inspired by Interactive panels and conversations to appear in the next few days, but not too many — I’ve got business that involves amplifiers, and I’m not one to shirk my duties. Next year? I bet you might just see me here again…SXSW has changed enormously since the first time I went in 2003, but it’s still a unique environment and a wonderful community. Check it out sometime if you can.


Add comment March 11th, 2014 Trackback

Big Data in Politics: How Did We Get Here & Where Are We Going? [Presentation]

On Thursday I had the pleasure of sharing a stage with Chris Wegrzyk (Blue Labs), Bruce Willsie (Labels & Lists) and Matt McMillan (Buzzmaker) at the 2014 Victory Awards Conference (you might remember that last year won a Victory Award at this Spanish-language conference as Best Blog in a language other than Spanish). Our topic? How Big Data is transforming politics — good stuff.

We had a great conversation, and as promised, I’m posting my slides from an introductory presentation below. How has big data played in politics? Where does it apply? What are its limitations? If you have questions about any topic in the presentation, feel free to drop me a note — I’m happy to chat.


Add comment March 8th, 2014 Trackback

How Upworthy Won the Internet, and What You Can Learn From Their Adventures

Content aggregrator is one of the few websites that’s clearly changed the way the internet does business. How? Through a ruthless process of testing, they discovered the power of those teasy, clever headlines that absolutely make you want to click them…and which were promptly copied by every online publisher alive. Unfortunately, most of those publishers did NOT share Upworthy’s focus on quality content with a progressive slant, meaning that most of the copycat headlines pointed to articles that thoroughly disasppointed. But at least the headlines worked! (for a while…).

The folks at Marketo have put together a nice infographic explaining how Upworthy did it and what you can learn from them: the absolute keys are testing and being open to change. As Upworthy’s Adam Mordecai put it in a listserv discussion about this infographic, “we’ve been testing lots more descriptive headlines and they are working. (and in fact, if you tested one of our old headlines now, I imagine it would test poorly. That’s why we always test, because people grow weary of a specific style over time.) So while some copycats may poach our style from 2012, I assure you we aren’t in the business of pushing meaningless content.”

Check out the infographic below. I guarantee it will change your life forever.


Add comment March 6th, 2014 Trackback

Top Ten Progressive Advocacy Facebook Posts (2/24 to 3/3/2014)

Back after technical difficulties! Check out last week’s top 10 over-performing Facebook posts, from the (roughly) 400 progressive groups followed by our friends at CrowdTangle. Of note this week: leaf slugs. Trust me.

1. Energy Action Coalition (129.1x)



Add comment March 4th, 2014 Trackback

Obama Releases 2012 Data/Tech to 2014 Campaigns: What are the Implications?

The big news in the domestic political campaign world late last week was the announcement that the 2012 Obama campaign’s trove of data and technology would be released for use by other Democrats in 2014. For details, check out Kate Kaye’s excellent coverage in Ad Age, which also explores the implications for the data market on the Democratic side (plus, I got a few quotes in the piece — thanks Kate!). I wrote it up over the weekend for the next C&E magazine TechBytes column, but that won’t be public for another few weeks. Let’s think through some of the implications:

  • Obviously, this has the potential to affect the dynamics of individual races in significant ways this fall. If Democrats can target outreach as effectively as Obama did in 2012 (and note that Democrats in Virginia claimed BETTER targeting in 2013 in part because of data and experience accumulated in the state the year before), they can offset at least some of the Republican financial advantage in the fall. More bang for your buck = effectively, more bucks.
  • It’s likely that Dems will find it easier to roll out data access before the fall than to introduce major new software and technology, because of the learning curve and the need for training. As I’ve written about previously in TechBytes, though, Democrats already had a solid plan in place to give House and Senate candidates a comprehensive set of data-driven tools for voter outreach, and much of the Obama 2012 tech legacy was already slated for transfer.


Add comment March 3rd, 2014 Trackback

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