Congrats to SalsaLabs and EngageDC! Both were featured in top social media site Mashable.com last night, in an article called 2012 Election: 3 Digital Platforms Poised to Change the Conversation, by Maegan Carberry. It’s always fascinating to see what organizing tools stand out to people who aren’t embedded in the political realm day-to-day, and besides these two, Carberry also picked up on the political organizing site Ruck.us. Let’s look at each in turn:
Multiply comes from EngageDC, the firm led by veteran Republican online political pros Patrick Ruffini and Mindy Finn. It’s based around the idea of applying gaming concepts to political actions in social online spaces, basically rewarding people with points, prizes and recognition for taking action. It’s a model that’s worked well for FourSquare, which gives people Badges and Mayorships for “checking in” at various physical locations, and I’m curious to see if it takes off as a political mobilizer. My guess is that the points system will be icing on the cake for most activists, since people who are driven to help a political campaign are likely to do it for the internal reward of Doing The Right Thing and Supporting Their Team. But even if all Multiply does is push additional engagement at the margins, every bit helps a campaign. We’ll see!
I’m glad Mashable included Salsa, both because I think CRM databases are crucial campaign technology AND because I’m a big fan of the folks at SalsaLabs — I’ve used the platform for several clients over the years. It’s funny, though, that Carbarry considers Salsa a “new thing” for 2012, since political organizers were already using it well before 2008. And, Salsa in its DLCCWeb incarnation signed up hundreds of Democratic campaigns in the 2010 cycle, a year in which Dems got creamed despite any technological advantages they possessed (i.e., even a good CRM won’t help if you’re swamped by a wave election). But Salsa’s up for a major technology revamp, so perhaps the 2012 edition will represent a big change after all.
In any case, considering Mashable’s social media bias, I’m surprised the article didn’t mention on NationBuilder as well, since it has a robust Facebook and Twitter integration that I haven’t heard of anyone else deploying yet. Plus, it’s open to both Republican AND Democratic campaigns.
Co-founder and chief strategy officer Raymond Glendening says Ruck.us allows users to work directly on the issues they care about with like-minded individuals, whether they are liberal or conservative. Visitors to the site are prompted to respond to user-generated questions (yes, based on the OK Cupid! system) about their positions on a variety of issues. Subsequently they are placed in a “ruck” where they can communicate, organize and take action with others who share their views.
“You don’t have to be a slave to partisan labels,” Glendening says. “It’s crazy that with the growth of technology we still only have two choices for politics. It’s unnecessary to have to settle for black and white options. If we can change the culture of how people communicate and make this an extra outside-the-party thing, political discourse will get better.”
Well…here’s the thing. The world doesn’t lack for websites that bring people together to work on issues, and most of the new ones that come along fail to build the critical mass of users they need. Even Jumo, which had Facebook co-founder (and Obama campaign veteran) Chris Hughes behind it, eventually cratered. And bringing together Left and Right? There’s a REASON they typically don’t mix online — people seek out others who are like-minded ideologically, just as they typically seek out information that reinforces their existing opinions. One of the earliest articles on Epolitics.com looked at HotSoup, a site that was going to bring together Left and Right, had big names behind it, and lasted about as long as you’d expect (i.e., not very). Ruck.Us has a big job ahead of it if it doesn’t want to join the long list of failed sites that set out to cater to the mushy middle.