Last-Minute Gifts for the Political Junkie, Communicator or Advocate on YOUR List

Christmas is coming up fast! Time for some last-minute gift-buying for the political junkies/nonprofit folks on YOUR list. The books below would be a great addition to any political/advocacy communicator’s bookshelf, and many of them are perfect for people with a more-casual interest in some aspect of technology and social change. From detailed examinations of tools and techniques to sweeping, big-picture explorations of the influence of the digital realm on our society now and in the future, you’ve got it all right here.

Of course, we’ll start with’s OWN contribution to the canon, the selling-like-hotcakes How to Use the Internet to Win in 2014: A Comprehensive Guide to Online Politics for Campaigns & Advocates. And for the historically minded, don’t forget the earlier definitive guide to the digital side of Obama ’08, Learning from Obama: A Comprehensive Guide to His Groundbreaking 2008 Online Presidential Campaign.

But enough of the shameless self-promotion! On to shamelessly promoting the work of people I respect, starting with:

Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship, and Betrayal

By Nick Bilton

And I’m cheating right off the bat! (Typical.) I.e., I haven’t read “Hatching Twitter” and it’s not about politics (except for office/boardroom politics), but it looks interesting as hell. From the Amazon description:

“In 2005, Odeo was a struggling podcasting start-up founded by free-range hacker Noah Glass and staffed by a motley crew of anarchists. Less than two years later, its days were numbered and half the staff had been let go. But out of Odeo’s ashes, the remaining employees worked on a little side venture . . . that by 2013 had become an $11.5 billion business.

That much is widely known. But the full story of Twitter’s hatching has never been told before. It’s a drama of betrayed friendships and high-stakes power struggles, as the founders went from everyday engineers to wealthy celebrities featured on magazine covers, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Daily Show, and Time’s list of the world’s most influential people.

New York Times columnist and reporter Nick Bilton takes readers behind the scenes as Twitter grew at exponential speeds. He gets inside the heads of the four hackers out of whom the company tumbled….”

Sounds like fun, eh? Lotsa intrigue, too. Check it out.

The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns

By Sasha Issenberg

Back to the kind of politics we usual talk about here: The Victory Lab is a must-read for anyone interested in how successful political campaigns will function in 2014, 2016 and beyond. Many of us followed Sasha’s 2012 articles on, which detailed how the Obama campaign team was using data, analytics and the scientific method to optimize voter outreach and get the people they needed to the polls. This book expands on those articles, and I really can’t commend it highly enough. From the Amazon description:

“Renegade thinkers are crashing the gates of venerable American institutions, replacing the so-called wise men with a radical new data-driven order. We’ve seen it in sports, and now Sasha Issenberg tells the hidden story of the analytical revolution upending the way political campaigns are run.”

“The book follows the academics and maverick operatives reengineering a high-stakes industry previously run on little more than gut instinct and outdated assumptions. Armed with research from behavioral psychology and randomized experiments that treat voters as unwitting guinea pigs, the smartest campaigns now believe they know who you will vote for even before you do. Issenberg tracks these fascinating techniques and shows how our most important politicians are putting them to use with surprising skill and alacrity.”

The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath

By Nicco Mele

Nicco Mele’s The End of Big: How the Internet Makes David the New Goliath is a great exploration of ways technology is shifting power relationships in areas as far apart as politics, music, war and big corporate business.

It’s a series of predictions and musings more than a single argument, since he starts with the idea that digital tools tend, over time, to shift power away from large institutions and toward small groups and individual actors and goes on to think about how it will affect institutions across the board. Everyone from Al Quaeda to indie musicians have already used the ‘net to create international networks of support untied to traditional gatekeepers and authorities, and in the decades to come, distributed power production and 3-D printers promise to shift even more power to the small, local and hard-to-control.

One thing I like about the book is that Nicco’s no techno-utopian: he’s quite aware that disruption doesn’t always end well, and he’s as likely to explore the negative implications of “the end of big” for society at large as the positive. Overall, it’s well worth your time — check it out.

Taking Our Country Back: The Crafting of Networked Politics from Howard Dean to Barack Obama

By Daniel Kreiss

A great book for anyone interested in the recent history of digital politics, particularly the Democrats’ adoption of internet politics and political technology. From Amazon:

Taking Our Country Back presents the previously untold history of the uptake of new media in Democratic electoral campaigning over the last decade. Drawing on interviews with more than sixty political staffers, fieldwork during the 2008 primaries and general election, and archival research, Daniel Kreiss shows how a group of young, technically-skilled Internet staffers came together on the Howard Dean campaign and created a series of innovations in organization, tools, and practice that have changed the elections game. He charts how these individuals carried their innovations across Democratic politics, contributing to a number of electoral victories, including Barack Obama’s historic bid for the presidency. In revealing this history, the book provides a rich empirical look at the communication tools, practices, and infrastructure that shape contemporary online campaigning.”

The MoveOn Effect: The Unexpected Transformation of American Political Advocacy (Oxford Studies in Digital Politics)

By David Karpf

A great companion to Daniel Kreiss’s book above, Dave’s book focuses more on the independent groups (like MoveOn) that drove much of the grassroots mobilization and technology adoption by Democrats and progressives in the past decade and a half. From the Amazon description:

The Internet is facilitating a generational transition within America’s advocacy group system. New “netroots” political associations have arisen in the past decade and play an increasingly prominent role in citizen political mobilization. At the same time, the organizations that mediate citizen political engagement and sustained collective action are changing. They rely upon modified staff structures and work routines. They employ novel strategies and tactical repertoires. Rather than “organizing without organizations,” the new media environment has given rise to “organizing through different organizations.”

The MoveOn Effect provides a richly detailed analysis of this disruptive transformation. It highlights changes in membership and fundraising regimes – established industrial patterns of supporter interaction and revenue streams – that were pioneered by and have spread broadly within the advocacy system. Through interviews, content analysis, and direct observation of the leading netroots organizations, the book offers fresh insights into 21st century political organizing.

Content Marketing for Nonprofits: A Communications Map for Engaging Your Community, Becoming a Favorite Cause, and Raising More Money

By Kivi Leroux Miller

Content marketing is a hot topic in the political advocacy world, and for good reason: particularly in a social media-influenced communications environment, content is what spreads our messaging, attracts new supporters and helps us achieve our policy and social goals. With that in mind, Kivi Leroux Miller has a new book at which anyone in the nonprofit marketing world should take a look: Content Marketing for Nonprofits: A Communications Map for Engaging Your Community, Becoming a Favorite Cause, and Raising More Money.

Kivi’s an experienced online communicator (her nonprofit marketing blog has been around at least as long as and a regular consultant and trainer for nonprofits trying to promote themselves in the current communications environment. Her book’s a must-read for any nonprofit communicator.

Social Change Anytime Anywhere: How to Implement Online Multichannel Strategies to Spark Advocacy, Raise Money, and Engage your Community

By Allyson Kapin and Amy Sample Ward

From the Amazon description: “Social Change Anytime Everywhere was written for nonprofit staff who say themselves or are asked by others, ‘Email communications, social media, and mobile are important, but how will they help our nonprofit and the issues we work on? Most importantly, how the heck do we integrate and utilize these tools successfully?’ The book will help answer these questions, and is organized to guide readers through the planning and implementation of online multi-channel strategies that will spark advocacy, raise money and promote deeper community engagement in order to achieve social change in real time.”

Echo Prinzip

Das Echo-Prinzip (The Echo Principle)

By Yussi Pick

A comprehensive digital politics overview and introduction for the German-language audience, by my former colleague Yussi Pick.

Distant Witness

By Andy Carvin

National Public Radio’s in-house social media expert and reporter Andy Carvin both watched the Arab Spring revolts and helped to amplify local voices for a Western audience. Read his fascinating take on a the start of a tumultuous era that’s still playing out years later.

Written by
Colin Delany
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