Friday, March 23, 2007

Data, Data, Data – Get Your Constituents Coded, Tagged and Graphed

by Jessica Duda, American Unversity

The 15th Annual Politics Online Conference brought together political campaigners, bloggers, activists, software developers, consultants, and online researchers to talk about using internet and mobile technologies in political campaigns.

Top Democratic and Republican strategists and software consultants presented on the challenges, opportunities and services available for campaigns to implement “constituent relationship management” (CRM). With more online sources to collect voter information, this data rich environment and the new technologies have brought consumer marketing strategies into new heights for political canvassing and campaign management.

The four plenaries covered online campaign management software, voter and donor data management, web organizing, and the future of political reporting.

ALL-INCLUSIVE, ONLINE CAMPAIGN MANAGEMENT
The plenary, “On Demand Politics: Lessons from the Business Web” essentially provided a testimonial of Salesforce.com, a web-based software program to manage internal and external operations described as
software as service (Saas).

PANELISTS:
- Daniel F. Burton, Jr., S
alesforce.com
- Laura Quinn, Catalist
-Jeff Burkett, Washingtonpost.com - Newsweek Interactive
-Jim Yu, United Way of America
Moderator: Andrew Michael Baron,
Rocketboom

Daniel Burton said Saas was the “secret weapon” of the 2008 campaign. Campaigns can manage their files, database, schedules and any other information, all hosted online. Campaigns can input donor activity and query them across many variables: donations to other campaigns, contribution history, event attendance, interaction with the campaign, age, policy interests, or stock portfolio (kidding.)

Off-the-shelf, one-top-shop was certainly the theme of the plenary with Jim Wu and Jeff Burkett concurred that Salesforce.com conserved their internal IT resources and avoided the delays and errors associated with legacy IT issues.

Technology is only as effective as the people using it
Wu warned that it is easy to over-estimate to implement the new technologies and organizations/campaigns need to have “the people, strategies and mapped processes,” otherwise the technology will have “you spin your wheels.” Although Burton mentioned Salesforce is “secure,” he did not provide any specifics about preventive, continuity, or investigative capabilities, particularly in context of current cybersecurity threats.

Data Sharing among political campaigns/organizations
Laura Quinn explained how Catalist’s software helps progressive organizations store, manage, and share voter information. In days past at the end of campaigns, get-out-the-vote (GOTV) reports and documents on were left in someone’s trunk, basement and eventually out to the trash. Now campaigns can store and create time series datasets to predict voter behavior. They can also deploy PDAs with voter information to canvassers for them ‘speak’ to the individual voter’s issues of concern and document their responses.

MANAGING VOTER AND DONOR DATA

In “Got Data?” Republican and Democratic database consultants discussed challenges and best practices in using the abundance of voter information to win “just 51 percent” of the vote. (Apparently a true majority isn’t necessary.)

PANELISTS:
-John Simms, CMDI
-Mark Sullivan, Voter Activation Network
-Stu Trevelyan, National Geographical & Political Software
-Riley, Republican National Convention
Moderator - Jacki Schechner, Internet Reporter, CNN

Republican services
John Simms provides national marketing databases for Republican and conservative candidates and organizations, such as the RNC and Citizens for Sound Economy. He explained that the aggregate contributions (and respective donor data) was a total of $300 million at the RNC Convention and $250 million in the general election for 2004. To reach these targets, campaigns obtained 4.5 million contributions from over 2 million donors. Despite aggressive web-based outreach, 51 percent of total Republican fundraising is from direct response of which, 91 percent is from direct mail.

Demographic changes and antiquated campaign management strategies are the key challenges to managing data. People are living further apart and moving frequently (15 percent annually) which challenges collecting and scaling accurate data. Although large consumer data mining companies (Axiom) are tracking changing addresses and family characteristics/behavior, in politics such data mining is largely limited to registered voters. Campaigns are funded, managed, and controlled in top down, command and control style, and they require database systems on voters, donors and campaign interaction. This imposes a higher learning curve on the staff to analyze the data, fundraise and GOTV.

They find that even online users still send in contributions in response to direct mail. Campaigns need to use a variety of voter engagement (direct mail, events, websites, surveys, contact information) and tracking to understand the data on multiple levels.

Tim Riley was a bit tight-lipped and briefly noted that consistent data points and correlation does not necessarily yield a clear and productive way to leverage the findings. For example, in the early 80-90’s, the data points, showed insight on voting behavior between Pontiac car owners and non-Pontiac owners – useless data for fundraising. Even today the models are not always right, whereby golfers and stamp collectors are known to be Republicans but direct solicitations are largely futile.

Democratic services
The Democrats see a clear incentive to move offline donors to online in order to reduce costs and increase donation frequency, likelihood, and amounts. Credit card payment encourages quicker response and higher donations. Even providing so-called member benefits for online donations, such as an online button and other ways to participate online, seem to provide a sense of community for donors.

Mark Sullivan explained that no campaign has one “database nirvana” and new technologies seem to create more problems with integration, apparently that no one solve. Doing the following can help:

- Streamline databases: combine large voter files with other pots of critical data (political, contacts,

volunteers, core activists, party officials, membership);
- Use less and flexible software: find one-stop solutions to reduce training time and specialized staff; and
- Make vendors talk to each other: have them integrate their systems for you.

Stu Trevelyan noted the proliferation of voter data and more campaigns are operationalizing CRM with the new technologies to conduct more modeling and micro-targeting. The internet (among other technologies) is driving the need/opportunity for campaigns to link supporter, donor, and candidate files with these practices:

- asking supporters for more information about themselves,
- hiring a data manager to advise staff on CRM uses,
- integrating data early to avoid the typical information silos, and
- being cautious of false positives. Sending the “wrong spin” can alienate constituents when messages go to

voters whose data seeped into the wrong dataset.

ONLINE CAMPAIGNING and PUBLIC RELATIONS
“How to Build a Web Team” covered recruiting and integrating the web outreach staff to reaping new online opportunities to speak directly to voters. This panel followed a conversational, informal format which yielded a fair amount of consensus on the needs and opportunities - aside from debating whether which party had the most bloggers.

PANELISTS:
- Jerome Armstrong,
Forward Together PAC, founder MyDD.com
- Joe Trippi, Trippi & Associates, JoeTrippi.com, Howard Dean campaign
- Chuck DeFeo,
Townhall.com and Salem News/Talk Online
- Patrick Ruffini,
Mayor Rudy Giuliani's Presidential Exploratory Committee
Moderator - Chuck Todd,
The Hotline

-Recruitment: Online organizers should have offline organizing experience, eg local campaigns, fundraising,

communications outreach, to best fulfill the campaign goals.
-Integration: online campaigners should be involved all aspects of campaign. Online organizers need to talk to

communications, finance, fundraising, and other key campaign departments. On some level, there is a tendency
to think of web outreach as the “other” and those who can unleash the “magic bottle.”
-Senior-level Buy-in: Campaign managers and the candidate need to support and buy-into web campaigning.

Now, most campaigns have internet teams, but campaign managers restrict their freedom to utilize their skills
and creativity. The campaign needs to elevate the web crew with the other departments; they are not just
service entities.

More Venues for Campaign-produced Media
Campaigns need to be ready to respond to anti-candidate YouTube and other video viral campaigns quickly. They need to flood these portals with their own, pro-candidate, anti-opponent messages in the event of another “Macaca moment.” Presidential candidate, Gov. Mit Romey (R-MA) confronted anti-videos by posting an interview with a blogger onto YouTube.

Candidates are using online video portals to send out a variety of their own media. Like all video footage, much political ad material was left on the cutting room floor. Candidates now can post videos and essentially have ‘built-in’ focus groups. Trippi noted that an unnamed campaign has started to hire their own “journalists” to disseminate their own message which the other panels condoned as serving as a new form of press releases and avoiding journalists’ pesky questions. Trippi claimed such content could be considered “news” and posted on Google News.

R&D in Online Campaiging
There was divergence on when to conduct online research and development. Chuck DeFeo felt R&D was inimical to the fast-paced, stressful campaign cycle. Republicans do it before general elections and focus on with online venues that already attract an audience, as opposed to starting or going to new online venues.

Conversely, Jerome Armstrong had Mark Warner, who has a technology background, go from blogging to the virtual world Second Life. “The political types did not like” - yet this is where an early-adopter can benefit from getting their first. Warner continued to check in himself and saw that other Linden people were still there even after the election.

Predictions for Technology in Politics
Moderator Chuck Todd asked the panelists for their predictions of online politics.


Jerome Armstrong - The new technology will carry the candidate who can be the online video version of Walter Cronkite. [Let’s hope it will be a woman this time.]

Joe Trippi - One candidate will hit the jack pot with small donations, whereby “5,000 women will give more than the 100 the big donors.”

Chuck DeFeo – We keep waiting for that 1960 TV moment for when the internet has arrived…it will be a series of moments, especially as broadband penetration brings more people into the process.

Pat Ruffini – We need to learn how to address unmet needs. Mobile can be the next frontier; how do we bring it into people’s daily lives?

FUTURE OF POLITICAL REPORTING
Most panels about the media and politics today tend to be bi-polar. On one side, the media doesn’t do its job; cuts in reporting staff hinders coverage; reporters only follow the “horse race” and more. On the other side, candidates only provide rhetorical, packaged spin and control all access. The internet is supposed to solve all of our problems with muckraking candid camera and two-way, candidate-voter interactivity . . . In “You Don’t Need Ink to Be Heard,” the panelists bemoaned these issues and more.

PANELISTS:
- Jay Rosen, Professor of Journalism, NYU, PressThink
- Jim Brady, Washingtonpost.com
- David Poltz, Slate
Moderator - Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine


Jay Rosen, Professor of Journalism, NYU, implored that citizen journalists and independent bloggers have the potential to force candidates to ‘de-control’ their message. (Had he attended the rest of the conference, he would – or should – have been less na├»ve, given campaign data mining and micro-targeting for canvassers and web staff to frame messages to voters.)

Jim Brady, Vice President and Executive Editor, Washingtonpost.com, spoke to his frustration of the horserace vs. issue story conundrum. When the Post covers ‘state of the country’ and the candidates’ issues, those who complain either don’t notice them or others ask for them to cover the horse race, as David Poltz concurred.

Candidates Being ‘Candid’ & Online Video
The “Macaca moment” represented a theme of ‘catching’ a candidate, yet risking them to be even more guarded on the campaign trail. In this regard, the panel missed the point that former Sen. Allen (R-VA) knew who and why he was being filmed, yet he deliberately isolated then-candidate Webb’s tracker from the stump to call him a racist name. This was not a candid moment otherwise thought private or “among friends.” As one participant noted, political reporters play a key role in providing the context for these incidents, which happened with reports of Allen’s past discriminatory statements.

Moderator Jeff Jarvis, BuzzMachine, note that there is a symbiotic relationship between web and media as in the Allen "Macaca moment." Independent coverage starts on web, spreads online, and then attracts mainstream media, hence, national attention. Although some candidates are seeking out a positive approach to engage with voters online, as with Clinton’s ‘let’s have a conversation’ of online town halls and McCain’s public video portal, these efforts are inevitably scripted or curated when delivered through candidate websites.

The consensus of the panel was that the internet is opening up the political debate, and though the media and candidates are trying to retrofit the technology to fit their comfortable, long-standing roles, “political campaigns are about coalitions and the internet can coalesce” these efforts, Brady concluded.

END

Friday, March 16, 2007

eCommunications in Elected Office

Alex Treadway of National Journal Group, Inc., the moderator, began by introducing the panel.

Steve Dwyer - Technology Director, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer
Pepper Pennington - Press Secretary, Congressman Tom Feeney
Jonathan Levy - Legislative Assistant, Congressman Rahm Emanuel
Stuart Shapiro - President, iConstituent

Mr. Treadway introduces the topic, and then precedes to tell us how some consider the current state of Congress as "under siege" in the sense that the number of Lobbying groups
has been expanding exponentially of late. And with this increase in lobbyists comes a large increase in electronic communications. This is also combined with a noticeable decrease of direct mail.

John Levy spoke first and discussed how important it was to monitor costs, whereas it was so expensive to call your people, while an e-newsletter allows for a much cheaper and much more effective way to contact your constituents. The newsletters are much more effective if they include both what the politician does in Washington in addition (and perhaps more importantly) what the politician is doing in their own district.

Pepper Pennington spoke next, and discussed the ability to e-mail the constituents of the politician she works for a survey. They were able to get a lot of responses and feedback on the survey because with e-mail it was so easy to get feedback without much interference, and then, they were able to modify the survey according to the responses and feedback from the politicians followers.

Steve spoke next and discussed more about individual e mail, and like Alex, he showed that congressional e-mail traffic into Congress has increased exponentially, and how the congressmen still try to keep things formal, while the congressmen are still trying to read as many e-mails as possible. He says that a lot of the e-mail traffic comes from Advocacy Groups who send out mass e-mails. He says that these emails are often just blocked, because they are mass e-mails and are identical and time wasting. To help in blocking these, a filter was added to cut down on traffic. Some ways that Congressional Offices can improve their eCommunications are to handle e-mails automatically, respond with e-mails to e-mails, reallocate more staff members and funds to constituent communication and provide more means of online communication and finally to work with advocacy groups to receive their data in a better way.


Essentially there are a number of different ways for Congressmen to refine their systems to be able to handle the growing number of communications, but some of the best that were discussed here were the correct and efficient use of e-mail systems and newsletters.

Mobile Mythbusters

Sure, mobile technology sounds great. But how do you actually set up a text campaign? Who do you call first? How do you avoid spamming people? What can you do to establish a relationship with service providers? Our experts answer all your questions about mobile technology and help you develop a mobile strategy for your campaign, political group, or nonprofit.



(right to left)
David Gale - Senior Account Manager, Vibes Media
Justin Oberman - Founder, MOpocket / Rave Wireless
Julie Barko Germany - moderator - Deputy Director, Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet
Kathie Legg - Founding Member, Mobile Monday DC
(Moderator)

The conference began with the panelists talking about their favorite mobile moments. David remembered a few years ago when he sat down with a woman in her 70’s and taught her how to text message. She didn’t believe him that texting was used often, so she walked over and asked a teenager with a Sidekick how often she texts, and she said over 5,000 a month! Justin’s favorite moment ironically dealt with his 70-year old grandma, who actually LOVES texting. Kathie’s favorite moment was Working Assets -- who won the Golden Dot Award – who used a list of very active voters and texted them about voting polls. They thought to themselves, if machines are broken, or if lines are too long, what do we do? They came up with the brilliant idea to use SMS to text many people, and if there was a problem they would be notified immediately.

Who’s using mobile technology / demographics?

David answered this question by stating that there’s about 5 million blackberry users and 235 million cell phones in USA… more than 2/3 of America! Data services – anything that isn’t a voice call, such as text messaging, email, content, web browsing -- starts to narrow down the list. Most people can text message, about ¼ of people can go online, about 1/3 can use video. Kathie then brought up microtargeting, and said that minorities have a very large penetration (especially Hispanics). She also talked about how important cell phones really are – there’s about 8.4 million wireless only households in America!

How is the industry organized?

Justin answered this question by saying that Mobile marketing have short-code premier and mobile marketing strategies for download on their website. A short-code is a keyword or a 5-digit code that carriers use to make text-messaging easier. They tend to cost around $500 a month for a code or $1000 for a smartcode (like googl), and it takes 6-8 weeks to activate the code, and 6-8 additional weeks to approve the program. The industry is organized through carriers/operators (Cingular, Sprint, T-mobile, Altell, Verizon) and mvno’s – mobile virtual network organizers – such as Virgin Mobile, Amp’d, Helio, and Boost. Next are aggregators, who are people that work very closely with carriers to guarantee that messages get delivered. For example, in DC there’s Single point. They make sure that every American Idol message gets delivered – Idol makes a deal with a mobile campaign solutions provider, who has a deal with this aggregator. As overwhelming as this may seem, Justin said that it really isn’t that hard to do with a business. In January of this year, 20 billion messages were sent from US to US (about 800 messages per person). Of those 20 billion less than .1% were commercially sponsored / branded in any way, which proves how useful this technology can be to businesses. David suggested that to navigate this space, you should figure out your objectives, then think about how you sent out the messages in the past and try to integrate it into your mobile campaign.

Many people were very concerned in this conference about telemarketers, but the panelists convinced the crowd that since e-mail is free and SMS is not, it’s against the law to randomly send a text message.

Lastly, people asked about future mobile technologies. Justin pointed out that one of the great things with the mobile phone is that it’s the first portable media in your pocket that encompasses text, video, internet and audio (voice) all at once. He pointed out that people (like himself) send images to CNN via their mobile phone, others blog on their phones, and that it will be used more and more often. NFC is also testing out a sort of paypass with cell phones, where all you have to do is touch it to something and money is deducted from your credit card – but that’s a long way away from actually being implemented in the public’s phones. Cingular which has about 60% of America’s cell phone users recently rejected a mobile PayPal plan, so until they implement it, it probably won’t be exist through other plans.

Campaigning in a Web 2.0 World

The moderator, Justin Perkins of Care2, opened up the panel by saying that the panels title is slightly misleading in that its more about the tools then the actual communications. He states that by enabling people to communicate with each other, people self organize and can do some amazing things, such as form nonprofits, help raise money for Katrina victims and so on. Through the new Web 2.0 systems, you can see who your biggest volunteers are, you can turn them into a bigger part of a campaign.

Aaron Welch of Advomatic is introduced. His company builds systems for progressive companies. Web 2.0 can mean a number of things, from your system being "in a perpetual beta" release, to allowing your users to have partial control over what you're producing. They want to build the community tools and then integrate them in with a back end system, such as Aristotle, and this allows for a lot of front end customization and flexibility without worrying about the back end data.

Peter Kelly of Aristotle is up next. Aristotle helps provide back end data structures to help power Web 2.0 systems. The software is built to be able to tie in to other services and pull information from those other services' databases.

Finally is Daniel Bennet of IPDI, he began with a joke of how PC magazine has declared the creation of "Web 3.0". Then he moves on to discuss the "unsexiest thing [he] could talk about, Architecture" The idea is to be able to keep your websites architecture in check when its brought to the vendor, and to keep it simple so it can be used. He gives a checklist of how you can tell if your system has a good, simple and clean architecture structure. This checklist consists of the following:

Clean System, i.e. a simple password system and no long URL's
Sturdy Construction, such as through xhtml
Understandable, It should be readable by other computer systems with no hassle
Communicative, make sure the info on the site is easily found, such as available on RSS

If your system isn't simple, and you want to simplify it, the suggestion that Mr. Bennet gives is a program called Plone that helps you clean up and simplify your website.

Vlog Post - Phil Noble

This is our second Vlog post from the 2007 Politics Online Conference... Thanks to Tristan Fowler for edits. For this post, we interview Phil Noble, policy analyst and founder of PN&A and the Palmetto Project.

Also, check out all our vlog entries, sponsored by our friends at the Capitol Hill Broadcasting Network.


Got Data? How Social Networking Can Give You More Accurate Data




"Data, its not a sexy topic."

With that bold statement the panel opens. Then Jacki Schechner, the moderator, states that they hope to bring sexiness into Data.

The Panel Members are as follows:
Stu Trevelyan
Mark Sullivan
John Simms
Jim Rowley

John Simms, of CMDI, begins by telling us to imagine Norman Rockwell's America of the early 20th century, where things were simple and local, and people saw their friends often because they all lived so closely, and politics were simple, because people knew the politicians, so as an analogy, data was already clear and analyzed and remembered, because this Data was held in the mind, now as people move around, even keeping track of an address can be complex. This movement of people creates a need to keep track of people as they move around. This data is needed to keep track of voters and donaters. This will allow the campaign directors to set places and good locations for fundraisers. This data must be organized so that it can be accessed anywhere at anytime, it also must be accurate, secure and recoverable. Mr. Simms lets us know the importance of this new type of data integration and storage for the new presidential campaigns.

Stu Trevelyan began by agreeing with Mr. Simms' assessment of the state of data spread these days. Then he states that the internet is what's really driving the web these days. He then discusses that a Web 2.0 approach can really be helpful, where you let your followers have a true part in the creation of your campaign, in the sense that you can almost keep track of people through a social networking sense, but in order to do this, you need an online supervisor who can recruit people into your campaign.

Next up is Mark Sullivan. Mr. Sullivan says that people want to eliminate unnecessary and extraneous databases, in other words, the less databases the better, with fewer upgrades in software, and therefor less software training. He suggests having your software vendors talk to each other, so that you can get software that is compatible. Also, as software becomes increasingly compatible with other manufacturers software, you should be able to pick the software that fits your needs, as you need it.


Essentially, this panel discussed how the Data is able to allow the voters to give feedback to the candidates, this is assuming of course that the data is used correctly, and organized properly. Through social networking, you can gain a new way to gather data. As Mr. Rowley said, it doesn't matter if your research shows that your followers enjoy golf or stamp collecting, that data may not be correct, and it may not matter then if you advertise in Golfer's Life or Stamp Collecting Monthly, you may still not be advertising your candidate to the people who are going to help your candidate, whereas with with social networking on the internet, you can accurately gather data about the individual people, not the groups, who care, and who are willing to donate to your candidate and help your campaign out.

Make the Most of Google in 2008

Political Campaigns need to leverage multiple media to reach their targets, Google offers several different services that integrate campaigns with the internet. Panelists talked about Google services, website optimization and other tips for reaching targets. Google's AdWords, Google Analytics, Google AdSense, YouTube and YouChoose were among the highlighted products for campaigns taken from a one-sheeter: Google Product Guide for Politics is available in the Amphetheater.

Panelists:
Derek Kuhl, David Alpert & Steve Grove

Google Products (sourced from Google Product Guide for Politics and http://www.google.com/intl/en/ads/).
AdWords allows advertisements to appear as sponsored results on search results pages, these ads target an already actively interested audience. Google Analytics works with AdWords to provide free information on visitor behavior. Campaigns can also enable Google Alerts which provides updates on specific keywords as their usage evolves. This is useful for determining what works, what doesn't and what needs to be changed. AdSense allows campaigns to have their ads posted on websites with pertinent content, again placing the message to targeted audiences. YouTube and YouChoose are less controlled communication channels because they facilitate open feedback. This increases risk, but provides the chance for campaigns with direct feedback and viewer interaction with the politician. With demographics similar to the population of the United States, content and tags act as targeting elements. Both channels allow campaigns to post content online. YouChoose allows politicians to build personal profiles, post and upload videos and communicate with users.

Tricks of the Trade: a couple things to keep in mind when integrating the Internet
Hello Internet - Where to begin?
Strategies: A question was asked about strategies, whether or not to use them and how to develop them. Campaigns should develop strategies based on campaign goals and messaging when deciding the role of the Internet. The Internet is a widely used medium, but is distinct in many ways from other more established media channels, such as television and radio. The Internet can be thought of as a combination of several media including television, radio, electronic games, and print. Internet users watch, listen, read and interact with content often individually. These elements should be kept in mind when developing execution tactics. For example, in order to engage an individual developers should decide which senses to trigger and how. Internet is a great medium because of its engagement potential.

Websites: Google and other search engines use crawlers (a computer application) to sift through pages when a user inputs a query. These applications look for specific elements, including keywords, that trigger them to select any given site to catagorize as a "result." For more information on how search engines function, John Battelle's book The Search is a great source of information; his blog: http://battellemedia.com. When creating a website, designers should consider keywords that their target are likely to use. These words should be integrated into the site as appropriate. Search engine crawlers cannot crawl all content and webpages - if you want to be found, you must be searchable. Alt tags can be attached to pictures to inform crawlers of picture content. Javascript pages and pages with robots.txt enabled cannot be searched. This is where Google's services can come into play. Google Analytics can help choose the best keywords for the target and track its use.

Content Based Internet Options: YouTube and YouChoose are full engagement Internet options. Users watch and listen to videos, read user feedback and post their own responses. I think these channels are more risky, but have a higher viral potential in many cases compared to traditional Internet advertising. One question was raised about what content to use. Content is the deciding factor when it comes to viral potential. Panelists said content should be real and genuine. One panelist referenced Jet Blue's public relations crisis communications campaign as an example of a successful use of YouTube after the session. After the incident in February, Jet Blue CEO, David Neeleman, posted a video on YouTube speaking to the public about the situation and what actions JetBlue was going to take.

What to take away: Neeleman speech wasn't obviously scripted, he was speaking directly to the viewer, his speech was short and easily understood and his message was relevant to the viewer.

At the End of the Day

The Internete is necessary and Google can help. Creative needs to be tailored to the users: What are they interested in (AdWords); Where are they going to be (AdSense); What's new (content driven sites: YouTube & YouCHoose '08); Google Analytics assis with campaign results break-down.

Vlog Post - Fritz Wenzel

This is our first Vlog post from the 2007 Politics Online Conference... Thanks to Tristan Fowler for edits. For this post, we interview Fritz Wenzel, director of communications for Zogby International...


Google Workshop

Google. It's a big sponsor here at the conference, and their presents is everywhere: The keynote speech, the Google Lounge, and bright colorful advertisements on every binder, poster, and pamphlet. At the Google Workshop, the first presentation on a rainy Friday morning in DC, the Google-YouTube guys, Derek Kuhl, Steve Grove, Dave Alpert, went over the ways the politicians and campaigners can spread the word using ad-words, e-mail/donor tracking, and scary viral videos on YouTube.

"If your getting a message out there, make sure your following that up online," Derek said. The day after a book, personality, or, ahem, politician, is featured on a The Daily Show or Today, many users will goolge that five minute TV segment to learn more. This is such a basic, but fundamental idea. So make sure that you have online ad-words, wikis, and websites ready to help those users find the information they are looking for.

Dave then spoke about some of the Google tools. The most interesting device Dave explained was the page rank system, used by the Google bot - the more links you use from reputable sites, and reputable sites link you, the better your rank. Also affecting the rank of your page is your linked text, and of course the text on the page. But be careful you don't place words in pictures, because the "Google bot" cannot find read these words. So that beautiful graphic superimposed over the hero-shot of your candidate will not be ranked by the all-powerful Google bot.

The news and politics editor of YouTube spoke at the conference, another young man on the panel, and clearly taking advantage of casual Friday. He helps YouTubers develop their political programming and citizen journalism. YouChoose '08 gives politicians a chance to speak to whatever issues they want to address. This website,
only up for two weeks (already with 3 million hits a day), allows the necessary two-way conversation between the candidates and voters. Users can post written or video responses to content, and using these comment sections, they will speak to one-another about a hot button issue. This is one of the greatest powers of YouTube.

As far as making your own content on YouChoose'08, shorter is better, but remember that content is king. You have to be real and genuine, that's what works the best on YouTube. I remember one of the biggest scandals on YouTube was Lonelygirl15 acting in all of her posts. She was an engaging, cute, humorous girl posting simply edited Vlogs, but huge waves were created when she was ousted scripting her Vlogs with her boyfriend. Many users do not respect her anymore. So, remember it's important to back away from the political-issue-dodging, and instead engage the users with real honesty. Your viewers will see spin and scripted content.

Humor and edginess is great, Derek said, but you're not just speaking to the Daily Show demographic. Your communicating to 18-45 year old range, and you can turn away many users if you don't keep this in mind. If you have great content, engaging content on a personal or fascinating level, an eight-minute video would not be a problem.

After several minutes of questions during the workshop, one can understand why this has been the workshop to attend during this conference. The audience was focused and excited about thinking differently on the campaign trail, hanging on every word. Often the questions were so vast and crazy, that the speakers had explain to the audience that their expertise was limited, but that they could connect them with people who could provide answers. It shows how energitic and open-minded these attendees are about these tools. Clearly, the macaca video is still fresh in everyone's mind going into this major presidential campaign.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

“New Media, Old Media, & the Rise of the Technology Candidate”

This panel represented some distinct breaks from the general philosophy of the keynote address. Certain panelists, like David Mark of The Politico, countered the prevailing focus on the positive elements of the rise of the internet for the sake of politics, noting the “narrowing of the electorate” and the flood of negative campaigning that it has released. I’m certainly more inclined to agree with him about the latter point, because I’m not sure how the electorate has narrowed. The electorate may be fractured, seeing as how in the age of bloggers, political representation and advocacy has become much more focused, but I fail to see how the electorate in general has become more narrow.
Another panelist who broke from the script heard thus far almost totally denounced YouTube as a way to promote candidates, because there is no way to track it as far as who and how many people are watching it and listening to it. In light of that, Robert Boorstin, the Director of Corporate & Policy Communications at Google, emphasized the heightened importance of authenticity and consistency for a political candidate that wants to have the best exposure on the net—or perhaps, the least worst exposure. I would agree that most YouTube sensations that involve a political candidate tend to treat that candidate negatively, and frequently it is indeed because of a lack of authenticity or consistency on his or her part (the power of editing allows one to paint a candidate who has had even the slightest ideological inconsistency as a total flip-flopper). However, if I am interested in but not committed to John Edwards, and I want to hear his speech in New York on Martin Luther King Day, a few clicks on YouTube can get me there; then I listen and I become enraptured with him as a candidate. And thanks to YouTube, John Edwards has one more dedicated supporter.
Though his fellow panelist was weary of YouTube, Boorstin opined that internet technology has made it easier to control what information about a candidate is released and what isn’t; here I would readily yield that YouTube has made that fundamentally not true (just ask George Allen).
There were also some implicit disagreements about basic campaign tactics. Mark asserted that in 2006 the Republican National Committee had “nothing to talk about,” and that even in this day and age there’s something old-fashioned called a “message” that is worth sticking to. But Boorstin, of Google, posited that in the age of the internet, the candidate that makes the fewest mistakes would be the one to emerge victorious. And of course there’s the mandate to be consistent. What is more important then—framing your talking points around a very powerful ideological message, or being honest, authentic, and consistent? If I am a candidate and frame my campaign around traditional family values but voted against measures to make it harder to get an abortion in my state, do I abandon my values message and stay consistent by softening my pro-life rhetoric, or do I stick to message and ignore the flip-flop allegations?
Much of the rest of the panel was spent promoting text messaging as “THE breakout technological device of 2008” for political campaigns, but I had my doubts about this much faith in what is basically a staggered chatting technology. Then there was a call to break down the barriers that keep spam-like text messages out of our phone’s inboxes, and I recoiled in horror. I would concede to one panelist’s belief that phone applications are a relevant growth market, but I think we are far away from a time when we abandon our nice big computer screens for a 2 inch by 2 inch field of vision for all our online needs.
The Q & A did highlight some interesting new tactics being used by candidates; for example, one panelist pushed candidates interested in mining a certain region to meet with the most important local bloggers. Meanwhile, as far as the traditional media, one speaker advised candidates merely to meet with the two most read political reporters in a region as well as the local newspaper’s editorial board. The panel closed on a most interesting note, as the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza pointed out the fusing of traditional and alternative media (or perhaps the alternative media’s influence on traditional media). Traditional media may be fractured, but it’s not dead, he assured. In news, “we used to say ‘Hey, here’s stuff we think is interesting,’ and now, with [internet capabilities like podcasts and blogs and videos], we ask ‘Hey, do you think this is interesting?’”
Which is why YOU are Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.

New Media, Old Media & the Rise of the Technology Candidate

How do you develop a message and prepare your candidate for the new "prime time?" Is it all about using cool new toys, or is it strategy? What do you say to the new media audience? Join our panel of experts as they present their ideas for winning in a new media environment.

Mike Connell - Founder, Connell - Donatelli Inc.
Robert Boorstin - Director of Corporate & Policy Communications, Google Inc.
Jeffrey Charles Crigler - CEO, Voxant
David Mark - Senior Editor, The Politico
Chris Cillizza - Political Blogger, WashingtonPost - Newsweek Interactive (Moderator)

David– He stated that he believes that technology is very important for campaigns, due to the increasing focus/narrowcasting that candidates are using. There is still a large amount of TV advertising, but now iPods, Blackberrys, Internet ads, etc. are being targeted; especially negative campaigning. David went on to say that he believes Republicans found out in the last election cycle that the Internet is very important when the Democrats targeted people very well. The Republicans didn’t have a compelling-enough message, while the Democrats used Mark Foley / Iraq to cancel out what the Republicans said (and they often had no comeback).

Jeff – Voxant is a huge supporter of viral distribution. Jeff believes that YouTube is too large of an audience, thus making it very difficult to narrowcast. Voxant, however, uses video embed code on websites that when posted, it can be reposted over and over again. They embed a “mash” button on the video border, so that each person can click the “mash” button and (assuming they’re registered for the site) can reuse that exact video on their site.

Bob – Bob discussed what technology has/hasn’t changed in politics. He agreed with David that no matter what tools you have, you need a specific message with a reputable candidate that can hold it up. He went on to say that you must be consistent – if you’re not, your campaign will falter, if not die. Technology makes authenticity a lot more important -- your campaign is judged in the media through personal relationships; not e-mail or telephone. He also said that with the new technologies, it is very difficult to control your message / not be manipulated by bloggers (i.e. the Drudge Report).

Mike – Mike believes that mobile technology is very important – i.e. SMS (text messaging). In 2000, Slovenia had the first campaign to use SMS technology into a voter mobilization effort. A South Korean election was won due to text messages, and a South African petition campaign was also held through SMS. Mike works on the Dick DeVoss vs. Jennifer Granholm Michigan Governor campaign. There is a large demand for new jobs (specifically technological) in Michigan, and he wanted to show that Dick was technologically advanced through innovative methods. For example, you could learn more // donate on the go by texting “Jobs” to 55555 or “Donate” to 55555. A cell-phone user can also forward SMS messages to friends, buy wallpapers and ringtones, or access their mobile website (.mobi). Connell - Donatelli Inc. launched a “create your own ad; win a video iPod!” campaign as well, which earned national media coverage and very positive press for DeVoss’s campaign. Mike stated that Americans don’t want pure marketing delivered to their phone, but they do want access to information, applications and services.

Question – There’s 400+ web browsers out there; how do you deal with the differentiation of the platforms?
Answer –We have a lot to do with mobile marketing; there are industry / regulatory / technological challenges, but at the end of the day most people have a mobile device on them which is crucial for targeting (if not now, then in the near future). In 1992, the first real Presidential Internet political campaign; 1996 was the state-level; we’ll get there eventually. The majority of people still use land lines, whereas in other countries they hardly even have any so mobile phones are that more important for targeting. India right now has 400,000,000 mobile phone users – imagine how big of an impact that will have!

Question – Does mobile donation mess with federal donation laws?
Answer – There’s not so much of a compliance issue; there’s a clear trail that shows that money is going directly to campaign, but you do have to get specific information from donor to allow for compliance.

Video A La Carte: What Works and Why workshop

So video may have killed the radio star, but it also has given marketing and campaigning much more life - online, on mobiles and on television. This was the focus of the Video A La Carte breakout workshop.

This workshop was mainly a discussion surrounding how online video can be used most effectively.

Panelists included James Kotecki -political consultant for Capitol Hill Broadcast Network (and hasn't even graduated from college yet!), Bill Buck - President & COO of Cherry Tree, and Jason Rosenberg - strategy architect at EchoDitto. For the full bios, go here:

So first question..."why video, why now?" Some of the responses are as follows:

Jason: Viewers no longer trust political candidates, and don't want to be spun anymore. There is a trust factor. Online video takes away time constraints. Also there are no formatting issues. People aren't going out and actively looking for it, online video compiles it all in one place. It's also a very inside thing - those who are connected talk among each other.

James: CHBN is a mix of the political YouTube -anyone can upload videos, but are screened to make sure there's a political opinion or focus.
Online media is a different kind of media:
1. there's a possibility for new audience and new content - attracts people that might not go to a campaign website or watch the commercials on tv.
2. it's a two-way conversation - people can respond to politicians' speeches, and politicians can respond to voters' critiques, complaints, and questions.
3. almost free - can potentially level the playing field between candidates, so that money isn't as much of a deciding factor

Bill: Online video allows candidates to give a different view - behind the scenes. For example, Al Gore was accused of being wooden in the 2000 election. If there had been videos of him behind the scenes, more casual, it may have helped his cause.


Q: How are candidates going to use video in new ways in the next cycle?

James: Better content. The candidates will begin utilizing it as a dialogue. Hour long speeches won't work anymore.

Jason: People want something that is episodic - where there is a story line that will draw people back to see the next episode. Ex. Mayoral candidate makes a video on the issue of potholes - show how long it takes to fix a pothole now, and use that to show how you will make a difference.

Q:So what's taking these gosh-darn candidates so long to catch on to these innovations?

James: Well, have you met a politician? They like to talk. It's pretty much about breaking those time old habits.

Audience comment about UK and other European countries - ahead of us on all things interactive video and tv.

Audience comment about choose your own adventure videos. He's designing one about Spiderman - you can choose if he dies, beats the bad guys, etc. He also says that he's an expert on this since he's "the TIME magazine person of the year". What a jokester (for those of you who missed this year's person of the year award, it was you. Yes, YOU won. Who knew just how special you were.) He also suggests that companies not hire bloggers, but hire musicians and artists who can pass the message in more forms than just online.

Interesting comment...apparently there are better servers than YouTube. Some may read this and exclaim blasphemy, but that was the bold statement put forth. James offered up blip.tv as an example.
This is because YouTube doesn't allow clicks - showing things at the end of a video that might say "want to learn more? click here".

Q: Online video is only in the mix in a very minor way - at the tipping point now, so what will make the difference/lead the change?

The politicians just need to continue to increase their use of it - the ones who do it well first will reap good rewards.

My personal blogger thoughts:
Stay tuned... video is on the rise, and there ain't no stopping us now... after all, we - the public - largely have control over the content - so keep putting the YOU in YouTube (along with the other possibly more effective video sites), and eventually candidates are going to have to respond more and more. And if you're a politician and/or a political candidate... jump on the online video bandwagon already... there's nothing to lose, except the election if you don't!

Are Online Games the New Town Hall? The Rise of the Gamer Class in Politics

Online Gaming and Politics.

The Discussion immediately started off with a few statistics, to dispel the myth that video games are only for teens and kids.

69% of American heads of Household play video games
Avg gamer is a 33 year old male
Largest selection of online casual gamers are women over 40.
These stats are from the Entertainment Software Review Board

Something important to note is that you cant just jump into the game industry, because games are not a traditional forum. They are a complex way of entertainment that if used correctly and with enough time spent, you can create an innovative and interesting new way to promote a campaign or a business. You will need to create something interactive unlike a television advertisement. You need to let a person explore and interact at their own pace.

A surprisingly amusing game is shown where you play as a TSA airport security agent where you have to follow rules that change every three seconds and complete your task quickly by removing banned objects or you lose. This is an example of a casual game with an underlying political message.

You can find a blog on more serious and casual games at Watercoolergames.com.

The speaker from Brand Games discussed how this campaign is expected to be the most expensive campaign in terms of media spending.

A new style of marketing is to allow the consumers to shape the brand and have the brand adapt to the consumer. Its kind of a Web 2.0 approach to promoting a brand in the real world. brandgaming.com is the web site of one of the earliest corporations to create an "advergame", or a game designed to promote a company. This concept could easily be expanded to promote various ideas, political positions and even campaigns.

One of the major possibilities of political games is that they can promote he education of young people to raise them to vote. Through the use of the internet and through simpler flash games can promote ideas to a wide range of children to let them learn about the issues and make them care, so they keep these issues in mind until they are old enough to actually vote.

Finally, the most well known project is brought up. Second Life is discussed. Andrew Hoppin (Drew Frobozz in Second Life). Second Life isnt so much a game as it is a 3-D world with User driven client. There are roughly 4.6 million Avatars. An Avatar is the virtual representation of a person. 1.6 million real dollars is transacted daily. There are roughly 30,000 people on the servers at any given time. Hoppin previously worked for NASA, and later helped NASA build things in Second Life.

Some things that happened in Second Life
Gov. Warner held a press conference in game
RootsCamp political discussion occurred in game
John Edwards put up a Campaign headquarters
Barak Obama did the same, however his headquarters is unofficial.

Essentially this translates to Second Life being a great buzz generator, as it's a unique way of presenting yourself, so you can actually garner media coverage through doing something through Second Life. Also, its good as a Community Platform and Social Networking.

So there are a number of different options for using games, whether you decide to take a serious route, a casual route or the Second Life route is up to you, but one thing seems to be clear, Games are not going away, and as the industry grows, it will be important to be creative and try to utilize this market to the fullest advantage, and it will always help to get your name out there.

Are Online Games the Next Political Frontier?

When I think of online gaming, I think of the millions of people whose life has been stolen by World of Warcraft. For me at least, I do not imagine this market as being particularly essential to the voting bloc as many enter an online world to escape the trials and tribulations of the real world. Being inundated back into politics seems like it would defeat the purpose. Many of these issues were addressed and discussed at this event.

Here are some game facts given that surprise many of me predispositions to video games as a political tool:
  • 69% of American heads of household play video games
  • The average gamer is 33 years old
  • Largest segment of online casual gamers are women over 40 according to AOL games
  • Advertisers know people are watching less TV, and spending more time playing games or on the Internet
So its older members of society playing games, including women, and advertisers are already targeting it....Interesting. Many of these gamers apparently are not kids who won't be voting even if they can be convinced of certain policy positions.

But what place is there for politics in video games? Surprisingly, even though they haven't penetrated World of War Craft yet, second life has proven to be viable political platform already. Second life is a 3-D online virtual world, rapidly growing with 4.6 million members already.

Second life is already being used as a tool to connect political action groups, but an impressive feat of theirs was a virtual march on a digital capital hill in the virtual world. This march was attended by 50,000 people in this "avatars against the war" campaign.

Is second life an anomaly, or the beginning of a movement to create a long lasting world wide virtual community? Will games continue to become more political, or is it an uncrackable medium? My opinions about the viability of the voting bloc apparently are dead wrong, and with the efforts already in action I am open to take a wait and see approach on whether or not there really is a future for politics in games.

The Conference’s Partisan Dynamic

This conference has been full of the most qualified, innovative, and leading professionals in the internet political sphere who come from both sides of the aisle. One of the most impressive aspects of this conference is that partisan hackery has not invaded, and civilized discourse has not only occurred but flourished.

This was entirely apparent during the “So You Want to Build a Web Team” event. Chuck DeFeo and Patrick Ruffini both have worked for Republican campaigns, and they sat civilly from Joe Trippi and Jerome Armstrong, two avowed liberals. However, the discourse did not once degrade into the frothing hatred that discourse in this country so often becomes, nor was there any disparaging remarks made over particular political ideologies. In fact, I would go so far as to say that their main goal was to tell a shared history of the internet as it affects politics, noting the successes and innovations buoyed from either side of the aisle.

Furthermore, when discussing the future, they were almost sharing ideas without fear over the potential for political retribution of their own making. They were discussing where they saw the internet going and what they felt candidates need to do to succeed in the Internet age, fully knowing that such ideas could be turned around onto their candidate sooner rather than later. This was truly an astounding thing to see, and the diverse nature of the panel shows that such an event clearly was a priority.

The conference should be commended for creating a forum for such discourse. Hopefully, this sort of mutual respect can be fostered into a common understanding that can create further solidarity amongst some of the internet’s foremost innovators. This is what the country needs, and with the one-to-one connectivity and educational power of the internet, these internet leader’s personal respect hopefully will be at least a tiny step towards real communal progress. They hold the keys to the future of media, and hopefully they are able to take advantage of it.

Online Politics in 2008: The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown

Elliot Schrage gave the Keynote address here in the Grand Ballroom, heralding a mutually beneficial relationship between his company, Google, and the political campaign networks. "We want to learn from you," he says. No one in the room needed any convincing that in the Makaka era, the internet has totally revolutionized politics, but he provided even more overwhelming evidence both in the stat that $40 million dollars was used towards online campaigning in 2006 (set to double for 2008) and with a montage of YouTube clips attesting to the political power of the web video image. There was the "I Feel Pretty" John Edwards clip, Hillary Clinton murdering the National Anthem, and even a clever satire of attack ads featuring two toddlers vying for the presidency of pre-school.

Schrage noted, interestingly, that despite not being a partisan entity, Google IS itself actually an inherently political endeavor in that it is committed to providing public information, and through users is committed to democratizing political dialogue. The internet provides innumerable benefits to better political discourse, Schrage asserted, including but not limited to transparency (in that voters can see candidates how they really are), accountability (through fact-checking capability), fundraising (just click to contribute), access (through social networking sites like Facebook), and spawning the very companies that were tabling at the Conference.

Schrage spent much time, both in the latter part of his speech and during the Q&A, contemplating the blurry boundaries between the internet as a wellspring of public information, free expression, and legitimate political discussion, and its dangerous potential to enable the tabloidization of all these things. Google has of course become the nexus of this paradigm, in that it faces daily questions as to where to impose limits; as an example, Schrage noted a lamentable online video about John Edwards' son that Google nonetheless chose to treat as any other video. Schrage mentioned some of the other sensitive subjects of this plane of the debate, some more serious than others: Google-bombing, fraudulent clicking, the potential rise of political spyware and (laughably, I would say) political gawker sites as well as the GPS tracking of candidates.

When pressed about the traps of misinformation available on the internet, Schrage asserted that Google was not in the business of fact-checking (despite another audience member pointing out that a Google CEO had recently announced that they were developing software to do that very thing). "This kind of thing is eventually self-policing," he posited. Unfortunately, the rest of the audience questions followed this lead and attempted to get juicy but irrelevant tidbits of Google gossip, regarding the company's deal in China, its relationship with the Dalai Lama, and the recent law suit against them filed by Viacom.

In general, the speech was an enlightening expose of the newest issues emerging at the intersection of politics and the internet, now that the two are inextricably linked.

From the TV Screen to the In Box: Creating an Integrated Political Marketing Approach: quotes and notes

The event openned with graphs and pi charts showing both the rise of spending on media and which candidates spent the most.

How much will campaigns spend online in 2008?
  • Including advertising, email marketing and web development, campaigns spent 39.8 mill online in 2006, an increase of 36.3% over 2004 and 726% over 2002
  • Approximately Three-fourths of online spending is geared towards e-mail marketing campaigns that relate to fundraising
  • Online spending is expected to double in 2008 as online video advertising and local searching advertising become more prominent
Mike Zanels: "As TV becomes more interactive, advertising will become more interactive."
He discussed how the NCAA tournament is broadcast online, which led him to say "I think today is officially the least productive day in America."
"This is the future. It's such a powerful tool."

Eric Frenchman, Chief Internet Strategist Connell Donatelli Inc.: "Just Steam it" is his philosophy because "online video outperforms traditional TV"
  • Right audience
  • More action, more options
  • Superior tracking
Michael Bassik: Traditional direct mail firm asked him to start an Internet division
He was very involved in bringing Kerry's campaign online
"Most of the money, 99.9% of the money in my estimation that is being spent online is being spent on infrastructure and technology and not on advertising."
"The point I'm trying to make in this presentation is that integration works."
"What I've seen personally first hand, is political campaigns are actual taking a step back. There was less integration in 2006 than in 2004."
"I hope the trend changes but I'm not so confidant."
"This notion of being a test ground just doesn't fit with political campaigns."

New Mobile Technologies, How to Raise Volunteers Like a Rockstar

This panel was moderated by Justin Oberman and included such guests as Eric Gundersen, Jo Sullican from ASPCA and Dan Weaver of Mobile Accord.

This panel was designed to discuss the inclusion of a mobile initiative in a campaign in addition to an internet campaign. The integration of an SMS system into the campaign was a large part of the concept.

Text messaging from e mails is a large part of this idea. For example, Mr. Gundersen used Chris Dodd's e-mail to his e mail list was highlighted to show that he let his followers know about his appearance on "The Daily Show" about the kind of mesage that could be sent to his followers cellphones. Then, he shrunk the message into 160 characters, the maximum length of a text message, and simplifys it into a clear text message.

The hypothetical shortening of the text message led to a quick question of how you can get your followers phone numbers, just have a forum for users to post their numbers on his website.

Another example is the use of shortcodes, which are short 5 or 6 digit numbers that represent a phone number specifically for text messages. These are extremely useful for setting up large organizations by having their people send a text message containing a keyword to the number, and recieve a quick, almost instantanious automated response to that message. The example was text the words "Pro Choice" to 6693 and see what happens.

A list of terms covered:
SMS -Short Messenger Service
PSMS - Premium Short Messaging Service
Short Code - 5 or 6 digit codes, basically an SMS address

Some of the other key points of the presentation included:

How the use of the Mobile Text Messages gives the politicians and their campaigns another way to reach people.

How text messaging makes the candidate appear as Tech savy, even if the actual sign up rate is not that high, because it generates great press.

That text messaging can also be an effective way of creating a viral message to advertise something, an event or a person.

Another easy way to generate text messenger clients is to send people an e-mail, and have them sign up through the e-mail.

And of course, the always important concept:

Make sure that you have a way for people to cancel your text messaging services easily, because without that you could lose the ability to gain any other subscribers.

Google's corporate social responsibility

I have to say, I was really surprised at how genuine Elliot Schrage seemed while he was discussing Google's global mission. It seemed like he really felt like Google could become a sort of democratizing machine that brings the power back to the people.

"All of us together have a chance to shift the power base of electoral politics...in order to broaden it, to raise the dialogue, to put a modern spin on government of the people, by the people, for the people."

Truly inspiring words. What was even more impressive was how he justified this credo through some very tough questions about Google's China policy.

After sighting that his background is steeped in human rights, Schrage said, ""I feel very strongly that we made the right decision when it comes to China...The decision ultimately came down to are we going to be able to be more helpful in contributing to the development of free information...by offering services in china, or by not doing so."


It will certainly be interesting to see if Google can truly justify such grand words, because they certainly will be tested in China. We shall see if Google's credo, along with its soul, survives the fight.
"Is this a Blackberry?"
"Please, turn off your Blackberries!"
"It's not mine."
"OK, everybody switched off their Blackberries?"

When speakers from Fortune 500 companies and a number of prominent organizations come to discuss the future of the online technologies and their impact to the world of politics, what do they speak about? Blackberries, among others. But also about Hillary, Obama, Edwards and Monty The Talking Cat.

Who will win the vote of the millions of bloggers of the US online community is a tough predictions. All candidates use the tools of the web to attract potential voters and to preach to the choir of already converted. Edwards used YouTube for his campaign, Clinton her website and Obama hired internet-TV services provider Brightcove to seed his video onto a number of websites. McCain took his ExploreMcCain.com onto the Blackberries of millions and encouraged them to create their own websites promoting the Republican candidate.

Democratic and Republican candidates are pouring more resources than ever into reaching voters, organizing supporters and raising money online. But doubts still remain. As Edwards realized, it was hard to keep a team of volunteer bloggers under political pressure, especially if the position of the candidate is somewhat questionable.

Despite all the Internet focus, candidates know that traditional campaign techniques remain just as, if not more, important to winning. Internet campaigning is not the silver bullet they wanted. Soon candidates will find the bloggosphere over-populated by an infinite number of campaigns, each of them overpowering the others. New ways of delivering information to the public will be needed. Blackberry and the Monty The Talking Cat will find themselves obsolete.

Keynote Speaker: Elliot Schrange, VP Global Communications, Google Inc.--quotes and notes

"There is a consensus now that the Internet is revolutionizing politics."
"We are committed to fostering the change."

main points of speech:
1. to learn about what you are doing
"getting out the messages you want to get out"
2. where we take these tools and go with them
3. what we are Google are planning.


"As pioneers of online politics you guys are showing the innovative way to use the services."
"To make the Internet the epicenter, ground zero of politics"

"We are hopeful that our tools can improve the politics process."
"How do we promote political particiipation without preferences." They see this as their corporate social responsibility.

"We talk a lot about how our mission is democratizing information."
"What we are doing with you is democratizing the political dialogue."
"People have access to a universal audience to get their points across very quickly."

"How do we provide a platform for free expression without exasperating the ugliness?"
He discussed how they refused to take down a horrible video involving John Edward's son because they feel they just couldn't.

He played a video of some of the most popular presidential candidate videos on youtube and other funny political clips making fun of the process.

"The first and most apparent benefit is transparency."
"You see candidates as they really are."
"It gives candidates a new way to explain themselves."
"Candidates are held to their history, to their statements, and to their actions."

"It makes it easier for voters to join the electoral process."
"It makes it easier for candidates to find new supporters and micro target long term voters."

"All of us together have a chance to shift the power base of electoral politics."
"In order to broaden it, to raise the dialogue, to put a modern spin on government of the people, by the people, for the people."

"We are redefining boundaries when it comes to the personal lives of candidates and their families."
"The downside of accountability is giving you guys too much power." He spoke about the Obama madrassa smears beginning on the Internet and spreading vastly.

"I have no doubt that there will be reports of political spyware in the upcoming elections."
"There is an awful lot going on and we're not sure where it's going to go."

"Our tools are as powerful as you make them. We recognize that."
"[We want you to] harness our tools and allow you to get in better touch with your constituents."

"I am the man who was the human pinata before the human affairs committee."
"My background is in the human rights field."
"I feel very strongly that we made the right decision when it comes to China."
"The decision ultimately came down to are we going to be able to be more helpful in contributing to the development of free information...by offering services in china, or by not doing so."
"I would have to say, in all honesty, it has been very difficult since we have been there."
"the one thing that i would just ask all of you...it was not a commercial decision purely. Certainly it's an important market...it was a thoughtful process and it's not a process that is over, it's a process that we continue to develop. Stay tuned, and we may have to stay tuned for a while."

Elliot Schrange - The Concept of YouTube as an Election Tool

The title of the presentation is Online Politics in 2008, the Good, the Bad, and the Unknown. One of the first things mentioned was YouTube, and its effect on the internet and politics. Of course, Google now owns YouTube and this became a big point in the presentation.

Google, as a content neutral company, allows for the candidates and other politicians to discuss with the people through YouTube. A great idea, one sure to be used for good and bad. While it allows for people to get their word out, it could also mean that parodies will come as often as people can come up with them. Though this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Actually, this is more of a good thing, as it allows for the users of YouTube to keep the long campaigns entertaining. Why is parody a good thing, doesn't it distract us from the point? Well, its allows for the Elections to stay interesting and stay in peoples mind. Every time a video is posted by a candidate on YouTube, it allows for some smart person or some creative person to create some form of entertainment, be it a rant, a song a comedy or something entirely new to keep the election alive on the web, and in someones mind. It lets the user respond, and lets the candidates know what the individuals feel about them.

A YouTube montage presented by Mr. Schrage proved a good example of how this entertainment can capture our attention, and can bring in the interest and votes of the MySpace generation of 18-24 year olds, as well as the older generations, who find out about these internet phenomenons through mass media sources like CNN. YouTube allows for people, both candidates and just regular people to express themselves, without having to be famous or have a website with 1,000,000 hits. It also allows people to bypass the media filters, which allows for a more realistic picture of the candidates. Of course we need to wait until after the 08 election to see how it all goes, but I think that YouTube should be watched closely (no pun intended), as it could be the difference between candidates in this election We've already seen YouTube change campaigns drastically, usually for the worst, but in the future, lets see if it can be used to positively forward a campaign as well.

Keynote Speaker: Elliot Schrange, VP Global Communications, Google Inc. coming up

The topic will be "Online Politics in 2008: The Good, The Bad, and the Unknown"

The last panel was a great one in my opinion, and with such a major person at Google speaking I can only imagine that the day is going to get better.

The last panel did not stay on topic so much, but it was very interesting to see the group exchange ideas and opinions about the history of new media and politics and where they see it going. Considering the panel contained power players from both sides of the aisle, it was very interesting to see such open opinions.

On-Demand Politics: Lessons From the Business Web, a Summary

Hosted by Andrew Michael Baron (Rocketboom), this panel was essentially a discussion of why people think that politics trails the corporate world in terms of technology. This panel includes Dan Burton, the founder of salesforce.com, which was founded to "make business technology as easy to use as amazon.com", Laura Quinn, or a newer company called Catalyst, which provides voter information to progressive campaigns, including the presidential campaign, to help them organize publicity and move ahead into the new century of computers and such, Keith Tomatore, of Newsweek and the Washington Post, Jim Yu, of United Way of America, the leadership organisation of the United Way's throughout the country.

After the introductions, Dan got up to discuss the "Secret Weapons of the 08 Campaigns". Its not cool videos, or even a blog, the web is a utility to be used. He begins by taking us back to 1999, where Smartphones and DSL were all but non-existent, while now, the Internet has become relatively inexpensive and easy to use. He then asks why Political Campaigns cant use an on-demand platform to the extent that websites like Amazon or eBay do. He says the new way of the Internet is a much better system of "software as a service", because it is relatively software free and requires very little IT Infrastructure. The Internet also allows for internal managing as well as external publicity, all in one source, available almost anywhere. The network is in a "shared-tenant structure" allowing for your site to be a part of an enormous data center. Its relatively secure, and the scale of the Internet allows for the smallest sheriffs campaign to match the same features as the biggest fortune 500 company. The Internet is so easy to use also from a technological standpoint, as your IP company needs to make you happy so you feel like you get what you're paying for. Also, your IT department will love it, as the Internet is almost always on the front of new technology, while the Internet is also easy to upgrade, easy to use, and almost always standardized. Its aesthetically pleasing in its ease of navigation and it also allows you to do easy research for your own for records, such as donor backgrounds. Dan calls Software as a Service a minimum burden on your IT department, with no hidden cost. If you desire more info, the company does have a booth. He closed with use the Internet to run your organisation, as it can be the best weapon to run your campaign.

Jim Yu discussed how the United Way uses salesforce as a user to connect their sales, as well as for unique opporunities and such and for consumer service. He says that over 12,000 paid employees can use it with relative ease, and do use it. This program allows for a 360 degree view of the consumer.

Keith Tomatore, discussed that as his company grew, IT systems were still on an old architecture and were a pain to organize, while when they used salesforce.com, the system finally became simplified and was easily and readily accessible to his sales reps all over the world. Prior to that the company had been using e-mail and other inefficient means of information management.

Laura Quinn doesn't use salesforce, and takes a different route, a more political discussion. Specifically discussing how the expansion of technology allows for richer conversations. Contact management is now a breeze and so you can remember your contacts and develop a more personal relationship with the people in your campaign. She then goes on to describe how once a campaign was over, the data from the campaign was lost, whereas the system that catalist uses allows for the infinite storage of the information and data gathered from campings.

A quick side note, when Andrew Baron got up to speak he asked who knew what Web 2.0 was, and just about every hand in the room went up. This is a good sign of the connectivity and knowledge of the audience.

This concluded the individual opinions, and a more conversational panel and Question and Answer session with the panel members followed.

So You Want to Build a Web Team: discussion quotes and notes

It's looking like "Internet as a service" is going to be a theme for the morning. The panel is discussing how an understanding of it is essential for building a web team for a political campaign.

Chuck: "The Kerry campaign was pretty much a one dimensional one way effort...It was all about raising money."
He discussed how his work on the Bush/Cheney campaign was different and said "we helped turn out the vote significantly, and we helped deliver a message."

Joe: "The top of the campaign has go to buy in that the Internet is going to matter and the field is going to be off and on line and integrated, otherwise the top would turn into a rump group."
"You can tell it's like the Kerry campaign, you don't have the freedom from the top to just let it go."
"As you put the team together, what is it that you want to accomplish, and are you buying in?"
"will that crew be co-equals with the rest of the campaign? If you do that you will have a lot of success."

Chuck: "My job now is to make a platform for conservative voices to be heard on the political platform."
"What I do now is modeled off the Dean campaign...It's about building an online community."
"A platform for multiple voters rather than just a candidates voice is much mroe conducive to experimentation."

Patrick: "I do think what the '08 campaigns have done better than '04 campaigns is leading with the web the important announcements." Mentions Hillary and Obama.
"The internet is main stream enough now that it can encompass even front runing candidates 20-30% ahead in the polls."

Chuck: "I think what the Romney campaign is doing with internet video is very smart."
"The Allen campaign was kind of frozen in place when the macaca video hit."
"I have responded they should have flooded the zone. What does tha tmean, it menas when someone searches for Macaca they would see a bunch of pro-Allen videos and a bunch of anti-Allen videos."
"Romney got a similar situation...he completely overtook the negative message and replaced it with a positive message."
"Youtube didn't exist in 2004."

Joe: "My big complaint for Mitt TV is that it's scripted."
He told a story about the most significant moment of the Dean campaign where his authenticity was put out on the table by refusing to let a college student skip a final to go to his rally.
"Every one of these candidates are going to get caught in a macaca moment. No one can be on 24 hours a day 7 days a week."

Jerome: He talked about how uncomfortable the candidates are at first as they are not used to the mode of one-to-one video conversaton, and usually act like they are talking to 300,000 people at a time.

Chuck: "With youtube you have a huge focus group."

Patrick: "We're moving from an era of message scarcity to an era of message plenty."

Moderator (also named Chuck, we'll refer to him as Moderator): He asked whether or not campaigns would start hiring their own journalists and release all of there information in controlled settings rather than have to deal with independent journalists. The panel agreed that this is already happening.

Patrick: "I do think campagin blogging is fundmentally different than regular political blogging."
Discussing the Edwards blogger issue and mistakes made.

Jerome: "Whenever I hire a blogger I make sure they don't have a long history...and try to bring them in to within the campaign voice."

Chuck: "It's a platform for conservative voices. There's a lot of disagreement within the conservative movement. Some think we all walk in lockstep but that's just not true (interrupted by Joe saying, "oh come on" then laughter).
"If you look at the conservative web it is considerably larger than the liberal web."
"In the conservatibe blogosophere we are a bunch of individuals."
"What the liberal blogosophere has really been built around is the kos's and talk point memos...and it is much more of a top down approach."

Joe: "You are going to see a broadening of the progressive side with more blogs."
"I think the basic differences are hte different needs of the parties at different times."

Chuck: "On the right there are no voice that dominate the way that KOS does."

Moderator: "I'll be honest, Kos, Rush"
He compared the need for a leader like dailykos to Rush Limbaugh leading the talking points amongst the conservatives.

Chuck: "Ulitmatley, you need to ask...how is it going to get me more voters. How is it going to get me 51% of the vote."
He discussed having a John Kerry game called "the flip-flop olympics" online on Bush's site in '04 because it was "completely on message."

Joe: "The difference this time is none of these campaigns is ever going to give another campaign a lead like that again [like Dean had]."
"If you see any opponent moving into someplace that you haven't thought about, I'd certainly start thinking about it."

Joe: "This year will be a revolutionary year in terms of the money. One of these candidates will reach a moemtn where hundreds of millions of dollars will come in within weeks...The big donors, the pac money, none of it matters any more."
"You're telling me 5 million of those people who voted for Bush wouldn't give him a hundred dollars?"
"The act of that happening is going to totally radically change politics in this country."