Monday, April 20, 2009

Collaborative Ideas

In today’s “Collaborative Ideas” panel, panelists served as a sounding-board for audience ideas. Below you will find some of the various ideas discussed.

One interesting question raised during the session was “Why should campaigns even have websites when you can have all this functionality on all these social networks?” Skittles was cited as an example of this phenomenon, where the website is just a portal to visit other websites on the web to learn about the company.

There was also a discussion about the ownership of data and its implications for campaigns. Facebook claims to own all of the data inputted by users. Facebook is so protective of this data that you can’t even get an e-mail address out of facebook, you have to get facebook to send your e-mails for you. The group agreed that there will be a struggle over whether campaigns want to keep data about their users on their own site rather than ceding it to Facebook, where the campaign has a much harder time obtaining data. It seems that for the time being, the compromise is Facebook Connnect, which makes it so that the best features of facebook are available through the campaign websites themselves.

Another point of discussion was the fact that people like to campaign online, but they don’t govern online. David Plouffe’s appeals for cash after the election in fundraising e-mails were not well received. It also detracts from support they can get to help them govern. Their open rates are probably lower now, and the action rates are most definitely lower, translating to significantly decreased benefits from the e-mails and turning off recipients. This problem goes to a much larger point: how can Obama leverage his supporters to further his legislative agenda? The problem is that elections are binary, but governance is not so much of that. Obama does “what’s the consensus” politics, which doesn’t lend itself to the medium of online activism. It’s weak tea, as one audience member explained it. There are passionate people in support of single-payer, but when Obama backs the compromise, the really passionate people aren’t going to care as much. People can be for or against SCHIP, gay marriage, and EFCA. The budget is different though, retail politics does not lend itself to those types of complex omnibus bills.

One discussion topic centered on the idea of leveraging the grass-tops. (Grass-tops are the people at the top of the grassroots level AKA super grassroots organizers who are super-committed) Campaigns need to change the flow of information to create a peer to peer method. Integration with gmail, yahoo, etc. would be a great place to start. Grass-tops can take campaign e-mails to another level where you can actually send out any campaign e-mail under your name and pick which friends to send them to. As long as campaigns can control the messaging, it should work well. This can combat list exhaustion; campaign e-mails from friends can have up to 80% click-through rates. One audience member, a fundraiser for GW, suggested that campaigns use a widget that adds to the bottom of your e-mail: “I just donated $10.00 to the [insert candidate] campaign, you should too!” Currently there are two major e-mailers that integrate with facebook where you can click a link to have a post or website “imported” to your facebook wall. People have been clicking on those links a lot because it’s new.

And finally, here are some questions/comments posed during the session that should serve as food for thought. A URL is a constant and can be used as a reference point. Hash-tags of URLs and hash-tags of zip codes could be leveraged to create a truly extraordinary realm of possibilities. Also, how do we define community presence? People in South Korea had 3g first, they text while eating and feel like they have 7 or 8 people around them. How does the notion of “global citizenship” affect how we make decisions?

If you found this post interesting, one of the panelists recommended that you read Stephen Baker’s “The Numerati.”

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