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MoveOn.org Doing Real-Time Mass Dial-Test of Obama SOTU

BY Micah L. Sifry | Wednesday, January 27 2010

MoveOn.org, the five-million member e-organization of progressive activists, is doing something really interesting with its members tonight: thousands of them are going to be participating in a live online dial-test of President Obama's State of the Union speech. The organization sent out an email earlier this evening to its list, asking people if they want to rate the speech live. "Seeing our reactions live will give the media a much better sense of how grassroots progressives are reacting to Obama's first big speech—which is especially important after these last few weeks," wrote the organization's executive director Justin Ruben. (The full email is below.)

Ilyse Hogue, MoveOn's director of political advocacy and communications, estimates that about 20,000 members will participate, based on RSVPs. [UPDATE: At 9:45pm, there were 12,000 participants, Hogue says.] If so, that will make it a broadly representative sample of the group's base, which has grown since 2008 from being somewhat older and white to a younger and more diverse mix. To join the dial-test, MoveOn members have to sign in with a password, or click on a unique link provided when they RSVPed for the experiment. The organization is asking participants to all watch the MSNBC TV feed, so their responses are synchronized.

Here's a screenshot of what it looks like:

As far as I know, this is the first time any large political organization has done anything like this, so kudos to MoveOn for being willing to try something new and somewhat unpredictable, and to its tech team for building the platform. Hogue admits they have some concerns about how well the results page will hold up if it gets a surge of traffic, so I'm going to hold off on sharing the url until it's clear it's working. (Hit refresh on this post for updates.) Here's the url with the summary of the live-track--use the slider bar to expand your view.

Here's what participants see. They can rate every two seconds, if they want.

MoveOn members didn't like Obama's reference to building a new generation of nuclear power plants:

But they did like his following comments about passing a bill addressing climate change:

They were pretty sanguine about his reference to a freeze on discretionary spending, which was roundly condemned on the netroots left in recent days:

And his reference to the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling was very popular among MoveOn members:

Here's a look at the last hour of the speech. The three main dips occurred around building new nukes, the spending freeze, and the reference to Afghanistan.

The full email from MoveOn, titled "For TONIGHT: New State of the Union rating tool":

Dear MoveOn member,

Want to rate President Obama's State of the Union address—which starts very soon at 9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. CT—and have your opinions sent to the media in real-time?

We've built a new system that works just like the dial-testing does on CNN or MSNBC. But instead of a handpicked group in a TV studio, our live-rating system will be powered by MoveOn members all across America.

It's a great way to participate in tonight's speech, and make sure progressives are getting their voices heard. Want to join in tonight?

Yes, I'd like to rate the State of the Union live tonight

No, thanks

To participate, you just need to have a TV and a computer in the same room, as well as cable television. (In order to sync up all the ratings nationwide, we're all going to watch the same channel: MSNBC.) Oh, and you need to be able to click a mouse.

Seeing our reactions live will give the media a much better sense of how grassroots progressives are reacting to Obama's first big speech—which is especially important after these last few weeks.

It's a new piece of technology, so it may be a bumpy ride at times. Just bear with us, and keep on giving your opinion through the whole speech.

Thanks for all you do.

–Justin, Eli, Peter, Kat, and the rest of the team

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