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First POST: How to Organize

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, January 23 2013

How to Organize for Action

  • Follow the money: After Sunday's kick-off event for Obama for America's successor organization it's clear the spirit is willing, but can the pocketbook deliver? Keepers of the Obama flame are gambling, for now, that former campaign volunteers have the gumption to organize local groups and raise money in those groups in order to pay for access to the Democratic voter file and maintain their own field offices. These groups will advocate for the president's agenda locally, putting pressure on their members of Congress.

    It's still unclear how much that local fundraising is expected to pay for. TechPresident doesn't have all the answers yet but we hear, just like everybody else seems to be hearing, that no final decisions have been revealed about which aspects of the Obama campaign's technological infrastructure will be maintained, who will keep it up to scratch and how exactly they'll pay for it. We reported yesterday that infrastructure will remain property of Obama for America and be leased out to whomever wants to license it, like Organizing for Action or the Democratic Party. And at least one volunteer we spoke to who attended the weekend event, the Obama Legacy Conference, seems to think that even the fundraising model on offer now might be tweaked in the days ahead.

    Nancy Scola wrote that Obama alumni are hoping to "rethink the mechanics of American politics one more time:"

    Campaigns traditionally scatter to the winds, whether the candidate wins or loses, after election day. That's wasteful, goes the thinking -- all the more so with a team that produced some 155 million door knocks and phone calls and 1.8 million new voter registrations, not to mention 332 Electoral College votes.

    So Organizing for Action wants to replicate those tactics now that they're done putting Barack Obama in office. "We will run ads" in districts where the data show Republicans out of step with constituents on gun control, Carson said. "We will be on their Facebook pages." And OFA will use well-honed campaign tactics to achieve policy goals, including a goal of registering 40 million people who are newly eligible for insurance under Obamacare.

    It's an ambitious plan that is creating some more low-tech worries for state parties, who are concerned that this organization will crowd them out in the competition for local activists and fundraising dollars. It's also, as Scola writes, a wholly untested, wholly new rethinking of the permanent campaign, one that might prompt a further evolution of campaign-trail tools and tactics.

We the Sheeple

  • POSTers see it first: As the White House's online petitions initiative, "We the People," gains popularity, it's been coming under fire. Should the White House, doubters ask, really be wasting their time with a petition calling for the creation of a Death Star? Yes, Micah Sifry writes — because it is finally an example of government engaging with citizens rather than trying and failing to gain traction elsewhere. Firstly, the White House will play communications judo with every petition to which it responds, trying to start a dialogue with critics, to keep supporters energized and to highlight its policy wins. It is not a tool for accountability, it is a tool for engagement, and on that front it has done quantitatively well. Secondly, journalists critiquing the subject matter of petitioners should first put their own house in order. In the past month, the White House press corps has asked the president's spokesman about Manti Te'o, Robert Griffin III, and Gerard Depardieu. Meanwhile, the White House used a We the People petition to signal a softening of its policy on marijuana. Which makes one wonder: If a handful of people can ask the White House a silly question multiple times a day, why are they so angry that any 100,000 people can ask the White House any question once?

Around the Web

  • New York State is launching a new transparency portal today.

  • So is New York City. TechPresident got an early look last week as a follow-up to the preview that officials at New York City Comptroller John Liu's office gave us when the project was announced last year.

    Checkbook 2.0, as it's called, takes a web portal initially designed to put the city's checkbook online and beefs it up considerably. In a demo last week, we were able to view spending citywide, by agency, and even by contract. We were also able to access information about individual vendors and track payroll information by title, if not by name.

    The New York City Comptroller's effort also offers up data in bulk format and through an API. An official in Liu's office told us that the entire package will be open-sourced in the months to come, but the work of open-sourcing the software — cleaning up the code, documenting it and so forth — was not yet complete. The software was designed to sit on top of what we were told is widely-used accounting software offered by the company CGI, which is what New York uses.

  • International

    • Newly elected Israeli lawmakers are turning to the task of forming a coalition government. On the fringes: a nascent Pirate Party movement.

    • Chinese GitHub users report their access to the site is in flux apparently because of state action.

    • Concerned with the implications of media regulations within countries, the Financial Times argues for a solution: Have the European Commission regulate the regulators. The Guardian (UK) flags the news.

    • The International Budget Survey is out, ranking the transparency and accountability of budgeting information in over 100 countries.

    News Briefs

    RSS Feed today >

    Civic Hackers Call on de Blasio to Fill Technology Vacancies

    New York City technology advocates on Wednesday called on the de Blasio administration to fill vacancies in top technology policy positions, expressing some frustration at the lack of a leadership team to implement a cohesive technology strategy for the city. GO

    China's Porn Purge Has Only Just Begun, And Already Sina Is Stripped of Publication License

    It seems that China is taking spring cleaning pretty seriously. On April 13 they launched their most recent online purge, “Cleaning the Web 2014,” which will run until November. The goal is to rid China's Internet of pornographic text, pictures, video, and ads in order to “create a healthy cyberspace.” More than 100 websites and thousands of social media accounts have already been closed, after less than a month. Today the official Xinhua news agency reported that the authorities have stripped the Internet giant Sina (of Sina Weibo, the popular microblogging site) of its online publication license. This crackdown on porn comes on the heels of a crackdown on “rumors.” Clearly, this spring cleaning isn't about pornography, it's about censorship and control.


    wednesday >

    Another Co-Opted Hashtag: #MustSeeIran

    The Twitter hashtag #MustSeeIran was created to showcase Iran's architecture, landscapes, and would-be tourist destinations. It was then co-opted by activists to bring attention to human rights abuses and infringements. Now Twitter is home to two starkly different portraits of a country. GO

    What Has the EU Ever Done For Us?: Countering Euroskepticism with Viral Videos and Monty Python

    Ahead of the May 25 European Elections, the most intense campaigning may not be by the candidates or the political parties. Instead, some of the most passionate campaigns are more grassroots efforts focused on for a start stirring up the interest of the European electorate. GO

    At NETmundial Brazil: Is "Multistakeholderism" Good for the Internet?

    Today and tomorrow Brazil is hosting NETmundial, a global multi-stakeholder meeting on the future of Internet governance. GO

    Brazilian President Signs Internet Bill of Rights Into Law at NetMundial

    Earlier today Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff sanctioned Marco Civil, also called the Internet bill of rights, during the global Internet governance event, NetMundial, in Brazil.


    tuesday > Reboots As a Candidate Digital Toolkit That's a Bit Too Like launched with big ambitions and star appeal, hoping to crack the code on how to get millions of people to pool their political passions through their platform. When that ambition stalled, its founder Nathan Daschle--son of the former Senator--decided to pivot to offering political candidates an easy-to-use free web platform for organizing and fundraising. Now the new is out from stealth mode, entering a field already being served by competitors like NationBuilder, Salsa Labs and And strangely enough, seems to want its early users to ask for help. GO

    Armenian Legislators: You Can Be As Anonymous on the 'Net As You Like—Until You Can't

    A proposed bill in Armenia would make it illegal for media outlets to include defamatory remarks by anonymous or fake sources, and require sites to remove libelous comments within 12 hours unless they identify the author.


    monday >

    The Good Wife Looks for the Next Snowden and Outwits the NSA

    Even as the real Edward Snowden faces questions over his motives in Russia, another side of his legacy played out for the over nine million viewers of last night's The Good Wife, which concluded its season long storyline exploring NSA surveillance. In the episode titled All Tapped Out, one young NSA worker's legal concerns lead him to becoming a whistle-blower, setting off a chain of events that allows the main character, lawyer Alicia Florrick (Julianna Margulies), and her husband, Illinois Governor Peter Florrick (Chris Noth), to turn the tables on the NSA using its own methods. GO

    The Expanding Reach of China's Crowdsourced Environmental Monitoring Site, Danger Maps

    Last week billionaire businessman Jack Ma, founder of the e-commerce company Alibaba, appealed to his “500 million-strong army” of consumers to help monitor water quality in China. Inexpensive testing kits sold through his company can be used to measure pH, phosphates, ammonia, and heavy metal levels, and then the data can be uploaded via smartphone to the environmental monitoring site Danger Maps. Although the initiative will push the Chinese authorities' tolerance for civic engagement and activism, Ethan Zuckerman has high hopes for “monitorial citizenship” in China.


    The 13 Worst Bits of Russia's Current and Maybe Future Internet Legislation

    It appears that Russia is on the brink of passing still more repressive Internet regulations. A new telecommunications bill that would require popular blogs—those with 3,000 or more visits a day—to join a government registry and conform to government-mandated standards is expected to pass this week. What follows is a list of the worst bits of both proposed and existing Russian Internet law. Let us know in the comments or on Twitter if we missed anything.