Personal Democracy Plus Our premium content network. LEARN MORE You are not logged in. LOG IN NOW >

NationBuilder, a New Online Activism Platform, Previews Today

BY Nick Judd | Wednesday, April 6 2011

Jim Gilliam. Photo: Brave New Films / Flickr

Online activist, Brave New Films co-founder and Personal Democracy Forum 2011 speaker Jim Gilliam is planning to give a live preview of his new platform for online campaigns, NationBuilder, at 4 p.m. ET today. It goes into open public beta tomorrow.

In an interview last week, Gilliam told me that NationBuilder is an evolution of an earlier tool, pro.act.ly — which is itself loosely based on his act.ly project, the tool for circulating petitions on Twitter. From the NationBuilder dashboard, a campaign can manage its website content, online donations and finances, email lists, mobile campaigns — it has mobile and phone messaging features built on the Twilio platform — post to its Facebook or Twitter accounts, and look through supporters and messages. A tag-based constituent management system allows the campaigner to sort supporters by influence or Klout score, and follow each user's activity.

It's supposed to be cheap and easy-to-use enough for the renegade types, folks who are acting without the blessing of their local political party or professional group.

"What we did at Brave New Films — we took the concepts of political organizing and we applied them to distributing documentary films," Gilliam told me. "We wanted to make these movies but they weren't the kinds of movies that Hollywoold networks would touch ... we needed to organize around these movies and getting them seen.

"Our events were around screenings," he explained. "Our donations were about funding the films ... what we're seeing now is a whole new group of people that are starting to understand that model ... this is why Kickstarter is becoming really popular."

To work in that bottom-up, distributed, viral way — if anyone even uses the word "viral" anymore — you need more than Kickstarter, of course. An email list helps. So does Twitter and Facebook, and a website would be nice. NationBuilder is supposed to pull all of these threads together and lay a single dashboard on top of them to track and manage them all. The meta-story is that this platform reflects what a real student of online activism thinks the comprehensive "toolkit" should be — one without email-your-legislator tools, for example, but with a flexible voice and SMS activism component.

Gilliam pledges that it will be apolitical and nonpartisan — a service open to anyone who wants to use it, with a starting price of $19/month. Passaic, NJ Tea Party: I specifically asked if you're invited to sign up. You are!

News Briefs

RSS Feed friday >

First POST: Spoilers

How the GOP hasn't fixed its tech talent gap; the most tech-savvy elected official in America, and the most tech-savvy state-wide candidate; and much, much more. GO

thursday >

First POST: Hot Spots

How Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is making inroads in China; labor protests among Uber drivers spread to more cities; new data about the prevalence of online harassment; and much, much more. GO

wednesday >

First POST: Reminders

Why the RNC hasn't managed to reboot how Republican campaigns use voter data; new ways of using phone banking to get out the vote; how the UK's digital director is still ahead of the e-govt curve; and much, much more. GO

tuesday >

First POST: Patient Zero

Monica Lewinsky emerges with a mission to fight cyber-bullying; Marc Andreessen explains his political philosophy; tech donors to MayDay PAC get pushback from Congressional incumbents; and much, much more. GO

monday >

First POST: Front Pagers

How Facebook's trending topics feed is wrecking political news; debating the FBI's need for an encrypted phone "backdoor"; democratizing crisis data; and much, much more. GO

More