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OFA Invites Supporters to iCal for Obama

BY Nick Judd | Monday, November 7 2011

An Obama for America email, sent yesterday and signed by national field director Jeremy Bird, unveils a new online toy from President Barack Obama's re-election campaign:

Today, we're rolling out an interactive campaign calendar that's going to play a crucial role in keeping us all looped in on the organizing we're doing. It's got it all -- from upcoming primaries and debates to neighborhood canvasses and trainings happening in your community.

We'll be updating this calendar regularly -- and you'll know about changes as soon as we do, because it can sync with your Outlook and Google calendars online. So important campaign dates, like the last day you can register to vote where you live, will be in the same place with your all your other to-dos.

Another Obama email from earlier in the weekend also didn't ask for money — it asked for volunteers.

Meanwhile, here are the asks from the Republican candidate emails that hit my inbox this weekend:

  • Mitt Romney: "Donate $3 before MIDNIGHT TOMORROW for a chance to be a part of debate night with Team Romney and a special guest at campaign headquarters."

  • Herman Cain: "Please make a contribution right now to my campaign. Every dime we raise will go to pay for the TV ads and grassroots organization we need in order to win the Iowa caucuses."

  • Ron Paul: "In fact, the top three organizations that employ my supporters are the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Air Force. And this Veterans Day, Friday, November 11, my grassroots supporters are holding another Money Bomb for my campaign. So can I count on you to please pledge to contribute to the Veterans Day Money Bomb?"

  • Michele Bachmann: "Below, I've included some informative articles about the past week. After reading them, I hope that you will consider making a contribution of $25, $50, $100, or any amount up to the legal limit to help spread us our conservative message."

On the right and left, online politics consultants agree that a key focus for digital in 2012 will be ways to motivate supporter behavior — in other words, digital politics in 2012 is going to focus heavily on milking as many tweets, Facebook posts, donation dollars, phone calls and door knocks as possible from supporters. In fact, many on both sides agree that's more or less the order in which those actions will appear: Asking supporters to climb ever higher on a ladder of engagement, from easy things to hard things, has been a done thing for years. Both sides agree that one of the best ways to go about this is to introduce elements of games and game theory into what they do, whether it's Mitt Romney's campaign recently offering small-dollar online donors the chance to win a debate-night experience at Team Romney headquarters or this invitation from the Obama campaign for supporters sync up with the OfA Google or iCal calendar.

Included in this latest invitation to engage from the Obama campaign is an interactive graphic that lays out the broad timeline of the year between now and election day 2012.

If that looks familiar, that could be because the Obama campaign used an interactive graphic not too long ago to make the case that its campaign was financed — and, they say, "owned" — by small-dollar, grassroots donors. Another interactive was actually a game — players picked words that Republican candidates were likely to say during an upcoming debate, and pledged to give the campaign a small-dollar amount for each time it came up. The graphic may also look familiar because newspaper websites have been using interactives with increasing frequency and sophistication over the last couple of years. Now, I know this is a bit of a stretch, but I think asking supporters to stick around barackobama.com for a few minutes to play with an interactive counts as using game elements in the campaign. In an era of leaderboards and points systems, it may not be obvious — but to my mind this is an instance of a campaign using interaction design to their advantage as much as Romney's MyMitt is, or as much as the now-ubiquitous online phone banks, some of which now allow volunteers to track how many calls they've made on behalf of their candidate and how they shape up against others, are.

The whole graphic appears below a sign-up form for people to indicate their desire to volunteer — and to fill out their phone numbers. Another volunteer sign-up form also requires the would-be volunteer to fill out an entire street address — making this another cog in the Obama 2012 data-collection machine, accumulating more intelligence on potential supporters and the messages they respond to the most.

This post has been updated.