An Open Letter to PPWBs (Prominent People Who Blog)

Sleepers Awake!

Tomorrow afternoon will be election day 2004. What will we have done to end the madness in Washington?

A bunch of proactive geeks want some Bush blood, believe that Dean is the best hatchet, and they may not wait long for the more active (self-important?) bloggers to get on board. For the moment, they’d like our help, perhaps in the manner I suggested some time ago, with Lessig & Searls getting together with the Dean campaign, as Josh Koenig reminded me today:

On Wednesday, June 11, 2003, at 01:02 PM, Josh Koenig wrote:

Any progress on that Doc/Lessig/Blaser/Trippi/Dean summit?:

  1. Someone arranges a meeting with, at least, Dr. Lessig, Doc Searls, Dr. Dean, and Joe Trippi. The agenda is simple:
    1. Will you go to the mat to return fair use of published works to the people?
    2. Will you sponsor a blog-oriented, blog-responsive administration?
    3. Will you promote a fact-based judiciary?
  2. If those answers are public, unequivocal and satisfactory, Searls, Lessig and other Net thought leaders should pull out the stops and get behind Dean, our last best hope for an administration knowing that managerial capitalism is about to consume the seed corn that makes capitalism possible. The nutrients they’re snorting up are the major food groups of the American miracle:
    1. A free and informed electorate
    2. The freedom to oppose the majority opinion (which usually isn’t)
    3. Freedom of speech, and, implicitly, freedom from single-agenda broadcasting
    4. Freedom from unreasonable seizure and, implicitly, limits on fair use of purchased media

The hack4dean movement has begun in earnest. Zack in Pittsburgh has set up a wiki and a mailing list, and we’re starting to have IRC meetings: http://www.pgh4dean.org/hack4dean/

The goal is to create something on the order to technorati but focused exclusively on Dean sites. We’re also planning on setting up a helpdesk for technically literate non-hackers to get support for their Dean efforts.

Having the endorsement of a few of the “A-list” people would be a big boost. It’s high time the geek community was activated as a political constituency. There’s too much to lose in the next four years not to do this.

Kingmakers Awake!

This is a time for leadership and not waffling, a time to pick a horse and not worry about picking the wrong one. This may also prove to be the time when Internet opinion leaders became the kingmakers in our society in the same sense that past kingmakers have been, by turns, the robber barons, the Hearsts, the Sarnoffs and currently the Murdochs.

The question is, will we collectively act or shall we keep discussing best practices? Josh feels geeks should be organized to be most effective.

Here are some obvious web applications that beg to be set up:

  1. Pro-active online help to get voters to the polls, especially in places like Belle Glade, FL where the year 2000 shenanigans will be going on. (Mitch suggested yesterday that an online service could analyze the public registration records and turn up anomalies)
  2. Web cams at polling places, so voter intervention can be publicized.
  3. A web app to match up drivers with voters who need transportation.
  4. A web app to train zealots how to communicate with humans, the point being to make friends, not flames. (E.g., hack4dean may be a poor message since most voters think hackers are criminals)
  5. Widgets to put on our web sites/blogs
    1. I like the GOP Words, Totalitarian Deeds concept:
      A daily quote from Ike/Lincoln/Teddy Roosevelt, etc. (non-Democrat statesmen), provided to subscribing sites so visitors see the same quote several times a day, with the date and venue of each quote and a link to a statistical example of the quote’s relevance to this world we’ve inherited. (Links could be from http://www.nationmaster.com:
            Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.
                             —Dwight D. Eisenhower, American Society of Newspaper Editors, 4/16/63
      Military expenditures

      Prosecution rates
  6. Seemyvote.com:
    A database of voters who have abdicated their secret ballot to advertise their responses to current issues. The database would match issues and outrage with politicians and their current actions:

    Sample SeeMyVote Report:
    “The Fleemer amendment to HR 419 has caused a plurality of Mr. Fleemer’s voting constituents to commit to vote him out of office in November. Based on commitment data from 73% of registered voters, it appears that Rep. Fleemer will lose his seat by a 9% margin unless his amendment is withdrawn. Those voter commitments have been communicated to Mr. Fleemer’s staff, the Republican and Democratic National Committees and major media outlets. View details at http://www.seemyvote.com/fleemer."

The Root of Ideal is Idea

Elections are grand ad hoc communications projects, which is why they’re so expensive. Communication Ideas are cheap and now, implementing them is cheap, thanks to the open source mentality. The political parties have never conceived of self-organizing groups, smart mobs, moblogging, and have barely heard of blogs.

Just Do It

Mitch and I discussed geek activism at length yesterday and he raised the concern that the kinds of efforts that Josh Koenig and Zack in Pittsburgh are promoting could run them afoul of the campaign finance reform laws, which prohibit individuals from donating more than $2500, cash or work pr
oducts
, to a single campaign. The way around the limit is to make our web apps in support of a cause, such as the progressive politics. (It might be cool to have enough faith in the electorate to make the tools available to all campaigns, but that’s another conversation.) Mitch just wrote (while I’m typing this up):

Britt, Doc,

I was on the phone today with someone close to the Dean campaign, talking about creating some tools using Technorati, etc.

He agreed with me that creating a set of tools is important and should be tied not to a campaign but to progressive organizing. He suggested looking at OrganizeNow.net, which is an open source campaign database, as an example.

We would not face any campaign donation questions if we made tools and made them available for campaigns as open source applications. We’d have to report in-kind donations only when asked by a campaign to build something, and could even be paid for that.

Who will inspire and implement the inevitable smartmob takeover of the American electoral process? When will it start?

4:32:46 PM    

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