Archive - October 2008

1
Twitter Vote Report in Action
2
Twitter Vote Report is Live!
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Nice to Have the NY Times In Your Corner
4
Guilt by Twitter Association
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Is Social Enteprise Dead?
6
How Nonprofits Need to Use Connectedness For Survival
7
Twitter Partner Update
8
Update on Twitter Campaign: In A Word, Viral!

Twitter Vote Report in Action

“So, what’s all this about?”  Some folks have been asking me that question in the past few weeks when I’ve told them about Twitter Vote Report. As of yesterday when the site went up, I can point to it and see, this is what it’s all about:

  • “#votereport yesterday in #NC #28269 2.5 hr wait at library #early”
  • “#votereport #early #89501 Downtown Reno Libarary 1 minute wait time”
  • “#votereport #02128 #bad #reg I have not received my mail-in registration confirmation, and the MA phone number has been busy for a week!”
  • “#votereport #60657 the electronic voting machines were awesome. showed you a paper receipt before finally casting your ballot.”
  • “#votereport! I voted #early today in Arlington VA (#22201). Exp. was #good; #wait:30 min. I arrived at 8AM.”
  • “My #early #votereport – absentee ballots in #48823 require extra postage. Don’t let a $0.15 slipup keep your voice from being heard!”

My favorite is the postage situation in North Carolina. I’ve asked my friend Cheryl Graeve, head of field operations at the National League of Women Voters to check that one out!

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Twitter Vote Report is Live!

Three weeks to the day ago Nancy Scola and I hatched the idea of using Twitter to report on election day experiences.  This morning Twitter Vote Report went live!

A volunteer network of software developers, designers, and other collaborators teamed up and spent hundreds of volunteer hours, no money was spent on this effort at all, to create the non-partisan Twitter Vote Report.  Individual voters will use their cell phones to report on their individual experiences – the good, bad and ugly. How long is the wait in Cleveland, Ohio? Are the new optical scan machines staying up and running in Palm Beach County, Florida? Is failure to bring ID to the polls thwarting first-time voters in Indianapolis? With Twitter Vote Report, we’ll know the answers to those questions straight from voters from all over the country.

A large number of groups working on voter outreach and protection efforts have joined this effort.  They include: the 866-OUR-VOTE (The Election Protection Coalition), Rock the Vote, Credo Mobile, Common Cause, Plodt.com, YouTube, twittervision.com, NPR’s Social Media Desk, Independence Year Foundation, Center for Community Change, Student PIRGs, PBS, Women Donors Network, and Demos.

And now we need everyone’s help to get the word out — this effort will only work if lots of people are using the system.  So, here’s how it works:

If you currently use Twitter, send a message after you vote that begins with #votereport (this is critically important for ensuring that your message gets to the right place.)  Then write some or all of the following:

#[zip code] to indicate where you’re voting; ex., “#12345”
#machine for machine problems; ex., “#machine broken, using prov. ballot”
#reg for registration troubles; ex., “#reg I wasn’t on the rolls”
#wait:minutes for long lines; ex., “#wait:120 and I’m coming back later”
#good or #bad to give a quick sense of your overall experience
#EP+your state if you have a serious problem and need help from the Election Protection coalition; ex., #EPOH
If you don’t use Twitter and want to go to www.twitter.com, sign up then follow the directions above.

If you want to participate by cellphone but don’t want to use Twitter, you can:

Send a text message to 66937 that begins with “#votereport”
Key in a report by calling (567) 258-VOTE/8683
Download and use the iPhone app (coming soon)
Please participate — we need lots and lots of voices heard on Election Day!

That’s it — let’s go and “tweet” this election!

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Nice to Have the NY Times In Your Corner

The NY Times came to our rescue after Noah Shachtman impugned our good reputation at Twitter Vote Report by lumping our civil society use of Twitter on Election Day with the potential use of Twitter by terrorists.  The Times posted this update last night stating that the paragraphs that mentioned our efforts were expunged from the post.  Impugned and expunged in a matter of just a few hours!

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Is Social Enteprise Dead?

On the Chronicle’s Give and Take blog there is a fascinating post summarizing Jeff Trexler, a professor of social entrepreneurship at Pace University post on “social enterprises”, nonprofits structured like for-profit businesses and whether they can survive in an economic downturn.

Trexler writes, “At the peak of the bubble this gave the movement a rhetorical advantage, but as the economy tanks, this same language can make the social entrepreneur seem untrustworthy, defined by profit, self-interest, and the very business practices that created the problems charity now has to solve,” he continues.

I think this is a fascinating argument.  I wrote a post this week about ways that nonprofits need to enhance their connectedness with constituents to survive the downturn.  But Trexler gives this an interesting twist on whether the language and framework that has made nonprofits that came of age in a go-go time unsuccessful during a bust because they remind people of go-go times!  Hoisted by their own petard, really.

As you all know I have written and talked about my discomfort with the notion that nonprofits will be more effective if they were just more business-like.  Maybe now the focus will be on being more non-profity and being more successful, we’ll see!

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How Nonprofits Need to Use Connectedness For Survival

I was in Los Angeles yesterday visiting with the Southern California Grantmakers.  They shared with me that there are whole blocks in LA with foreclosures signed up and down.  It’s gonna be ugly for a while, I fear.

To that end, I posted a column on Opportunity Knocks yesterday on the critical importance of nonprofits focusing on their connectedness with their constituents to survive — and maybe even thrive — in this bleak economy.  Feel free to read the entire post, and here are the highlights:

  1. Focus on What You Do Best. It is critically important for nonprofits to go back to basics and ask yourself what you are fundamentally in the business of accomplishing – and get rid of the rest.
  2. Rethink success. Did we add more revenue/staff/programs this year? That’s the question that boards ask year after year, as if the only way to serve communities better, or have a greater impact, is to do more of the same – at the cost of doing whatever you do really well. We need to rethink this, and educate board members about the difference between impact and growth.
  3. Live Within Your Ecosystem. When each organization is focused on what it does best, not becoming sprawling growth machines themselves, then they can connect with like-minded, collaborative partner organizations to serve their communities and constituents better.
  4. Nurture Your Networks. Connect with your constituents in real, meaningful ways. Too often, communications between organizations and constituents has devolved into a one-way ask for money. We’re not really interested in you, most organizations are saying, unless and until you write us a check. People have lots to offer organizations in terms of what they know and who they know.  This is the giving up control part – and if your organization isn’t ready to give it up, don’t bother asking people for advice.
  5. Trust yourself. In trying times it’s important to remember why you do the work that you do – to make our corner of the world a better place. We need to reject the Phyrric belief that success will come from being closed, competitive, opaque and hard of hearing. If it ever worked, it certainly won’t now. The elixir is to be your best self; open, transparent, connected and courageous.
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Twitter Partner Update

The response to the Twitter campaign continues to be amazing.  Our newest partners are Common Cause, Women Donors Network and Video the Vote.  And best news of the day was that my mom signed up on Twitter to get in the swing of the campaign!

PS  I’m on the plane home from LA using wifi supplied by GoGo Inflight – kinda freaky, kinda cool, kinda hope the plane doesn’t go down!

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Update on Twitter Campaign: In A Word, Viral!

Nancy Scola and I posted an update on TechPresident on the Twitter Voter Report campaign we proprosed two weeks.  And wow, what a two week’s it’s been as this idea has totally caught on with voter protection and adovcacy groups and hackers.  Here’s the update in full:

In the two weeks since we first proposed using Twitter to report election day problems and challenges, both the response to the idea and how it has evolved has been, frankly, remarkable. The established groups who work in election protection have been amazingly receptive to the adoption of an open format for vote reporting, eager to benefit from a combined effort. And a collection of excellent developers and activists are at work building out the protocol and tools for making the most of the resulting data. While work on the project is pretty fluid, we’re going to give you an update on where things stand today.

First off, the partnerships formed have been outstanding. They include working relationships between non-partisan groups like Election Protection coalition (the umbrella organization behind the 866-OUR-VOTE hotline), Rock the Vote, Credo Mobilize, the Voter Suppression Wiki, Demos, the League of Young Voters, the Open Resource Group, NPR, and, of course, techPresident and Personal Democracy Forum. A constantly updated list of partners is available on the wiki up at twittervotereport.com, which serves the hub for the project.

In addition to recommending people use the basic #votereport hashtag for all Twitter-based reporting of voting problems, conversations with partners and contributors has evolved further standardized tagging that suit our need to keep the reporting as simple as possible for Twitterers and useful for watchdog groups and other voters. The tags include:

  • Secondary tags — #machine for troubles with a voting machine, #registration for registration problems, and #wait:time (e.g. #wait:90) for extended wait times.
  • #EP[two letter state code] for serious legal issues; for example #EPOH for Ohio: The Election Protection coalition’s local staffers will be tracking those hashtags for troubles, and a guide is being developed to detail what sort of problems should be reported with an EP tag.
  • zipcode: This is the most universally known geographic tag that provides a valuable resolution of data.

A superb collection of developers have been working together to build out the project, and there’s some very neat stuff in the works. (We don’t want to mention anyone in particular at the risk of leaving out valuable contributors. Again, check out the wiki to see who is working on what.) We’re looking at visualizations from Twittervision to Google Maps to Plodt and more. There may be an iPhone application, with a built-in call tool that automates some of the reporting. And plans are forming for a nationwide “jam session” for programmers to work on building out the project on Friday, October 24th.

Analyzing the tweets tagged with #votereport after the fact will be immensely valuable. We are aware of the need to ensure that the tweets are captured and stored for further assessments, and so a system is being set up to archive the tweets in an open database, available to anyone who wants it. That discussion is happening on the wiki.

There are, of course, still issues to be worked out. With 14 days and counting to Election Day, a few of them:

  • How do we reach out to groups that interact with people who have traditionally experienced voter suppression, so that this effort doesn’t end up as a neat pastime for the Twittering class but misses the people and communities most in need of real help?
  • Is it necessary to have assigned “sweepers” to monitor tweets in real time to look for patterns and pass along potential problems to election protection experts, or will the organic response fill that role?
  • How do you balance advanced hashtags (which are being discussed on the wiki here) with usability, so that people can construct a good tweet in the field without being bogged down in details?
  • How to best clarify where this efforts fits into the spectrum between projects like PBS and YouTube’s Video Your Vote and the 866-OUR-VOTE efforts?
  • How to invite and involve communities of people who may be unfamiliar with Twitter and might consider the effort beyond their technical know-how?

Stay tuned (or, better yet, join in) as we continue to refine the effort, add partners and build out the tools. Jump into the mix on our Google Group, edit the wiki, follow @votereport on Twitter, or keep an eye on this space and leave a comment here. And, of course, tag your vote report tweets with #votereport. Ready or not, we’re gearing up to tweet our votes.

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