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Online Politics: Fast, Cheap and Allows for Control


New tools and technologies allow political organizers to unleash and manage activity faster, easier, and on a much more massive scale given limited staff than ever before. However, campaigns and organizations have only scratched the surface of what's possible. What's needed are more and better application designers serving the political sphere. This panel is an introduction to the field of political and non-profit online organizing for developers, web designers, and anyone interested in how the web is changing the way society and politics operates.Very simple tools -- such as MoveOn's lobby-day planner, or the GOP's Team Leader -- can allow tiny teams of organizers, or even a single organizer, to coordinate giant movements that once required an army of staff people. And thanks to the high-level frameworks onto of which web developers build, applications that mobilize millions can often be built in a day or two by a single programmer. That said, organizations, campaigns and political parties are having a terrible time finding and directing programmers to build new and powerful tools.


Moderator: Zack Exley Senior Strategist, OMP, New Organizing Institute

Becky Bond Creative Producer, Working Assets

Chuck DeFeo Dir of Online Strategy, Salem Web Network

Justin Ruben Organizing Dir, MoveOn.org

Mark Strama State Rep, .

Leda Dederich Dir, ScoutSeven

Zack Exley Senior Strategist, OMP, New Organizing Institute


Bond: 2004 – working assets registered 1 million voters. Organize around elections – want to change the math. Stop digging and create online tools to help us get out of the hole. Gap between volunteering on left and right for elections. Liberal orgs relied largely on paid workers. Volunteers of right kicked our ass. 2006 is going to focus on online tools for volunteering and organizing.


Created website to recruit ppl to watch polls – 15k volunteers. Really learned that the tools need to automate the things that ppl do. Need less back end. Need to be built w end user in mind and be really easy for managers to employ. Big goal is to create online tool to lead ppl to offline action. Also great for tools to have long term strategies. Now Working Assets is building a more comprehensive community for members to communicate to them and each other. Create a volunteer site based on commercial sites ebay/craigslist/amazon/netflix. A big problem has been scaleablitly. Something that is powerful and efficient but also allows for unlimited number of volunteers.


Mark Strama – TX state legislature. 1st job was working for Ann Richards, created the first website at rock the vote for online registration. Used online tools for his run for office. all field activity was about capturing email addresses. Online component of campaign MUST be integral to entire campaign, not just a silo. If I can get all email addresses, the cost of campaigning comes down. And if the cost of campaigning comes down, then govt gets better.


Ruben (moveon): moving ppl from online to offline action. My bg is grassroots organizer. Click Back America. You can’t click back America – need ppl on the streets. The most powerful model is to give ppl easy things that almost anyone can do. Throw that out to millions of ppl and have faith that they can do it. houseparties and meetups – bottom up, anyone can do it. example – moveon’s “bake back the whitehouse” Raised $.75 million with 2k bakesales across the country.


Recent problem – there is a whole set of tools that you can throw out there but you can’t just give them to anyone. i.e. rallies – sometimes the organizer doesn’t show up. Whole set of actions that require accountability and training – this requires staff. How do you merge the benefits of online model with the quality control of having an army of trained folks? (This is like us for murderball, etc. ) To deal with this, moveon created a group of ambassadors across the country to give more time and really commit. Like a core group of volunteers who are accountable for keeping the rest on track. They did an Iraq war campaign in support of Murtha’s bill with veterans working as leaders. Hundreds of news conferences and rallies. This would be impossible to do with purely online organizing model.


DeFeo, Salem Web Network: 90% of purchase decisions are made from word of mouth. Used online network to create WOM.


Exley: it’s not about a flash viral video. It’s not about something cool on the web. When you are trying to create something, you have got to figure out how the tools help you achieve your goal. The medium itself is not what makes it work. Same focused grassroots organizing applied to internet.




Q for DeFeo: did you do so well w online model bc it was built based on an already existing offline org? He said that they had to pay close attention to who in their database had what role offline? Who were the leaders? Follow up with them individually to mobilize the rest. Really need local managers to be held accountable.


Strama - key is to create interactivity on the web, not just content. People want transactions.

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