From politics to governance (no endorsement here)

Four years ago, I picked the hometown favorite for the Democratic primaries, albeit very late in the game,  long after he was all but crowned as the presumptive nominee.

How anti-social networking software could be used

A bunch of merry pranksters have had some fun with the phrase anti-social networking over the last few years. (“You can use Nemester to: Find out the enemies of your enemies and conspire with them Denounce your enemies… Make new enemies… Help your enemies meet their demise…”; Introvertster is an online community that prevents stupid people and friends from harassing you online.”)

Online Influence and Buzz

The thrust of this series has been about online influence. Do we even have a good understanding of it? This short concluding piece will raise some new questions for further research.

I'm indebted to Philip Meyer, one of the pioneers of statistical journalism research. In his work on the Quality Project at the University of North Carolina, he has developed the Societal Influence Model. It's a very basic model; the data in his latest book, The Vanishing Newspaper, validates the connections. Societal influence (as opposed to commercial influence, which newspapers also sell) is associated with circulation and credibility. They tend to go up, and down, together. More circulation leads to more profitability, which leads to more spending on staff, which leads to more credibility.

Whipster – who supports what

The Congress Votes Database from the Washington Post tells you how Senators and Representatives have voted.

But wouldn't it be useful to know what their positions are on issues coming up?

In politics, it's the whip who counts the supports before a vote. Hence: Whipster.

Take a look at the amount of effort undertaken by Talking Points Memo and by Porkbusters last August — incidentally, not regarding a specific vote, but regarding finding out who was the Senator who placed the "secret hold" on a bill (which would have created a public, searchable database on federal grants contracts).

Incivilities: Finally, a place to dump those letters to the editor

An ex-girlfriend of mine once mentioned that her father had an idea to create a magazine that featured only letters-to-the-editor (it would be sold next to the coffee-table book about coffee tables, naturally). I’ve stopped trying to impress her now that she’s gotten married (not to mention some years passing) but I can still try to impress her father. Or get revenge by capitalizing on his idea.


Constructive Activism, Part V: Mashup Petitions

The last part started with a reference to Ethan Zuckerman, and this one shall as well. Ethan wrote a nice summary of the first four parts, echoing my call for online activists. In this part we’ll go into some core examples of disruptive and constructive activism.

Constructive Media: Policy Management

This describes an exercise in building a constructive media process.

Let’s begin by saying that an organization has policies, bylaws, guidelines, position papers which govern the behavior of its members; for this exercise we will use “policies” as the generic term covering all of them. The organization has two main responsibilities: publish the policies, and understand how they are actually being employed by members.

Code of Conversations: managing online news comments

[This post is a response to a thread on the ONA discussion list. It got too long to email.]

When talking about the best use of technology for uses like computer-mediated communications, a skeptical philopsophy is invariably voiced along the lines of "technology can't solve all problems; humans can." This is sensible, but the statement is problematic due to a different understandings of what exactly "technology" means in this sense.

Comments/ViewPoints update and plan

Comments are back– after I had suspended them several weeks back when I upgraded to Drupal 4.6. And this after a half-year of promising them to various people. After a year ago at the Berkman Center conference where I promised that they’d be done "just in time for Christmas." After almost two years since I wrote the original prototyope for ViewPoints in Drupal. And after over four years when I first came up with the idea for ViewPoints. I’m still amazed that no one else has taken the idea and run with it.

Anyways, you get the idea. Coding takes solid concentration, and I have to manufacture some time over the last several weeks to get this done. Perhaps a dozen articles have been on hold in the ensuing time. But we’ve got comments once again. For some reason it’s no longer preserving line breaks. But I have made several key improvements over the 2004:

Notes from the Massachusetts BlogLeft conference

I was at the Massachusetts BlogLeft conference this past Saturday– I should have posted a stub post earlier letting people know I’d be there. One of my readers, Bruce Wilson, told me about it a few weeks ago, and suggested to conference organizer Lynne Lupien, that I’d be a good person to lead a breakout session.


Give me props: Handshakes, salutes, or applause?

Ok, you’ve written a really good, original, article on your blog or webzine or civ or whatever. Your next step is to promote the heck out of it: not just get people to read it, but get people to reference it later, and recognize you as the smart person behind that idea.


Seeking Good Christians to Talk About God

What’s promising about the Internet, it’s been suggested, is that it can facilitate conversations, particularly among people who wouldn’t ordinarily meet in everydate life. Online I purposesly try to seek out people different from myself.

2020 Democrats: Principles for a New Generation

On Sunday I went to hear Howard Zinn speak at the Boston chapter of the National Writers Union. He said that he sees more activism today that any time during the 1960’s.

I wasn’t there then, but it’s possible that the perception leads reality. Wherever one looks on the Internet, there is activism, though the physical evidence, and quantifiable acheivements, are harder to discern (Zinn did not admit to much web-surfing, let along blog-reading, other than reading his email).

Shoot the Press: Responding to the Eason Jordan Controversy

Should we care about what happens in a global forum planning the future of the world? Would we care more if our actions, or inactions, affect larger events?

Judging the Character of one’s Content on MLK Day

On Martin Luther King Day, I celebrate by listening to WGBH’s Eric Jackson‘s salute to the great man, which he does by interespersing King’s speeches with jazz music. There are very few evenings on the radio as

Is it necessary for journalists to reveal their personal biases?

Is it necessary for journalists to reveal their personal biases? This comes from the folk bloggers such as Dave Winer, and, to the best of my knowledge, pushed for by folk-blogging supporters like NYU’s Jay Rosen— that journalists are just like normal people and probably have opinions about things they right about, and thus they ought to be as transparent as a blogger. I’m very skeptical about that approach.

Theories of the Bulge: The Timeline

For Theories of the Bulge, I needed to come up with a timeline of when theories were developed. I researched through the core websites, and had a look at a few more that were linked. Afterwards, I gave this a bit of structure by splitting it up into weeks. And then I thought, what else was going on in the news that week? This was quite a busy month– and it didn't help that four debates were cramed into the first half of it. If the debates were spached out by a week or two over a longer period of time, it perhaps would have allowed the country to spend more time on the issues covered– as well as the meta-issues like this.

Is an uncoordinated Presidential campaign in our best interest?

Just how coordinated was the Kerry-Edwards campaign in Florida?

First, some background. A couple of weeks before Election Day, the Republican party obtained a hard copy of the Democrats’ 46-page “Victory 2004 Florida Coordinated Campaign” and posted it online (in PDF format). The GOP claimed that this document, which had a page for signatures from the Kerry-Edwards campaign, the state party, and union groups, proved that the Democrats were engaged in illegal coordination betwe. The Democrats responded that the coordinating committee was in fact an independent entity allowed by the law, the Florida the Republicans were engaged in the same. The Republicans said they’d file suit with the FEC.

Brookline Town Meeting 2004: Getting buried & tossed in the trash

There were two vacancies in the Tenth Precinct of Brookline’s, and three openings. My friend from temple, Jonathan Davis asked me to fill one of the vacancies. I could have avoided this problem had I thought to run last May, but I didn’t (I just hung around for the voting results). Now that the Presidential election is behind me, I’m thrilled to dive into the guts of local policymaking. It should be fun, Jonathan promised.

Brookline Town Meeting 2004: Discussion of the Warrant Articles

Here are the 25 Warrant Articles for the Annual Town Meeting. Also, here are the Town Meeting Members, which include 240 elected members and 8 at-large. The articles sure to generate the bulk of the discussion are #7 Underground Utilities, #11 on the cell tower (even though it recommends passing to a committee), and #21, a study to overhaul the 2-hour parking limit. I’m leaning against $7 for the cost. The Griggs Park Neighborhood Association is in favor of it. I’m willing to hear both sides.

Going Canvassing: How to Prepare

Four years ago, I thought that to be elected a President, it was sufficient for the candidate to have experience in the White House, command of the issues, a platform which would benefit the majority of Americans, an abiliy to withstand the press’s snipings about his wardrobe, authorship of a government report on airline security… ok, all but the last. What I didn’t realize is that what he really needed was a collection of votes in New Hampshire and Florida, and a little door-to-door canvassing might have helped turned the tide. So, four years too late, I some did canvassing in those battleground states. (We took the granite, but lost the sunshine.) I only canvassed on a handful of occasions, but whenever I did, my fellow canvassers marvelled at the stories I told afterwards. So I thought it best to write it down to be useful for future campaigns.

Canvassing in God’s Country: Assessing the Religious Divide

Palm Beach County, Florida would not ordinarily be confused with “God’s Country”, a phrase which typically connotes a wide open spance of nature unspoiled by civilization. On the other hand, to take the term at its literal meaning, it might indicate a place of extraordinary religiosity. Who knew that Palm Beach was ranked second among Florida counties in the proportion of residents who regularly attend houses of worship? (anyone who read this 2002 newspaper story “Keeping the Faith in Florida” did). With growing numbers hispanic Catholic and elderly Jewish populations, its 56% ranked above the Panhandle counties. Granted, while may be God’s County in Florida, it would rank 12th in Massachusetts and 66th in Kansas. To paraphrase Harry Golden, the most famous Southern Jew a half century ago, people in Florida talk to God, so Operation Bubbe went down to Florida to talk to them.

I hate when liberals tell lies

I hate when liberals tell lies. I can’t stand those people who slander the President, with accusations of murder and worse. Those who never let facts get in the way of a good argument. I have a good reason to harbor these feelings: I’m a liberal myself, and I want liberals to never stray from their dedication to truth.

This worries me now because of the desperate times the liberals are in. For three years the Republican Party controls the White House and both houses of Congress; this is the most conservative (in every aspect but fiscal) that the government has been in modern times. One solution, guided by the Air America radio network, is to compete with the likes of Rush and O’Reilly on the partisan airwaves. But to do that best, one might embrace generalizations, innuendo, and then finds themself down the path of falsehood.

Distributed Media Monitoring

This is a outline of an Internet project which would facilitate real-time monitoring of broadcast media.

Escaping the convention

I have very little to add to the convention coverage from the 15,000 journalists and 30 bloggers. I started writing something this morning comparing watching the convention to a baseball game, in which you sit around chatting for the first several innings before all the excitement happens at the end of the game, but, if that hasn’t been said already, I haven’t looked hard enough. So I thought I’d try my unique tack here: escaping the actual convention.

God and the Single-Issue Voter

The former Mayor of New York, Ed Koch, a lifelong Democrat, is backing the re-election of President Bush on the basis of essentially one issue: Israel. Or, as he explains it, Bush is “the only one willing to stand up to international terrorism.” (see the interview in the March 2004 Hadassah magazine) Asked whether he basing his endorsement on a single issue, Koch grew defensive. Or rather, offensive. “When someone says to me what’s Bush’s position on abortion, I want to hit him.”

Breaking News breeds Broken Discourse

The old idiom about that news “breaks” has on occasion led observers of the media scene to wonder whether it has any use in its broken state. “…We fix it” announces the tagline Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. (Similarly, NPR had a recent print ad campaign about “putting it back together”) Here’s an account of some of this week’s of “breaking news”, which on the face of it, does not look very broken:

A tale of two Internet community sites

It was the worst of sites, it was the best of sites, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness– so begins my tale of two civilities. In the course of my work on Civilities I participate in other community websites; partly to see how they work, and often to exchange information. Some have good leadership; others merely have good software (and rarely do both exist on the same site). Fortunately, it was the former that steered me to a correction. The latter is balking on helping me do research. Here’s my tale:

My helpers were the C-SPAN Community, where some members picked up on an erroneous statement I had writtin an article that the national public access network was funded by cable companies, but also “mandated by the government.” The article in question was “When it comes to cable reform, the Cato Institute fears the free market”, which I have republished with the correction. I aim to correct any falsehoods and also encourage users to post. Still, I only found out about the complaint by checking the referring URL’s in my server logs. (Later that evening, someone did email me directly, but didn’t mention the C-SPAN site).

In Defense of Internet Polls

Internet polls had a promise once. They are a cheap mechanism from collecting quantifiable opinions from people who want to give it. Typically the data from Internet polling is instantly visible. This promise has been somewhat muted, due to a slow pace of innovation on the part of the community software industry, as well as some caution offered up by the polling industry.

Voting patterns of the Mories at

Four years ago, the once-famous political consultant Dick Morris published a book extolling his vision of the future of politics–, a system of deliberation-based Internet polling. Even if the conventional wisdom is that Internet polls are bunk, Morris has an interest in providing some analysis to the data in order mine some respectability out of the 55+ million “votes” in his database. None is apparent on the website, nor does his latest book hint at it. I thought I would take some time to do it.
Syndicate content