Saturday, March 31, 2007

More Thoughts on

Readers of the Boston globe may notice that I was quoted today in an article by Lisa Wangsness about Deval Patrick's new website. Lisa had contacted me earlier in the week to find out what people who had used the campaign's old system thought of the new endeavor. Here's what made the paper:

But Steve Owens, a Watertown organizer for the Patrick campaign who writes a political blog called .08 Acres (, said the real advantage of the website for activists is not winning the most votes for their issue online, but being able to connect with other like-minded people whom they would not otherwise meet.

"The point is to get action on your issues, and the way you do that is by working with people who signed up," he said.
First of all, hooray for the Globe for putting my URL in the paper (at least online, I haven't seen the dead-tree version yet) and welcome to any Globe readers who may have followed the link here. To elaborate on my point a little, I think that too much has been made of what issues end up on the leaderboard on the issues page of the site. It's not like you win a prize if you get to the top. You "win" when your favored policy gets enacted, and the site is a tool to help you organize to achieve your goal. The people who have created issues to embarrass the governor are, in my opinion, unlikely to use the site that way. They're more likely to show up just to add a "vote" to that issue and never think about the site again. Still, the vote option is useful since it might make people who disagree with the issue think twice about adding their name to the list since by doing so they make it look like the issue has more support (though, this does not seem to be happening currently).

Now it's true that the site is a little unidirectional right now -- you can only contact the creator of an issue, they can't contact you -- but that's okay for now. It lets people opt-in to real-world organizing and makes sure that by signing up to this site your email doesn't get passed around to every progressive organization that has an email list (trust me, there are a lot -- I'm on half of them). More can probably be done to foster group communication, though, and maybe private messages or issue-based message boards would help with this without adding to people's already overburdened inboxes.