It’s my party and I’ll campaign if I want to – Democrats release powerful MySpace clone

It’s called Party Builder and it looks quite slick.
Party Builder

What’s it got?

  1. A user dashboard that pulls data from all tools into one, easy-to-manage interface.
  2. A social networking tool that allows for people to connect with one another.
  3. A search tool, allowing users to find each other or to find established groups based on name or zip code.
  4. A groups tool, allowing users to join together for an issue, cause, or candidate. Users then share a common blog, events management system, and listserv.
  5. An events tool that allows users to create real-world events of any kind.
  6. A personal fundraising system, that allows users to take control of the financial future of the party.
  7. A petitions section, allowing users to add their voice to a host of important issue statements.
  8. A letters tool, that easily connects users with the editors of their local papers. Talking points are conveniently provided for a range of issues.
  9. A blog for every user, complete with full management control and commenting functionality. The blogs have an integrated, shared tagging system for system-wide categorization.

More details on number 8:

The Letters section allows you to quickly and easily write letters to the editors of national, regional and local newspapers. You can always use the Letters tool to write about whatever you want, but we do provide useful points for various issues if you want some tips. To get started, simply enter your zip code or click on your issue, then enter your zip code. The simple process will allow you to enter your name and address, write your letter, select which newspapers will get it, and then review everything before you click send.

Simon, is this spam or is it ok because the emails go to generic email addresses? It seems like a great idea for lowering the barrier to entry for campaigning but it’d be a shame to see a local paper get avalanched because of someone wanted their agenda pushed forcefully.

Party Builder is a great step but one has to wonder about the overall editorial policy given that it’s a partisan site. Would it not be better to have a non-partisan system? There doesn’t seem to be any APIs or ability to stick other social networking services into your dashboard. No feedreader either. Shame. No way of importing or exporting OPML. Importantly, where’s the mobile integration? Surely that’s important in this day and age. Still a very good start and maybe all these wants will be added over time.

Maybe when they finish PPARS the developers could be hired to make an Irish version of Party Builder?

5 Responses to “It’s my party and I’ll campaign if I want to – Democrats release powerful MySpace clone”

  1. Rob says:

    Not surprising; most social networking sites are more or less walled gardens. And Americans aren’t as big on mobiles as everyone else, I believe.

  2. Simon McGarr says:

    An Irish version would be different, true enough.
    I don’t see how you can have a non-partisan political campaign site, really. Either you’re in favour of a policy, in which case your effectiveness depends on your ability to promote the side that is in tune with you, or you’re for or against a party and trying to influence people accordingly.

    Some of these seem to be related to the tools Britt Blaser was talking about when he was in Ireland recently. They were developed in the hot-house of the Dean campaign, and are reflections of the needs of a primary election in the US. These are not the same needs as an election campaign here. Letters to local papers, for example, are not key opinion persuaders in the way they are in the US, because of the differences in population scale. Similarly, as you point out, if there was an Irish version, it ought to start with Text messages and alerts and build everything else onto it.

    One question that does arise is whether there is a central list of personal contacts (say journalists or PR people) which is shared with the members. If so, it would seem to fall foul of Data Protection over on this side of the water.

    DRI have offered to help a grass-roots letter writing push by members on a few issues, offering a template letter for them to alter and personalise. I don’t see that that could cause problems, provided the recipient emails were in the public domain. There’s nothing to make an organised political letter writing campaign illegal in the spam laws. Just don’t try to slip in a reference to your excellent strawberry jam, available for purchase, into the template.

  3. I’m honestly astounded at how often “noo meeja” ignores well-established experience simply because it predates whatever Web Version Number currently en vogue.

    Today’s lecture is entitled Template Letters Are Evil And Never Work.

    *Only* in the US do elected representatives routinely just weigh their correspondence. Over here, a single form letter carries the exact same value as 100,000 form letters — they clearly don’t represent real voters, just a single interest group using dumb proxies.

    FaxYourMP Writetothem intercepts and blocks form letters for this reason (British MPs’ staff otherwise phone them up and bollock them for facilitating spam).

    The most compelling example of all would be Amnesty’s Urgent Action appeals, which started about 20 years ago. When someone’s life is in imminent danger, you want to do it right. Their most important instruction of all is to write your own damn prose.

    Think: If you were stuck in an Uzbek prison and someone was boiling up the oil barrel in the room next door… would you rather I got 100 people to copy-and-paste something (allowing them to ignore it)? Or 25 people to each write something original?

    Form letters don’t work.

    Form letters are counterproductive.

    This third sentence depended on the rhetorical device of repetition and described people who advocate the use of form letters, but was redacted at the last minute because its author is getting tired of sounding like such a grumpy old fucker all the time.

  4. *cough*ignorantmorons*cough*

    Sorry, it just slipped out.

  5. Simon McGarr says:

    To clarify- DRI (and I’m sure they’d explain themselves better than I could) did ask people to write using their own words and experiences. However, there are differences between asking people not to be killed, as in the Amnesty example, and explaining what part or parts of a complicated legal proposal you disagree with. Providing some inspiration or citations- in the form of bullet points or sample paragraphs- can be helpful.

    Similarly, if attempting to encourage people to make a complaint to a regulator such as the Data Protection Commissioner, a form letter is all that is required. The DPC doesn’t need originality of prose to act. He just needs to have received a complaint.

    The PartyBuilder system of trying to influence opinion by writing similar or identical letters to the local press wouldn’t work here. Ireland is to small for it not to be remarked on.