Posted by: katiebo242 | December 2, 2008

Birds of a Feather Twitter Together, Part II

This week, I wrote a column about Twitter — just a primer, really, so that the friends who ask me about it will get off my back. 🙂 I signed up for Twitter in our Digital Campaigns class, and though I knew what it was, I didn’t think it would be of use to me. Was I ever wrong.  Though I don’t tweet much, I really rely on Twitter as a source of the latest news, as it’s happening, rather than after someone else writes an entire story about it.  I sometimes feel like I looked into my Twitter feed and saw the future.

For example, I read a tweet last night about a cruise ship that outran pirates in the Gulf of Aden. Today, I was home sick and flicked on the TV right as Charlie Gibson was reporting this ABC’s World News Tonight. Granted, nightly news programs always report news later than others, but this felt like very old news to me. One of the great values of the Web is that it allows me to find news when I want to read about rather than when it’s fed to me.  I carry this theme on in my final paper by discussing the need to put power in the hands of the people during the 2012 race for the White House.

The last time I wrote a column because I noticed friends asking about something was this past summer, when I wrote about BlackBerry tips because too many people I knew didn’t know half of the things they could do with their BlackBerrys.  Like many of us, these people tossed the manual when they bought the thing. Even had they kept it, many shortcuts aren’t in the manual and aren’t easy to find.  The column was the #1 most read and most emailed story on for the next few days, and remained in the top 10 list for the next couple weeks.

I received hundreds of emails from readers, thanking me for writing the BlackBerry Tips column. People who used a BlackBerry since 2002, when it first came out in its smartphone form, emailed in awe, hurling thanks and praise at me. They were so appreciative that I explained something they could have found with a few Google searches–but never did.

Technology amazes me because it reflects human nature: We can and do live with things that bug us for far longer than we should. If our car’s passenger-side door lock is broken and doesn’t unlock when we unlock the driver’s side door, we might likely get over it for months or even years (I did this with my old Saab for over seven years).  If we accidentally hit a key on our BlackBerry that sends our cursor hundreds of emails backward to a message from three months ago, we might scroll up for 10 minutes straight to reach the top of the screen rather than pressing “T.”

The grass may always be greener on the other side of the fence, as the saying goes, but I’ve found that most people stick it out with what they have and grow accustomed to its idiosyncrasies–especially when they don’t have the time or money to try something new.

Barack Obama seems like he’s off to a good start with a new way of governing. He’s taking advantage of open-source government and using the digital world to enable more transparency.  Let’s hope it continues.


Posted by: katiebo242 | December 2, 2008

Looking back…

What a whirlwind this election was, with plenty of drama to go around. Where would we be if not for:

-Joe Biden’s botox

-Michelle Obama’s “pride of country” speech

-Sarah Palin’s wardrobe budget

-John McCain’s temper tantrums

-Cindy McCain’s sprained wrist

-Barack Obama’s bowling score

…and many more moments that were reported in real time using digital videos, photos, audio recordings, text messages, MMS, Twitter, blogs, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, iTunes, iPhones, G1s, BlackBerrys, cellphones, etc.

But as dramatic as it seemed, these kinds of events –or worse– happen in every campaign. And the difference this time wasn’t necessarily that there were more reporters covering the campaigns; the “Boys on the Bus” kept the pack moving along with each presidential candidate, and some would even argue that there were more official reporters back then than now.

This time, there were more everyday people reporting about events, not just reporters. But it makes more of an impression on me that this time around, we had more ways of receiving this news. More people are using broadband connections than ever, and can access YouTube with ease. Mobile devices are less expensive thanks to Moore’s Law, and data plans cover more geography–thanks to that bespectacled Verizon guy testing every ounce of God’s good earth (kidding).

If I had to narrow the multitude of dramatic campaign moments down to just one moment, I would have to select John McCain’s idea (or his advisors’ idea) to pause his campaign as the most dramatic. I first heard about it as it happened from a CNBC cameraman who works down the hall from me. This cameraman is a proud liberal, and I truly thought he was joking. But McCain’s choice was real, and our entire country saw him as a flip-flopping, weak, indecisive candidate. His inability to stand strong on the economy and to work through the downturn made plenty of undecided voters doubt him altogether.  For the Obama camp, this seemed like a incredible stroke of fortune, and the democratic candidate smartly stated that he would be at the debate that McCain tried to avoid.

A moment like this didn’t need any added drama. It added to the reasons why McCain wasnt elected, and it gave Obama a giant boost in the right direction. No matter how you found out about it –at your computer, on your mobile device, or by word of mouth– this moment defined the campaign.


Posted by: katiebo242 | December 2, 2008

Government 2.0 and White House 2.0

Sometimes it’s good to be reminded that the Web is just as much yours as it is mine, and it’s just as much President Bush’s as it is President-elect Obama’s. It’s just as available to terrorists as it is to community organizers. Teens publishing YouTube videos in which they tease one another are just as capable of using the Web as teens banding together to create a group against virtual bullying.

So it struck me when read techPresident’s post, which discussed the Right to Know Agenda

Right to Know PDF page 1

and specifically quoted a part of the agenda that really stood out to me:

The government faces the same challenges and opportunities in online contexts as citizens do — that citizens and government can share ideas and information to create more effective governance, but only through proactive engagement in online projects and communities.

The government, and specifically our first “Tech President,” can work all day on Web sites with rich features that look pretty, but unless these digital integrations get people involved, they’re not doing much of anything.

But what will stir people enough to get them up off their couches and out in the real world?  As Joe Trippi discusses in his book, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” it helps to use campaigns that ask people for their opinions, then to apply those opinions in real life. Trippi uses the example of Ford asking its drivers to vote on a new Mustang color, and then must follow through with producing that car. This exemplifies Clay Shirky’s Promise, Tool, Bargain method by promising something and delivering on it. When an electric pink Mustang rolls out, people who were involved in its production (by choosing the color) will be more likely to invest in it.

The same applies to politics. If Obama can create open forums where opinions are truly valued and used, and where Web video of his meetings, speeches, and conferences is prominently displayed, Americans will feel more connected to and invested in their President.

Imagaine that…

Posted by: katiebo242 | November 30, 2008


An email discussion began among some of my friends last week related to this post from The Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder:

Is Clinton barred from State job?

25 Nov 2008 04:24 pm

Pete Williams of NBC raised the question on MSNBC this afternoon: Is Hillary Clinton barred by the Constitution from accepting the post of secretary of state?

Article One, Section Six of the U.S. Constitution says:

No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been increased during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.

Essentially, you cannot take a job if the salary was increased during your current congressional term. And the salary for cabinet officials has gone up in the past year. Even if it is lowered back down, constitutional scholars say that may not be enough to fix the problem.

The question is whether this would be an issue at confirmation – if Clinton is nominated to the post – and who would raise it. Senators traditionally grant their colleagues some deference and it could be considered politics at its worst if Republicans try to block her nomination with this argument. But senators may be loathe to vote for something scholars tell them is unconstitutional.

That being said, this development may make Obama, or Clinton, think twice about the appointment.

-Matthew Berger


Friends of mine who were on the email chain said they were surprised this issue hadn’t come up before. One person responded, saying, “It has, as I have learned from some further reading. There have obviously been a number of sitting members of Congress who assumed cabinet positions before their terms in Congress were up. The mechanism Congress has used to get around it is to cut the pay of the cabinet post to the level it was at before the pay raise(s) enacted while the nominee was in Congress. It’s actually called the ‘Saxbe’ maneuver.”

Another friend responded, asking, “Can’t she just refuse the income from the job, or take $1 a year?”

Finally, the riddle was solved once and for all when another person on the email said: “Won’t be a problem, owing to the Saxbe solution. It is just being announced that Gates is staying on.”

The Buck Naked Politics got in on the action, admitting that it didn’t know the answer, but used other sources in its post to reach an answer and admitted that it hopes Hillary stays in the Senate to continue on the work she has started.

The Smarmy Liberal piped up with its two cents, but it takes care to note our loose interpretations of the Constitution.


Posted by: katiebo242 | November 12, 2008

What My G&T Says About Me


I’m a registered independent, but have voted for the democratic presidential candidates in the last two elections. Turns out that my fondness for gin and tonics had me pegged for a democrat all along — or at least according to data mining research.

Though my beverage of choice can indicate a lean toward the left, it is just one small piece of my puzzle, a puzzle that is assembled by political data analysis firms and presidential campaigns to build an overall picture of who I am and what issues make me vote one way or another. According to folks who gather this data, an accurate political picture of me is painted using a whole host of information ranging from the car I drive to the channels I watch on TV or even how much/little TV I watch.

Though the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign started this detailed micro targeting, the Democrats have now caught up and are using their own data manipulation resources. Washington, D.C.-based Catalist is one of the popular firms used by the Democrats to analyze this data, and it and other firms have hired tech-savvy former Silicon Valley employees who have a foundation in the technology sector that can help in the political arena. Cyrus Krohn, our guest last week, is a prime example as a former Microsoft employee.

But how much is too much? Why must the right to privacy be violated so that politicians can better shape their message to appeal to an electorate of voters? According to Applebee’s America,


Bush’s Life Targeting program followed data trails in minute detail:

“Nearly every time a person takes out a loan, uses a credit card, makes an Internet transaction, books a flight, or conducts any of hundreds of other business transactions, he or she leaves a data trail. The average consumer travels through life trailed by thousands of clues to future buying and voting habits, a veritable gold mine for any organization with the money and motivation to solve the mysteries of his or her political attitudes.”

The Bush-Cheney campaign used this and other data to create Terrorism Moderates, or politically moderate, middle-class voters whose biggest concern was terrorism (at the time).  They were typically likely to be pitched by Kerry-Edwards campaign, but most supported Bush.

Google’s wealth of knowledge on every individual is astoundingly scary. It knows your search habits, map preferences, shopping likes and dislikes, chat conversations, email conversations (if you use Gmail), and more. Now, thanks to its Chrome browser, the search giant is likely to soon be eyeing entire operating systems. And Eric Schmidt’s public of endorsement of President-elect, Barack Obama, is a clear sign that Google is tied to the new administration–though Schmidt claims it was a personal endorsement.

Data mining seems like an inevitability at this point, but certain things like social security numbers and even cellphone numbers are still considered sacredly private.  But for how long? When will the data we submit to private blogs and social networking sites be added to the mix? If companies clarified their privacy policies for users up front, people might trust them more readily. Then again, our society might just reach a stage where nothing is private, and that’s just fine.


Posted by: katiebo242 | November 5, 2008

Boob Tube Has Final Say

Last night’s news about our new President-elect, Barack Obama, flooded the country in a wave. I attended a party at a friend’s house, where there was one television without cable. The channel stayed on NBC all night, so we missed the seriously cool holograms that beamed people like right into the headquarters of CNN.

But the funny thing was, we didn’t much mind…at least not at first. As is evidenced by my embedded video clip, I saw CNN’s razzle-dazzle holograms on YouTube this morning. And what we lacked in television channels, we made up for in other technology. In a room of 15 people, six laptops were present and used constantly, as were the two Mac desktops that are permanent fixtures in the house.  Every person in attendance had a mobile device of some sort, including iPhones, an iPod touch, BlackBerrys of all models and colors, and good old cellphones.

We hunkered down for the night, laptop on thighs or BlackBerrys in hand, and the television hummed in the background–a reliable source, but not our source for the latest news. We clicked away on our respective keyboards, pulling up sites from the usual suspects like and Plenty of us kept our browsers opened to over 10 sites simultaneously using tabbed browsing, so we could skip from one source to the next.  Among the many blogs we visited, we used Nate Silver’s to remind ourselves of his estimated electoral vote count. For a while, seemed to be reporting news about states before other sources. And Huffington Post made some great guesses.

I got a lot of our party’s breaking news directly from my Twitter feed, which I kept opened on my BlackBerry browser, hitting refresh every 10 seconds or so. I enjoyed reading the extra snarky tweets aloud to other news-obsessed party guests. My personal favorite came from Slate: “James Carville is going rogue, calling Florida for Obama against CNN’s wishes.” The crowd went wild.

But when states started rolling in, there was something more official about hearing from Brian Williams that Pennsylvania went blue than by reading this news on a blog.  Only after hearing this TV announcement did we color in our giant electoral map:


When even though I read the news on Twitter first, when NBC called Virginia for Obama, we made it official; our screams were probably audible from five doors down. Our Capitol Hill neighborhood started celebrating with homemade fireworks lighting up the sky, champagne bottles popping in the streets, and cars driving by with their horns honking non-stop.

When John McCain conceded, and Barack Obama accepted the nomination for POTUS, we stood around the single television with tears in our eyes. I even took a picture of the TV to remember the moment when NBC made it official:


Turns out that despite our tech savvy, we were more reliant on the television than we thought. But all in all, we used the Web much more than ever before as we waited for results last night, which seems only fitting, given how much the power of the Internet made a difference in this election.


Posted by: katiebo242 | November 3, 2008

Voter turnout

My friend, Ira, just emailed with some data that I found interesting and blog-worthy. He said:

Exhausted by the extensive poll data, I have turned to a more arcane inquiry.  Everything we hear indicates that there will be a huge turnout nationally.  I read today that 153.1 million voters are registered, which is 73.5% of those who were eligible.  Both of those are records.  But it prompted me to look back on what the turnouts in recent presidential elections have been.  It looks this way (rounded off) :
1984                92 million
1988                91 million
1992              104 million
1996                87 million
2000               102 million
2004               121 million
There was a 17% increase in turnout in 2000, but that was coming off an extraordinarily low turnout in 1996.  However, in 2004, there was a 19% increase in turnout, thanks to the intensity of effort made by both parties in a very close contest.  Can the turnout increase another 15%, to 140 million?  Or 20% to 145 million?   Don’t know, but it will be fascinating to watch.
Posted by: katiebo242 | October 28, 2008


They start innocently enough as emails with provocative subject lines and pasted-in URLs. Some even include unhelpful descriptions typed into the email body such as, “This is hysterical.” For the unlucky people who work in offices with IT restrictions that disallow access to certain Web sites, messages like these are torture. But for the rest of us, one of these little dandies can be the highlight of an otherwise dull day. I’m talking about truly shareworthy viral videos.

Viral videos of all shapes and kinds have made the rounds in this campaign cycle, especially now that YouTube exists –unlike during the last presidential campaign. They’re easier to watch this time around thanks to the substantially larger number of people who have broadband Internet connections rather than dial-up, making it a cinch to play videos without the stuttering and stalling from days of yore.

These videos range from Barrack Obama’s 38-minute speech on race, a bare-bones presentation with the democratic candidate standing at a simple podium, to JibJab’s highly entertaining “Time for Some Campaignin’” animated video, complete with Bush picking a banjo, McCain croaking, and Obama leaping through the happy land of change on his unicorn.

It’s worth noting that the Obama Girl’s “I Got a Crush on Obama” video hit the sharing community earlier in the campaign than most. And aside from including a scantily-clad girl who was, quite literally, shaking her O-B-A-M-A-labeled booty for the camera , this video had a ridiculously catchy chorus with funny words, to boot.

But real props should go to, and not just because I got a lucky chance to meet him and hear about his mission for the “Yes We Can” video, though that doesn’t hurt –full disclosure…=).

According to YouTube, this video has been watched almost 11 million times, and it has brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion. It is, in my opinion, a summary of Barack Obama’s entire campaign: a belief in the best of people, the ability to unite as one nation regardless of our background or ethnicitiy, the audacity of hope, and the courage to change. The words used in that video come from Obama’s speech in Nashua, New Hampshire, and some text of that speech reads as follows:

But in the unlikely story that is America, there has never been
anything false about hope. For when we have faced down impossible
odds; when we’ve been told that we’re not ready, or that we shouldn’t
try, or that we can’t, generations of Americans have responded with a
simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people.

Yes we can.

It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the
destiny of a nation.

Yes we can.

It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail
toward freedom through the darkest of nights.

Yes we can.

It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and
pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness.

Yes we can.

It was the call of workers who organized; women who reached for the
ballot; a President who chose the moon as our new frontier; and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the Promised Land.

Yes we can to justice and equality. Yes we can to opportunity and
prosperity. Yes we can heal this nation. Yes we can repair this
world. Yes we can.


Posted by: katiebo242 | October 22, 2008

Joe Trippi: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Joe Trippi’s book, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, forced me to rethink the way television is used in political campaigns. Toward the start of Trippi’s book, he explains why television is so dangerous for voters and the viral laziness that it can induce. He says that every hour someone spends watching television subtracts from that person’s civic involvement, and contrasts TV’s power to control viewers with that of the Internet, which allows users to control it:

“A television ad reaches voters passively.  You just sit there and the box tells you what to think, or what you want — unlike the Internet, where you open a search engine or eBay or and tell the box what you want.  And then, after you order the book, or bid on the baseball cards, the box asks you what you thought of the book and if you were happy with the auction.  This is bottom-up, interactive communication. Television has a top-down, one-to-many structure, and it works by making an impression so that the next time you’re in the grocery store and you walk by the Listerine, an image flashes in your mind of two actors so taken with each other’s minty breath that they begin making out.  It’s not different with political advertising on TV: You sit there and the ad washes over you. If it’s done well, some images stick, possibly even some ideas — although in a 30-second spot, there is usually only time for one or two visceral reactions to stick. (Page

It’s hard not to think about the 30-second spots that have stuck with me from both the Obama and McCain campaigns, good and bad.  Images of George W. Bush hugging and whispering to John McCain seem seared on my brain, and the Obama campaign likely intended it to be that way. The democratic nominee’s campaign hopes that voters will enter the voting booth, close their eyes to think about the two candidates, and conjure up that exact image of the McCain/Bush relationship — an image that invokes fears of McCain repeating the same mistakes made by Bush in the last eight years.

Another interesting spot in Trippi’s book came toward the end, when he discusses the value of the Internet’s power to connect people with one another, a kind of throwback to the old days when folks actually talked to one another instead of IMing, texting, emailing, or posting on one another’s blogs or Facebook pages.

“During the campaign, Neil Ambercrombie, the Hawaii congressman, came up to me after attending a Meetup in New York and told me that it had dawned on him how, for all the futuristic buzz around the Dean campaign, what we were actually up to was as old as the country itself. ‘I don’t know if you realize what you’re doing,’ he said, ‘but the community you’ve built is really about having faith in strangers again.’

It’s obvious that Trippi’s hope — for strangers to come together — has been met with Barack Obama’s successful Web-dependent campaign, and that Obama has indicated a starkly different way of using the Web, both in fundraising through online donations and with community organizing via  The chances of Obama using the Internet to actually improve the way we can govern seem overwhelmingly more likely thanks to McCain’s personal lack of tech savvy and his campaign’s poor use of technology.

I also think that Trippi’s description of Gary Hart’s method –dropping pebbles in the water– applies to the Obama campaign, and has helped it to grow.  Little by little, using word-of-mouth and small time donations averaging less than $100 each from people who never donated to political campaigns before, this theme is recognized. Trippi says that Hart called it, “…the politics of concentric circles — the idea of waves spreading out from a single stone thrown into the water.”

In two weeks, we’ll see if these ripples can cause a wave — one that will likely use the Internet more intelligently and comfortably than any administration.


Posted by: katiebo242 | October 17, 2008

Bonus VGC

I had to laugh at this interactive website:

Among other things that happen on this site as visitors click around are the following:

–Oil fields sprout up behind her desk

–A stock ticker rolls, displaying things like “MOOSE DOWN” and “EXXON UP”

–A wall holds four empty frames and one diploma, representing the 5 colleges Palin attended

–A sash hanging on a hook switches between “Queen Palin” and “Miss Wasilla”

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