Mashing the Vote: Web 2.0 for Social Change

| web2.0

Phillip Smith, Mark Greenspan.


  • Sacha Chua. Social computing in the enterprise, U of Toronto and IBM. Also interested in grassroots because of the Philippines
  • Julian Scarfe. Free Agent Communications. News oriented for parents and children. Because that sort of demographic has high ideal aspirations in that mental space, something here might apply. Technical director, communications strategist.
  • Robb Creary, Bell Canada. CRM. Pull everything together and kinda see how everything fits in. Better to be prepared.
  • Patrick Gilbert. Word of mouth marketing company called Matchstick. Heading up online marketing and fundraising for Mayor David Miller campaign.
  • Andrew Berthoff. Environics Communications, a PR agency in Toronto and three other cities. Primarily interested in not-for-profit organizations.
  • Madelaine Hamilton. Taking IT Global. Connects people internationally so that they can get involved in the community. 110k members, most based in developing countries.
  • Lars Hansen. C2E Consulting. Learning and thinking about the application of these things, work on a community basis.
  • Rhonda Burke. Organizer. Fundraising. 150+ events that are volunteer-driven.
  • Alexei White. Vancouver company, eBusiness Applications. AJAX components for developers. Very much on the technical side, also very interested in dotversity and the kind of conversation that's happening.
  • Andrew Heaton. Creative strategist for Trilogy. I'm inthe preliminary stages of starting a non-profit company to raise money for charities.
  • Ryan Ginsberg. Fuel Industries?, marketing, advergaming. Lately, grassroots adverts has been a huge, huge component of it. Fox. There are so many cool things you can do to tap into blogs and message boards etc. At the end of the day, it's all about the ROI.
  • Patrick Dinnen. Hogtown Consulting, Web2.0. Wireless Toronto.
  • Jen Nolan. IBM. The big newspapers have such a power over our society, our culture. I really love the power of the people.
  • Mark Greenspan. Canadian Film Center's Habitat New Media Lab. Training new media content producers.
  • Phillip Smith. Not-for-much profit company, Community Bandwidth. Help non-profits to push their missions forward, advocate on the behalf of others, etc. Social Tech Brewing.

What are the principles and tools of Web 2.0?

  • Two-way communication. Read/write Web.
  • User-generated content
  • Wisdom of crowds
  • Participation. Everyone has a voice
  • Collaborative content, harnessing collective intelligence
  • Mashup
  • Web as Platform
  • Long tail, etc.
  • Data is the next Intel Inside
  • Users add value
  • Network effect by default
  • Some rights reserved
  • The perpetual beta
  • Cooperate, don't control
  • Above the level of a single device

What are the tools?

  • Blogs
  • Social networks
  • Open source
  • Browser
  • Wiki
  • Folksonomy, tagging
  • Blogging, participation
  • Google Maps, AJAX
  • Identity, trust, personal brands
  • Standards/services: APIs, RSs, etc.
  • Group-editable pages, wikis, comments
  • Exposing user data, emergence
  • Creative Commons, GPL, F/LOSS

If we were to think about how to take some of this and put it into action… I thought I'd do a really quick tour of some of the applications I've seen over the years. How we can leverage the 2.0 to change the world.

WWF example: “Donate now and put your name in our sky.” The general idea is that if someone donates, they can put their name in the sky. How is it the long tail? There are hundreds and thousands of people who care about issues like arctic wildlife refuge, but it's difficult to aggregate all of these people into one solid voice. Just to bring these voices together.

This is something that Chris Nolan made for the 2006 elections. Data is the next Intel Inside. The traditional explanation of this is ISBN and Amazon's extension, the Amazon book number, which has more information about it. This group in the UK has done the same thing for public data, what's being said in the House of Commons. They've really extended it and included voting history, etc. They've even made it free.

Peter Tabuns. Provincial election. People in this person's riding expressing support and plotting that on the map.

Mark: One thing about the last example (theyworkforyou) is that it's open source, so if you want, you can set it up.

They also do hearfromyourmp and pledgebank. All of these tools are
open source and can be adapted for Canada's system easily. The best ideas bubble up to the top. One of the ideas that got bubbled up has been taken by Hillary Clinton and she's going to introduce a bill that ties Congressional pay increases to federal minimum wage.

Network effects by default. Tom Mauser is one of those people who lost a child in Columbine. Forward Track. 6 degrees of separation. Tracking six degrees of separation on a map. When Mark signs up to send the petition, the map centers around him. The network effect by default.!

pledgebank. “I'll do it, but only if you'll help me do it.” Some of these pledges are tiny, but others are pretty big. Powerful tools. There's RSS. You can get pledges in your town. Inexpensive way for NGOs to provide their communities with a way to organize.

Some rights reserved.

Crown copyright. Most documents are released under that, so the Queen owns the data. This makes it very difficult to get what you think should be public data. For example, geocoding data. So some people built their own. Free service, free data. Just launched last month. To hel make sure public data stays public. Taxpayer-funded data, we should have access to it.

So the perpetual beta is one of the neatest ideas applied to grassroots advocacy. There can be an iterative, experimental, evolutionary process around campaigns. The three things I'm going to show here are not Web campaigns, but I believe they embody the spirit.

publicspace committee. Lightning rod for many communities. In Toronto, we have a really strong group. Fantastic experimental projects trying to win back public space. Billboard battalion. Once a week I get e-mail from the “general”. Billboards are illegal in Toronto, and companies have to apply for variances. So what the battalion does is keep track of people who are applying, etc. Guerilla gardening, etc. This is not a large NGO, but just a bunch of people having lots of interesting ideas.

Dave Meslin. How can you bring this idea to city council. What can you do if you're interested in making Toronto a better place to live?

City Idol. We all know and love Canadian Idol. There are a lot of people in Toronto, and important decisions are made by the 45 people on the slide before. We had a contest where people signed up to participate in City Idol. Over 200 people signed up for the first event. Second round of finals. For every ward in the city, they have people competing to help out.

Mark: American Idol. 60 million text messages.

Jen: Wikipedia has history for all the municipalities in Toronto. Phillip: And it's really good information too. – Action Network. !! This is cool! Change the world around you. What are the issues that are important to you, and how can you connect with your neighbors? Mark: Again, local organization. Software above the level of the single device. As much as Canada is behind in the mobile space, we're certainly seeing more interesting work to be done. Mobile phone reporting. Large mobilizations from their phones. Used around the Republican National Convention.

Murmur. Out of the Canadian Film Center. Using Asterix and a lot of ingenuity, two students (Shaun and Gabe) created this audio tourist experience for Toronto. You can find these little signposts where all these red dots are that have a phone number that you can call to get a spoken history for that location. Local participants. Fantastic. They've expanded this idea around Canada, and now they have an Airstream bus. Mark: One of the things that really worked for Murmur was keeping it very very simple. Accessible. All you need is a cellphone and the ability to make a local call on your cellphone. Appeal to the lowest common denominator. One thing very important about that project.

Phillip: It's stunning how many people are not from Toronto and they get a murmur postcard and they walk around. “I want to hear from the woman who's an expert on this on her blog.” … People are really starting to understand that that kind of integral, honest communication is important. Right now, they pick people. Mark: Interview techniques, narrative-based project. Airstream bus.

Another local specific above the level of the single device is Wireless Toronto. It sounds like another municipal wireless network thing until you get into the idea of location-specific content. If you log on to the network like at St. Lawrence Market, you'll come to a local portal that aggregates a number of feeds to give you the context for that place. You can see who else is online and you can communicate with them or meet their blogs. Flickr images are being pulled from the tags. The classified ads section is taken from craigslist. Craigslist – continuous live search. If you're an NGO working on employment, aggregating jobs that are specific to youth, for example… RSS to voice through RSS. (!! Hey, that's a cool idea and we can do that at home, because phone is free!) (Kagigi – volunteers wanted!! oooh.)

Apartment rental mashup, etc.

One Free Minute. Mobile sculpture for anonymous public speech. Sao
Pauo, Brazil. Warsaw, Poland. London, UK. Canada and USA.

We have a municipal election coming up within the next six months, and we're not seeing a lot happening in terms of civic participation. What does civic participation look like with Web 2.0?

Two-way street. If you don't get the eyeballs there and the interest there in the first place… It's easy to capture the converted. What about the people who couldn't care less? How do you start the engagemet process? If you can find out how they're connected online…

In this case, there's a particular issue: municipal election. How do you connect people to the municipal election?

It's the candidates and the municipal election itself. People wring their hands and ask why people aren't interested, but you have a bunch of stuffed shirts and… So how do you get new people?

What kind of offline event drives people to something, and how do you leverage that with Web 2.0?

For example, smart mobs. Street car tours and the pillow fight in Dundas Square. Database of people. Pillow fight announcement, publicity, etc.

How do you market to or engage this population and how do you bring them into the online world and what do you do? Once you've got them in the online world, then you've got all sorts of tools.

Odd-ball activist. How do we get normal folks in?

When I think of real events around a political campaign… listen to a politician give pre-packaged, overly-analyzed speech… or town meeting kind of thing, where you end up with the same issue, where you get verbose people who end up hijacking the thing… Speed at which you can scan and filter on Web 2.0. Somewhere I can go and find discussions about my local councilor. These issues I don't care about, these issues I do, etc. A customizable search tool which allows you to scan through the issues… The other thing that would be interesting would be at the municipal election, we don't have strong political affiliations. Niche interest (Sam Bulte), but other people can affect a really local thing. If there was a site that made it easy for us to keep track of whatever they were saying about different issues… that would help me. And I want to specify my interests. Customizable search thing. All decisions and all issues that stand, etc. Report card. How they voted, absolute transparency and accessibility. Hard data plus softer stuff. Might get filtered too much, though, too compartmentalized. Digg-style popularity.


  • Not a topical wiki, but a scenario wiki, where we can extrapolate from a bill or if this candidate is elected, this is probably what's going to happen, etc. Putting things in a language that people can understand. Approach in engangig people.
  • Issues that are important to you, access to all the data around it. Absolute transparency. Asterisk to get into people's homes.
  • Comments on a public blog. An online petition that you could translate into… make candidates for public office understand that to stand in favor of this would mean death, etc.

Update: Phillip's posted slides at

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