Social Media and Elections: The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, revisited

A few years ago Howard Dean’s campaign manager Joe Trippi published a book called “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” I attended the AlwaysOn Summit at Stanford in 2005 when he came and spoke about his experience managing the Dean campaign. (And I bought three signed copies of his book, for me and my two friends who were trying to launch a political site called — we never pulled it off.)

Trippi shared amazing stories about the real-time nature of the first web-savvy presidential campaign. The Dean campaign was electrified by smart use of the web for organizing volunteers and responding to them–making it their campaign, their candidate, their election to win or lose. Dean raised huge amounts of capital from small donations, but lost the primary, ironically in large part because TV helped turn the tide against him.

Trippi recalls his experience with the campaign as they went from long-shot to front runner in less than a year:

For the better part of a year, I have been the one person inside Howard Dean’s presidential campaign saying that we could actually win. Back when I signed on as campaign manager, back when we had seven people on staff, $100,000 in the bank, and only four hundred thirty-two known supporters, back when you answered the phones yourself or they just kept ringing, back when Howard Dean was little more than an asterisk, the last name on a long list of Democratic presidential candidates, I was the one looking people in the eye and telling them: Look, we’re gonna win this frickin’ thing. Now, here it is the end of 2003, and we’re actually on top, ahead in the polls, in the process of raking in more than $50 million, $15.8 million in this fund-raising quarter alone—a record—most of it from small donations of $100 or less. And whose fund-raising record are we beating? Our own! From the quarter before. We have an army of almost 600,000 fired-up supporters, not just a bunch of chicken-dinner donors, but activists, believers, people who have never been politically involved before and who are now living and breathing this campaign. Through them, we have tapped into a whole new vein of democracy and proven the Internet as a vibrant political tool. Now everyone is paying attention.

The amazing thing about the Dean campaign was that it had to create a lot of online community organizing tools from scratch. They did take advantage of, but that social network has never really gone mainstream. Facebook wasn’t even founded until 2004, and even then it was limited to college-aged students. It wasn’t opened to the general public until September 2006, and now there are countries where almost half the population are Facebook users. In the U.S., there are now 85,526,360 Facebook users. That is 28.1% of the population. And the continuing growth of Facebook in the U.S. is staggering. In July, that number was 69 million.

Last night I bought the “revised edition” of “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” on my Amazon Kindle so I could see what Trippi had to say about the Obama campaign — he was on the Edwards team — and to read his thoughts about the rise of Facebook and Twitter, and the impact of these social media on elections.

Commenting on the 2006 election cycle, Trippi says:

By the time 2006 was over, at least two U.S. senators—Tester in Montana and Jim Webb in Virginia—owed a large part of their victories to early support from online activists.

But by 2008, online (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter) made a huge impact in the presidential campaign, and Trippi thinks politics will never be the same again.

He shared one story of how an individual Facebook user could help energy a campaign:

Back in February, before I joined the Edwards campaign, Farouk Olu Aregbe, a twenty-six-year-old in Columbia, Missouri, was so excited about Barack Obama’s candidacy that he started a group on named “One Million Strong for Barack.” I didn’t know who the hell the guy was—no one knew who the hell the guy was—but by the time I joined Edwards in April, just six weeks later, more than four hundred thousand people had joined Farouk’s quest to bring one million supporters into Obama’s camp.

Trippi clearly feels awe for the massive growth of social networks and how easily campaigns can now engage with voters and be directly influenced by their democratic power. He makes it clear in his book that he feels extremely grateful to have been a part of the Dean campaign–the first major online presidential campaign, even though it ultimately lost–and for all the opportunities to consult worldwide that his leadership there has given him. But I can tell that he would have loved to have been on the winning team this time around–the first presidential election that was really fought and won with social media. He says:

DeanLink and DeanSpace paled in comparison to MySpace and Facebook and the millions and millions who were members of social networks as 2008 approached. Where Dean had had a photo gallery, now allowed millions to post photos, “tagging” them so that if you searched your favorite candidate’s name you could view every picture taken at a rally and posted just a few hours before. Our primitive text messaging network on may have been visionary at the time, but just four short years later it was nothing compared to Twitter, the hot new mobile social texting network.

Trippi believes that future candidates will be elected not from traditional “top-down” “big donor” party-insider based campaigns, but rather they will be chosen and funded by the grass roots, which he calls the “netroots.” In other words, We The People, who can now self-organize, choose our candidates, attract volunteers and raise gobs of money from small online donations. He seems quite optimistic about the chances for the people to take back politics after 50 years of corrupt transactional politics that have resulted in more and more TV ad spending and less and less voter turnout and activism.

This phenomenon will certainly not appear in all races at all levels at the same time. Famed science fiction writer William Gibson did say, “The future is already here. It is just unevenly distributed.”

But during every subsequent campaign cycle there will be a greater and greater chance that grassroots candidates who are truly skilled in using social media will emerge. They will be able to capture the imagination of large voter blocks, create new engagement with volunteers and voters, and win elections with less money needed for television ads and direct mail. Last year a 21-year old in South Carolina was elected to the school board after running a Facebook-only campaign.

Of course all campaigns are eager to reach large online populations with their message and raise money.

In 2000, presidential campaigns raised $528.9 million. In 2004, that jumped to $880 million. And in 2008 the campaigns raised $1.74 billion, an increase of 3.29x in just 8 years. During that same time, the number of Internet users in the U.S. more than doubled. Today almost 3/4ths of the U.S. population are online and more than a third of them are now on Facebook.

Barack Obama raised $745 million during the campaign. (Source: Barack Obama Page) Obama campaign spokesman Ben Labolt said the campaign had more than 2.5 million total donors.

That really is amazing. Fund raising online is a very smart thing for campaigns to do. But that is not Trippi’s point in talking about a revolution in politics and it is not what interests me either.

What is most exciting of all to me is the prospect of elected representatives using social media not only during campaigns but after they are elected. They have the potential to make the act of governing open, transparent and accessible to all. They have the ability to use social technology to energize the citizenry to solve major problems, whether through the agency of government or from private initiative.

I started college as a political science major, but after college I’ve been in high tech for the past 20 years. Like Trippi, I’m a gadget guy and fascinated by technology, but I also love politics. I have a deep passion for our country and its founders, for our constitution, and for the liberty and justice the founders sought to secure for all by forming the union, with all its checks and balances.

As I study history, I find that many of the most important checks and balances are now gone. The federal government has usurped over the past 100 years many of the powers that were originally left to the states and the people. Today, a few people in Washington wield enormous power and influence and are subject to almost no checks and balances. Can you imagine what the founders would have thought — after all they risked to defy King George III for his abuses of power — when the US Congress voted in late 2008 to give a single individual — the Secretary of Treasury — the ability to use $700 billion of taxpayer dollars to try to prevent an economic collapse? He had the power to to pick and choose which financial institutions to bailout and which to let fail. I think giving such power to one person is unprecedented in American history. We definitely need a revolution from this kind of governing!

When the $700 billion become available to the Treasury department, the rule of law was out the window, and the politics of influence were in full force. On Nov. 11, 2008 the New York Times published an article entitled “Lobbyists Swarm The Treasury for a Piece of Bailout Pie.”

Jeb Mason, who as the Treasury’s liaison to the business community is the first port-of-call for lobbyists. “The government shouldn’t be in the business of picking winners and losers among industries.”

Mr. Mason, 32, a lanky Texan in black cowboy boots who once worked in the White House for Karl Rove, shook his head over the dozens of phone calls and e-mail messages he gets every week. “I was telling a friend, ‘this must have been how the Politburo felt,’ ” he said.

I personally believe in limiting the role of government and simultaneously unleashing the creativity and philanthropy of the private sector to solve problems. French philosopher Frederic Bastiat’s “The Law” describes what he viewed as the proper role of government — to protect life, liberty and property. He criticized governments that engaged in “legal plunder” by taking goods from one group of people and distributing them to another. As fellow Frenchman Alexis d’Tocqueville admired US citizens for their civic and religious involvement and self-government, Bastiat admired the United States for limiting its government for the most part to its “proper domain.” But he criticized the US for two abuses of governmental power, slavery and tariffs, and was prescient about the risk that these could “bring terrible consequences to the United States.”

… look at the United States [in 1850]. There is no country in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain: the protection of every person’s liberty and property. As a consequence of this, there appears to be no country in the world where the social order rests on a firmer foundation. But even in the United States, there are two issues – and only two – that have always endangered the public peace. Slavery and Tariffs Are Plunder What are these two issues? They are slavery and tariffs. These are the only two issues where, contrary to the general spirit of the republic of the United States, law has assumed the character of plunder. Slavery is a violation, by law, of liberty. The protective tariff is a violation, by law, of property. Its is a most remarkable fact that this double legal crime – a sorrowful inheritance of the Old World – should be the only issue which can, and perhaps will, lead to the ruin of the Union. It is indeed impossible to imagine, at the very heart of a society, a more astounding fact than this: The law has come to be an instrument of injustice. And if this fact brings terrible consequences to the United States – where only in the instance of slavery and tariffs – what must be the consequences in Europe, where the perversion of law is a principle; a system?

As in Europe, the role of government in the U.S. has now expanded in virtually every conceivable way. Government spending as a percentage of GDP has grown from under 10% in 1900 to more than 40% in 2009-2010. (Source:

I am personally optimistic and enthusiastic about the role of social media in future elections and in government. Efforts like the Sunlight Foundation, Project Vote Smart, and hold great promise. Now imagine when these and many other citizen-empowering web sites become social by using Facebook Connect or other technologies! Imagine if government data and actions become so open and transparent and social that millions of Facebook users every day could actually be involved in self-government, instead of merely playing Farmville and Mafia Wars.

At, we are taking our first baby step to participate in the intersection of social media with politics and government by launching Our politics page will track the number of Facebook supporters and Twitter followers for every major election in the U.S.

We have the ability to help campaigns attract thousands of additional supporters and followers and to run “flash polls” that can get hundreds of immediate answers to any question that political campaigns want to ask. We have used our internal survey tool since March and have gotten more than 30 million answers from our site visitors to help us decide what products, services, and features to develop next.

Our Socialfire team is talking with several candidates who could jump start their 2010 campaign by using our poll and advertising capabilities to attract hundreds or thousands of supporters/volunteers/donors.

If you are in politics, you should draw an important lesson from the Dean and Obama campaigns. You should realize that campaigns will be won and lost based on how effectively you use social media, in particular Facebook and Twitter, to engage with your potential supporters, volunteers, and donors. Since the average Facebook user now has 130 friends (source: Facebook press room), if a political campaign gets 10,000 active Facebook supporters, then through those 10,000 they actually have the ability to reach 1.3 million people!

Only 6 current Senators or challengers for the US Senate in 2010 currently have more than 10,000 Facebook followers, including Senator John McCain. Two of these are high profile challengers, Peter Schiff (running against Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd) and Rand Paul (Senate candidate in Kentucky), son of former US Presidential candidate Ron Paul, have more than 10,000 Facebook followers.

And the funding is already starting to flow to these social media savvy campaigns. Paul has raised more than $1 million already for his Kentucky Senate race from more than a thousand donors. Peter Schiff’s campaign is approaching $1 million as reported on his official Facebook page.

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GovTrack: Bills by Subject: Derivative securities

Derivative securities bills

Below are the bills that are related to the “Derivative securities” subject term. Click the Add Tracker button to the right to subscribe to this subject term.

There is no legislation in this session of Congress for this subject term.

This subject term is no longer used. In 2009, the Congressional Research Service, an arm of Congress that classifies bills, changed the way they categorize bills. Some subject terms used before 2009, including this one, are no longer used and will not apply to bills on GovTrack anymore. is a “civic project to track Congress.” A few months ago I signed up to receive alerts on a number of different topics, in particular, I wanted to be notified whenever legislation about the regulating of derivatives was proposed or considered.

But I found out tonight that the term “derivative securities” is no longer a subject term used by the Congressional Research Service, and I can’t find any term that is equivalent.

I will be very upset if the CRS has removed this subject term and hasn’t replaced it with something new that will allow citizens and legislators to find and track legislation on derivatives, when the unregulated use of derivatives (and particularly OTC derivatives) led to the global financial meltdown that we experienced in 2008.

I’m going on LinkedIn to find if someone at the CRS can explain to me what happened, and hopefully direct me to the appropriate subject term they are using now to categorize bills related to derivatives.

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Prediction: Amazon to Sell 10 Million Kindle E-Book Readers

Have you bought  a Kindle? Do you plan on buying a Kindle? If you answered yes to either question, you’re part of a not-that-small group: JP Morgan estimates that some 10 million Americans either own one of Amazon’s e-book readers or plan to get one soon.

That projection comes from a survey of Web users that Internet analyst Imran Khan commissioned last month. Khan’s survey found that 37 percent of respondents were familiar with the Kindle. And of that group, five percent said they already owned one of the devices, and another 15 percent said they expect to buy one within the next year. Extrapolating those results for the U.S. population, Khan figures that Kindle ownership will hit 10 million in the next 12 months. (Click chart to enlarge)

I’ve had my Kindle (second version now) for some time and absolutely love it, especially when I’m travelling. I now have more than 100 books on my Kindle and I also subscribe to several blogs and magazines. Thankfully, the Economist and the Financial Times are both available now.

For the first time in 18 months of travelling with my Kindle, I saw someone else on a recent flight with one. A woman sitting behind me had a Kindle DX. I have not seen one before. She said she got it two weeks ago and loves it. She said she’s going to be getting them as gifts for her top clients. I didn’t even find out what business she is in, but she was in love with her Kindle as I am with mine.

I’m going to run a survey this week of our FamilyLink customers to see if the percentages who own or plan to buy a Kindle is similar to what the Khan survey found. With more than 50MM users of our Facebook app, mostly in the U.S., we have a large cross section of internet users. I’ll share the results in a comment to this blog post in a few days.

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20% of Online Advertising is on Social Networks

More than one in five of all online ads are served on social networks. MySpace still leads the pack with 9.2% of all online ads, and Facebook is a close second with 8.2%. The 3.7% of online ads served on social networks is split among such sites as,,, Bebo, and other smaller sites, most with 0.1% or less of the total online ad market:

Top Online Display Ad Publishers in Social Networking Category
June 2009
Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore Ad Metrix
Total Display Ad Impressions (MM) Share of Display Ads Ad Exposed Unique Visitors (000)
Total Internet : Total Audience 326,899 100.0 188,589
Social Networking 68,927 21.1 129,620
MySpace Sites 30,004 9.2 64,472 26,813 8.2 67,389 1,940 0.6 7,422 496 0.2 1,067 461 0.1 3,459
Bebo 435 0.1 6,350 Sites 400 0.1 9,181 345 0.1 2,084 258 0.1 1,859 204 0.1 3,681 is not in the top 10, but based on our 150MM monthly impressions sold, we may be in the top 20.

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Financial Crisis stems from lack of trust, disappearance of “true value”

Princeton economist and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich agrees that Wall Street’s biggest problem right now is the collapse of trust:

The problem is, government bailouts, subsidies, and insurance aren’t really helping Wall Street. The Street’s fundamental problem isn’t lack of capital. It’s lack of trust. And without trust, Wall Street might as well fold up its fancy tents.

Reich also writes:

Despite all the money going directly to the big banks, despite all the government guarantees and loans and special tax breaks, despite the shot-gun weddings and bank mergers, despite the willingness of the Treasury and the Fed to do almost whatever the banks have asked, the reality is that credit is not flowing.

Why? Because the underlying problem isn’t a liquidity problem. As I’ve noted elsewhere, the problem is that lenders and investors don’t trust they’ll get their money back because no one trusts that the numbers that purport to value securities are anything but wishful thinking. The trouble, in a nutshell, is that the financial entrepreneurship of recent years — the derivatives, credit default swaps, collateralized debt instruments, and so on — has undermined all notion of true value.

Many of these fancy instruments became popular over recent years precisely because they circumvented financial regulations, especially rules on banks’ capital adequacy. Big banks created all these off-balance-sheet vehicles because they allowed the big banks to carry less capital.

(For more on credit default swaps, see this).

Robert Reich wrote this a year ago, but everything he said then still holds true. The more I study the financial markets and derivatives, the more I realize how much our economy is based on make-believe.

Even Warren Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway made almost half of its reported profits last quarter on derivatives bets rather than on true value creation from its company’s underlying businesses.

Many large corporations report huge profits or losses as a direct result of good or bad bets in their derivatives holdings.

It really is hard to know the true value of any security these days. And I’m not sure we can turn back the clock, because the “financial entrepreneurs” who create and market all these instruments have so much money and so much influence in Washington, that the chance of making derivatives-related gambling illegal or even controlling it on exchanges, is actually pretty slim.

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Importance of Facebook in Political Campaigns

Indeed, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes helped organize the social media parts of Barack Obama’s presidential campaign last year. For example, it was the first presidential campaign to launch Facebook Connect support — early in the campaign, in the fall of 2008. Obama’s campaign went on to trounce opponents in terms of Facebook fans, with his Page getting nearly four million fans by the time he took office in January. At least during the presidential election last year, the Republican Party seemed less focused on using the site. However, party representatives have rejected claims that it was not making a clear and somewhat successful effort to reach users on the site.

Facebook is not just about national campaigns, though. Smaller-time politicians, like a 23-year old who won himself a spot in the Maine state house of representatives last fall, in part by gaining supporters on Facebook.

So, if nothing else, this new Page is an easy way for Facebook to get the word out about using its site for politicking. As we saw in 2008, Facebook is becoming an increasingly important communications platform for political candidates and public figures around the world – and next year’s midterm elections in the United States will likely illustrate how Facebook is becoming even more important at the state and local levels.

Facebook has launched a “Facebook and Government” page to promote how it can be used by government for mass communication and interaction. It’s power in political campaigns has already been clearly demonstrated, but not widely adopted.

If any political campaign manager wants to use Facebook for instant polling and for recruiting volunteers (Facebook calls them “fans”), they should contact me through this blog. With our 20MM monthly active users of our Facebook applications, and our powerful instant polling tool, we could help candidates for local or federal offices quickly identify their most active online supporters and create ongoing engagement with them through their official pages.

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MediaPost Publications Study Finds Social Nets ‘Realistically’ Near Top Of 2010 Media Buying Plans 09/10/2009

Email marketing was the No. 1 medium, cited by 56.8% of respondents as being a realistic part of their 2010 media plans, followed by social networks (56.3%), keyword search (49.7%), radio (42.2%), magazines (42.1%), online display (40.5%), event sponsorship (36.9%), rich media display (35.5%), direct mail (34.7%), regional TV (32.8%), regional newspapers (31.7%), out-of-home (31.2%), email sponsorship (29.5%), online video (26.7%), mobile SMS text (26.1%), and others. Interestingly, national TV (18.2%) and national newspapers (14.8%), ranked near the bottom of these respondents’ realistic 2010 media buying plans.

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More than 56% of media buyers say social network presence is a top priority in 2010

Social networks may still seem like an emerging medium, if an ad medium at all, on some parts of Madison Avenue, but a new report on the media buying plans of advertisers and agencies indicates that having a “presence on social networks” is one of the top priorities of their media plans for next year. The report, the 2010 Media Planning Intelligence Study, which is being released today by the Center for Media Research in conjunction with InsightExpress, found that 57.7% of respondents “ideally” plan, and 56.3% “realistically” plan to include social media in their media plans next year.

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