YDATL Blog NOTE: The opinions expressed by our individual bloggers are their own, and not necessarily those of Young Democrats of Atlanta.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
2006: Georgia Democrats by the beverages
January 9: Georgia Democrats start off with a well rounded Glenn Richardson, with lively tannins and a nutty finish.
January 18: Republican legislators chug Beck’s Dark as they eviscerate Martin Luther King’s legacy with SB 84.
~February 20: Chuck Pearson staggers into a Natural Resources and Environment committee meeting and swears on his friend Jack Daniels’ grave that stream buffers are Bad for Georgia.
February 27: The Sith spike Andrew Young’s Crown and Coke with roofies, prompting him to sign on to Wal-Mart’s P.R. offensive.
March 8: Chip Rodgers and Nancy “Darth Vader’s Wife” Schaefer smirk as SB 529 passes the Senate, sending undocumented laborers running to the liquor cabinet for solace in their friend Don Julio.
April 1: Chuck Pearson wakes up with a serious hangover after SB “Die, Stream Buffers, Die!” 510 loses 30-139. Upper Chattahoochee River Keeper celebrates over a few pints of Sweetwater 420. YDAtl heads out for margaritas.
April 9: Mark Taylor and Cathy Cox elect to snub the Walk for Women’s Lives; their campaign managers assure them that Stella Artois is pro-choice and hanging out with her is just as good.
May 17: Cathy Cox’s campaign staff makes a strategic investment in Steel Reserve before concocting the infamous gay marriage position statement.
May 18: Taylor Trolls toast pints of Sweet Georgia Brown while Atlanta Public Affairs starts the line for shots of 151.
June 25: YDAtl members volunteering at a freezing, rainy PRIDE festival beverage booth discover that Peels are really quite tasty beverages.
July 14: Reports surface that Greg Hecht has morphed from “Give ‘Em Hecht” to the Incredible Imploding Candidate by pulling the mother of all cheap shots; Bobby Kahn keeps sippin’ on gin and juice.
July 18: Ralph Reed, in an alternate dimension conceived after my third martini, chokes on one of his poker chips and dies. Sharon Beasley-Teague hits like skunked Coors Light. Shyaam Reddy finds out that he will not play in Bud Bowl 2006.
August 9: Greg Hecht cries in his Terrapin when the asskicking he so richly deserves hits home.
August 30: John Lewis and Jim Martin wow the YDAtl crowd sipping on merlot at Vinocity.
September 19: The Big Guy takes a (presumably) big piece of advice from noted politician Sam Adams and decides child molesters ought to fry.
October 29: The AJC knocks out Jim Wooten with a few caipirinhas, long enough for them to get a clue and endorse Mark Taylor.
November 7: Gail Buckner falls flatter than a pint of O’Doul’s. YDAtl toasts Jan Hackney with champagne before hitting the chardonnay.
November 23: In another alternate dimension, conceived by the YDAtl New Orleans think tank over hurricanes, John Oxendine suffocates from sucking up to all those HMO’s. “I wish I could quit you!” rings true.
December 24: The Ghost of Christmas Future shows Sonny Perdue what a jail cell looks like. The Ghost of Christmas Past knocks back some egg nog after looking at 2006.
December 25: Greg Hecht’s heart grows three sizes after another dose of Southern Comfort.
Yes, as a matter of fact all your base ARE belong to YDAtl - as Emily says (to the North Fulton Democrats, who very graciously invited Emily to come speak at their meeting on Tuesday), we tried something that few YD chapters nationwide have tried with Jan Hackney's race, and it paid off. Even though Berry Harry (how about a Hawaiian punch, assclown!) won the race, we achieved our goals and made a difference in the race. Our members had a great time canvassing (and drinking, which Emily didn't talk about so much ;-) and we really came away with some great skills (and the greatest YouTube video in history courtesy of Shelby). So in 2008, we will Move Zig. For Great Justice!
HOT lanes and other stupid ideas for fixing Atlanta’s congestion
I’ve apparently been hiding under a hobbit-sized rock since 1993, because until NPR highlighted Minneapolis’ experiment with these not-so-new “high occupancy toll” lanes this morning, I had no clue they existed or that they were in line to be the Next Big Thing to give cities an excuse to pass on actual public transportation. Everyone - Washington, Virginia, and D.C., among others – is looking at these suckers like lobbyists at a Tom Delay vending machine.
The basic idea of these HOT lanes is pay-to-play. There are gradations of sophistication – the lanes in Minneapolis have variable pricing depending on how many people are using them at any given time – but in the end it’s like putting a little Georgia 400 next to, above, or below, the roads that the rest of us schmucks are currently stuck with. You pay some money, maybe $8 – sixteen times the 400 toll – and you drive carefree while everyone else suffers.
I’m glad I mentioned Georgia 400, because to me it’s a great example of how silly the idea that more roads – toll, elevated, underground, strewn with flowers, or otherwise – are going to solve ANYTHING is. That Buckhead extension, that monstrosity that anyone who has had to slog through at rush hour knows is a real threat to sanity – didn’t even exist until 1993. That $.50 toll didn’t keep the road from getting completely out of control in a decade and a half. Sure, we could raise the toll, but that would just make 75 and 85 that much worse.
What boggles my mind about these HOT lanes is that the whole goal is to make them expensive enough so that the people who use them will have a free and clear ride. How is anything solved by building special lanes that only rich swine, like Sonny Perdue who can give himself a tax break whenever the hell he feels like it, actually use? Even better, many observers have rightly worried that these lanes could doom the already anemic car pools and their associated lane to oblivion.
A sure sign that something is Bad for the Public is when a conservative ultra-libertarian mouthpiece like the Cato Institute gets on board. Public transportation is like kryptonite to these fools, like Ted Kennedy is going to accost them in some dark alley and make them ride MARTA.
On the bright side, researching this topic led me to a hilariously stupid paper by some people running a rag styling itself Reason.org. It’s 84 pages long, longer than “Ways George Bush Screwed Up America”, so of course you won’t read it, but it’s worth noting their four recommended projects (I quote):
A network of express toll lanes added to the entire freeway system instead of the currently planned (but only partially funded) set of HOV lanes. These priced lanes would also function as the guideway for regionwide express bus service.
A double-decked tunnel linking the southern terminus of Georgia 400 with I-20 and later with the northern terminus of I-675, providing major relief to the Downtown Connector (I-75/85), the most congested portion of the freeway system.
Extension of the Lakewood Freeway eastward to I-20 as a tunnel, and westward to I-20 as a freeway, providing an additional east-west corridor and new access to the airport.
A separate toll truckway system, permitting heavy trucks to bypass Atlanta’s congestion in exchange for paying a toll; a portion of this system would be tunneled below downtown.
Can we say “OMFG on a popsicle stick”? (That’s before you read the part about where this costs $25 billion.) The bottom line, kids, is that there are crazy, horrible fools out there who wouldn’t recognize a transit solution if it said “23 Buford Highway” and smacked them something righteous. ROADS ARE NOT THE ANSWER and only YOU can convince the people running Atlanta of that simple truth.
Doug Stoner stops by YDAtl on the DPG chair circuit (YouTube)
State Senator Doug Stoner (who happens to be my Senator) stopped by the Young Democrats of Atlanta at our monthly meeting at Manuel's last night to talk about those pesky rumors that he's thinking of running for chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia...
In another welcome development, Doug (a former Young Democrat himself) wants us to be more than just "work an event" people. First Mike Berlon, then Doug... I think they be on to somethin', cap'n!
(Disclaimer: I'm supporting Mike Berlon for DPG chair, who was the feature of our previous YouTube video, but obviously Doug gets credit for coming to our meeting to visit with us, and as one of his constituents I happen to think Doug is great...)
Mike Berlon puts youth on the agenda; youth put him on YouTube
This weekend, the Young Democrats of Georgia held a retreat at Magnolia State Park to discuss how we're going to spend $250,000 in grant money that has the power to totally transform how Democratic politics in Georgia work. In a sign that times may finally be changing, DPG chair candidate Mike Berlon made a special effort to join us and address our group. Young Democrats, particularly our own Atlanta chapter, have been working supremely hard to shed the image of cute little kids who drink and complain - we're adorable kids who drink, complain, and work hard like nobody's business, and we're finally getting our props! Mike had some great things to say to us, not least of which was that the much-needed grassroots effort is going to include us - yay...
(So I decided to follow Shelby's footsteps and try this YouTube thing. Clearly a steadier hand on the camera is needed!)
So the bottom line is that finally, we're on the radar for the people running the party around here, and that right there is all the reason I need to get behind Mike 100% and hope like heck the state committee understands what positive change he'll bring to the DPG. Leaving young people out of the action is a mistake Mike won't repeat.
As I prepare to turn over the reins of ultimate power to Aaron, your new Communications Chair and Electronic Overlord, I find myself on a rollercoaster of hope and panic as I contemplate what's next. I'm hopeful that smart, enterprising Young Democrats like ourselves will keep coming up with creative and effective new strategies for reaching out to voters, recruiting more volunteers, and raising the capital we need for our efforts. With all of my newfound "free time" that should really be devoted to my dissertation, I look forward to playing with some of the new internet toys that we might find useful in the future while Aaron keeps the information ship steaming ahead. But at the same time, the technology options becoming available are coming at such a fast and furious pace, it's almost overwhelming, and I don't know how to keep up with it all, let alone pick the winning horses. Notice the lack of a new website at the end of my tenure? Thank all of the terribly interesting but overwhelming options in web CMS software and my total techno-ADHD, among other things. *Sigh*
Staving off a bad case of the Mondays after a good Thanksgiving holiday, I came across a few tools that I think ought to be given a look by the more digitally inclined (read: likely to survive) Young Dem as we start gearing up for 2008.
Mobile video. Why mobile video? Because the news cycle is getting faster and faster, and MSM is more inclined to bring us pictures of burning buildings, car crashes, and shootings than things of more relevance to political activism absent a visual hook. But when the hook is there, watch out: look at the rapid implosion of Redneck George Allen's campaign after his macaca-moment. That required a dedicated intern driving all over hounding him with a camera; a group like ours would do better to rely on the shorter-commitment but more-highly-distributed resource of members with cameraphones, methinks.
On the evenings of the primary and general elections, there was much buzz about "live blogging," and some of us bloggers even got invitations to sit at candidates' parties and blog about...well, God knows what, perhaps who was wearing what, who was getting drunkest, and what people thought about election returns. On election day, however, I thought it'd be more interesting to try live video blogging -- partly because I thought I would have a new cameraphone in my possession by election Tuesday that would enable a negligibly short upload/posting delay. That didn't happen, obviously, but ever-present broadband connections and video clips from pocket-sized digital cameras can still enable a group to put timely video content online relatively quickly, and we got 4 videos uploaded to YouTube in about 10 hours; not bad, considering we were also working.
Enter Veeker, a tweaky-named new website that quickly takes any video clip you send from your registered cellphone and slaps it up on your Veeker feed, player, and page -- and it sure has the folks over at Personal Democracy Forum all worked up. Partnering with YouthNoise, Veeker put together a large collection of cellphone videos documenting young people's impression of election day. The PDF folks talked it up quite a bit -- "Veekers "Veek The Vote" received over 750 mobile video messages from Americans using the video camera in a mobile phone to show the world where they stood on Election Day (thats a lot compared to Rock the Votes 24 submissions and Video the Votes 96)." -- so I signed up and got me one o'them Veeker thingies. To the right there you can see the one I've stuck on my personal website to give it a test drive. Once I was a member and started watching the Veek the Vote campaign, I was underimpressed; judging by the voice behind the camera, they only hit such an impressive number of submissions through the energy-drink-fueled video message compulsion of a few extremely motivated kids (interns, perhaps?). And while I like the flash player widget -- it does look like exactly the kind of blingy crap the yout's of today are happy to paste up on their MySpace page -- after playing with it for a while and comparing it to the alternatives, I'm not so sure how useful it can be to a group like a YD chapter. Your Veeker player shows on the first row the video clips ("veeks" for video peeks) you have, and in rows below that, the latest veeks from your friends. As you can see, I have no friends, but in my and Veeker's defense, this is still a new service with what appears to be very few users (and finding them is less than friendly; while you can search for people by name -- first OR last, searchign for my full name actually doesn't find me, sadly -- or email, the Veeker site currently lacks the social components of other sites, like browsing by interest or public Groups that can be used to aggregate veeks by content). There's also no way, as yet, to create an account (and thus a customized Veeker feed) based solely on an email address (say, for a group like YDAtl that doesn't have a particular cellphone number), so each new webmaster would have to build a selective group of friends whose feeds will appear in our player.Update: I was wrong: you needn't register a cellphone to view Veeks and make connections, so YDAtl now has its own account. You try keeping up with the rules of all these different websites while modeling 3D shear crack deflection. VeekerPlayers might start popping up all over MySpace pages any day now (what the hell do I know, I thought a YDAtl MySpace page was a terrible idea a year and a half ago because "that site is going nowhere"), but without further development for groups, I consider that experiment a write-off of a few precious dissertation hours. and we'll be ready for it. [Now that I've woken up to the fact that we might be able to form a group of Veekers for mobile media campaigns, I'm much more favorable to Veeker compared to the YouTube/BlipTV blog options below because there are less intermediate steps and fewer security issues.]
Other blogging tools, such as Postie for Wordpress blogs, can take a video or picture message sent by email from a cameraphone and put it on your website directly -- though there are still some bugs in the implementation (I can only get videos to show up as links and not embeds, due to necessary Wordpress security precautions), and of course there's the platform-specific nature of such tools. More generally, Blip.tv and YouTube, where we have video hosting accounts, can both accept cellphone videos by email, albeit in a less secure manner than Veeker or Postie, using a secret email address that only certain people are supposed to know; there's no verification built-in of the sending address(es), so anyone that discovers your secret email can upload videos to your account (holy upskirt disaster, Batman!). Those sites can then be configured to upload your video (and message text, if desired) automatically (say "automagically" again and I'll kick your teeth in), though the annoying boilerplate text from your cellular provider will show up in the post as well (Postie can detect and eliminate that crap; perhaps there are other workarounds possible).
Perhaps more useful would be to simply set up a thumbnail gallery of latest videos in your sidebar or on your MySpace page, like this obnoxious thing right here. In this arena, YouTube has one clear advantage: unlike Blip.tv, which only provides code for embedding feeds of your own videos (as far as I can tell),Another correction: Both BlipTV and YouTube allow you to show a list of videos identified with a specific tag -- in the case to the left, "youngdems." This approach allows your friends and members to upload relevant videos that will show up on your website without them having direct access to your YouTube/BlipTV account; on the downside, anyone can tag their video of anything with any tag they want (holy upskirt disaster, Batman!), so judicious selection of tags is key. Using simply "yda" instead of "youngdems" gives you a whole series of these mildly brain-damaged Turkish schoolboys dancing around before you ever see Jane Fleming kick Republican ass on Fox News. If YouTube would enable feeds from moderated groups, we'd be in like Flynn. Who the hell is Flynn, anyway?
On the downside of YouTube, self-proclaimed "IT Git" and active netroots media entrepreneur Mike Seyfang warns share-friendly groups like ours to eschew YouTube for alternatives like BlipTV due to YT's more restrictive licensing conditions. Pretty good advice from someone who's using Windows Live Spaces, *cough*MySpacecopy*cough*. :-P) BlipTV's sidebar widget is also much, much cleaner than YouTube's and doesn't require an iframe; I only used it here due to the dearth of "youngdems" videos on BlipTV (read: it's just us so far).
Putting the Fun back in Fundraising. Hoo-boy was that just about the cheesiest thing I've said on this blog in a long time, but it does, if lamely, convey an important part of another nifty internet widget I recently read about.
Most groups have PayPal accounts for accepting donations and dues from their members and supporters. Some groups even have systems that integrate payments with their website, perhaps even with a catchy graphic widget to track fundraising progress, like the CampaignWindow CMS does. For the rest of us, there is now ChipIn, a free, simple, and most importantly, easily dispersable fundraising tool that can hook up with your existing PayPal account or, if you don't have one, send you a check a make a direct deposit to your bank. Unfortunately, selecting the option to have payments go directly into your PayPal account results in the same per-donation transaction fee ($0.30 + 2.9%) as the old-fashioned PayPal donation buttons, so if 100 people give you a buck, you'll only end up with $64. I'm trying the ChipIn account & mail-me-a-check approach with the current Chickensuit campaign to see what kind of may or may not apply in that case; ChipIn's website is disappointingly vague about what will happen to fees after their "introductory period."
Again, this is not a giant leap in electronic financing at its core, but what might make it much more successful for groups like ours is that little "Copy" button in the middle of the widget. Go on, click it -- and then copy the text it gives you and paste it on your MySpace, Facebook, or Friendster page, your website, or your blog. In seconds, supporters of yours that have more MySpace bling than money can help your campaign not by donating but at least by propagating your fundraising widget throughout their pimped-out world. So, if you want to help me fulfill my vision of a YDAtl Rapid Response Team ready to mock Sonny Perdue's SonnyDo list of ways to screw average Georgia families, won't you ChipIn to the Perdue Chicken suit campaign?
MySpace, OMGWTF. Perhaps MySpace is not the biggest waste of server space in the world, after all; I'll admit it, I was wrong. TechSoup presents a few interviews on how nonprofits are utilizing MySpace to raise awareness. I'd already realized before I saw that article that the problem with YDAtl's MySpace efficacy wasn't in MySpace, it was me: I wasn't using MySpace properly, because let's face it, 32 is old these days, and I just didn't know what I was doing in there. For instance, my first reaction to YDA's MySpace userpic campaign was rather cynical, though that probably had more to do with disappointment with the content of the SMS text messages they kept sending me promising me a "surprise" when I voted. However, the results were impressive: Tony Cani showed screengrabs of how quickly the "I Voted" image started popping up on friends lists like Whack-a-moles, so that when other people logged in on November 7th, they were assaulted by ever increasing numbers of reminders to get to the polls and vote. Turns out, it was a brilliant campaign, because it was brilliantly simple.
Copy. Paste. Repeat.
That right there seems to be the key to social sites like MySpace. I find so many of these profile pages visual affronts to human dignity for precisely the same reason they can be effective streams of communication: kids on MySpace love to share graphics, videos, and anything else they can quickly embed in their profile or comments with a Ctrl-V and Submit. That's why something like the ChipIn widget is such an exciting new idea. You might argue that no messaging campaign should be put on the social web without including a way to distribute the underlying code, not if it's going to be maximally effective. If the YDAtl MySpace page is to generate a buzz, we're going to have to chum the water with HTML bling...we're just going to have to invent a 25th and 26th hour in the day to keep it up.
So, with that voluminous Christmas List of e-goodies, I bid y'all farewell. I hope you find some good ideas in there, and the time, oh precious time, to implement them. Good luck, Young Dems, it's been real.