April 2011

M&C Consulting and Qweries Launch Prototype “Canadian Election Platform Resources”

Mingarelli and Company and Qweries logos

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ottawa, Seattle | April 21, 2011 What questions do you have about Canada’s party platforms as you prepare your vote in the May 2 general election? As they stand, do the current platforms make you want to vote? If so, how? If not, why?

That’s the goal of “Canadian Election Platform Resources,” a community site where Canadians help one another dissect and decipher party platforms.

“We’re hoping to provide accessible, crowdsourced answers to the questions Canadians care about,” said Giovanna Mingarelli, the Principal and Founder of M&C Consulting, a communications and crowdsourcing company; one of two companies driving the project.

“Infusing the election with the wisdom of crowds can lead to more open campaigns and enhanced participation on the part of voters.”

The site has launched with a handful questions about education and childcare, including some of specific interest to students, First Nations community and women. Political parties and voters are encouraged to vote and add topics to the existing platforms.

“It’s a huge challenge for voters to find out where parties stand on the issues that matter to them,” said Jon Pincus, the Founder and Chief Technology Officer of the emerging Q&A web-startup, Qweries, which provides the infrastructure for the website.

“The information is there in the party platforms, but it takes a lot of time. A question-and-answer format makes it easy for people to find answers.”

Testing two different technology approaches to see which sparks the most involvement, the English site is found at canadianelectionpartyplatforms2011.ca and the French-language site is found via programmeelectoralelections2011.ca.

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The first Facebook skirmish of the 2012 election

ABC News, LA Times and other media reports show how ForAmerica FB fans crashed Obama's Facebook Townhall page today.

Not too shabby at all.  The Town Hall itself seems to have gone well (Ryan Singel’s Softball questions, familiar themes has the details in Wired, and Sharon Gaudin’s A Sign of Things to Come in Computerworld puts it in context), but there’s no question that ForAmerica showed a lot of strength on what used to be Obama’s home turf.

Linnie Rawlinson’s Will the 2008 USA election be won on Facebook? is a great portrait of where things were at this stage in the last presidential election.  Social networks played a huge role in Obama’s victory, and the One Million Strong for Barack group was the epicenter on Facebook.  There was plenty of trolling then too (like the time the Hillary Clinton group was overrun by troll mob), but most of the campaigning was positive.  Cognitive diversity and the 2008 US election discusses about some of the group’s successes — and has plenty of statistics showing how what a big advantage Obama had on social networks.

Since then, though, conservatives and tea partiers have been far more successful at organizing on social networks.  On Facebook, the energy and participation in the One Million Strong group has dwindled, and while Obama’s page has almost 20,000,000 followers it doesn’t allow for a lot of participation and discussion.  Byron Tau’s Obama Faces Brave New Web World in Politico sets the scene for the 2012 battle.*  Perhaps ForAmerica’s successful action will act as a wake-up call to the Democrats.

In the LA Times, Michael Memoli quotes ForAmerica’s chariman Brent Bozell as saying “We are only beginning to see the untapped power of this growing, formidable online army.”  It’s going to be an interesting 18 months …

jon

* and includes the mandatory reference to Get FISA Right 🙂

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Any Canadians out there have a minute to help?

I’ve been working with M&C Consulting on a couple of Q&A (question-and-answer) sites for the Canadian election.  We haven’t gone live yet, so sites are currently at http://achangeiscoming.qotd.co/ (English) and http://ca2011fr.qweries.net/ (French).

If you’ve got a minute or two to check it out and vote for at least one answer you think is interesting, it’d be greatly appreciated.   Please leave any feedback here as a comment, or mail it to me at jon { at} qweries { dot } net.  And if you want to take the next step and ask a question or give an answer, that’d be even better!

Thanks as always…

jon

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Equal Pay Day: Pay Equity and Startups

Next Equal Pay Day: Tuesday, April 12, 2011

American women who work full-time, year-round are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. This gap in earnings translates into $10,849 less per year in female median earnings, leaving women and their families shortchanged. The wage gap is even more substantial when race and gender are considered together, with African-American women making only 62 cents,and Latinas only 53 cents, for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men.

National Women’s Law Center

Equal Pay Day is the date that symbolizes how far into 2011 women must work to earn what men earned in 2010. This year, it’s April 12.

The Paycheck Fairness Act was reintroduced in Congress today (after being killed last December by a Republican filibuster), and more recently the AAUW’s come out with anothre report, The Simple Truth About the Pay Gap, demolishing the arguments of the guys who deny there’s a problem.  My posts from the last couple years ( #fairpay and Women Don’t Ask and What would it mean if women were paid as much as men?) cover a lot of this, and as always, there’s a lot of great stuff being written — check out the #fairpay hashtag for links.

After all that it’s hard to come up with something new to talk about.  So let me just spend a moment on the area of gender equity I’m personally most involved with right now: representation of women at startups.

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Save the Rave: Stop Surveillance in San Francisco

Save the Rave: Come down to City Hall TOMORROW night

Hot on the heels of last month’s joint San Francisco Youth and Entertainment Commission’s hearing on electronic dance music, we’re back with a sequel.   Now, in what Jim Harper of Cato calls a “jaw-dropping attack on privacy and free assembly“, the San Francisco Police Department has proposed onerous new conditions for permitting for all venues with more than 100 people.  For example:

3. All occupants of the premises shall be ID Scanned (including patrons, promoters, and performers, etc.). ID scanning data shall be maintained on a data storage system for no less than 15 days and shall be made available to local law enforcement upon request.

4. High visibility cameras shall be located at each entrance and exit point of the premises. Said cameras shall maintain a recorded data base for no less than fifteen (15 days) and made available to local law enforcement upon request.

Yikes!   As Deborah Pierce of Privacy Activism says, “We go to clubs to relax and spend time with friends. Knowing that all of your interactions are being recorded and that those images may be matched to your driver’s license information and handed over to the police at any time chills all manner of speech and association.” Yeah really.   And there are issues from the business perspective as well; on his Facebook profile, Save the Rave organizer Liam Shy summed it up as “Increased unnecessary burden/right to privacy conerns = fewer events, fewer folks attending events.”  Indeed.

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PATRIOT Act Update: After a successful call-in day, the focus shifts to Congress

Thousands of patriots fought their way through jammed White House phone lines on April 5 to call on President Obama to keep his campaign promises by vetoing any PATRIOT Act extension unless it includes substantial new protections. The timing was perfect, just a day after he launched his re-election campaign. Now, the focus shifts to the House and the Senate.

EFF logo“All day long, we received reports of phone lines being flooded with calls, so that people couldn’t even get through,” says EFF’s activism director Rainey Reitman, “In the coming weeks, we’ll look to harness this energy into future actions in the fight against overbroad government surveillance.”

The two-week Congressional recess from April 18-May 1 is a great opportunity for “in-district” meetings with Representatives. Several clauses of the PATRIOT Act will sunset unless Congress extends them by May 27. Most Democrats support reform, and more and more Republicans are coming out against overbroad legislation, so it’s a great opportunity — but on the other hand, there’s also the risk of a permanent extension. So now’s the time for action.

Executive Director Shahid Buttar of Bill of Rights Defense Committee explains, “With the Obama White House pushing a Bush administration policy, the next step is for Congress to check & balance documented executive abuses under the PATRIOT Act — and for We the People to press our congressional representatives to do their jobs.”

BORDC has some great suggestions about how to set up and prepare for a meeting — including “you don’t have to go it alone”, “outline your interests”, and “follow up”. They’ve also got a couple of optional preparation phone calls scheduled for next week. sign up on their web site if you’d like to be notified. ACLU’s Congressional testimony hearing has some great talking points, and so do Downsize DC, EFF, and BORDC.

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Notes from Underground: DJ Anomaly and the Mysterious Voice of Ra at The Atrium

Special event tonight at The Atrium

Wow!  We were bumming about missing last night’s PULSE in San Francisco with the legendary Green Nuns of the Revolution and Dutch.  But then we discovered that DJ Anomaly’s in the Seattle area tonight at one of our favorite venues.  I heart psytrance.

candles and glowsticks

After spending almost a month in SF, we were both glad to get back to Washington.  Our life is so different here: walks in the park and relaxing evenings with just the two of us at home as opposed to the fast-paced city life, socializing, and going out multiple times a week in the Bay Area.  It’s a great balance …

It’s a pretty special weekend for us: 25 years since our first date.  Who would have predicted?  And at the risk of sounding like a broken record, it just keeps getting better and better.  Tonight should be wonderful, and then we’ve got a scrumptious dinner planned for tomorrow.  Can’t wait!

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PATRIOT Act reform: phone the White House on April 5

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On April 5, 1792, President George Washington vetoed a bill — the first time in U.S. history that the presidential veto was exercised. On the anniversary of this day, we’re calling on Barack Obama to exercise his presidential powers to veto any PATRIOT Act renewal bill that does not include powerful reforms to safeguard civil liberties.

EFF’s action alert

As a candidate, Obama repeatedly promised to reform the PATRIOT Act. He also promised Get FISA Right, in his response to our open letter, that he’d ask for “recommendations on any steps needed to preserve civil liberties and to prevent executive branch abuse in the future.” With the battle in Congress over key clauses of the PATRIOT Act heating up again, now’s a great time to ask him to live up to his campaign promises.

The legislative situation is very fluid. Several clauses of the PATRIOT Act will sunset unless Congress extends them by May 27. It’s a great chance to introduce reforms; on the other hand, there’s also the risk of a permanent extension. More and more Republicans are coming out in against the extensions; grassroots Tea Partiers and Libertarians as well as Rand and Ron Paul are strong on civil liberties, and other Republican Congressmen like Jason Chaffetz have voiced their concerns about overbroad legislation as well.

Legislation in the House is likely to drop soon. In the Senate, Leahy’s S. 193 will be the basis for a floor debate, with amendments likely to be proposed by both sides. The Obama Administration supports S.193, but many privacy and civil liberties organizations support the JUSTICE Act’s much stronger protections, including better oversight of the use of national security letters (NSLs) as repeatedly recommended by the Department of Justice’s Inspector General, more effective checks on “sneak and peek” searches , and roving wiretaps, and revising the “material support” standard to require that prosecutors prove that defendants knowingly intended their support to further violent extremism.

By taking a strong stand for civil liberties, Obama could help shape the upcoming Congressional debate.
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Notes from Underground: April Fool’s Day

April Fools RaveIt’s been a hectic few weeks.   It started with cleaning out our SF apartment, creating more space in the apartment — and attacking the storeroom from Hades in the garage.   We had put some stuff in there in 1991 when we moved into the apartment and then more in 1999 and then our Burning Man stuff in 2006 … and it turns out there were a dozen boxes or so from a former three-doors-down neighbor who had moved away years ago and asked to leave them there temporarily.  Several trips to various recycling centers and the Community Thrift Store later, it was virtually empty so we could start to refill it with our other Burning Man stuff to create space in the apartment, and it went from there … with plenty of carrying stuff up and down stairs.

In the middle of it I testified at City Hall in a meeting sparked by the Save the Rave; am working BORDC, EFF, Demand Progress, and so many othersto get the word out at #privchat on Twitter and Facbook for PATRIOT Act activism.  Yay for grassroots social network activism!

And also: helped D submit her novel (!) to a publisher.  Strategized with my brother Greg on his Kickstarter campaign “Spread the Word!”.  Drove a friend to work for her first day on her new job and hung out with her in SF for the first time.   Went barrel tasting — and discovered a bunch of wine from the 1990s we had left in our neighbor’s cellar, most of which is remarkably drinkable.  Went to a fashion show and a fabulous dinner party.  Had dinner and drinks with friends and enjoyed Brubars.  Bought tickets to take the train across the country (I’m minimizing flying because of the f—ing TSA).  Started work on a bilingual (although not yet beautiful) qweries prototype,  Danced till four a.m. two nights in a row.

Life is good.

And no wonder I’m tired.

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Poetry: Spread the Word and 30 Poets 30 Days — Happy National Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month, and my brother Greg has a couple of things going on. Here’s his summary of the Poetry: Spread the Word Kickstarter project:

If Poetry: Spread the Word is funded, over the course of the next year (roughly May, 2011 through April, 2012), I will put 100 original poems up on my blog and out into the world for free and do 40 school visits (via Skype or, if it works out, in person) at no cost to the schools. I’ll also create a collection, described in more detail below, that will celebrate and document the visits and the poetry.

By supporting this project, each of you can become a patron of the arts. You’ll help get poetry into classrooms, take the fundraising and organizational burden off teachers and parents, and enable me to have time to write and publish free poetry on my blog.

At the same time, I hope I can make “doing good” be even more rewarding for you by offering something of value in exchange for your support. I love win-win-win situations, and I hope that’s what has been created here.

Indeed!  If pledge $10 or more, you get a PDF of the Poetry: Spread the Word collection, and it only gets better from there: signed poems, postcards with poetry, choosing the topic for a poem, sponsoring a class visit, or even a custom poem!  More details here, along with a spiffy video with more about why he’s doing the project.

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