Home Real-Time Activism: What the Heck is an E-Alert?

Real-Time Activism: What the Heck is an E-Alert?

If you’ve ever worked with an advocacy group, you understand how important it is to stretch your scarce resources. In the face of dwindling government grants, a looming recession, and the fear of losing your volunteers, the real-time web can be a boon in getting legislation passed. Today’s ReadWriteWeb Real-Time Summit attendees took time to discuss some of the cause-based tools that can help in this bubbling river of data.

Consumers Union employees Tim Marvin and Gregory Foster work hard to ensure that consumers have access to a fair and safe marketplace. The organization lobbies government groups around issues of health care reform, product safety and ethical advertising. Nevertheless, a number of today’s available advocacy tools fall flat. While organizations communicate with phone calls, videos, static sites, brochures, face-to-face lobbying and a spam-like email service called an “e-alert”, only a few are utilizing the real-time web. Rather than insisting upon these traditional methods, the group discussed new ways to hack the law-making process. Below are some of our ideas:

1.Real-Time Story Uploading: Voters can upload their stories via a microblogging service, tag it with a cause-related hashtag and geo-tag it to a specific constituency. From here the relevant representatives could be provided with a constituency feed and can search via the issues that affect them most. In this case, trending topics would indicate the most popular issues.

2. Legislator Meet and Greet: Similar to celebrity sightings on Twitter, users could Tweet when meeting their legislator and encourage nearby voters to come by and express their opinions. We call this “legis-stalking”.

3. Legislative Activity Stream: While legislation is already being tracked via sites like Govtrack.us, there’s no reason your friends shouldn’t get your legislation-related activity stream and real-time commentary. From here machine-powered sentiment analysis could be used to show a politician’s popularity and overall happiness amongst voters.

4.Tracker: Similar to Pivotal Labs’ Tracker, consumer groups could collaborate on an issues-based project management tool. When representatives reveal their plans, each issue can be broken down into a smaller project with associated goals. If goals are verified by a specific percentage of voters, then the project is considered a success and reflects this percentage in real-time. If goals are left unfulfilled, then the project is considered a failure. From here a politician’s overall success rate can also be calculated as a real-time reflection of effectiveness.

We know these are just some of the ideas available with real-time activism. If you’ve got ideas on how organizations can better utilize the real-time web add your ideas in the comments below or in the event wiki. If you’d like to help Consumers Union build the tools we’ve discussed above email [email protected]

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The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

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