Strong opinions, weakly held

Tag: activism

Better activism day

As you’ll see tomorrow morning, I fully support the effort to black out as much of the Web as possible to protest SOPA/PIPA. Protests like this serve two purposes — one is to let Congress know that we are serious about our opposition to this legislation, but the other is to inform people who aren’t aware of these bills that something is going on that will almost certainly affect them down the road. I assume the people who read this site are already aware of SOPA/PIPA, but I bet a lot of Wikipedia users aren’t. If they try to read an article on Wikipedia tomorrow, they will be. I’m going dark on this site for reasons of solidarity if nothing else.

Clay Johnson is going to be hosting an online seminar tomorrow that will teach better activism. SOPA/PIPA have stirred up a lot of activism, but the key is to make sure that the activists are as effective as possible. It’s great that Clay is rising to the occasion to help make sure that’s the case.

Oh, and if you are going to black out your site tomorrow, be sure to follow Google’s advice on how to do so without messing up search engines.

Update: Matt Haughey explains how a DMCA takedown notice affected his site, Metafilter. SOPA/PIPA are designed to enable copyright holders to take sites offline even if their hosting provider is not willing to comply.

Knocking on doors

The secret to winning campaigns? Knocking on doors. FiveThirtyEight.com has the gritty details. In short, researchers have shown that 12 successful face to face contacts lead to one additional vote for a candidate.

Let’s do a little math. 12 face-to-face contacts is one new voter who would not have otherwise voted that you personally generated. You just doubled your own vote by speaking at the door to twelve voters. Of course, then it comes down to contact rate — how often is the person home that you’re trying to reach. A very low contact rate is probably 10%, and that happens. A very high contact rate can be 50%. Average is in the 25% ballpark. On average, you’d have to knock on 48 doors to generate 12 face-to-face contacts and one additional vote. 48 doors is a pretty standard, approximate walk list.

So if you go out one four-hour walk shift every weekend between now and the election, you’ve generated — on average — six extra votes from people who would not otherwise have voted for your candidate.

That makes me feel guilty for not having knocked on any doors during this election. It sort of makes you wonder what would happen if every hour spent reading political blogs were instead spent volunteering for a campaign.

Free Software Foundation vs iPhone

The Free Software Foundation’s list of reasons why you should avoid the iPhone have gotten plenty of coverage, which is of course the point of making such a list. I assume their tactics are the same as Greenpeace’s criticism of Apple’s environmental practices.

The goal is, of course, to get Apple to change its behavior, but I suspect the primary goal is also to educate consumers about the aims of the groups making the criticism. Apple is more effective than any other company in technology at garnering tons of press coverage, most of it positive. Activist groups target Apple with the knowledge that it’s the best way to advance what I expect is probably their primary goal — publicizing their cause.

The FSF wants consumers to think about their definition of free software, the risks of DRM, and how your software may expose your private information without your knowledge. Criticizing Apple on those grounds is clearly an effective way to get that message out in front of the public.

In the end, Greenpeace was successful in getting Apple to change its practices, but I suspect that was less important than the light they shined on the bad environmental practices that pervade the computer manufacturing industry. I also think it’s more important that more customers will be thinking about whether they will accept DRM and who is allowed to control what software they put on their phone than is any success the FSF might have in provoking change from Apple. That’s probably a good thing, because I think it was easier for Apple to reduce its packaging and do a better job of recycling old parts than it will be for them to give up some of the control they’re exercising over the iPhone platform.

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