Editors' Note: Guest blogger Liza Sabatar is a new media consultant who is also publisher and founder of culturekitchen and Daily Gotham.
Allison and Nancy have a killer post over at TechPresident titled, "Twitter: An Antidote to Election Day Voting Problems?". It's brilliant and you have to read it top to bottom for the points it makes on : Empowering Self-Organized Volunteers, Sharing Patterns, Serving as Mobile Legal Aide, Smart Routing Around Resource Gaps and Guiding the Watchdogs.
I had joked about a week ago that it would behoove the United States to have Jimmy Carter invite international election observers and have him to for our country what he does in every other nascent or 3rd World democracy. Yet it dawned on me, the voters of the United States, can open the US electoral process to the world by using our cell phones and digital cameras.
Which takes me a step further from just using Twitter. Given it's history of outages and given the networked architecture of the web, we have no reason to rely on one service in order to disseminate information rapidly. So I'd like to provide this post as an amendment to their proposal. I am trying to post this as fast as I can and am including services that I have personally used. Please post your preferences in the comments section.
With that out of the way, here are 5 ways to use the decentralized nature of the web to broadcast election protection information:
- Mobile IM
FROM: AOL IM, GTalk, MS Live Chat
TO : Twitter, PingFM or human IM Editor
Internet access through mobile "phones" have turned them into pocket sized computers. One of the first basic features of "webbiness" on cell phones has been access to AOL's Instanta Messaging services (or IM) and text-messaging which is, in truth the mobile equivalent of emailing (which is why you've always been able to email since forever with mobile phones).
If you can do so, create an IM group that includes someone offsite who you have designated as an IM editor. In the group you want to include Twitter (if you are satisfied with having only one broadcasting place) or ping.FM (if you want to post to as many channels as possible).
Why do you want to IM a human as well as the services? Well, because you never know what can happen with the servers. IM is one of the most stable technologies out there and with the newer phones you can also have access to Google's GTalk and MicroSoft's Live Chat. So if Twitter or Ping.FM go down in flames during the night of the elections, you can rest assured somebody else will be receiving your IM pings and posting them to a blog.
By the way : Let me say right off the bat that mobile internet access should "disallow" mobile carriers from calling their products "phones". Since mobile access to the internet is turning phones into "internet devices", this should mean that access to the internet through mobile phones should have the same net neutrality principles as cable and traditional telephone methods. If we're demanding net neutrality through cable and phone lines, we should up the ante and demand it UNIVERSALLY and expand net neutrality to mobile internet access.
FROM : Your phone's email address
TO : Flickr, Twitpic, YouTube, Ping.FM your Inbox, your Blog, your human Email Editor
Every cell phone comes with an email address and hence, emailing capability. It's for that reason Flickr (and Typepad) became some of the first companies back in 2003-2004 to offer "moblogging" or blogging (whereas it was a photo or text) via mobile email.
For mobile photoblogging I use two services : Flickr and Twitpic. It's weird that Flickr hasn't created a pinging system between itself and Twitter; hence the need to use either Twitpic or ping.FM.
Also remember that you can post videos to YouTube and Flickr via email. I suggest you keep those clips around 30 seconds.
Of course, and here we go again with the human Email Editor. If everything else fails, you want someone to get the email and post it as fast as they can. The ideal is to get someone stationed at a headquarter to manage all incoming messages.
- Voice Mail
FROM : Your cell phone
TO: Jott, Utterli, FreeConferenceCall.com, your VM Inbox, your VoiceMail Editor
I personally detest voice mail and hence my inability to warm up to producing my own podcasting. Not that I don't enjoy being on a radio show (with a shout out to Farai Chideya and the crew at NPR's News and Notes). If soemone else is producing the radio or podcast, then am happy.
I don't share my aversion billions of phone and cell phone users who primarily engage through voice (and voice mail) via their mobile phones. So if gabbing into a cell phone is your thing, use Utterli to call-in your reporting and have it automatically turned into a podcast and published to the web.
You could also use FreeConferenceCall.com if you want to have the calls podcasted and not published or if you want to try to coordinate several people calling in from the ground and relaying their accounts at the same time. Use Jott if you want to have your call transcribed and turned into an email. Bad news about this one? You can't publish it directly. I've tried doing so but Jott attaches at the end of each missive about 300 characters of spammy BS that mangles Twitterings and Moblogging.
And of course, there's nothing like calling another human when all other technology fails.
- Streaming Video
FROM : video enabled cell phone
TO : Qik (via downloaded software bridge)
My Nokia N95 broke and it still needs to be repaired. When it worked though, it was a thing of wonder. Once I get it back from the shop I'll post a pic of the set up I have for a microphone and all, but let me just say that Qik.com kicks ass when it comes to streaming almost synchronously (there's always a bit of a delay due to the distance, the server and the software processing).
The best part if that once the video is processed it appears on your own channel for everybody to embed on to their blogs, just like with YouTube. And if you embed the player on your blog to begin with, VOILA! You do have indeed your own channel.
FROM : Your cell phone, web device (ie: Sidekick) or laptop
TO : Your blog
When it comes to posting directly to your blog, if you have a MovableType, TypePad, WordPress or Blogger account, all you need to do is either enable the feature or add the plug-in. If you have a Drupal site like I do, you need to have the Mailhandler and Mime mail modules, although setting the blog for it is not as easy as with WordPress.
And of course, if you want to rock like it was 2004, you schlep with your laptop, park your ass close to a precinct and ask people to come to your computer to either interview them or have them blog their experience.
WiFi is optional in this case, by the way. If you have a web-enabled phone like my Blackberry Pearl, you can use it as a modem via USB link-up or Bluetooth.
This is by no means a complete list of possibilities. As I have said, it is the list that includes most of the services I've had results with. Yet as you can see even with this limited list we could open up the electoral process and irregularities of our country to the whole world.
Of course, the tagging of all posts will be absolutely important. For this reason I suggest to follow the tagging convention Alison and Nancy have outlined :
To get the ball rolling, we're suggesting one standardized format for hashtagging election protection tweets to use as voting registration is drawing to a close in most states and early voting is starting. It goes like this: [state] + [first four letters of the county] + [precinct, if known]. So, in downtown Cleveland, for example, the hashtag would be #OHCuya07.
The only detail being that, in order to do this quickly with a mobile email post, make sure you just put the hastag in the body of the email. This is particularly true when sending photographs and videoclips into Flickr. Not such luck with YouTube. With Qik though you can set the tags in advance, so just make sure you do so with a generic tag such as #USElections08.
And yes, when it comes down to it, these are broadcasting practices that apply to ANY media campaign. You don't have to wait for the elections to put it to good use.