I almost didn’t vote today. As the founder of a website that helps people focus on doing what matters, casting a vote in Illinois (where the election won’t be close and my vote won’t matter) is arguably hypocritical. Had I spent an hour this morning working on The Point instead of voting, it would have done infinitely more good (some vs. none = infinite).
But when I started compiling my argument against voting for the purpose of this post, I realized:
So that was that – post abandoned, I would abstain from voting in silence.
But after reading an article by Freakonomics author Steven Levitt about the irrationality of voting, I was convinced, ironically, that I should vote.
Levitt explains that many economists consider voting pointless to the point of being a social stigma.
Why would an economist be embarrassed to be seen at the voting booth? Because voting exacts a cost – in time, effort, lost productivity – with no discernible payoff except perhaps some vague sense of having done your “civic duty.” As the economist Patricia Funk wrote in a recent paper, “A rational individual should abstain from voting.”
But rational economics is based on the assumption that all parties act rationally. If Funk is using rationality to declare that I shouldn’t vote, then it follows no one else votes either. If no one votes, however, my vote will make a difference, so I should vote. But since everyone is rational, they just all came to that conclusion, so once again everyone is voting… and I shouldn’t vote. But everyone else realized that too… and on and on.
Voting is a particularly interesting collective action puzzle – because it’s designed to be anonymous and uncoordinated, everyone has the exact same cost/benefit (setting aside issues of difficulty getting to the polls, self-satisfaction, etc.). In other words, the rational answer to the question of whether to vote should be the same for everyone in the country.
I think the problem with Funk’s statement stems from a poor definition of what constitutes rational decision making (I’m way out of my league here, but this is a blog so you knew that already). Let me offer two ways of defining a “rational” decision:
I’m not articulating the essence of the distinction perfectly, so I’ll try and illustrate it through the example of voting. If the decision whether to vote is made without considering how other people should behave who are faced with that exact same decision, you get caught in the cycle described above. But if I approach the question of “should I vote?” from the perspective that every single person has to make the exact same decision and thus the conclusion needs to be the same, the answer is, rationally, “yes.” Just because economists understand the free rider problem doesn’t give them permission to perpetuate it.
So that’s a long-winded way of saying something you already know – vote, even though it doesn’t matter.
Just as they once united to stamp out cigarette advertising, radio and TV stations and advertisers must get together and agree that false statements in political advertisements will not be tolerated. If you run a political ad that proves to be a lie, your network will pay a steep fine, and the advertiser will pay an even steeper one.
He prefaces his idea with this:
So here’s my idea. One that could actually work, if America’s networks remember they are Americans first, revenue seekers second. (emphasis mine)
That’s a big “if,” Jeffrey! But the good news is, I don’t think it’s a necessary one. It is we as consumers who grant these networks the right to exist by watching them. If we want them to stop running untruthful ads, we should coordinate our influence as consumers to create an incentive for them to stop.
What if we all promise to watch all election coverage from the first network that pledges to turn away ads that FactCheck rates as dishonest?
If someone starts this campaign on The Point, I’ll join it in a heartbeat.
Now that Spore is released, how are gamers fighting back? By obliterating Spore’s all-important Amazon rating with an onslaught of 1-star reviews.
This is an wonderful case study in online collective action (I don’t know how it emerged, let me know if you do). I’m fascinated to see where it goes. If 1,000 consumers can influence a seemingly inevitable smash like Spore, imagine what they could do to a product preceded by a more fragile reputation?
Most companies would rather please their customers than endure a beating like this, and The Point is the perfect way to provide that option. For example, this could have been an ultimatum campaign on The Point: “Spore should loosen their DRM restrictions or else we will leave 1-star reviews on Amazon if 1,000 people join.” Few products can afford to choose the thousand 1-stars.
While one can imagine this tactic being repeated to address other consumer grievances, I fear popularity could reduce its efficacy. Reviews are still fundamentally a PR tactic, not a direct economic incentive to change. And so, as the novelty of the approach fades, so may its potency. Additionally, businesses could adapt to block this tactic, perhaps by pressuring Amazon to regulate reviews.
Don’t get me wrong – I think this is great and can’t wait to see what happens. But sustainable, predictable, repeatable tactics for influencing change must create a rational economic incentive by leveraging the consumer’s power to buy (or not to buy).
Increasing participation by offering incentive (free beer)
My friend Sarah organized her first meetup. The topic of the meeting was related to a particular industry and the methods by which it communicates, though we will focus more on the process Sarah went through to figure out how to entice people to come. By watching the initial success of her meeting as well as the inflated successes of the model she based hers on, she learned that it takes a moderate balance of incentive and resistance to simultaneously get people in the door and to avoid the possibility of having too many people get in the way of your intended purpose.
Or, in other words, free beer can be good or bad depending what you hope to get out of offering it.
Sarah explained that as she structured her meeting she took into consideration and prioritized the reasons she shows up to any topical event. If entry is free, she will attend a workshop for the purposes of education (or discussion of the topic at hand) or networking (she is a freelancer). However, it was one night that we were at one monthly event, one that shall remain nameless, that was selling itself with the help of a third, that reminded us of a forgotten factor: free beer.
“If the meeting’s bad, at least the drinks were free.”
Brilliant. The predominant incarnation of this particular meetup, one that occurs in city’s nation-wide, involves a monthly, bar-based get-together where folks congregate, talk about industry-based, socially conscious issues, and pay five-dollars a pint. Some brilliant organizer, for whom this plight must have strongly resonated, lifted the industry-centered focus* and found a brewery that would sponsor the meeting with free beer** and some free food.
Both Sarah and I very much enjoy lubricating otherwise seemingly-dull conversations with alcohol, and neither of us enjoy paying for it. And while she didn’t think much of her decision to stick with keeping her own industry-centered themes in the format of the meeting, Sarah immediately made a sponsorship deal with another enthusiastic local brewery and she began putting the (down-low) word out that the drinks would be free. Again — Brilliant. When I’m at conferences and the education components are bad, the likelihood of drinking for free on the tab of some industry sponsor is redeeming. Even if core of the meeting is bad, Sarah thought, at least one element is reliably good (and often promised to make the networking part easier for us closet introverts)
“Oops – Could I have provided too much incentive?”
With Sarah’s new priorities, booze, networking, and discussion of issues related to the topic at hand, 20 people showed up to her first meeting. She didn’t know half of them and thus she felt successful. Meanwhile, the model she based the structure of her meetup on, the free beer and general conversation meeting, was facing growth that initially startled Sarah.
We had been going to the gathering here and there with friends of ours, but because of previous obligations, Sarah and I had missed the last meeting of the group she modeled hers after. It had grown substantially since the topical modification and the drinks were introduced, going from a steady 20-person meeting to 70-80 after the next month and well over a hundred at the next. Our friends caught the last meeting and reported an attendance of well over 200 people. Lines for the keg were 20-something strong. The free beer was gone in an hour.
Moderate incentive v. All incentive // Meetings v. Parties
For a short while, Sarah had thought she had made a mistake by offering free beer and that her meeting would soon be over-saturated. She realized, however (or at least hoped like hell), that no, this would not be the case. In her meeting, which is aimed at folks in a typically low-pay industry, optional free drinks had become a reward for people who might not otherwise feel, to give up a free night. In the other meeting, which initially catered to a similar crowd, the requirement of association with an industry had been lifted and coupled with the extra incentive of complementary alcohol. Since the only requirement for entry was sharing an interest in the generally vague topic of the meetup (“It’s about the Blues? My cousin listens to the blues! Where’s the beer?”), it had essentially turned itself into more of a soirée than anything else.
By increasing the incentive while also dropping the requirements for membership, you’re basically left saying, “Come have free drinks with a bunch of people who think about vaguely similar things as you do.” There’s nothing wrong with doing that—this model defined much of many people’s high school and college experiences. It’s incentives had changed to accommodate what appeared to be its new mission: increasing rates of social capital with the help of beer (another wholly noble goal), otherwise known as a party.
However, when an organizer is looking to create something more structured, incentive must be matched equally with terms of entry in order to ensure free-riders don’t overwhelm underlying goals of an action. At a meeting with an explicit goal, a participant with a beer in their hand is being rewarded for their participation. At a meeting with no goal, a participant with a beer in their hand is an extra in a John Hughes movie. Free beer is meant to balance the fact that the folks might need an extra selling point to tip their interest to attending the meeting, thus increasing the likelihood the meeting will have a strong, qualified turnout.
By balancing participation challenges with incentive, we are able to bring more qualified people into the conversation, strengthen our dialog, and create new opportunities for well-matched collaboration. By creating more incentive than challenge, especially when one of them is beer, chances are we’re just throwing a party.
The incentive-heavy will cutter your path.
This model is applicable, of course, to all paradigms of organization. The glory of participating with purpose, the personality of the organizer, or, in the case of the Internet, the usability of the platform don’t always translate into high levels of participation. Sometimes, if a task asks a little more than zero effort from a participant, extra recognition for engagement, a trade of services, or a free something or rather might be necessary to get someone working on your side. It is important, however, to create a balance between the complications of opting in and incentive. Unless you’re looking for a strictly numbers-based mass of support, allowing the balance tip towards the incentive-heavy can leave you burdened with incentive-hungry folks cluttering the path that separates you from your ultimate goal.
*Now the meetings are about over-arching social-consciousness.
**Which, it’s worth mentioning, is spottily illegal depending on your locale and venue.
I just pledged $100 dollars to the development of a New York City-based “vertical farm.”
If you don’t know about the project, you can check out The Vertical Farm website here, an article on the concept in The New York Times, or this discussion in The Huffington Post on how we can use such a construction project as part of an advanced building block of our future (and national security).
From the campaign: The Vertical Farm is a urban indoor highrise farm that can grow food to feed urban populations in a sustainable way. It’s one of the most innovative solutions to the impending food and environmental crisises we’ll see in the next 50 years.
The best thing about the pledge is that it’s just that – a pledge. I have not yet been charged. I am supporting an idea and only when there is enough support to leverage it into a reality will my money be put to use.
Andrew Mason puts the project into context of The Point’s weekend upgrade:
“Hey there, We launched a major upgrade to The Point this weekend. I’m inviting you a “carrot” campaign — one of our new features. For these campaigns, there are no preset tipping points — people just pile on the money until someone agrees to do something. In this case, we’re trying to get a developer to agree to build a skyscraper farm in Manhattan. Please forward this to New Yorkers you know – I think it’s a really cool idea. You won’t pay a dime unless someone reputable steps up and agrees to build the farm. We’ll probably work something out where you’ll get a return on your investment, either in the form of equity or produce, but it’s too early to promise anything. Help spread the word!”
Meet Wendy Cohen, the interviewee I neglected to record.
We discussed our love for Jay Rosen, adoration for Larry Lessig, and talked about how she organized the first Screening Liberally event, organized around the film Thank You For Smoking, back in New York. We talked about her time as a community manager at the Huffington Post (she was their first), where she worked on increasing the volume of user participation and on-site chatter. We discussed her present role at Participant, where she has the same title but works in a capacity that is not focused strictly Internet community development. How does she keep up with the demands of a job that doesn’t necessarily have a consistent, set-in-stone job description? She says that she’s had great mentor and consistently reads up what’s being said about the subject online
Based on her contrasting experiences, I asked if an increase of tangible, face-to-face social capital better facilitates online action? Are you, Wendy Cohen, more willing to sign onto an Internet protest or fundraising campaign I am organizing than you were before we met face-to-face and only knew me via email? And if so, do you think that this is the case for most people
Wendy suggested that yes, she would be more interested in participating in some sort of online action that I initiate after having actually met me, but that the dynamics of getting to know people are becoming so much more multifaceted that it is becoming easier to feel like know know someone that you have never met face-to-face. Perhaps this is closing the gap between the need-to-meet-to-trust people and those who give/participate more freely than others.
Nice to meet (/trust) you.
We discussed Wendy’s efforts with Screening Liberally, a social event she co-created that organizes folks online to get together and watch socially liberal independent films offline. We discussed the conversation the meetings breed and bonding that face-to-face meetings facilitate. Screening Liberally stemmed from Drinking Liberally, a similarly structured event that Cohen had been attending for a few years. She also organizes Net Tuesdays in L.A., a NetSquared event that organizes in a similar way to the “Liberally” events (bringing folks face-to-face using Internet technologies), though it concentrates on non-profit and tech issues. Part of the bonus of both events is camaraderie and networking built around an issue as well as the educational component. The strengthening of trust, based wholly on meeting someone face-to-face, can be beneficial when eventually trying to mobilize someone to act online.
Internet-organizer communities continue to rhetorically treat the off and online as binaries — as if they don’t overlap each other as one: When I am my offline self, I am not my online self. When I am my online self, I am not my offline self. However, social transactions are based upon perceived loss and gain on the parts of each participant. For some, getting a person to act online may require little more than a compelling cause and an easy avenue for action. For others, it may require a level of trust unachievable by a call for action alone. In the past week, of the past ten people I have asked who have given money to a cause online in the past year, every one said that they are more likely to give to someone that they know. Even though my ask went out to friends and Internet associates alike, with the exception of one donor, every person who gave me money for a Point campaign aimed at helping my cousin who had lost her home in a fire, a seemingly compelling cause, is someone I have met, if only briefly, in person. Even Warren Buffett has been known to work to restore trust with his fellow company-folk by meeting with them face-to-face.
We chat, We vlog, We tweet.
While the ways with which we are able to get to know each other online are becoming more and more diversified in both their depth and distribution apparatuses, thus transforming the ways we build and assess trust, for some, the willingness to give time, money, or action is contingent on getting to know that the face on the other side of the screen indeed belongs to a human being. The Internet is special in its ability to accelerate the speed of our message, the mechanics of our campaigns, and the depth of our ability to organize. Meetings, connection, and person-to-person resonance, while absolutely possible for many to achieve online, is still a more-quickly absorbed process off. By adapting our off and online behaviors to embrace all tools — by focusing on building social capital in both spheres — we strengthen our leverage in both worlds, both as individuals and part of a greater social wholes, as well as leaders of movements architected in this digital world we’re finally starting to get a grasp of.
The next time you have time to do so, head on over to a gathering of the like (or differently) minded, be it at a Screening (or Drinking or Living) Liberally event, or a gathering of Net Tuesday organizers. While your online fundraising prowess might be in competition with rock stars like Beth Kanter (thanks to her suggestions for successful community maintenance and fundraising), it can’t hurt to connect with those who might potentially participate in a future something, if only they know who you were.
[Edit // 10:30 pm EST] Here, a few hours after posting this, I just came across this blog post. It discusses this study [doc]. While it doesn’t necessarily drive home my point, it does discuss the importance of offline shared experience, online connectivity, and to The Point’s point, fostering “a feeling of ’strength in numbers”:
There is great potential for the youth activists to build a Global Potential alumni network, one grounded in the offline shared experience of activism and action, on Facebook that will help”connect one another online and in person,…[fostering] a feeling of ’strength in numbers’ a common space in which to [feel] comfortable and supported in their activist work”.
For tomorrow: I’ll discuss the pros and cons of providing incentive for group participation, and take a look at what can happen when added incentive brings more participation than productivity.
For the comments: In your experience, how does face-to-face, offline networking and participation augment your online organization?
Liveblogging from Netroots Nation
12:42 PM -
It looks like other folks are writing about NN08 as well. Here’s a taste:
10:57AM - A friendly-looking, somewhat heavy kid in his late teens, rifle case slung over his back just approached me, asking if I knew if “the gun show were here [at the Austin Convention Center." He said, "I wonder if its down on this level. I asked around but it seems that folks with the orange name-tags [Netroots Nation attendees] don’t know much about it.
10:46 AM – Everyone that hasn’t already left is on their way out of the convention center. On my way in, I passed Jay Rosen, who looked as epically knowledge-filled as always. Here he is on a (very) short video from TheUptake defining citizen journalism:
10:37 AM – My conversation yesterday with Prof. Lessig was great and I look forward to posting something more substantial about it tomorrow. He discussed how Change Congress plans on employing the carrot model, presentations, and more. I asked him if he thought that Congresspeople on the whole have a sense what’s coming in the context of the ability of constituents to leverage power in a whole new way. He did not, he said, and for him that is part of the reason why the time to act is now
04:44 PM - Lots of milling around going on right now. People are getting end-of-the-conference antsy. I had a great conversation with Colin from ePolitics. His site is a fabulous resource for anyone who is looking for a how-to tool re: the field of political organization on the Internet.
02:06 PM – Blogging Creating Political Community Around Film (with Wendy Cohen of Screening Liberally and Participant Media, Tracy Fleischman of Live From Main Street, Jacob Soboroff of Why Tuesday?, and Jim Gilliam of Brave New Films).
12:37 PM – Blogging Lessig’s keynote:
12:07 PM – I am preparing to blog about Larry Lessig’s keynote. We’ll be talking with Lessig later today, and I’ll feature notes based on our conversation later this afternoon. I’ll definitely be posting a larger, more substantial post about our conversation about Change Congress and Internet collective action very soon.
08:02 AM – Blogging Ask The Speaker Pelosi:
07:40 AM - Showering the parties and late-night pizza off of me and heading over to see the Speaker Pelosi event. There has been word of a “very big” surprise guest. Thoughts? I’m not even going to speculate.
03:02 PM – Blogging Milblogging: How the Troops’ Writing Affects Our View of the War (with Alex Horton, and Richard Smith and Brandon Friedman of VoteVets.org and moderated by Kevin Maurer, a 5-year embedded AP journalist):
01:45 PM – Blogging John Hlinko discussing how to connect to blogging/campaign audiences
01:35 PM – I was struck by something an audience member at the “Working from the Inside Out” said to me. A grassroots activist/organizer in Florida for the Democratic Party and DFA, she talked about the amount of elected representatives she runs into that don’t know about many of the issues, or even how to navigate around on the web. “We need to get to them as soon as they get elected,” she stressed to me, “but a lot of people don’t know how to get in there.”
She went onto make a suggestion that I recognized, as I, too, have been a party organizer. Those who are interested in getting close to a campaign or candidate simply need to volunteer for the campaign, as it gets them close to many future staffers. In my experience, many of the people I worked campaigns with went onto work as staff members. “I know a Republican representative,” she said, “and he’s even said to me, ‘It’s hard to say ‘no’ to someone I have seen licking envelopes at my kitchen table.”
12:30 PM - A great note on the lunch with Kos and Harold Ford from Todd Beeton from MyDD:
He then spoke about how ridiculous the traditional media is, especially when he is asked about Obama’s so-called move to the center. It’s clear from what ends up getting written, that what he says goes in one ear and out the other because his response doesn’t fit into their “move to the center” narrative. As Markos says regarding Barack Obama’s FISA vote:
“We weren’t mad at Obama for moving to the center, we were mad at him for NOT moving to the center. There was no popular movement in favor of this bill. If you ask most Americans I think they’d tell us that they do not support the government spying on Americans.”
10:37 AM – Blogging Working from the Inside Out: Success Stories in Netroots Organizing: (with Timothy Karr and Craig Aaron of Free Press, Adam Green of MoveOn.org, Liz Rose of the ACLU, Andre Banks of Color of Change, and Joan McCarter, a Daily Kos blogger):
10:00 AM – A set of notes and observations on Don Siegelman, who spoke at Netroots Nation.
09:15 AM – Blogging From Dean to Obama: Four Years in the Internet Revolution (other observations can be found here):
8:30 AM - Heading over to “From Dean to Obama: Four Years in the Internet Revolution“
8:58 PM – Howard [!]:
08:02 PM – The lead up to Howard:
05:25 PM - Time for a drink or two with my conference-hopper buddy Alex from Eventful and then on to see Howard speak.
05:25 PM - This is a really great photograph of a conference-goer checking out a hand-written list of all of the US soldiers that have died since the start of the conflict in Iraq. It is just one of very many photographs coming from this dude’s Photobucket feed.
05:03 PM – I spoke briefly with the ever-impressive Michael Silberman of Echo Ditto. He talked briefly about the work he’s doing at present for the 1Sky Education Fund. It is a fascinating organization, well-worth checking out, that is focused on climate change and organizing using the “Internet and old-fashioned neighbor-to-neighbor outreach.”
04:25 PM – A hilarious piece of Kevin Bondelli’s blog post today:
A funny thing just happened. A couple of guys were walking by in the hotel that weren’t associated with Netroots Nation, and one says to the other: “there are a lot of people in this hotel using laptops, huh.” I bet this lobby looks really strange to people that don’t realize that there is a blogger conference going on.
04:16 PM – Netroots Nation is huge. The Austin Convention Center is huge. These people’s ambitions are huge. I saw in the comment section of someone’s blog a joking statement about bumping into all of the wide-eyed newbies. I, indeed, am one of those wide-eyed newbies.
03:02 PM – At a session with Blogs United about best practices, etc.
03:00 PM – Another great piece about Netroots Nation. This one is featured in The Center for Media and Democracy.
01:30 PM – At a Democracy for America training on crafting campaign messaging:
01:40 PM - Great article in the Dallas Morning News about Netroots Nation.
01:34 PM - Haven’t eaten in nearly 12 hours, thus I am thankful that Wired For Change was somehow responsible for getting a bag of chips into the free crap bag that you’re given at conferences. I’m also grateful to whoever thought to put a fortune cookie in there, though it was smashed to hell before it got to me. There’s also a condom from Center for Constitutional Rights. I wonder how many folks at this internet and politics event are going to put that to use.
01:00 PM - There was a rally today featuring Howard Dean, who will also later this evening deliver the keynote address. Some reports say that the numbers there were at around 100 people but I got the sense that it was much more than that. He fired up all of the congregating liberals like it was 2003 again. Heeeeya! [A special thanks to Robert Harding from The Albany Project for the photo]
12:43 PM – I am excited for the Dean speech this evening. There’s still a lot of buzzing about Pelosi and how she’ll address the I-word issue. Further, we’re excited that we’ll be talking with Larry Lessig about Change Congress on Saturday. Stay tuned.
12:36 PM – I want a taco.
11:11 AM – It looks like I spoke way too soon. The hotel is standing firmly in my way. The bureaucracy gods are keeping me down.
10:19 AM – After a nearly Homeric trek from Boston, Massachusetts to Austin, Texas, I am finally in town and nearing a place where I might be able to actually get over to the Austin Convention Center — So long as a bank, a Jet Blue flight delay, or a disgruntled hotel employee doesn’t stand in my way, I should be there shortly.
We’re happy to feature this guest post by Justin Massa of MoveSmart.org:
Exploring the implications of new technologies for old-line civil rights organizations, E. Ethelbert Miller recently wondered in a Washington Post article, “What would happen if W.E.B. Du Bois or Marcus Garvey had a laptop?” Such ‘what if?’ reflections are commonplace – baseball fans constantly debate how Ruth would have hit on steroids or against modern pitching speeds. For this former community organizer, the most interesting reflection is, “How would new social media tools have affected Anti-Racist Action?”
In the late 90’s I co-founded a chapter of Anti-Racist Action (ARA) in Chicago. As part of a group of punk and hardcore kids who were concerned about organized racism showing up in our subculture it was a natural choice. Those were heady times for ARA; after a decade of slow but steady growth the number of chapters had exploded to nearly 130. The murders of Dan Shersty and Spit Newborn, two Las Vegas ARA members murdered execution-style in the desert by nazi skinheads, and the Illinois-Indiana racist killing spree of Ben Smith exactly one year later served us with a stark reminder of just what we were up against. Youth recruitment by white supremcists was increasing, becoming more effective, and funding the movement through the sale of white power music.
Just 7 years later ARA is but a shell of its former self. There are only a handful of active chapters and the once ubiquitous info tables at punk and hardcore shows are gone. I drifted away about 6 years ago, transitioning first to working full-time for a civil rights organization and then completely losing touch after becoming a public school teacher. While chapter leadership had used a listserve to effectively coordinate and strategize, the Internet was then more a tool for research than organizing. But I can’t help but wonder, with today’s tools would we have built Sprout widgets warning against racism and lobbied bands and record labels to include these on their websites? What strategies would we have developed to effectively confront racism on social networking sites? If our online presence – which was never very well organized or accessible – would have been better, would the organization still be as strong? How would Twitter and live streaming media have changed the ways we directly confronted organized racist events?
While my approach and focus has changed over the years, the values that working with ARA instilled in me still influence my work today – confronting racism head-on with a heavy dose of education and passion can be incredibly effective. What’s your favorite or most influential organization that’s either in decline or gone, and how might new social media tools have changed things for them?
Justin is a co-founder and the executive director of MoveSmart.org, a start-up organization that fosters residential integration through technology. By day he investigates complaints of housing discrimination for the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights.
According to an article published in IT Business, Canadian consumers, outraged by what they consider to be an over-priced Rogers Wireless iPhone plan, are protesting the phone’s release today. Perturbed that the Canadian plan costs more than it does in the U.S. and U.K., 60,000 Canadians signed an online petition at the website RuinediPhone, maintained by Oilchange.com, a Toronto marketing company. The petition, which has gained the support of an MP and much media attention, will be delivered in hardcopy form today, upon the phone’s release there.
The delivery of signatures will be accompanied by a podcasted interview with David McGuinty, a liberal MP, discussing his support of the protest. Rogers Wireless has been asked by those involved with the movement to comment, but a Rogers spokesperson suggested, “We generally don’t respond to petitions or polls.”
The sentiment is interesting, of course, as Rogers is suggesting that they generally “don’t respond to the will of customers.” What they likely mean is that they generally don’t respond to petitions or polls until sentiment is manifested in sales.
The movement’s petition is better organized than many other internet petitions, as it is being offered in hard copy form with enough media attention to propel said delivery. The involvement of a member of the MP doesn’t hurt, either, as it brings with it further press attention. [Note to petition organizers: Get to know your representatives.] It has been suggested that Rogers has already accommodated consumer complaints by adding to the package an inexpensive data upgrade. In direct contrast to their sentiment regarding petitions, Liz Hamilton, the same company spokesperson, said, “This is in direct response [to] what we heard from our customers.” David McGuinty, the liberal MP in support of the protest, has suggested that the promotion is temporary and merely a PR move.
The RuinediPhone appears to be on its way to sustaining the movement. Delivering more than just a petition, their multi-dimensional, press garnering approach is drawing a lot of negative attention to Rogers Wireless. Perhaps, persuaded by the number of signatures, the detail of press and now government attention, signatories and other customers will be convinced to hang back on their eagerness to pick up the phone and see if Rogers budges.
We will soon see if lackluster sales, which the company presumably does respond to, will be influenced, in part, by the RuinediPhone action.
Also in eAction News:
In New Delhi, a BPO [call center] employee’s “e-union” has come about with the intention of taking the worker’s fight out of the streets by bringing it directly to share-holders. The group, only a month old, has chosen to remain anonymous for the time being because of negative stigmas that are attached to unions in the country.
According to this article, the BPO union plans to talk directly to shareholders in hopes their conversations will directly affect stock prices. Further, they claim they will go straight to clients to let them know about the repression of employees in the companies. The anonymous union head explains, ‘‘Clients should know the negative PR against the vendor could spill over to their own brand. Also, it could affect them if we ever suspend work with the vendor.”
The group is not presently actively looking for members, but they will soon start an email registration collection where they can collect a database of supporters. Further, while they have taken their fight offline, they have not written off entirely the possibility of taking the fight to old tactics if they see it necessary against “very stubborn offenders.”
A while back, MSH talked with Morton Bahr of the CWA about how laborers in the U.S. were organizing online. He said that be believed that while there was some organization happening with “the new work force,” that there’s no substitute for mouth-to-ear, face-to-face organization. Stories like this one in New Delhi display a continuing contention where activists and organizers continue to struggle to find a middle ground while using new and old school techniques. In this case, it appears that the old school (unions) have a perceivably negative face and the new school (the Internet) is, to this point, a relatively un-utilized resource. The e-union might find great success organizing the BPO’s nearly one-million-strong workforce
While the jury remains out on whether or not—as Mr. Bahr had said earlier—Internet-organizing will be a proper substitute for “mouth-to-ear, face-to-face organization,” the organizer-to-shareholder attitude held by these organizers is reminiscent of corporate campaigning, which we discussed with Ray Rogers a few months back.
Also in eAction news: