Caravans, one year out

Remember the caravans? I’m seeing all these old posts I made from last year, remarking on how the wall-to-wall coverage just disappeared completely after the election. Just GONE. And haven’t heard a word since.

Republicans play the media like a fiddle. They’re so good at it. Democrats, meanwhile, think their virtue can win the day with the press.

You know that old saying about how old age and treachery beat youth and enthusiasm every time? It applies to Republicans and Democrats in much the same way.

Pouring salt on a snail

I was wondering why Hillary went after Tulsi. Tulsi’s under 1% in the polls and Hills risks a Streisand Effect by even bringing her up.

So, here’s what I think:

Trump/GOP/Russia needs a third party candidate to draw votes away from the Democratic nominee. They need someone credible and untainted by Russian-anything. They can’t use Stein because she’s been thoroughly discredited with all but the most fringy Greenwald-left (you know, the ones who post links to that gasbag Cenk Uygur or Young-Turks).

With just a couple lines in an interview, Hillary destroyed Tulsi’s potential usefulness as a third party asset. If Tulsi tries to run third party, she will be viewed as just as compromised as Stein. By kneecapping Tulsi, Hillary blocked Tulsi’s potential utility in Trump/GOP/Russia’s third party shenanigans.

Just a thought. What do you think?

Lost your election? Here’s how to fight on like you won

It’s the morning after your primary, the results are in, and they’re not what you planned for. No one plans for a loss, not really. You’ve spent months stumping, turf-cutting, baby-kissing, call time fundraising, and last-minute turnout wrangling — and by comparison, the post-election silence can be deafening. You’re probably ready to turn the lights off on your campaign and close up shop.

Having worked many a losing campaign before, I can empathize. There’s nothing anyone can say that’ll make you feel better. There will be a period of grieving and reflection. Allow yourself that. Tend to your family, relationships, and personal finances. And then hear me out.

Win or lose, you’ve built a movement through your efforts — a community of donors, supporters, and volunteers who care deeply about you and everything your candidacy stood for. And they will continue to care if you give them a reason to. Nurture those hard-won relationships, and you’ll retain an invaluable asset in whatever comes next.

Why you continue to engage your supporters after E-Day may vary, how you do it will remain largely the same. Step 1 will be to send an email communicating sincere appreciation for your base and all they contributed. Step 2, scale your digital infrastructure back: remove old control panel users, and whittle your database down to core supporters.

Learn how to safely, and strategically downsize your people database.

What comes next is up to you. Fortunately, you’re not alone; it’s a mathematical truth that most candidates lose. So, to help get you thinking, here are some examples of what others have done.

Build a permanent campaign

If the fire that first drove you to throw your hat into the ring still burns, don’t hibernate. Keep the coals warm for your next run — which need not be two years away.

In 2019 alone, there will be 29,862 state and local offices up for election: everything from park commissions and school boards, to mayors and city councils. Odds are that many of those seats will go uncontested. Holding local office is an opportunity to prove your mettle to voters. Not sure which you’re eligible for? Swing on by and plug in your address to find out.

Once you’ve set your sights on that next race, spend the off-cycle months building your brand while keeping your base sharp, active and primed for Round 2. Blog to develop your thought-leadership on the issues in your platform, then email that content out to your supporters. Find a down-ballot candidate or allied cause that could use some amplification, and then encourage your people to help them out.

Doing so will increase your profile, while cultivating relationships with people and organizations who may — when the time is right — return the favor. And if nothing else, it’ll keep your email subscribers warm and engaged so that they’re there when you need them most. Refrigerated email lists don’t keep, a fact which Hillary Clinton learned the hard way during her most recent run for office:

Hillary Rodham Clinton wound down her political operation in 2008 with 2.5 million email addresses in her campaign database. Seven years later, when campaign officials turned on the lights in April, they were stunned to find fewer than 100,000 still worked.

Under normal conditions, you’ll lose 25-30% of your email list every year. Some subscribers change email accounts. Others lose interest and unsubscribe. The only salve is continued communication to keep them invested, and creating opportunities for new people to sign up.

Take a cue from James Thompson, whose shrewd insurgent campaign nearly flipped Kansas’ 4th congressional district in 2017. Rather than pump the breaks after losing the special election, Thompson re-skinned his NationBuilder site with a tweaked version of the flexible Mega-Theme, continued to share his thoughts on news of the day, and provided rolling opportunities for the “Thompson Army” to call voters ahead of the 2018 general.

You can do this without quitting your day job. Think of your supporter list like any long-distance relationship — any amount of effort is better than none. Demonstrate to your people that with or without the lapel pin, you haven’t given up their fight. You are worthy of that office.

Support fellow candidates

You don’t need a beltway office to effect electoral change. Nearly every presidential campaign has launched a candidate support committee (DFA, OFA, Our Revolution) after E-Day. Why should they have all of the fun?

Take Andy Millard, a NationBuilder customer who, in 2016, sold his business to run a long-shot campaignagainst an incumbent in North Carolina’s historically uncontested 10th Congressional district. Following 1.5 years of 60-hour campaign weeks, he was defeated. Rather than calling it quits, he organized a conference for candidates like him — one which would, he said, “provide them with the support that [he] never got.”

He hustled like hell: reached out to speakers, launched a podcast, and recruited sponsors. The event was, by all accounts, a real success.

Or look at Brent Beal, who sought election to the U.S. House as representative for Texas’ 1st Congressional District in 2017. He lost his primary earlier this year. Nevertheless, he set his sights on 2020 — re-tooling his site accordingly — and launched a nonprofit focused on recruiting and supporting allied candidates in East Texas. Not a bad way to spend an off-season.

Your experience on the campaign trail is itself an invaluable resource. You’ve learned how to spin up a campaign, and more importantly, you’ve learned what pitfalls to avoid. You’ve established relationships with key people, fundraisers, and grassroots organizations in your community. Other candidates will need the same. Why not share that wealth and give them a head start?

Pivot to issue-based advocacy

The folks who’ve won the most sweeping, lasting changes in politics and society have by and large not been politicians (at least not alone). They have not been judges. They have been savvy, persistent issue advocacy campaigns and scrappy, strategic grassroots movements.

Politics is about power, and power flows in two directions: to those with the purse-strings, and to those with the numbers. For more evidence of why people power tends to win out, check this out:

You, too, can mobilize your community to influence and inflict decisive costs on decision makers, small and large — whether or not you hold elected office. And now, freed from the burdens of a public office-seeker, there’s no need to fret about the potential risks of exercising that power.

Stephanie Singer, “amateur hacker” and mathematics Ph.D., ran for a seat on Philadelphia’s Board of Elections, then held by a 36-year incumbent with a history of corruption and nepotism allegations. In 2011, she won. She shook things up while in office fighting for free and fair elections, but her re-election bid was ultimately thwarted. Still determined, she found another way forward through open source elections technology and advocacy for transparent/verifiable elections.

Fun fact: nearly 70% of NationBuilder customers use it for non-political purposes.

So, amongst all the issues you ran on … which is number one? I don’t mean which is the most salient, nor the most realistic. Which win would best pave the way for the others you want to achieve? Dream big and think local, because utopian ends are achieved through practical means.

Got your target? Muster everyone and everything you’ve gathered through your campaign, and direct their collective strength toward the change you want to see in the world.

Written by Alex Stevens of NationBuilder and appropriated for my site here.

Sushi restaurant idea

Here’s an idea for a sushi restaurant.  It’s my free gift to you. Nobody has done it yet (to my knowledge) so if you own a sushi restaurant, you could be the first one. You could start a trend!

First, let’s stipulate the following about the art of sushi making in a restaurant:

  • Sushi making is performance art
  • Sushi making is fun to watch (I liked watching Jiro and Niki)
  • Sushi chefs train for years to learn and hone their craft. They are proud of what they do and they like to show off their skills
  • When making sushi, all the action is happening from the chef’s elbows to his hands, on the prep table.  But what most people in the restaurant can see is the chef’s elbows to his head. (in other words, nothing of interest).

Now, much to the chagrin of many a sushi restaurant patron, many sushi restaurants have big flatscreen TVs facing the seating area. Now, I’m sure there is the occasional patron who would rather watch whatever muted garbage is playing on the TV than talk to their date, but I’m not one of them. I’m in the other group – the group that is in a restaurant to enjoy the food and conversation;  large, glowing, flashing intrusions from the outside world are  annoying.  

Every person with which I’ve had this conversation has agreed that the presence of TVs are unwelcome. Yet, mysteriously, this trend has only expanded. More TVs in more restaurants. And what is on these TVs? The other night at the otherwise lovely Ginza down the block, it was the local San Francisco news showing police interacting with homeless heroin users which, as you might imagine, had some terribly unappetizing b-roll accompanying the story. The news was followed by Entertainment Tonight where, strangely, the endless parade of stretched, Botoxed flesh was even less appetizing than watching the homeless heroin users doing their thing.

I have a solution that will probably please both groups: the TV watchers (whomever they may be) and the TV haters (me and everyone I know).  Put a camera on a stick above the bar. Point the camera at the sushi prep table. Put the video feed on the TV.  Let all of us in the restaurant watch the performance art.  Make the fun of watching sushi-making accessible to all the patrons who wish to watch. Let the sushi chefs show off their mad skillz.  Give us all a view of the magic space between the chef’s elbows and his hands.  And, give the bored TV-watchers something to do other than to talk to their wretched company. 

Hey Tim, why do you always reply in-line?

As an aside, a colleague @NationBuilder asked me why I always respond to emails in-line. Here was my reply:

BTW – why do you always reply in-line?

In-line reply/comments is an old Internet writing tradition / best-practice from the late eighties. Back in the days of BBS systems and then later on UseNet, cascading comments of four, five, six (or more) out, made it very difficult to figure out who was responding to what in a long conversation among many. So, a protocol emerged:

> > > > > > This is something someone six replies back said.

And this is my response to it.

> > > > This is something someone said four replies back.

And this is my response to it.

SO that becomes:

> > > > > > Granny smith apples are the best.

Are those the green ones I like those.

> > > > Macintosh apples are the best.

Pretty color, but they don’t taste very good.

The practice was a usability improvement to make it easier to read email chains with cascading comments.  It was widely used by writers who wanted their material to be more widely read and respected, and by those who were sticklers for readability (now called usability), and also used by former calligraphers-turned-fastidious-formatting-neat-freaks. I qualified as all three.

As the masses trickled onto the Internet, they slowly adopted the practice as well. Everything was going great until AOL arrived on the scene. That was pretty much the end of it. People who had been on the Internet for a decade, who had been exchanging emails for years and slowly cultivating these best practices – some of whom built their own modems from parts bought at radio shack, were suddenly *surrounded* by people using a service who’s motto was, I shit yee not: “America Online: So easy to use, no wonder it’s number one.”

Regardless, the practice was stubbornly continued by purists and old-timers.

In the mid 2000s, Robert Fisk adopted a form of this on his blog. If he disagreed with another blogger, he would copy their blog post, paste it into his editor, and then issue his refutation, line-by-line. Wikipedia says: This practice was eventually nicknamed “Fisking“, after Robert Fisk, who would use this particular method to deliver point-by-point criticism highlighting perceived errors, or disputing the analysis in a statement, article, or essay. Fisk was so good at it that “fisking” came to denote the practice of “savaging an argument and scattering the tattered remnants to the four corners of the internet”.

Anyhoo, I’m sure this is waaaaay more than you wanted to know. Who knows, maybe I’ll make this into a blog post.

Equifax: in league with spammers

I used a unique email address in my short email exchange with Equifax. I’m now getting spam on that email address, which means Equifax either sold my email address (as well as many others) or one of their computers was hacked.  Neither option is pleasant.

Amazon is Worse Than Walmart

Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers

Amazon Insiders Tell the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Amazon is everything wrong with our new economy

Amazon Is a Time Thief, by an Amazon Employee

At Amazon, Even the Part-Timers Are Miserable

“I Do Not Know One Person Who Is Happy at Amazon”: Amazon is an amazing company. As long as you don’t work here.

Working at Amazon Is “a Soul-Crushing Experience”

NationBuilder apologizes for downtime

Via NationBuilder:

NationBuilder began experiencing a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack yesterday, resulting in intermittent service outages. Your data and financial information is secure, and we will not rest until service is fully restored for everyone.

We are reasonably certain the attack is directed at one of our customers for their political beliefs, and is meant to disrupt upcoming elections.

We know the impact is immeasurable, and we are very, very sorry. We are fiercely committed to serving all of our customers. Everyone has the right to organize – in fact, this is the very reason NationBuilder exists. We are grateful to all of you who have been communicating your support.

Several of my clients experienced downtime. Well, all of them, actually.  In the process of calming them down I explained a few simple truths about downtime.

I worked in a datacenter for 7 years. I know what an outage actually means: a handful of members of the company running around with their hair on fire, and everyone else holding their breath, looking at their ringing phone like it’s radioactive, and afraid to check their email.  So, as bad as it was for you, it was a thousand times worse for them.  Any one of them with clients were doubled over with anxiety, helplessness, and anger.

And remember: this was an outside attack. It’s not like someone left the door to the server closet closed and the equipment cooked all up, or someone tripped over the wrong optical cable, or someone spilled a coke on the wrong server; it was an ATTACK.

Another thing I explained to my clients is that all data centers (and their websites) go down from time to time. All of them. Every single one.  Ebay and Amazon go down all the time – however, their millions spent on redundant infrastructure prevent you from experiencing down time on your end, beyond the occasional spinning beach ball, a page that doesn’t load properly, or a some other odd behavior. If goes down from time to time, your is going to go down from time to time, as well.

So, yeah, hours of downtime is a big damn deal. But in the grand scheme of things, it ain’t a hill of beans.  A strong candidate should learn to roll with the punches.