Articles Tagged POPVOX-tips
For many outside the startup world, the term "disruptive" may have negative connotations. It was not something you wanted on your report card. Certainly for two women -- one an Indian-born American and another a Southern girl -- being called "disruptive" is not something our grandmothers would have praised... until now. POPVOX co-founder Rachna Choudhry and I are in New York today to be officially named "disruptors" -- and we couldn't be more pleased!
The Tribeca Film Festival Awards for Disruptive Innovation
The Tribeca Film Festival Awards for Disruptive Innovation, founded by Craig Hatkoff, capture the spirit of Harvard Professor Clay Christensen’s work, as he described in The Innovators Dilemma. This year's awards recognize innovators from Rick Rubin of Def Jam Records; Jack Dorsey of Twitter; Rachael Chong of Catchafire; Kevin Carroll and Dan Strzempka, who built the prosthetic tail as seen in Dolphin Tale; Dr. Patricia Bath who is literally working to help the blind to see; to Justin Bieber and many more.
What is a "Disruption"?
The gist of Christensen's theory is that successful organizations that have been around for a while are less likely to innovate because they benefit from the status quo. Their success locks them into their demise, when a stealthier less-refined approach enters the market and offers a "just enough" or better/cheaper/faster alternative that first serves an unserved market and then encroaches on the existing market. "An innovation that is disruptive allows a whole new population of consumers access to a product or service that was historically only accessible to consumers with a lot of money or a lot of skill." For a deeper explanation, check out why customers "hire a milkshake."
Congress and Traditional Lobbying: The Business of Status Quo
So how did Rachna and I, a former nonprofit lobbyist and former Congressional staffer, start caring about disruption? A few years ago, we noticed that in our world -- not the corporate world, but that of advocacy, Congress, and civic engagement -- NO ONE was doing the task that was expected of them, and technology wasn't helping. The evidence wasn't exactly hidden. Congressional approval numbers were dipping and the "Tragedy of Political Advocacy" (h/t Jake Brewer) was an accelerating phenomenon. We observed several pain points that technology was exacerbating rather than improving:
-- Congress wants to hear from constituents (but technology made it easier to send barrages of messages with no qualification that they were from actual constituents -- or even actual people.)
-- Organizations, advocates, associations, and yes, big lobbyists, want to demonstrate popular support for their positions (but because messages were increasingly hard to process by Congressional offices and there was no independent measure of sentiment, their solution was to send more messages, be more inflammatory, YELL LOUDER.)
-- The people want to be heard and participate, but all the noise ginned up by the pros left them cynical and frustrated, and the unresponsive Congress made them feel ignored and disempowered.
Disruption through Transparency
We thought: what if you could build a platform where input to Congress -- from individuals and pros alike -- was verified, counted, and available to everyone? That would mean that Congress gets what it needs: real input from its constituents in a format that can be processed. The pros get what they need: a real read of what people are saying about issues, and proof that their grassroots efforts are not "Astroturf." And most importantly, the people get what they need: a transparent way to register their input that doesn't go away or disappear into the depths of a broken Congressional correspondence system. This creates a public record of public sentiment on the bills that affect our lives -- and for the first time a benchmark to measure what Congress hears from constituents with what Congress does. After much thought and wrangling, we decided to name this platform "POPVOX," from "vox populi," Voice of the People.
Count the Money or Count the People
It is a well-worn cliché to say that Washington runs on money in the form of political donations. While that is not far off, the true currency of Washington is information and public sentiment. Money just serves to disburse an idea, amplify a message, provide the resources to influence (and this election year, there may even be fewer places to spend it.) The starting theory at POPVOX is that there are two ways to influence legislation: (1) move money, or (2) move people. Our goal is to provide a transparent, qualified metric for what the people have to say regarding pending legislation. This gives Congress the tool it needs to listen and people the tools to ensure that Congress in fact does. The most powerful potential "disruption" of our political and advocacy system, however, is not dependent on any company or tool. It only comes with an engaged, involved public that is paying attention. We'll bring the tools, you bring your voice, and together we can bring about positive, creative disruption.
A few photos from the event
What I describe below came about because of the generous advice and critique we have received from users and privacy experts on the subject.
The Privacy Report
The Privacy Report shows each individual user the exact information that POPVOX has on file about them and why and what we do with that information. It lists your information in categories such as your email address, your street address, and your bookmarked bills and explains why it's important for us to keep this information on file. For instance, we maintain for a period of time a record of all delivered correspondence to your Members of Congress, even if you subsequently delete your comment, in order to protect the integrity of our relationship with you and Members of Congress. We don't want someone claiming we didn't send a letter when we did, or that we sent a letter when we didn't.
You have to be logged in to see what we know about you, of course.
Do Not Track
Do Not Track (DNT) is a new approach to allowing web users the ability to state their preference to opt-out of being tracked by services they may not be aware are collecting data about them. Although there is no one adopted standard for how web sites are supposed to behave in order to be Do Not Track-compliant, POPVOX has taken some initial steps.
DNT is essentially only relevant to advertisers (not us) and widgets. We provide a number of widgets that blogs and advocacy websites can embed to show information from POPVOX. Most of our widgets are already compliant with the prevailing DNT guidelines, and we're working on making all of our widgets DNT-compliant soon.
Although the Do Not Track guidelines are not actually relevant when you visit POPVOX.com directly, we take the unprecedented extra step of embedding only DNT-compliant third-party resources on POPVOX if you have turned on your browser’s DNT option. That means that when you visit POPVOX.com, your DNT preference will be respected by us and any other web content loaded on our site by your browser.
Right now what that means is that we won't embed Google Maps on POPVOX if you have the DNT option turned on in your browser because we know Google Maps will not respect your DNT choice. (Actually only about 3% of our users will ever be shown a Google Map anyway --- we use it in a small number of cases to help you pick out your location.) All of the other third-party resources we currently embed in POPVOX follow the DNT tracking guidelines (they haven't adopted DNT but they comply with the guidelines anyway).
I think we're unique in actually changing the content of our pages in response to your DNT choice to make sure that your POPVOX experience respects your choice, even if DNT itself doesn't say anything about doing that.
For more see our DNT page .
I’m excited to share with you POPVOX’s newest advocacy tool (drum roll, please): POPVOX's Write Congress widget . (And did I mention it's free to use?)
The “Write Congress” widget embeds POPVOX’s powerful advocacy tool onto your own website. By using our widget, your site visitors send a message to their own Members of Congress in the comfort of your website.
And since it's powered by POPVOX:
-- Constituent information is verified for Congressional offices.
-- Support (or opposition) messages from activists are aggregated to show quantified grassroots power.
-- Users are assured that their messages are delivered to Congress—and receive a confirmation when their messages are sent.
How it Works
The POPVOX widgets are easy to load onto any site that allows you to paste html code and embed iframes, including WordPress. Simply complete the customization form and copy and paste the HTML code onto your own website!
Get started at www.popvox.com/services/widgets .
Interested in Customizing the Widget?
Organizations interested in fully customized widgets with your own colors and style or inserting your own talking points as suggestions for comments to Congress should consider upgrading to the PRO version. (And your organization can be the first to try out our upcoming analytics dashboard and CRM integration.)
Please contact me directly at email@example.com for details. We look forward to working with you to harness the power of POPVOX on your site!
One key ingredient in the "secret sauce" of the POPVOX is that users' comments to Congress are public, sortable by Congressional district and findable via search engine. When your comments on a bill you care about are public, you are not just letting your Rep or Senator know what you think; you are helping to educate others, giving the media context and shaping the debate.
Today, we are happy to introduce a trial run of one more way to amplify these messages across the Internet: the POPVOX Comment Stream widget . Now you can stream comments from POPVOX on your own site, with varying levels of customization by bill number, bill position, issue area OR geographic location. So for example, you could choose ALL comments on a bill, just supporting or just opposing comments on a bill, comments on a particular issue, or comments from a specific state... and the customization possibilities wil evolve.
Below is an example of a comment stream for HR 1174, which was the top trending bill on POPVOX last week.
The widget is easy to load into a WordPress page or any other site that allows you to paste html code. Follow this link , customize the widget to your interests, adjust the size to fit your site and copy the html code that appears in the lower right-hand corner.
Combine the POPVOX Comment Stream widget with the "Take Action" widget that you can find on any POPVOX bill page to give your readers rich content and a way to weigh in on bills that are discussed on your site.
What do you think?
This week, POPVOX unveiled our "+appreciate" feature. This enables POPVOX users to appreciate other user's comments on the site.
Ever read a personal story or comment on a bill on POPVOX and see a truly personal face of an otherwise wonky policy? Or read a comment that completely changes your point of view on a bill?
I'm going to be honest with you, I have many, many times. You've heard me talk about S. 277, the Caring for Camp Lejeune Veterans Act . The comments users left on that bill were so personal and heart-felt. I literally found myself wanting to say to some of them, hand on my heart, "thank you for your service -- and I *appreciate* you taking the time to share your story."
While the POPVOX team stays neutral on bills and never posts editorial commentary, we're proud of the quality of comments written by POPVOX users like you. These comments will truly make our nation's policy discourse more robust. As Marci would say, this is the meat on the bones of policy. Without these comments, a bill is just a skeleton. To that end, we wanted to find a way for users to highlight the most compelling of comments. That's why we created the "+appreciate" feature.
Some bills have hundreds of comments.While I may personally recommend users weighing in on a bill read each and every bill comment, this isn't always possible. With the "+appreciate" feature, users can "appreciate" others' comments, allowing a user the option of reading the "most appreciated" comments first.
From a strategic advocacy perspective, "appreciating" comments on POPVOX would also help Congressional staffers discern the critical comments, which they may want to include in their briefings with their Representative or Senator boss, or add to their official statements. This means that by "appreciating" comments, you're helping to make sure that Congressional staffers, other organizations or POPVOX users are reading the comments you think they should read in order to take more informed policy positions.
How to "appreciate"
1. From your home page find a bill you've already weighed in on (listed under "your recent comments"). Users must take a position on a bill first, before they can appreciate others' comments regarding that bill. And they can only appreciate others' comments that bolster their position. In other words, a user that support HR X may only appreciate comments in support of HR X.
This will take you to a "bill report" with a long list of comments below the country map. (You may change the geographic scope of the comments by clicking "Show All Comments" or using the drop-down menu to filter by state or Congressional district.)
3. Read through the list of comments and find one you "appreciate." Hit the "+appreciate" text just below the comment.
You'll notice that it will now say, "appreciated" with a number next to it, indicating how many times that comment was "appreciated."
Coming soon, users will have the option to view comments in order by date or by appreciation (the appreciated comments will rise to the top of the comment list).
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this new feature! Do you appreciate it? Please email me directly with feedback at rachna@POPVOX.com
If you've been taking part in calls to action by the advocacy organizations you are a member of, you would be wise to ask what happens to your letter to Congress after you click submit. Â It's an unfortunate truth that advocacy organizations are often thinking as much or more about building their membership lists than delivering your message to Congress in an effective way, and as a result organizations don't offer any accountability for your messages to Congress that you put in their trust. We're designing POPVOX to be both reliable and accountable so you know whether the effort you've put in to writing a message has been effective.
The trouble with electronic submission is that it is unreliable, and some of us in our industry are suspicious that many messages constituents are writing are not making it into Congress at all. We use the web forms that Members of Congress have set up to send in messages electronically. Some web forms, like Senator Klobuchar's , do accept the automated submission of constituent mail from POPVOX and other services that advocacy organizations pay to get constituent mail in. Other web forms, like Congressman Walter Jones's , prevent automated submission of constituent mail (often using a CAPTCHA ). In part, they do this to stop getting spam. But they also stifle advocacy.
There is no Congress Inbox. There are 541 Members of Congress and each does something peculiar with their electronic inbox.
On POPVOX we provide the first affirmative notice that your message has either been delivered or if we're still working on it. The notice appears on your Home page after you've submitted a comment. Here's an example from one user's account:
We are honest when we haven't gotten a message in yet. In the two cases here, the problem is that while Congressman Coffman has a web form that accepts messages delivered by us, it is rejecting this constituent's messages because it doesn't recognize his or her zip code as being within Colorado's 6th district. (If the constituent went to Coffman's website to submit the message, he or she would face the same problem.) Since we will not lie about the constituent's address in an attempt to bypass the Congressman's zip code check, we will be reaching out to Coffman's office personally in order to get these messages in.
The next time you participate in a call to action, ask yourself if you really believe your messages are being delivered to Congress. If not, come to POPVOX, or ask the advocacy organization to use POPVOX for their message delivery.
I'm excited to share with you our newest feature on POPVOX! Organizations can now upload documents to their POPVOX profile page.
As we demo'ed and tested POPVOX with Congressional staffers, one of their most common comments was that they wished they had a centralized location for organizations to upload their issue-related documents. That way, when a staffer is looking for organizations that are supporting a specific bill, she would be able to access an organization's position statements, press releases and reports in a single mouse-click.
As one senior House committee staffer explained:
Given the fast pace on the Hill and the volumes of email staffers receive every day, it can be very hard to find quickly a given organizationʼs position on a matter. Searching websites can take time, emails get buried or deleted. I would love to see a central repository of letters written by outside groups on a given bill or issue; that is, one location where I knew I could easily see who has weighed in—both for and against. Not only would such a feature save me substantial time in finding a groupʼs position, but I could see the views of others that I might not have thought to look for, but whose input would be valuable to me.
How Organizations Can Upload Their Position Documents
Organizations can easily upload their documents on POPVOX directly from their profile page. From there, scroll down to your organization's "legislative agenda" and click on the option that says "Upload Document" (next to the icon with the document and up-arrow).
Next, you will be given the option to upload a press release, report, letter of support, coalition letter or any other document. Click on what you'd like to upload and then complete the boxes, beginning with the "document title."
Then, cut and paste the document text into the next box. Providing the document's text directly, rather than relying only on a PDF attachment is strategic: it means one less click for Congressional staffers to access your information. (And we all know that sometimes PDFs can take a while to download!) In addition, if your document is already up on your organization's website, you can also provide a link to it in the third box.
And lastly, hit "upload" -- and you're all set. You may upload one document of each type (press release, report, letter, etc) for each bill for which your organization has a position.
And after you upload, don't forget to repeat the other bills on your legislative agenda.
As always, we'd love your feedback on this new feature. Please let me know if you found this process simple or challenging, and how we can make POPVOX even more useful for your organization.
(For media inquiries, please contact Marci Harris, POPVOX’s CEO, at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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- The POPVOX Top 20: Nov. 29 - Dec. 5
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- POPVOX Daily Digest - December 2, 2013
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