Saturday, December 08, 2007

SF Votes Youth 2007

Not a title that rolls off the tongue, is it?

This was the attempt to do something "2.0" with our election coverage. My ripping off of YouChoose as a localized project. It begins with the assumption that very few young people would ever watch candidate statements or League of Women Voter debates on cable tv. There's too many great YouTube videos of cats using toilets to watch.

So I came up with the pitch: fast and cheap, as usual, plus non-linear. Or rather, user-driven. Instead of the push model of tv info, this would be pull model of internet information. You watch what you want, control the pace and are free to participate by leaving comments, linking to other pages, etc.

I set pretty small goals in the interest of time and completion: 20 questions, 2 per candidate, two minute answers. I needed to keep things manageable and within the short attention span of candidates AND online viewers.

The actual production was fairly easy. I found partners that could gather up the kids for me, instead of me hunting them down. For the candidates, I glommed onto three or four events that they would already be at. I was able to quickly get 90% of my responses this way. (The last few did have to be scheduled, but I ended up with 100% participation by doing this. The LWV official statements were all scheduled appointments and had about 70% turnout.)

One tip: don't put the random questions on slips of paper in a box. When you uncover the box for the candidate to pick a number, the wind swells up suddenly... and no more numbers.

So where did it all go wrong? In my vision of this glorious thing, I used "if you build it, they will come" when thinking of the audience. In reality, they won't come unless you tell them about it. I didn't budget any time for promotion. Without promotion, you might as well have not bothered with the effort.

I had figured that the mass of content would create its own gravity. Each video only had a half dozen hits, until I pitched it to SFist. Then we got something. A pitch to Calitics made a little more buzz. The actual candidates using links helped a little more. If I had done a proper PR campaign, I think it would have been a better social media election tool.

Current TV interviewed me about the project and the package will air in December. I'm not sure how much of the story will be about me vs. the big picture of online elections, but... its an honor just to be nominated.

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