How to get political online

by David Spark on August 17, 2007

John Scott, the host of “The Progressive News Hour” on 960, The Quake, asked if I could focus this week’s Spark Minute segment on how listeners can get involved in politics online. Getting involved in politics online is kind of a catchall. There’s so much going on in so many different directions that I didn’t know where to initially focus my advice. I decided to call a friend of mine, Dave Dayen, a political blogger who posts comically too much on his own blog, D-Day, and also on Calitics, a progressive open news source blog for California. I threw the same question John posed to me at Dave who offered a different “in the trenches” perspective to my “Hey, that’s a cool Web tool” perspective. Tip of the hat to Dave for his supportive advice.

Listen to the Spark Minute (John Scott and David Spark from Green 960 in San Francisco, CA). Offering tips and advice to get political, online (Run time: 5:33).

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  • Start with the most popular political blogs – The top tier blogs get 90% of the traffic. Get to know these blogs and the people behind them. If you want to know what’s going on and what people are reading, make sure the top political blogs are on your daily must read list. Blogs like:
  • Comment on the most popular blogs – You’ll have more success getting your ideas read if you post comments to popular blog posts rather than just starting your own blog. But I actually recommend you do both. Start a blog, it’s easy to do with WordPress (recommended). If you read a post for which you have additional information on your own blog, leave a comment and a link back to the specific blog post. It will get recognized more than just a trackback link (also known as a permalink. These are links that are automatically created in the comments area of a blog post when you create a link to that blog post on your blog). Dave Dayen recommends starting a diary on the Daily Kos. It’s like a blog within a blog. If you’re writing about politics, chances are higher that your content will be read there than trying to get traffic to your independent blog. On Daily Kos, if people really like your posts they can vote it up to the front page. It works similar to social bookmarking sites, like Digg and Newsvine.
  • Go where all the eyeballs are – One of the problems with only visiting popular political sites is you only get the people who are already interested in politics. You need to drag other people in and get them interested in your concerns and causes. That means going out to popular sites like YouTube and MySpace that allow people to create content and comment on it.
  • What’s hot today? – Knowing what to be concerned about can be half the challenge. Luckily, the Internet behaves like a massive editorial body that can point you in the right direction. The site Memeorandum tracks the most popular discussions in news and the blogosphere. Social bookmarking tool Digg has a political section, but since that site is so heavily skewed towards geeks, you may have more luck finding interesting political stories on competing site, Newsvine.
  • Go local – We all know that the most important politics is what’s happening in your backyard. Here are some of the most popular sites for California and the Bay Area:
  • Think like a journalist – This is my last piece of advice that nobody seems to think about. Given that the Internet is a forum for anyone to say whatever they please without any editorial oversight, there’s a lot of misinformation out there. And while the information may sound like something you want to believe or be outraged by, be a journalist first. Check the source. Is it one you trust? Is there another corroborating location? Does the information make sense, or is it conflicting?

The only way to truly get involved in politics is to get involved. MoveOn.org was successful rallying the troops. I don’t think we’re going to need to rely on politically skewed sites like this anymore. General social networking sites, most notably Facebook, are doing a great job rallying people very quickly to get involved.

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