My picks for SXSWi 2010

By Henri Makembe on 03.11.10

Last year, I had the chance to attend SXSWi. It was great deal of fun- I learned tons and met some great people. Unfortunately, I will not have the same opportunity again. While I may not be able to attend the conference,  It does not stop me from sharing my top picks for sessions this year.

The first panel caught my interest because I believe that part of what Obama and his campaign did in the 2008 presidential election can be replicated at the local level.  I would go as far to say that it needs to be replicated at the local level to increase participation at the local level and keep our democracy vibrant. The tools exists, we need candidates and staffers to use them correctly.

Not Just for Obama: New Media Gets Local

  • Julie Blitzer – Advomatic
  • David Parmet – Marketing Begins At Home LLC

Local political campaigns have adopted many of the tools of national campaigns but with varied success. This panel will examine the tools now being used in local races and by local activists (Facebook,Wordpress, Drupal, Twitter, SMS, etc) and give specific examples of success and failures.

The second and third panels touch on the subject open government and increased transparency at the local level.  So far #gov2.0 and #opengov coummunities have focused more of their energy on the Federal government but the truth is that the decision made at the local level affect our daily lives just as much, if not more, than the ones made at the Federal level. Transparency is a must at every level of government.  Here too we have the tools, policies and elected officials need to catch up to the technology.

How Nerds Can Foster Democracy in Local Government

  • Will Hampton – City of Round Rock TX

Government has been slow to adopt social media. Ignorance, fear of the unknown and negative comments are the primary reasons. Two government communicators who have experience in the SM trenches will discuss how to persuade government agencies to get with the program (it’s easier and less scary than they think).

In Code We Trust: Open Government Awesomeness

  • Alissa Black – City & County of San Francisco
  • Dmitry Kachaev – OCTO Labs/DC Government
  • Noel Hidalgo – New York State Senate

“In Code We Trust” is the new motto for Government in the 21st century. Across the country, geeks inside and outside of government are developing a new model for a participatory and transparent Federal, State and Municipal governments. Built upon open-source tools, open standards, and best practices, this panel will highlight practical examples of initiatives from private, public and government sectors.

I was in the room at the Sunlight Foundation when Larry Lessig launched the Change-Congress campaign. Since then, I’ve seen him speak on the issue twice and I’ve rewatched his videos countless number of time.  However, a disconnect exist between his idea, which is great, and concrete actions citizens can take to make that change happen.  I’m curious  to see that Julie has in store for this session.  You can listen to a preview of her session on Chip Griffin’s Pardon The Disruption.

Yes Mr. Lessig, We Can Change Politics

  • Julie Barko Germany – DCI Group

Last year at SXSWi, Larry Lessig introduced Change Congress, a movement to clean up corruption in Congress. But that’s only the beginning. All elected offices (local, state, and yes even Congress) need more techies, scientists, and engineers. Now! Why techies should run for office — and how they can win.

A slight disclaimer here, I was employed by DCI Group as Web Strategist and I know Julie Germany personally.

Lastly, we’ve all read blog posts and Op-eds decrying the death of email.  However, e-mail is an easy and efficient method for local candidates and elected official to keep in touch with their base and constituents.  Moreover, as online organizers well know, email is still a high performing medium  drives many of the actions that organizers asks of their activists.  So it’d be interesting to see what these folks have in mind about the future email.

Email: The Next Frontier

  • Mark Risher – Yahoo!
  • Michael Cerda – Threadbox
  • TA McCann – Gist
  • Molly Wood – CBS Interactive
  • Bassam Khan -Betty/Cisco Systems

Email is at the center of everything we do online. Even the most popular new social communications ride the back that is email. It is in fact the killer app of the Internet, and has been for some 40 years. It is however, a love-hate relationship. But there’s good news. Innovcation is finally coming to email in the form of mashups, plugins and other tools, to help carve out value propositions for everyday email civilians.

Honorable Mentions, because we’re all about cliches.

While they may have the latest tools and widgets, something that politicians and elected official struggle with is to effectively tell their story and share their beliefs and policy positions in a way that move the voters. Part of the problem is because they don’t have coherent and consistent content strategy.  I got the opportunity to meet Margot and briefly chat with her at SXSWI.  She seems to know her stuff. I’d be very interested if what she has to share and what politicos can take away for the next campaign and communications with their constituents.

Content Strategy: What’s in it for You?

  • Margot Bloomstein

Designing a comprehensive user experience without thinking about body copy, calls to action, errors, and nomenclature? Think again–about content strategy. If you’re an IA, designer, search marketer, or strategist, content strategy can help you understand clients’ needs, articulate an approach, and align with a brand-driven, user-centered message architecture.

And because fundraising is vital part of what candidates do, this panel made the list. It’s an honorable mention because it seems to be focused on non-profits. Even with that being the case, I’d be willing to bet that there is there are some key take-aways for politicians.

Debunking the Myth of Social Media Fundraising

  • Brooke McMillan – LIVESTRONG
  • Stacey Monk – Epic Change
  • Frank Barry – Blackbaud
  • Donna Wilkins – Charity Dynamics
  • Jodie Kolkowski – American Heart Association

This panel will discuss several case studies showing successful fundraising strategies that incorporate Social Media sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The panel will review results from a recently completed research project investigating social media fundraising strategies specifically supporting events.