Aaron from The Young Turks is one of a handful of people who repeatedly create wildly popular petitions on act.ly. Several times we've watched his petitions become the most popular of the day and thought he might have some useful tips and tricks for others trying to do the same. He kindly agreed to share some of his techniques.
On choosing an idea for a petition:When an issue needs more publicity, has momentum and I feel like it would have untapped support on Twitter, I'll do a petition. 9 times out of 10 I won't do a petition unless I think it'll blow up. Most of the time I'll listen to the show, and if there's a particular issue that Cenk gets really worked up about, I'll weigh all the variables and decide whether or not to do a petition.
Our free Twitter petition tool act.ly has been raising hell ever since we launched it a little over a year ago. Just last week a petition bringing the issue of women's rights in Afghanistan to the attention of Katie Couric quickly garnered over a thousand tweets and prompted her to respond. The next day, the CEO of Target responded to a petition accusing the company of funding an anti-gay politician.
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Micah Sifry points out that Obama's "online town halls" are really just "transparency theater." Referring to Wednesday's online health care forum:
They produced a forum that was less spontaneous and less-townhall-like than if all the questions had come from citizens live at the event using no technology at all. In effect, Obama's health care forum was like last year's CNN/YouTube debates--only instead of CNN producers hand-picking the video questions, here the White House eliminated the middleman!
Instead of the online town hall, I think the Obama administration should re-conceptualize this as an open and transparent FAQ. In other words:
- Let people submit any questions they want whenever they want. Don't just run it for a couple of days and then pick and choose from the questions.
- Track which ones are most important today, this week, this month. Obama or a staffer can answer the ones that bubble up to the top of those lists, in whatever format they want, via a town hall, or just a blog post.
- The questions that are always popular, simply get answered on the site, like an FAQ. Anyone who comes to submit that question again can already see the answer.