How I (probably) failed to register my neighbours to vote…and how I might succeed next time

A door.

Last weekend I posted some leaflets through the letterboxes of all the flats in my 1930s building near Waterloo. I was supposed to be knocking on doors and asking people whether they’d registered to vote. But I’d run out of time – and, feeling it was too late to disturb people, posted the voter registration pack – a letter and form from Join The Vote (a non-partisan, charity-supported, 38 Degrees-led coalition) through the letterboxes instead.

I went back several days later – this time earlier in the evening – and knocked on the relatively few doors into flats which showed signs of life. No answers. Well, one answer – but he was the local activist type, who is often whipping up support for some petition or other. Not surprisingly, of course he’d registered to vote.

And really, it would be a surprise if many of the building residents had failed to vote – this locale is easy-pickings for local party activists, particularly Labour and Lib Dems who are battling it out to define who is more useless, ‘barmy’ or wasteful in regard to running Lambeth Council. We’ve all had a lot of leaflets. A lot. Flats are great for the letterbox/minute ratio. And canvassing too – at least twice in the last few months – and that’s only counting the times I’ve been in.

So was it likely that many people weren’t registered to vote? Did it matter that I failed miserably to allow enough time to do several rounds of door-knocking?

Who knows, but it’s worth looking a little more deeply at the Join the Vote campaign. Continue reading How I (probably) failed to register my neighbours to vote…and how I might succeed next time


“Let them – let them read my frigging email. Because I’m going to belong to the real world.”

Brilliant, hilarious talk from fast-talking Douglas Rushkoff, on what digital media does to us, our perception of time, our institutions, the way we work, and what it does to our democracy.

Interrupted by the NSA/PRISM breaking news story just before going on stage, Rushkoff talks of the ‘perpetual state of interruptive emergency’ that digital media encourages us to live in: ‘present shock’. What appears to be a pessimistic talk – he even complains about Game of Thrones – is turned around as Rushkoff dreams of a culture of activism.

I’m not convinced his position is really consistent – I’m not sure you can complain about the Obama campaign just using digital for fundraising, about nobody having goals anymore, before claiming a bright future of local a peer-to-peer economy and always-on activism: I don’t see how the latter creates longer-term goals either. But it’s still a great watch.

Salim ‘Singularity University’ Ismael’s talk from the same forum is also excellent – some ‘wow’ statistics in here:

Tapscott vs Shirky (from Frog Design)

Selected quotes from a conversation between Don Tapscott (author of Wikinomics, prof. at Rotman) and Clay Shirky (author of Here Comes Everybody, Cognitive Surplus) in Frog’s corporate magazine ‘Design Mind‘.


“The more appropriate metaphor for the growing loss of privacy today would be Frank Kafka’s The Trial, where the central character awaits trial and judgment from an inscrutable bureaucracy for a crime that he is not told about, using evidence that is never revealed to him, in a process that is equally random and inscrutable. Similarly, we could become the targets of social engineering, decisions and discrimination. And we will never really know what, or why… Continue reading Tapscott vs Shirky (from Frog Design)

Avaaz hits 20m members, Beppe Grillo, and digital lessons for political parties

Aside from an no-new-news Observer interview with co-founder Ricken Patel, Avaaz hasn’t shouted about its milestone of 20m members. According to the Observer, these members make Avaaz the world’s biggest online campaign group. You have to admire their out-of-nowhere exponential growth:

Avaaz growth curve
Avaaz’s growth curve, from an Avaaz email (note additional 2.5m in just a few months)

Continue reading Avaaz hits 20m members, Beppe Grillo, and digital lessons for political parties

Parliament Everywhere: designing a legislature for the 21st century

Parliaments are in trouble. Invented – in the form we know them – nearly 800 years ago to prevent the abuse of executive power, they struggle today to meet same goal. In the 21st century, executive power is no longer exercised from neat, single locations that are reflected in legislatures. If the democratic control of power is to be reasserted, alternative democratic innovations must be considered. This post looks at such potential innovations – and considers some of arguments for why they’re necessary. It argues that the location-less nature of the Internet may suggest a solution in the form of a multi-layered platform – a ‘parliament everywhere’. Continue reading Parliament Everywhere: designing a legislature for the 21st century