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Congratulations, Internet. We Won the Day.

Today, I feel like a proud poppa. I don’t want to get too celebratory and put out some kind of aura that our battle against SOPA and PIPA are over. In fact, neither are over. But I’ll get to that in a minute, because yesterday was AMAZING!

Yesterday, we saw the Internet come of age. We’ve seen the trend. The Internet has played a crucial role in the Arab Spring, political activism and fundraising as seen in the Obama election campaign in 2008, news reporting as seen in the incident of the US Airways jet in the Hudson River. We’ve seen a definite maturation process on the Internet over the years.

However, we have always been to dysfunctional to be a force. We are all too inbred with independent streaks to band together. In auto racing, cars often “draft” each other to increase speed, because drafting – or riding the sometimes-literal bumper of a car in front of you reduces wind resistence, and increases aerodynamics, thus increasing overall speed of the collective over the individual.

Ladies and gentlemen, we were drafting like pros yesterday.

We were drafting so well that the CEO of the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) – former Senator Chris Dodd – came out shooting at proposed blackouts… on Tuesday before it happened! Mother Jones covers this nicely.

But we went out there, amidst a national media blackout (no pun intended) and did our thing. We were obviously led by the big dogs – WikiPedia, WordPress.com, Google, Tumblr, Reddit and more, but Flickr, WordPress (dot org and dot com), and many more funneled the millions into political action.

This site was blacked out, as were all of my sites. Avatars on Twitter and Facebook were updated en masse with protest messages.

The collective made a statement like we’ve never made a statement before. And it worked. We turned the tide.

13 Senators flipped. Multiple Congressspeople flipped. Sponsors that had names added to the bills, undoubtedly as a matter of normal course of Washington handshakes and blowjobs, suddenly wondered how their names were attached to the bill and suddenly had to reconsider their positions among public scrutiny.

We won the day.

We have not won the battle. To this day, Rep. Lamar Smith, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, continues to give a middle-finger to his colleagues (including his own Majority Leader) and insists on resuming markup of SOPA in February. Damn the President’s threat to veto. I wrote him a letter yesterday and I wish you would share that across your networks. It’s very important.

Inside the beltway, nothing is dead until it’s dead. Using lines like, “I will not support this bill in its present form” only means, “Go get me some political cover, and I’ll reconsider”. The fact that Eric Cantor says it won’t come to the House floor for a vote, doesn’t mean it won’t. Just because the President says he’s veto it doesn’t mean he will. SOPA needs to be killed in committee and never see the light of day.

Likewise, PIPA in the Senate is losing support very quickly, but if SOPA were to die and PIPA were clear the Senate, my feeling is it would go to the President for a signature and let him make the political call in an election year.

Nothing is dead yet. We must be vigilant. We must maintain the protest, the calls, the emails, the pressure. Stop by your Congressman’s hometown office and talk to his staff. That’ll be more effective than emails and letters and phone calls. Be respectful, but make your voice heard.

My Remarks to Congressional Staffers Today

I’ve been invited to speak to two groups of Congressional staffers today. In about 30 mins, I’ll speak to Republican staffers at the Capitol Hill Club. Later today, at 1:30, I’ll be speaking to the Democrats in their Capitol Building office. The topic is Blogging, microblogging and social media and the event is hosted by NextGenWeb and the DCI Group.

These are my planned opening remarks:

First of all, I want to thank NextGenWeb and the DCI Group for inviting me to be with you today. I want to thank all of you for taking time out of your Friday morning to be here as well.
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We have a lot to talk about today because, frankly, the landscape of news, reporting, politics and effective organizing isn’t changing. It already has changed.

comScore, the metrics organization that measures website popularity and user engagement and leads the industry in much the same way that Nielsen has led the more traditional media rating media, reported that sites like Facebook and MySpace are owning over 100M unique visitors every month. Universal McCann, another measurement company, reports that 77% of active internet users read blogs.

Whether you agree or disagree with these numbers, and whether you like the trend or not, it is undeniable that the new media space has emerged. It is difficult to turn on your television without seeing personalities – and I do mean personalities – such as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow or CNN’s Rick Sanchez engaging their audiences with Twitter.

Up until recently, your own rules here in Congress have prevented you from effectively engaging the citizens on your districts, states and this country. You were hampered by antiquated rules that required separation of content from endorsements in the form of ads. I led the way in helping America see this, through my blog, public radio and conversation on and off the Hill. Though I cannot take full credit for any changes that have occurs, changes have still have occurred. Your House and Senate rules now allow you to utilize Twitter, YouTube and other social media avenues.

The news cycle is there and it’s different than it was before. In another lifetime, you played the game by talking to the press and hoping that they found interest in your cause. Now, you can go directly to the American people.

However, with much power comes much responsibility. Blogs have given us as citizens an expectation for engagement. For conversation. For exchange of information, ideas and transparency. Major media for the most part has not figured this out yet, and that is why more Americans get their news on the internet. There are, of course, exceptions. If you are to use this effectively, you will need to treat the internet, not as a faceless drop box where constituent mail comes from. Not as an anonymous voicemail box. Not as a nameless email inbox that sends an automated reply to the sender.

You must engage. You must converse. More importantly, you must listen.

Today, we’re going to talk about blogs, Twitter and new media. I hope that we can all learn from one another and build a better interaction platform for constituents. Thank you, again.

New York Times Makes Massive Leap in Bringing Congressional Data to the Web

For all the talk in DC about transparency in government, that seemed (at least in my sense) to really come to the forefront of everyone’s attention with the House Rules on social media use issue last July, then escalated with the Senate, the bailouts and finally the election of one of the most social media savvy presidents ever, the status quo has been largely wishing for transparency and talking about it.

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The New York Times decided to take it a step farther today by actually providing data in the form of the Congress API. This data is pulled from the House and Senate websites but I have to guess also includes data that is mined from the Congressional Record, the daily public account of all official business that is still, ironically, published in print form en masse. Up until now, the Congressional Record has been available upon request and is hard to actually get real signal from amidst the noise of process and procedure.

With the NY Times Congress API, it is now possible for developers to build tools that mine the Record for roll call votes, members of each chamber, and information about members including chairmanships or committee memberships.

It will be interesting to see how this data is used and how it can be leveraged to keep the government honest. Developers can check out the technical details here.