Give to CitizenSpeak (and me!)

CitizenSpeak is a site that allows people to create email campaigns targeted at change, like the ultra-successful EFF campaign to stop the Broadcast Flag (that the EFF runs, not CitizenSpeak). It’s a tool that anyone can use, and activists at any level can use it to focus their community’s voice. And it’s free.

If you went to the CitizenSpeak site you might notice it sucks a little. There are frames and popups and non-obvious permalinks. I say that because I’m actually working on changing that.

I’m rebuilding the CitizenSpeak site with the main functionality going into a CivicSpace module, which we’ll be releasing under an open source license. That means that sites running CivicSpace (and Drupal) will be able to host their own campaigns, customized to the needs of the site. And yeah, the CitizenSpeak/CivicSpace thing does get confusing sometimes.

But here’s the thing: I need to make (some) money on this. You see, I’m a contractor now and need to occasionally feed and clothe myself. CitizenSpeak is looking for people who want the module to help them fund me. You can make a tax deductible donation to help pay for the development work. You can also see the development plans at the CitizenSpeak development wiki, and when I’m ready for input from people I’ll post the link to my development there too.

5 thoughts on “Give to CitizenSpeak (and me!)

  1. Maybe I’m missing something, but it appears that CitizenSpeak does not currently allow for the recipients of a message to be targeted based on information collected about the sender, but rather sends every message to every possible recipient. For example, a letter I send about saving Monmouth Parks would go to everyone listed as recipients by the Save Monmouth Parks campaign organizers, rather than, say, only the elected representatives from the district in which I actually live.
    It seems to me that limiting recipients in this way would be a fairly crucial feature for effective e-mail campaigning. Is this something CitizenSpeak is considering adding in the future?

  2. I’d like to see what Jo has to say about this, since she runs this thing. I think for local campaigns I’ve worked on, CitizenSpeak as it is would be perfectly fine (student campaigns targetting the U administration; local campaigns targetting city council members or commissioners; etc.) — and I think this kind of small-ish, local campaign is more what CitizenSpeak is about than large, coordinated national campaigns … one criticism I’ve seen on CivicSpace lists is that this won’t help reach federal Congress, because most representatives don’t accept email and instead require feedback to come through web forms — and there are many different systems. There are vendors who reverse engineer these web forms to make citizenspeak-ing to congress, but I think it’s ok if this project stays simple and straightforward, and useful to campaigns of a smaller focus…

  3. Scott, I agree that CitizenSpeak as-is would be more than sufficient for small, local campaigns. And I agree that it’s perfectly fine if CitizenSpeak doesn’t want to design itself for national campaigns, especially with the difficulty in contacting federal reps electronically that you already pointed out. Plus, national campaigns tend to have a lot more money to work with, and there are already for-profit services in place to help them with their e-mail campaigning (as you pointed out), so there’s not much need for something like CitizenSpeak at that level. However, there’s something in between local and federal: state.
    State reps — at least in Michigan — definitely accept e-mail from constituents, and state-level campaigns would certainly require the level of targeting of recipients I described. Moreover, I think that this could be done without sacrificing the simplicity, straightforwardness, and usefulness to smaller campaigns that you mention wanting to preserve. In fact, it could — and should — be entirely transparent to users and, ideally, as simple as checking a box for organizers.
    On the other hand, it would require a significant amount of development work and I don’t want to be an armchair general. Mostly, I was just wondering whether CitizenSpeak intends to add this functionality at some point because, if they do, I might use it for future statewide campaigning. If not, I’ll just have to find (or develop) something else.

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