Friday, March 27, 2009

Can Your Advocacy Use a Mashup?

Based on the comments and emails, these posts on creative ways to incorporate new technologies into local advocacy have been helpful. There is a lot more to discuss and more tools and applications seem to appear every day.

I covered the basics in “Develop a Twittering For Your Cause” and expanded on them in “Think Locally, Act Globally.” In another post, I covered how a small business or nonprofit might incorporate Twitter into an Emergency Communication Plan. This post adds to all of them and takes the suggestions up to the next level.

“What is a Mashup?”

A “mashup” in this context is a web application that combines data from more than one source. Imagine video from YouTube, text from Twitter and a map from GoogleEarth, for example, so that the Tweet refers to the video and the subject of the video is shown on the map.*

These separate web sites allow users to combine them. It is not as easy as sending an email, but it also is fairly straightforward. If you can animate a PowerPoint with action and music, chances are you can also connect the “APIs” from these systems in a simple mashup. (Or you can get the software tekkie in your office to do it for you.)

For an interesting combination of blog, Twitter news Tweets, Google Maps and Google Earth, check out Virender Ajmani’s mibazaar page. Specifically, look at the AIG Bonus Outrage page. Ajmani’s description:

There is a lot of talk currently on Twitter related to the outrageous bonuses given to AIG execs with the taxpayer money. I decided to look at twitter for tweets related to AIG. I took this information from Twitter along with User's location and mapped it out on Google Maps. There are two buttons at the top left corner of the map which are labeled "Eastern Untied States" and "Western United States". The map defaults to "Eastern". If you click on "Eastern United States" button then tweets are shown from within 1500 miles radius of "Cincinnati, Ohio". If you click on "Western United States" button then tweets are shown from within 1500 miles radius of "Los Angeles".

“How can I use a mashup in my advocacy?”

If you cannot wait to develop a Twittering (a group of followers on Twitter), you may be able to identify patterns in the Tweets (chatter) posted by the public. With a filter for key words and an overlay of the Tweets onto a map, you have an instant picture of the general commentary that may be related to your cause. You may not find many Tweets that mention a specific public housing project, but you are very likely to find them with “unemployed,” for example. Click here to search Twitter for Tweets about “public housing in galveston.”

If you do not see much chatter on your topic, start one! Use something like Tweetworks to start a discussion. Set up a group and post a public question. Get the discussion started and be ready to pitch your cause. (This is where the cause-specific resource page comes in that I discussed in an earlier post.)

In another post, I will comment on some very nice tools to help keep the chaos of Twitter, Facebook, etc., contained and managed.

* For some very interesting, working mashups, check out

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