Organizing Opposition to a Bill

A bill proposes making it illegal to go to the bathroom during a commercial break, since it "interferes with interstate commerce." It legislates that your cable company and sewer utilities must install tracking mechanisms on your house that permit correlating commercial breaks with plumbing usage. The media loves this bill and is castigating opposition as "Broadcast Brigandry" and "Anti-Airwaves"; they're suppressing talk about the details of the bill, advertising it as a protection of free speech.

Your mission is to defeat this bill. You wish to build public awareness about the truth of what will happen if this passes, and convince congress to oppose it.

To combat this, you will be building up an army of concerned citizens who will engage in writing/calling their legislators, watching for actions by proponents, countering the misleading advertising in the media, and bringing strong pressure to the government against it.

You've already set up a website, so your first action is to set up a copy of the volunteer system on your web server. You download the code from SourceForge, run a script to install a database, install and initiate the daemon service, and set up the web interface. You also install the commandline tools and the GUI tool on your desktop PC. You think you'll need to handle donations, so you set up software for handling that too.

Next, you write up summary of your thoughts about the bill, and have some ideas of objectives to undertake to defeat it:

You enter each of these objectives into the volunteer system using the web forms.

For each objective, you select from a set of stock actions to be done to achieve them, such as canvassing, phone banks, mass mailings, content development, blogging campaign, public demonstration, speeches, etc.

For instance, to educate newscasters, you decide to do the following actions:

You can also add your own custom actions, but decide not to for this one.

Each action includes a set of tasks, that get pulled in from Task Templates. For example, a Mass Mailing task template might look like this:

     Phase 1
      - Draft letter for the mailing
      - Decide criteria for who to send it to

      Phase 2
      - Review/refine letter and provide comments
      - Decide additional materials to include in mailing
      - Establish list of N people to send it to

      Phase 3
      - Edit the letter to final form
      - Print labels for N mailings
      - Acquire N copies of additional materials

      Phase 4
      - Recruit envelope stuffers
      - Print out N copies of letter

      Phase 5
      - Stuff envelopes

      Phase 6
      - Deliver envelopes to post office

Each of these tasks has some skills/interests associated with it. For example, 'Draft letter for the mailing' requires 'letter writing' interest and the 'written english' skill.

You spend about an hour or two figuring out actions to take for each of the objectives. You're amazed to see that in the space of a single evening you've identified over a hundred discrete tasks to do. It's time to do some recruitment!

You write up an email explaining that you're bothered about this new bill and are starting up a grassroots effort to put a stop to it, with a link to your website and volunteer manager. You post this email around on a few political blogs and mailing lists, then head to bed.

A bunch of people are similarly outraged over the bill, but have been despondant thinking themselves powerless to do anything against this corporate-takeover of our "Privy Privacy". Seeing your call to action, they hit your site, read your screed, and sign up.

Bob is a freelance graphic artist and quite skillful with Inkscape, his favorite drawing tool. He's never volunteered for anything political before, and doesn't like using the phone or canvassing, or any of that, but he'd sure like to do *something*. He can't believe the news media isn't reporting anything on it. He doubts there's anything he can do to help, but he starts browsing through the tasks listed in the volunteer tool. He runs across the letter writing campaign for educating newscasters and thinks, "Well, I've designed brochures before; I bet I could help with that."

Bob fills out the volunteer form and registers with the site. Then he goes to the letter writing task and signs up for that. He adds a comment to the task that he's designed brochures before, and will draft up something using Inkscape and Scribus.

John sees Bob's comment about making the brochure, and adds a comment with some suggestions of what to say in the brochure. Then, noticing the next task, he scours the Internet and locates a list of postal addresses for newscasters, and posts it in.

The next morning, you awake to find scores of people like Bob and John have taken interest, and have already started contributing work towards the various tasks you'd identified. You see that the letter writing campaign is well underway, so decide to focus on it first.

You do a query in the volunteer tool to locate people who live nearby that can get together to do the physical portion of the mass mailing. Sorting by geographic location, you find that Portland, Oregon has the largest number of valid volunteers. With another query you find 10 of them that live within 10 miles of each other. Perfect!

You create a 'project group' for the mailing and assign the ten people plus John and Bob and a couple others to it, and draft a message to them saying that they've got the work to see the mailing finished and delivered. You suggest they pick a meeting place and get together for an organizational meeting, then proceed with the action as they see fit. You figure they'll need some cash for covering printing costs, so allocate $250 from the donation system to them. Then you move on to the next campaign.

Meanwhile, John and Bob are thrilled to see their project leap forward so quickly, and with some input from others swiftly collaborate on finishing the brochure. Bob sends the final copy of the brochure as a PDF to the Portland crew, one of whom has a friend willing to do the printing at cost, leaving the rest for postage. The group calculates that they can do 500 mailings, and so proceeds with the work.

Within a matter of weeks your Privy Privacy movement has struck a mortal blow to the bill. Your phone bankers have innundated the call-in shows, your bloggers have spread the "Squatter's Rights" meme and built up a strong public reaction. Key legislators have received so many calls that they rethink their vote. The advertising lobby is embarrassed by the spectacle of hundreds of toilets literally on their front doorstep and has backed away from the bill.

Your work done, you send out thank-you's to the hundreds of volunteers who have made the dream a reality, then close up shop, waiting for the next Big Issue to arise. Logo