So today I spent a very enjoyable hour or so with the great folks in the SL NetRoots group at their weekly meetup on Progressive Island. The preliminary agenda was a discussion of the recent YearlyKos and BlogHer conventions in Second Life. (Full disclosure: My employer was a sponsor of YearlyKos in Second Life.) As I had hoped, the discussion was great. Kudos to organizer Ruby Glitter for herding cats keeping the meeting on track.

In running my own RL meetings, I don’t really consider them a success unless everyone leaves the meeting with at least one deliverable. Usually, I end up leaving these events with a bunch of projects since I feel guilty if anyone gets more stuff assigned to them than me. So, like I good workaholic, I volunteered to help with the planning for a SL NetRoots voter registration drive.

I’m pretty excited about the assignment and judging by some of the ideas I’ve received from other NetRooters the excitement is contagious. This is exactly the kind of action that I’m interested in and one of the main reasons I started this blog. Let’s face it, getting a new face engaged on your side of the issues is the crack that political junkies crave.

I’m going to riff a bit here, so bear with me. I believe that virtual worlds can remove a lot of the barriers that keep people from empowering themselves politically. Let’s face it, in a world where the average American is working 100 hours more per year than our supposedly workaholic Japanese counterparts, most people would rather spend their free time with their family and friends instead of attending a political meeting. Americans used to have more time for personal enrichment, which many found in political activism. Second Life and other virtual worlds eliminates these barriers since one doesn’t have to drive to a meeting, reserve a room, etc.

On top of this, virtual worlds are the proverbial fertile ground for grassroots activism. According to a report from the Center for the Digital Future at USC, almost two-thirds of online community members who participate in social causes through the Internet (64.9%) say they are involved in causes that were new to them when they began participating on the Internet. More than 40 percent (43.7%) of online community members participate more in social activism since they started participating in online communities.


Progressives need to harness this inclination towards activism. Gartner recently noted that 80% of active Internet users will be active in virtual worlds by 2010. I’ll use a historical hypothetical to put that into context. In 1952, there were 1.4 million television sets in U.S. households. By 1968, that number had increased to 15.1 million. A political organizer in 1952, armed with the knowledge that a new communications medium would increase its reach a potential new audience of 13.7 million in 14 years would have a pretty good idea of how to plan media campaigns going forward. I would suggest that we are at a similar time now with virtual worlds. As progressives, we have a chance to figure out what works and what doesn’t in virtual world organizing now, before the stakes are so high that you can’t afford to make a mistake.


Well, that’s all I have time for tonight. Thanks again to the SL NetRooters for letting me join their merry band. Until next time, mahalo everyone.


My Idea File


Recently I started keeping an idea file. See, I read a lot and I often get ideas from what I read. Unfortunately, I have the memory of the sieve and rarely do I remember my ideas unless I write them down. Once I get them down on paper (or silicon) then the idea creates enough of a groove in my brain that I can usually remember it without having to refer back to the idea file that I started to help me remember things in the first place. Odd. Yes, I know.

I’ve also started another file, which for lack of a better name I called my “statistics file.” Really, a more apt name would be my “ammo dump.” In other words, it’s a place I put statistics and anecdotes that I can use later to back up my ideas. The strange thing about all this is that anyone who sees my desk would conclude that I’m a bit of a slob when it comes to organization. And they would be right. God bless Google Desktop is all I have to say.

So I’m planning on attending my first RootsCampSL meetup tomorrow. The chat transcript on the wiki looks to be a bit out of date, so I hope that the event actually goes off. [UPDATE: Got a reply from RootsCamper Ruby Glitter than the event is a go.] Tonight, I’m sitting in on the weekly Barack Obama group meetup in SL. Seems like a nice-enough group of people.

My takeaway from the event was a positive response to an idea I had to copy the tactics of a Second Life marketer Joni Rich of This Second Marketing LLC. Basically, Rich got permission from Linden Labs to have “buzz agents” hang out near Orientation Island offering free passes to a SL screening of the new Harry Potter movie to newbies. The rationale was that newbies are dying to talk to someone in SL and thus make great marketing targets.

From a progressive political point of view, this reminded me of the union members and the members of African-American congregations who were the real “foot soldiers” of the Democratic Party in my neighborhood. These are the people who volunteer their time to do the grunt work of going door to door to talk to people face-to-face. In a virtual world, the same concept could be fairly easily applied and without the drawback of trudging through the suburbs in 90 degree heat. If a group of Obama supporters were to commit to spending 30 minutes to one hour per week hanging out in popular areas in a virtual world (Orientation Island, or one of the more popular clubs in Second Life, for example), one could raise the awareness of a cause fairly easily. This is just one thought.

Here’s another thought — Have campaign staffers keep regular “office hours” in a virtual world. Obviously, the candidate will likely not have enough time to to hang out in a potentially sparesely-populated area in a virtual world, but isn’t doing the menial labor why God invented campaign staffers? Let’s say that the Edwards campaign gave a list of talking points to 5 staffers and told them hang out in, Habbo Hotel, Second Life, Whyville, and Club Penguin (just a hypothetical) for 1-2 hours twice a week. The events could be fairly easily publicized and held at little to no cost to the campaign. Blam! Instant exposure.

Well, I suppose that’s enough ranting for one night. Many tanks to Cubsfan Pugilist and the rest of the Obama ’08 SL group for letting me sit in this evening. Mahalo, everyone.

Welcome to Virtual Progress.  The idea for this blog has been kicking around in my head ever since I started thinking about the potential of virtual worlds to support progressive politics.  To be honest, it’s also a bit of an ego-play.  I’ve been a little (OK a LOT) jealous of the way the Markos Zuniga’s and Matt Stoller’s of the world became the archetypical “self-made men” in the progressive blogosphere.  They started out with nothing but an idea and the then-nascent blogosphere and became leading figures in the modern American progressive movement.

So why Virtual Progress?  Well, in my day job, I’ve been exploring the uses of virtual worlds (particularly Second Life) in issue campaigns.  While this is great fun, I think that the technology and the social nature of virtual worlds could lend itself to progressivism in a more concrete way.  This blog will be a journal of my efforts to harness the power of virtual worlds to the cause of progressivism in America.

Wish me luck!