Category Archives: politics

Congratulations, Mr. President — Parte Deux

As I sat glued to my computer screen earlier this week watching the election results from each state stream in, I realized that this was something I had done once before … four years ago, as again, in China, I waited anxiously in a tucked-in Internet cafe in the heart of Beijing to see what larger direction the United States of America would be headed. But this time, instead of just reading the news passively and sharing amongst a smaller group of friends, there was a real opportunity to ENGAGE, to participate or at the very least observe dialogues from not just all over the country, but all over the world, via Facebook and Twitter-streams that were often embedded right alongside interactive media units designed and put together by media organizations like Huffington Post, The Guardian, and CNN, regardless of your physical location.

It is incredible to see what can change in four years, and the type of reporting and data visualization that was available during this year’s election was a reminder of how quickly we innovate in today’s age of computing, and thankfully, how user-centered design and experience has become a key part of the conversation.  Four years ago, there was no ‘like’ on Facebook, there were no apps/open Facebook authentication that allowed you to easily share articles and stories with your Facebook networks.  And somehow 2008 seems to have pre-dated the explosion of Internet memes. Twitter was not the same global medium it now is, with over 41 million unique visitors monthly (and 32 million tweets alone on Election Day), compared to just 4.5 million unique visitors a month at its peak in 2008. If anything, these past four years can be surmised into the shift towards the ‘connected economy’, enabled by social media.

For all of the innovation there has been, however, in some ways the world has become less connected. Facebook and Twitter which had once been openly available across China were now accessible only behind VPN — 1 billion people who by and large, are not part of this digital global square.  As governments continue to grapple with how to address the rise of social media, the number of countries that now censor the internet continues to grow.   (I did a study on this in 2010 … I wonder how it’s changed since).  And this week, China’s infamously slow internet was only made slower driven undoubtedly by the series of meetings being held in Beijing at the 18th Communist Party Congressional Meetings.

President Obama — this week we rejoice with you in celebrating the American Dream and moving forward together as a nation in preserving the vision that makes this country so, so very unique. And for the next four years, let us continue to innovate, listen, and collaborate in creating a fair and neutral digital environment, being sensitive of the cultural and historical concerns each nation may bear in this dialogue.  “The best is yet to come.”

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jon huntsman jr. as next china ambassador?

so twitter-verse was abuzz this friday over news that current utah governor, jon huntsman jr., was likely to be making the move to beijing as the united states’ top diplomat.  while i haven’t really read that much into huntsman’s policies, he certainly seems well-qualified for this critical post. a fluent mandarin speaker, huntsman had spent time in taiwan as part of his missions trip with the church of latter day saints. with a background in business (his family runs the huntsman corporation, one of the world’s largest chemical distributors), philanthropy, and politics, huntsman may just be what the US needs to tread the waves that are the increasing importance of us-china relations.

furthermore, this gesture by the obama administration reflects the new president’s political savvy as well — upholding his promises of maintaining a bi-partisan state while making it difficult for a very strong potential republican 2012 presidential contender to make any concrete criticism of the obama administration over the next four years.

for the governor’s nine-year old daughter — grace mei huntsman — the appointment will also mean a move back home. grace was adopted by the huntsmans from china, who have also adopted another daughter from india.

of course, time will be the final decider of jon huntsman jr.’s story but for now, am looking forward to the developments this new appointment will bring.

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on issues.

washington, dc is a city that is a unique blend of ambition, service, ideals, cynicism, and hope. it is a city that is as much fueled by idealistic passion as it is by unleashed ambitions — for better or worse. as the dust settles against the backdrop of “change,” what we need is a discussion on issues of substance to continue on the pathway laid under the theme of ideals and the promise of a better future.

one of the things i love about any place and any city, with dc being no exception, is to hear the stories of the individuals who pass under its skies. as one would expect with the territory, dc is a place of aspiring politicians and individuals focused on public service. however, when truly pressed on what they hope to represent, on what pushed them down this path over others, few can reply with answers of true substance. perhaps this is politics, grand speeches meant to answer only enough, without ever really committing and taking responsibility for anything that may prove controversial in the future.

yet under this new trademark and brand of change, perhaps we need to add the tenet of accountability. perhaps under this system of “new politics,” what we need in addition to passion, to commitment, to empathy, is a discovery of our values and to commit a path that sticks to those ideals rather than to journey down a “winning” path.

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The Obama Machine

What a year 2008 has been. What a year it has come to represent in the new millennium, not only in the challenges we face in issues like global warming, but also in its opportunities.

Not least of this are the dawning presidential elections this coming fall, which will perhaps be the most critical elections the United States has yet to see. With the field now cleared for Barack Obama and John McCain, where will the divisions be drawn, and the commonalities emphasized?

Especially with the story of the junior senator from Illinois, no matter what the outcome this November will be, Obama’s experiences and his campaign’s strategic decisions throughout this past year will be a remarkable blueprint and benchmark for future campaigns.

Perhaps what has impressed me most about his campaign, being the pseudo-techie that I am, is his team’s embracement and understanding of technology, and the power of social networking and the psychology behind it.

True, Obama has a charisma that resonates with his core base – young Americans – that is strongly reminiscent of the Kennedy campaign. True, his personal story is dynamic, engaging, and widely appealing, spanning not only racial chasms, but socioeconomic ones as well. True, he brings with him a breath of fresh air to a capitol that has long been perceived as rotting from within.

But no matter how much personality and personal charisma Obama has, his win and journey thus far would not have been possible without the monetization and mobilization of his empassioned supporters. He has astonished everyone with the tremendous amount of funding he has amassed from millions of Americans making five, ten dollar donations.

How?

Matching contributions + matching Obama lovin’.

In a stroke of sheer marketing genius, Obama’s campaign tapped into one of the fundamentals of mass fundraising. Especially in giving, we want to maximize our contributions (hence, sites like CharityNavigator that sort through non-profits according to their efficiency). By having someone else – another Obama supporter – match every donation through the Obama site, his campaign turned every dollar of contribution into two.

And when that happened, it connected two contributors today. For example, if Suzy Q from South Carolina donated $15, it was matched by $15 from Bobby G in Florida. An e-mail was sent to both parties, letting both contributors whose fund they had either matched or been matched by. Want to connect? No problem. The ability to send an e-mail was only a click away. It created a sense of community, allowed people to have a platform to engage, and created a snowball effect of the “I heart Obama” phenomena that has played a tremendous role in securing Obama’s place on the ticket for November.

Uniting a nation the size of the United States, across 50 states and generations, is no small task, and connecting them through this online platform nicely backs the Senator’s continual call of “Together, we can.”

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