Why is the campaigning so negative?

I think that was the number one question asked when phone banking today. People claim they do not like negative campaigning. I know I am not a fan of it. However for better or worse, it works. Wikipedia lays out why in detail, as does this piece by Mark Penn in Politico. One point of particular interest to political parties is that the negative campaigning tends to suppress turnout from unaffiliated voters. Therefore if you are a partisan and cannot garner popular support then negative campaigning is probably especially helpful.

Intuitively, I think that negative campaigning is also a long-term negative for both political parties. The goals of candidates and political parties are not completely aligned in this respect. Political parties should aim to be more inclusive. The greater number of people that participate in a party the greater its influence. Candidates do not have this incentive. However the candidates have most of the money, or control it, other than the PACs. Therefore political parties take a backseat to the goals and whims of the various campaigns. Rounding up the campaigns and getting them coordinated requires a skilled chairperson or leader, something that they generally lack. This creates a negative feedback loop where people do not want to be involved in politics because it is negative, but politics becomes negative because people are not involved.

On a micro level people can lead by example by becoming involved and not using negative campaign tactics in their own campaigns. This will not fix the problem of negative campaigning and the lure of its efficacy in statewide or national campaigns, but I believe it can blunt it. Also it is important to point out that as candidates who do not use negative campaigning gain experience and move into higher positions, they will be more reluctant to go negative. The other solution would be for unaffiliated voters to cease making voting decisions based on negative advertising. If the efficacy of the advertising is eliminated, then the campaigns will not use it.

Some might protest that placing the burden on the voters is unfair or unproductive. However it is important to point out that the only people in power are the ones that the voters are voting for. By voting for candidates that engage in negative advertising you are actually driving the candidates who do not use it out of the process. The people that don’t use negative advertising cannot control the fact that they lose by doing so, and that this loss includes a loss of political capital that can be used to stop negative campaigning.

Others suggest that campaigning be more regulated. There is already a large body of law surrounding campaigning but the First Amendment restricts the ability of the government to regulate the content of political advertisements. This can be worked around by finding other hacks, such as setting up a voluntary public financing program similar to the one we have in Connecticut and include restrictions on negative campaigning as part of the strings we attach. However I do not think these programs are likely to succeed if we do not fix the fact that negative campaigning works in the first place.

60 Minutes, Warby Parker, and Social Media Marketing

60 Minutes is one of the most popular news shows on television and also one of the most tweeted news programs. I do not usually watch it live but Sunday night they had an interesting segment on the eyeware industry which I’ve embedded below:

The segment was a little disturbing as it explained that one firm owns the vision insurance company EyeMed, the eyeglass shop Lenscrafters (along with Target Optical and others), and they make the majority of the eyeglass frames that are sold in these shops. However they also mentioned an online shop called Warby Parker that is not owned by the company. I had heard of them before but I’ve been wearing contacts most of the time so had not been in the market for eyeglasses. Since I am considering buying a new pair soon I was curious about them and their lens quality so I tweeted a question at them and surprisingly they tweeted a video response to my question about the quality of lens they use:

I thought that was pretty neat. Since I am a fan of start-ups as someone that works with them for my job, I am planning to give them a try. They offer the option to order some sample frames to try before you order your final pair. Unfortunately the 60 minutes segment seems to have caused them to run out of some styles, but hopefully they will be in soon. I am a little skeptical of how the quality will compare considering the low price point, but am willing to take a chance.

Watching Television from the Computer Still is Not Easy

Earlier today I bought the Jon Stewart & Bill O’Reilly debate program that is airing tonight for $4.99. The catch with this is that it is only available online. This comes almost a year after comedian Louis CK released a comedy program in an online only format. The unique thing about this is that instead of using iTunes or other media stores that take a 30% cut of the sales the sellers are using regular payment companies like PayPal to accept a direct payment and then are offering their program without the digital rights management protections that iTunes usually uses. Therefore you are able to watch the content on nearly any device you own instead of being locked in to a particular ecosystem. These content producers are betting that by being more consumer friendly they can make more money than if they use the normal distribution channels.

The downside of this method is that it requires technical knowledge to get it working on a television. The Rumble website provides about six different ways to get the show on your TV. I tried to explain this to someone and already it sounded like too much work to them. It’s not a big deal for digital natives like me, but I wonder how many sales they lose to people that are not comfortable with technology and taking the extra steps to make this work.

Update: After watching the Rumble event on our TV from the iPad I can share the following frustrations. The first is that the stream from the event dropped out about five times. Instead of picking up from where it left off the stream would jump around until it got steady. This meant that we missed portions of the event. It also required me to manually pause and play the stream to get it going again, waiting did not cause it to continue and I did not see any indication of the connection quality between the iPad and the server on the iPad itself. I also had trouble with the website. Instead of taking me to the stream page after I logged in I had to login with my username and password on the website and then click a special link that was e-mailed to me. If I clicked the special link before logging in at the website I got an error with no direction on how to resolve it.

During the debate Stewart quipped to O’Reilly that “your audience is calling my audience to figure out how to download this thing” and I think that rung true. This even was fairly accessible to tech savvy people although it did have hiccups. I think that if the stream did not get disconnected then the experience would have qualified as flawless although a little bit of a pain to setup initially.

Fixing the Tweetbot Permission Denied Error

I recently bought Tweetbot to replace the official twitter application on my iPhone and iPad. The app is great with many features that the regular twitter application lacks like the ability to mute hashtags or people in the timeline. It also makes it easier to navigate conversations on twitter and share links. I was happy with it until I got this error:

I was frustrated and tried the suggested fix of rebooting on their support page but saw nothing. However I finally went back through the @tweetbot feed on twitter where they recommended the following fix which worked:


So try revoking tweetbot access from your twitter settings and then logging back in from the application and you should be good to go again. Hopefully this problem does not repeat itself.

Update: After a day the problem repeated itself. So I contacted their support again. Hopefully they will have other ideas.

Update 2: The folks at Tweetbot assure me that they are investigating this and it will be fixed soon. For more updates check out https://dev.twitter.com/issues/553.


How to Get iOS 6, Mac OS X, and Google Contacts to Sync Properly

Note: Updated on December 14, 2012 to reflect that GMail will not be working with Exchange anymore.

One of the most miserable parts of owning multiple gadgets and using multiple technologies is getting them to all play nicely together. Today Apple released iOS 6 and with it deep facebook and twitter integration that can confuse even the best of us. I have been spending the afternoon experimentally attempting to determine how all these different systems work together. This system assumes you are using an iPhone or iPad with iOS 6 and the latest version of Mac OS X. It also assumes you want all your contacts in GMail.

Important: Before starting this process you may want to backup your contact lists using the procedures appropriate to each account. You probably won’t lose anything provided you follow these instructions exactly and do not choose options to delete all your contacts, but it is better safe than sorry. More info: Export GMail Contacts, How to backup iPhone Contacts, Backup Apple Address Book.

The first step is to setup your iOS devices so you are only using iCloud for your contacts. It will make your life simpler. To see if you are using iCloud for your contacts you go into “Settings” and then “iCloud” and make sure it is setup. The switch to contacts should be set to on like the picture below:

Then you should set your Mail, Calendars, and Contacts section so that you are syncing only your mail to your Google account. After Google depreciated the use of Exchange I setup my e-mail with the official GMail App using instructions from The Verge. As a bonus using the official GMail app seems to use less battery than Exchange.

Next you’ll need to make sure OS X is setup for your accounts properly. Again you will run everything but e-mail through iCloud. You can also choose to setup Messages and Notes with Google. If iCloud is not yet setup on your computer you can follow the instructions from Apple. If you need to setup your Google mail on your desktop you can follow these instructions. I recommend using IMAP. If you already added your Facebook and Twitter accounts then your mail settings screen in OS X will look something like this:

Apple Mail, Contacts, and Calendars Settings This is what the settings will look like in Mail, Contacts, and Calendars after you have set things up properly.[/caption]

Also you should make sure your Contacts app is setup to default to iCloud for contacts. You can do so by opening the Mac OS X Contacts app and clicking the “Contacts” menu in the upper left hand corner of the screen and choosing preferences. The first screen should look like:

Contacts App Preferences This is what the preferences in the contacts app should look like.

Once you have confirmed that setting then you are ready to move on.

The next step is to install Cobook. Cobook seems to do the best job of synchronizing Google’s contacts with iCloud and OS X. You should install it from the Mac App Store and then set it up to sync to your google account. Instructions on doing that are here. After you set it up with some luck you will start getting a sync going between your Google and Mac contacts. Changes made on your Mac or your phone will be sent to and from Google using this app. After it finishes syncing you may have to spend some time cleaning your contact information. A helpful tip is to open the Mac OS X Contacts app and go to the “Card” menu and choose “Look for duplicates” and it will merge them together. Additional cleaning to contact information is mostly a manual endeavor.

At this point you can feel free to go into the settings of your iOS device and Mac OS X and add your Facebook and twitter accounts. The OS will attempt to match your contacts. The twitter, facebook, and iCloud contacts will all be kept in separate “buckets” on the computer. However your contacts in Google and iCloud will have a link inserted into them so the computers know they go with certain facebook and twitter contacts. In other words, the information from facebook and twitter will not permanently alter your contacts. It will just be accessible to you in an easy manner.

This is how I have chosen to setup my devices. You have other options as well depending on your needs. Cobook can use its own facebook and twitter sync options to add info to the iCloud contacts that will sync with Google. However I am not sure if it will cause problems with duplicate data. If you have questions or suggestions feel free to leave them in the comments.

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This work by Matt Zagaja is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.