When a Bot Answers Your Get Out the Vote Call

One of the hazards of making political calls in 2020 — you might wind up talking to a bot. I got this one the other day while making calls for Biden-Harris. 

The voice on the other end of the line explains “I’ve really been hoping to hear from you guys” except he’s about to get married in 10 minutes — but he still wants to talk. The bot then tries to keep the conversation going with, taking frequent breaks to argue with the best man about who has the ring and which of them had been drinking too much (or not enough) to be ready for the ceremony.

I still wasn’t sure when I got off the phone whether I was really talking to a crazy groom who sort of wanted to talk politics, despite being just a few minutes away from the altar. (I figured if he was a real person, I’d better let him go anyway).

I sympathize with the impulse to frustrate telemarketers. Hate to think of being what I’m doing as a volunteer as falling into that category (I’m trying to save Democracy, dammit!) but not everyone sees it that way.

So now in addition to dealing with getting hung up on and dealing with angry Trumpkins, you need to be prepared to take the Turing Test once a night or so.

Fortunately, there are still some real people out there whom you can have a real conversation with.

The other bot I spoke with had a heavy Eastern European accent and kept interrupting to yell at his children before coming back to the phone. That pattern of frequent interruptions to talk with some fictional companion might be one giveaway. It’s the bot’s strategy to waste more of your time without having to spend as many computer cycles simulating conversation. 

I’d hate to mistake a real person for a bot, but I guess my strategy going forward will be to say, “I’ll try to call back at a better time” and hang up if I suspect I’m being punked.  

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Hurricane Cancellations

The Labor Day picnic has been cancelled, and you should check with the organizers whether other events scheduled for Monday or Tuesday have been cancelled or rescheduled as well. Although the threat has lessened, we may still be in for at least Tropical Storm conditions.

How to Add an Image to an Event Post or Blog Post

Adding an image to your event posts helps them stand out more on the calendar. Just be aware that many BlueBroward members will see your event as part of a weekly calendar roundup, and some email programs will not display the images. That means your image should provide additional value, but basic details like location and contact info should be included in the body of the post.

This video shows how you add an image to an event posting to the calendar or a post to the blog.

If you hoover your mouse over a new paragraph, you should see a + sign appear in the left hand margin that allows you to switch between adding text and adding an image. The same technique will allow you to add a YouTube video or another sort of content.

To insert an image between two paragraphs, hoover your mouse in the space between them and you will see the + sign appear between the two paragraphs. Or hover it over the first paragraph to get a + button that will allow you to add an image at the top of the post.

In the sidebar on the right, you will see options for whether to show the image full size or a smaller size, and whether to change how it is aligned relative to the text of your post (centered, aligned right, or whatever).

Debate Watch Parties

So far, look like there’s one big Democratic debates watch party scheduled for Wednesday night at ArtServe. But none for Thursday? That might actually be the more interesting night (Biden / Kamala Harris / Buttigieg / Sanders).

I know there some other smaller gatherings planned, so write back if you would like me to share the information on yours.

I heard there’s something in Coral Springs at the Ale House. Both nights? Can’t find anything posted online.

June 18 Special Election in Coral Springs, Endorsing Khurrum Wahid

There is a special election in Coral Springs on June 18 (no early voting) to fill a City Commission seat. Former Commissioner Dan Daley recently moved up to State Representative (filling the seat vacated when Jared Moskowitz took a position with the DeSantis administration).

The Sun-Sentinel has endorsed Khurrum Wahid, a local attorney with an ambitious agenda for the city. I agree. This is a personal endorsement, not necessarily the choice of the BlueBroward community. But I’ve spoken with Mr. Wahid, a local defense attorney, on several occasions and believe he would be a strong addition to the city’s leadership team. You can learn more about him at www.electwahid.com.

This is a non-partisan race, but I can tell you that Khurrum Wahid is an active Democrat. I believe there is at least one other Democrat in the race. There are also a couple of Republicans, who might otherwise be fine people, but in 2019 continuing to identify with the Republican party is a disqualifying characteristic in my book.

Video: How to Post a Special Event on BlueBroward

BlueBroward is not just for club meeting listings. You can also post campaign kickoffs, fundraising dinners, or any other event you would like to promote. Here’s how:

If you don’t have time to watch the video, the short version is you start from the Dashboard screen that appears after you have logged in and click on Post an Event. Any member of the BlueBroward community (which basically means anyone who has subscribed to the email newsletter) can log in to post events and blog posts.

For the regular monthly meetings of clubs, I encourage the use of event templates, but that’s a separate topic (see How to Promote Regular Club Meetings on BlueBroward.org). Here, the point is to publish a single event we want to promote.

The Post an Event button takes you to a setup screen where you will enter the date and time of your event, as well as a headline. Once you save that information, you will be taken to an editor screen. This is essentially a web-based word processor based on WordPress, the world’s most popular web publishing software.

Formatting tips:

  • Highlight a word or phrase, and a row of buttons appears allowing you to mark that text bold or italic. To add a link, click on the chain link icon.
  • To insert an image or a file attachment (such as a PDF), click on the + button. There is a + button at the top of the page that will allow you to insert something at the end of the document. If you hover your mouse between two paragraphs, you will see a + button allowing you to insert in that spot.
  • You will see multiple options for what sorts of content you can insert. If you do not see the Image or File options, you can type the first few letters of the word Image or File in the search box (you can see this in the video). In both cases, you click Upload and pick the item you want from your computer.

When done, click Publish and confirm you want to make your event visible on the website, on the Calendar page, and in the email roundup of events that goes out on Sundays.

You should see a confirmation message inviting you to view your event on the website. If you see something you want to change, there is an Edit Event link in the black bar that appears on the top of the page that will allow you to make changes. You can also log back into the website at any time to edit or update an event posting.

There are lots of different ways you can promote your events today, and I would never argue that you should promote your event on BlueBroward instead of on Facebook or to your own email list — but as an additional way of reaching a broader audience, it can help you extend your digital reach and attract the biggest and best crowd possible.

Video: Eric Swalwell Town Hall on Gun Violence

A day after announcing his Presidential campaign, Congressman Eric Swalwell was in Sunrise for an event billed as a Town Hall on gun violence, with participation from survivors of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and their families and members of Moms Demand Action and allied groups prominent in the audience.

If that is an important issue for you — if you still remember the horror of realizing what happened in our community on Valentine’s Day 2018 — I recommend you watch the Facebook Live video replay I’ve embedded here (unfortunately, you’ll have to fast-forward through about 20 minutes of dead air in this version before the program starts).

Ending Gun Violence Town Hall with Eric Swalwell

Join presidential candidate Eric Swalwell and the Parkland community for a town hall to make gun deaths obsolete.

Posted by Eric Swalwell on Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Whether you ultimately vote for Swalwell or someone else in the primaries, he is performing a valuable service by putting this issue front and center in his campaign.

I worried that the Town Hall event’s focus would slip from gun safety to campaign rally, but for the most part it stuck to gun violence prevention. There were a few questions from the audience that Swalwell responded to on other issues such as healthcare.

Parkland parent activist Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter Jaime was among the mass shooting victims, is asking that we all make at least a small donation to help Swalwell clear the threshold of demonstrated popularity required to participate in the Democratic party debates that will start this summer.

Yes, it’s crazy how many people are running, making it tough to welcome one more person entering the race. I like several of the other candidates quite a lot and could happily vote for just about any of them, I think, if they should make it to the general election.

Personally, I was impressed with Swalwell and believe he is right both on gun violence and the anti-corruption agenda he has pursued with regard to the Trump Administration. He is considered a long-shot, but I would like to see him emerge as a contender.

Here’s Swalwell’s clip from the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, where he made it official that he was running:

The New, Improved, Simpler to Work With BlueBroward.org

Formed following the heartbreaking of re-election of President George W. Bush, BlueBroward has existed in one form or another since early 2005. A lot has changed in 14 years. Some of the most grandiose plans I and a cofounder had at the beginning didn’t work out, but the site evolved into a pretty good community calendar for Broward Democrats.

What BlueBroward looked like in March 2005.

Over the past few weeks, I have gone through a housecleaning intended to make it easier and simpler for members to post events and blog articles to the website. I was getting a lot of feedback that too many of the technological “improvements” I had added had only served to complicate things and confuse people.

If you are on the BlueBroward email list, you can post events to the website. You can also post your opinions, your analysis, and your ideas about how to campaign more effectively. You can see in the screenshot above that part of the original idea was to create a “Brain Trust” of smart, experienced activists. The goal lives on, but I would love to see a greater diversity of participation.

If you don’t already have a password, you can get one by verifying your email address.

When you log into the website, the new, improved member’s dashboard looks like this:

Basic Usage

Click Post an Event to post an event or Post to the Blog to post to the blog. Use blog posts for opinions such as candidate endorsements or any information you would like to share with the community that’s not tied to a specific date.

You will use the same editor — a web-based word processor — in either case. The only difference is that for an event, you will first visit an Event Setup screen that prompts you to specify the event date. (If you regularly post events for a club or other organization that meets on a regular schedule, see the section below on Event Templates).

You can ignore the other event checkboxes on the page, unless perhaps you wish to collect RSVPs (registrations for an event). The underlying RSVPMaker software can collect event registrations for you. However, the features related to collecting online payments are not enabled.

Adding a link

A few tips for working with the editor:

  • You can simply type the content of your blog post or your event description, or copy and paste from a program like Microsoft Word.
  • Select any word or phrase within your content, and you will see a menu that allows you to make that passage bold or italic or add a link to a web address.
  • To add images or other types of content, click the (+) button in the upper left hand corner of the screen. If you hover your mouse between any two blocks of content, you will see a popup (+) button that allows you to insert content in that spot..
  • You can copy-and-paste the link to a YouTube video, and the video player will automatically be embedded in the content of your post or event description.

BlueBroward is based on WordPress, the world’s most popular web publishing software.

Working with Event Templates

If you represent a Democratic club or other organization that meets on a regular basis, using the event template system makes it easier to represent your club more consistently, for the software to track your events, and for multiple club leaders to share editing rights.

If you have been granted access to an event template, you should see it listed in the Your Templates widget on the dashboard with a number of associated options.

For each template you have access to, you will see the following options:

  • Edit next event – if there is already an event on the calendar associated with the template, you have an option of updating it. It’s a good idea to pre-post the basic details for your events but then update them closer to the time of the event — for example, with details on speakers or activities.
  • Add Event – add a single event based on the template.
  • Create / Update – add multiple future dates based on your template. For example, if your template says the club meets on the first Monday of each month, the Create / Update event will show you future Mondays and allow you to check off one or more to add events for. (More on this later).
  • Edit Template – update the boilerplate details in your template, for example if your meeting schedule or location has changed.
  • Grant another user editing rights – share editing rights with another trusted member of your organization.

The dashboard also shows a listing of all the templates currently active on the website. If a template is already listed, and you need access to it, you can get access from one of the currently authorized editors or from the webmaster, david@bluebroward.org.

If no template for your club or organization exists, you can create one by going to the Add New / Event Setup screen and clicking the New Template link in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

Switching from New Event to New Template mode.

Instead of asking for a specific date, the New Template version of this screen asks for a schedule such as First Monday. You will still supply a start time and other details that should be included in all events based on this template.

Setting a Template schedule.

After you submit the form, you will find yourself in the WordPress editor. The Document panel on the sidebar shows that we’re in an event editor, not the editor for a specific date.

Editing an event template

Once you edit and publish your event, you will see a prompt at the top of the screen suggesting that the next step is to do one of two things — Add Event based on the template or Create / Update a batch of event based on the template.

Prompt after a template is published or updated.

If you click New Event based on a template, you will be taken to the event setup screen and prompted to confirm that you wish to add an event for the next projected date based on the schedule supplied in the template.

An event created this way will be loaded into the editor as a draft (not yet published) including the content and other settings from the template.

An event post based on the template. Notice the calendar display in the Document tab on the right, showing the event date and time.

If instead of following the New Event path you choose Create / Update, you will be presented with the option to add multiple events as a batch operation.

If you previously posted events for one or more dates, the same screen will show checkbox options for events to be updated as well as events to be added. For example, if you change your meeting location, you might want to update any previously published events that would direct people to the old location.

Checkboxes for updating previously scheduled events, as well as adding new ones.

When you post a batch of events, the confirmations displayed on screen include links you can follow to edit or view any of the individual events.

In this way, you can post a batch of projected meeting dates and immediately edit the next upcoming event with the names of speakers or other updated details.

I hope everyone who posts events to BlueBroward will find these to be improvements. If you have suggestions for further improvement, please share them with david@bluebroward.org.

Additional RSVPMaker Options

Most event editors can stop reading now, but there are a few options related to collecting event registrations that must be set on separate screens.

Menu linking to related RSVPMaker screens.

From within the editor, you will see an RSVP / Event Options link on the black menu bar that appears at the top of the screen when you are logged in. There are several other items under that menu for altering the registration form or setting up automated event reminders.

More details at rsvpmaker.com