Next week, GOP.com will be debuting a new API, the purpose of which is to encourage people to blog, tweet, facebook, tag, tumblr, digg … well, let’s just summarize it as “get their internet on” in pursuit of winning elections. It’s not the first API released by Republicans. The House GOP released the Anywhere API, which allows developers to focus on keeping tabs on big government. But this is the first API released by the RNC, and its a pretty big step into new media, by either party’s standards.
In the simplest layman’s terms possible, an open API is a thing that allows independent people and groups to develop tools for accessing the content or data from a particular other web thing. Like a website for example. So people can create TweetDeck because they have access to the Twitter.com API. Or as with the Anywhere API, you can access all sorts of information about the government, and then create something, let’s say an iPhone app, which allows end users access to that information, say, what their Senator’s voting records indicate about his or her support of the Obama agenda.
We cool? OK. So this morning I found out about a new API coming out from the RNC next week. In this case, the purpose is to distribute points. So what are points for? Basically, the idea is you go somewhere online, let’s say Twitter. And you access it through an app, like TweetDeck. Only instead of Tweetdeck you use, um, Twitpublicanize Me. (The guy who comes up with the names is on a break.) So you load up Twipublicanize Me (or TM as I like to call it) and you tweet a link that has a point value. Let’s say … a link to Marco Rubio’s donation page. You might get a point for that. If you are retweeted, you might get another point. If someone donates, maybe you get another point, I don’t know. But I am getting to THE point.
Imagine you’re an online activist. I mean, you’re reading RedState so that’s hardly a stretch. You like to make a difference. You want to get conservatives elected at every level: local, state, national. You go to FaceBook and post things. You go to Twitter and say things. You come to RedState and blog things. Basically, you’re me. Well we’re all out there doing these things already anyway. But picture a giant leaderboard showing who is doing them the most. Or the most effectively. And there is your name, up in lights. No it’s not money (boy isn’t it always not money?) but it’s kind of cool actually.
But there’s more to it than that. By creating a network of independent developers who are making widgets, plug-ins, apps, etc., you are fostering a creative environment that will be developing tools specifically to harness the grassroots. Specifically to make the work of being grassroots easier to do. It’s not just about the points. The points are simply the transactional aspect to get the whole thing going. So the reason I was interested is because of what will be created. A suite of tools that we can use to do what we do!
Why are there so many different tools for tweeting? I mean, you can just go to the Twitter website and tweet from there. So why all the third-party apps? Because everyone has a different way at looking at and using Twitter, and tools designed around those needs are better. As a Blackberry user, I have a great appreciation for ÜberTwitter. My wife really enjoys the Facebook app she has on her android-based phone. I’m sure you all have plug-ins, apps, widgets for your blogs and so on that are third-party or independently developed. Now imagine a new “layer” available to you, whereby you can tie services together, promote your local candidates, do what you already DO, but better. Or faster. And all the while, earning points to sort of keep track of how effective you are. For my part, I think that sounds pretty cool.
You know, it’s become a canard online that Republicans can’t use teh internetz. We’re all “series of tubes,” right? (Of course, not for nothing, but we aren’t the ones telling you that your blackberry and x-box are confusing you into voting for the wrong people.) Well let them keep thinking that. Because in the real world – or .. well, the virtual world I guess – we’ve got a lot of online activism going on. The tea partiers and the republican grassroots are online. We’ve got a bag of Cheetos, a Mountain Dew (or in my case, a Perrier. What? You shut up!), and a custom wrist-supporting mousepad emblazoned with a picture of the Founding Fathers or possibly Calvin peeing on something, and we are blogging our fingers off. So when the RNC points API starts bringing us new tools, it can only be a good thing.
We’re getting those tools because the RNC (hallelujah!) knows that what we are all doing out here online matters. Todd Herman, their New Media Director, puts it this way “The RNC recognizes that digital activism wins elections and the GOP API allows us to reward that activism, from developers and from users.”
We netnuts can be skeptical of the beltway folks. But I think the API is a great idea. I’m looking forward to seeing the fruit it bears. Hmm. Fruit apps. Think about it. Well, I’ve got to run. My tumblr says I have 10 updates I haven’t read and that is just unacceptable. Because the internet, my friends, is not a truck.