Building a Second Life Ticker Plant

There is a lot of data available out on the web that could be scrubbed and analyzed to give firms competitive advantages. Lars has worked with weather contracts and I spoke with him about methods of gathering and scrubbing that data. I’ve spoken about Second Life as an emerging market place with data that could be scrubbed and analyzed as well. It provides a good starting point to explore how to scrub and analyze online data.

In my post about foreign exchange trading in Second life, I asked about getting real time data from Second Life. I mentioned as a source for some information in XML format that could be used. Yesterday, I wrote about 70 lines of PHP code which retrieves, parses and stores the Second Life statistics into an SQL database. Below is a slightly geeky description of what I did, which illustrates some of the issues your run into.

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They're attacking Charlie again

I just received an email from GrapskiDefense. It pretty much speaks for itself. Let's get together and stand behind Charlie.

On February 12th 2007 Charlie Grapski was arrested for his presence at a meeting of the Alachua City Commission.

Grapski has been investigating and exposing corruption in the City of Alachua by the City's political and law enforcement officials.

Grapski refused to cooperate in his unlawful arrest and detention by going limp.

Alachua Police Chief Robert Jernigan ordered an officer to Taser Grapski because of his passive resistance.

This use of "extreme and lethal force" has been heavily criticized in the U.S. by Amnesty International. The threat to use such force in this instance is clearly inappropriate and excessive.

The Ad Hoc Committee for the Defense of Charlie Grapski and Alachua is calling on all concerned citizens to contact the newly elected Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, and call for the immediate suspension of Robert Jernigan and the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the numerous allega tions of criminal wrongdoing within the City of Alachua's Police Department.

(cross posted at Howard Empowered People)

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What can we learn from the French Presidential campaigns?

As we gear up for the 2008 Presidential Elections here in the United States, many of us may be overlooking the French Presidential Election, the first round of which is April 22 of this year. Are there things that we can learn from the French elections that could help us here?

The other day, I received an email from a German researcher asking what people thought of Segolene Royale's election campaign. She is the socialist candidate who heavily draws on "debats participatifs". These are supposed to be discussions occurring both face-to-face and over the Internet. She has received a large public response: 135,000 discussion contributions on the net, 2.7 million participants, 6,500 face-to-face meetings with 700,000 attendees. If you are a Francophone, you can read more about this at

He asks,

Does the French public perceive this as a new revolutionary method of policy making? Or is it deemed as a form of populism (as I read her rival Nicolas Sarkozy has claimed)?

How does her rival Nicolas Sarkozy generally react to her participatory strategy? Can you observe an increased use of "dialogue speak" by him, or does he even engage himself in participatory formats?

Will it help Segolene Royale to get elected? Or will this strategy backfire because her own political profile is watered down, i.e. it is not clear what her own standpoint is (as some media reports here in Germany suggest)?

If Segolene Royale is elected, will deliberative democracy take a new step in France (and elsewhere), i.e. will it inspire a new political culture, with a better sense of deliberation processes?

My first response to the preceding questions is, “is there something wrong with forms of populism?”

I received an email suggesting that Royale’s "debats participatifs" suffers from being too much of a one way street, and not a real dialog. This lack of real dialog was perceived as potentially being a fatal flaw and the writer was suggesting that Nicolas Sarkozy is more likely to come out ahead. They pointed to his videos responding to people’s questions. My reaction to these videos was that they felt a little bit too scripted, a little bit like Hillary’s “conversations”. However, I don’t speak French very well, so I am basing these reactions much more on the visuals than a Francophone might.

As I asked around I was pointed to Wampum’s coverage of the French Election. I would encourage people to stop by and read what they are writing.

Then, please provide your thoughts on the questions above, as well as what you think we can learn from the use of the Internet in the French Presidential election.

(Cross Posted on culturekitchen)

Two houses

Today, I received two emails about different houses. One was from Jesse Lee writing about The Gavel, the blog on Speaker Pelosi’s website talking about what is going on in the House of Representatives. I’m glad to see it, and I especially like that there is a kids page on Speaker Pelosi’s site.

The other email was from a friend I know from the Edwards campaign. She writes about how the winter storm affected her in Illinois and gripes about how the AP stories about the storm talk about New York and the Northeast, but they don’t talk a lot about what is happening in Illinois.

Too much of the news and politics online have focus on the national story, and don’t get down to the how it effects people living across the country, in places like Springfield. I do hope that Speaker Pelosi remains down to earth and thinks about how things going on in Congress affects kids across the country and people living in places like Springfield.

Fighting for Democracy

When people who believe they are in power, feel their power challenged, they often react in threatening ways. In countries without a tradition of democracy powered by freedom of speech, this can take the shape of death squads. Here in the United States, we try to address transitions of power peacefully at the ballot booth.

However, this does not always work as smoothly as possible. Both the 2000 and 2004 elections were marked by accusations of voter suppression. These accusations have resulted in various convictions. Yet not all voter suppression is illegal. Negative advertising has proven to be an effective method of depressing voter turnout.

In 2004, Gov. Dean ran a campaign of empowerment, encouraging people to get involved. Many people got involved for the first time. Many of them are now getting involved in the campaigns of Sen. Edwards, Sen. Obama, and Sen. Clinton.

In 2006, Ned Lamont ran a campaign that countered the negative advertisements in a few different ways. The first was to poke fun at negative advertisements with the ‘Ned Lamont has a messy desk’ ad. Yet more important was the recurring theme from all of his ads where his supporters responded “And so do we” whenever he said he approved the advertisement. It was a message encouraging all of us to get more involved.

2006 saw the Democrats retake control of congress, and as we enter the 2008 Presidential season, those who are seeing their grasp of power slipping slowly away will become more threatening, especially to those campaigns that are encouraging involvement of new people.

We’ve seen this most recently in the verbal attacks on the Edwards campaign by conservative operatives followed up by veiled physical threats to people working on these campaigns. As campaigns continue to work to involve new people we will see these sort of attacks continue.

Because of this, we need Democratic candidates to stick together and defend one another when attacked by those who would suppress voter participation. Instead of attacking one another for minutiae of whose ideology is most pure, we need to be fighting to see which candidate will do the most to get people more involved in the political process.

Sen. Edwards’ One Corps and Days of Action are one aspect of this, the new social networking tools of the Obama campaign are another. Who will do the most build involvement in our democratic process? Over the coming months, we shall see. Who will be the winner? All of us that love democracy.

(Cross posted at Greater Democracy)

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