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DSC Tech Library

Predictive Dialer

IVR systems interactive voice response This section of our technical library presents information and documentation relating to Predictive Dialers and Auto Dialer software and products, particularly how these products and services relate to political calling campaigns. The PACER and Wizard phone systems are PC based call center phone systems that are recognized as premier inbound and outbound computer telephony systems. Features such as automatic call distribution (ACD), interactive voice response (IVR) and call recording have added a new dimension to the predictive dialer and auto dialer capabilities of these systems. These computer based dialing systems can perform various types of auto dialing campaigns simultaneously. These types include Predictive Dialing, Progressive Dialing, Preview Dialing and Dial on Demand.

The following article relates to technology and political activism.

What's Wrong With Politics and Can Technology Do Anything To Fix It?

By MitchKapor, October 7, 2004

I just gave this talk at the Web 2.0 conference taking place in San Francisco today.

What I want to talk about today is how technology can help heal a broken political system. Many of us in the room have reaped major rewards from the kinds of innovative business which flourish right here in Northern California. I suspect pretty much everyone else who hasn't already done so soon hopes to reap some of those rewards too, which presumably accounts for the robust attendance at this conference. Regardless of whether we fall into column A or column B, we're the people for whom the system works.

What I've been thinking a lot about for a long time is how to make the system work for everyone, not just a few, which has led me many places over the years, most recently to look at our political system.

Our nation is founded on the principle of self-government - a government "of, by, and for the people" in the words of Abraham Lincoln - but we know in our gut that this ideal is in great peril today, so much we have to ask whether self-government is even a meaningful concept in 2004 as it was to the ancient Greeks 2500 years ago who invented democracy.

The Greek and Roman traditions were the inspiration for the Founders when they framed the Constitution, and brought democracy into the modern world. Today we might call them "entrepreneurs of democracy".

If you could reanimate Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, or even Hamilton in present day Washington DC, they would be horrified. They would find a system both eminently corrupt and extremely dysfunctional. It's a system which has 13 lobbyists for every representative, in which money buys undue influence and the real deals are made in secret out of sight of the American public.

Now, it's easy to look at this process and blame the politicians. They are certainly culpable. But let's look at the other end of the DC purse strings. Who is buying the politicians?

It's the corporations who would rather game the system than create something of value in a competitive marketplace. And let's be clear, insider political investing has great returns. Take for example big agriculture, which gives 60 million dollars in campaign donations during the last election cycle and received 12 billion dollars of subsidies in return. That's an investment return of 200 times, I'm pretty sure most VCs would be happy with that.

Make no mistake, these corporations and their leaders aren't going to DC to innovate or compete. Just the opposite, they're going to stifle innovation and handcuff competition. Everyone's there -- from the fossil fuel industry stifling alternative energy development to big insurance and medical companies handcuffing health care.

Or, something closer to home here today. How about the intellectual property cartel composed of the big telecom companies, entertainment industry, and now some members of the computer industry who are in D.C. to protect archaic business models, shackle ideas to one owner for perpetuity thereby hindering the free flow of information necessary for both dynamic markets and self-government, and they're working right now, as I speak, to change the open architecture of the internet.

I don't mean to imply that wrongly-conducted business is the sole cause of our problems. Hardly. But I do mean to say things have gotten badly out of control.

We were never meant to have a highly centralized government. Power was meant to be maintained by checks and balances not just in the three branches of government but by the states, the states by county and local governments, and the final check was the American people -- us.

And the greatest threat to our system of self-government is that the American people are dropping out. Yes, voter registrations have been increasing in anticipation of November 2, but it remains to be seen if this is the beginning of a turnaround or a one-time event. Overall, voter turnout has been going down since 1955. In the 2000 presidential election, half of eligible citizens voted. At the local level, it's much worse, with city councils and Mayors being elected with 20 and even 10 percent turnouts.

We have lost many of the old ways people were connected to politics. Instead, the empty 30 second process of selling diet soda has become the main medium of political communication – a technology neither the founders, the Romans, or Greeks ever imagined.

Our present system of politics and our architecture of self-government has left people feeling alienated from the process. They rightly feel cynical about a politics that tries to manipulate, not engage. They feel their government doesn't work for them and walk away, simply hoping that somehow damage done by a government, which in their minds can only do harm, is mitigated by other forces.

This alienation and apathy is dangerous. We must all realize that a republic, or any system of self-government, cannot long survive the attempted secession of its citizenry.

So is our politics broken? Without a doubt. Does technology have a role in fixing it? Yes, in part technology, for example broadcast media, helped break it. I think we can look to the Net and open source as a way to help revitalize our democratic processes.

The Dean campaign, which ended all too soon, and other new political organizations like Moveon represent a first generation of powerful net-based communities in which the collective power of a mass of people makes a difference.

Conventional politicians think the lesson of the Dean campaign is about using the net to raise money. While it’s true and remarkable that the Dean campaign raised over $50 million, much of it in small contributions via the net, it misses the larger point that the Deaniacs represented an embryonic mass movement for change.

We need to understand more about the conditions under which decentralized coordination and decision-making takes place successfully in order to bring those lessons to the political arena. We still have a lot to learn. To allow a more decentralized politics and government, we need to empower citizens.

The success of open source software proves it’s possible to undertake large, complex projects without strong centralization. Tom Paine would be writing "Common Sense" on his Linux box today.

The best open source projects are based on practices which integrate a set of principles with a set of tools. Take notice of the wikipedia, a free (and I would say, high-quality) encyclopedia of more than 400,000 articles and thousands of contributors. What is counter-intuitive is that it manages to do this and remain stable and useful even though every page is immediately editable by anyone on the net. It achieves its stability through an extensive set of principles worked out in the wikipedia community such as “articles should be written neutral point of view” and their application to the underlying wikimedia software. You have to check this out for yourself.

Also from open source we have the idea of transparency. Not only can you see the source code, but you can see every single bug in Bugzilla. You can see the notes from every meeting we have at OSAF.

Transparency is not a new concept to self-government. In fact it's an essential component. Yet our government practices have become increasingly opaque. For example did you know the final draft of the Patriot Act was introduced simultaneously with the vote?

Do we see with who and when are Congresspersons and their staff are meeting? Are transcripts of lobbyists meeting with government officials made public? No, too often the real reasons for legislation, the real beneficiaries are obscured behind thicker doors. And in recent years, government information is increasingly less available in the name of security.

Our politics is not transparent and it needs to be. I am heartened by the community of bloggers who have begun to hold politicians and the big media which cover them more accountable.

So, yes, I think technology can help in the form of decentralized tools, greater transparency, and principle-based communities which use them. The challenges are to develop both the tools and the community practices in a synergistic way.

We're thinking a lot about the election just a few short weeks away. No matter who wins, I believe the kind of fundamental change we need to repair a damaged system will not come from the political establishment of either party. It must come from a popular reform movement, one which is heavily Internet-based, and comprised of a broad cross section of the American people. That is a prospect which invites our close attention and dedicated participation as technologists, business people, and most of all as citizens.