Some Thoughts on Dwain Lingenfelter's Events Calendar, Political Optics, and What A True Commitment to Rural Saskatchewan Looks Like

[Edit – 2009/03/29 – It has been pointed out that one of the criticisms in this post is incorrect.  Dwain Lingenfelter's Google mash-up map doesn't work because of a usability issue, not because non-events are being posted.]

Recently, I did a post noting that Dwain Lingenfelter has about 26% of his support on Facebook from people who can be directly connected to our province via their network affiliation(s) while Ryan Meili gets 60% of his support this way.  In pure numbers, Meili beats Lingenfelter 173 to 128.  (This count was *before* a recent surge in online support that saw Meili's Facebook fan page jump by about 30 people while Lingenfelter has stayed static for at least a week.) 

In that post, I also touched on the current NDP leadership poll which shows Lingenfelter as frontrunner by a large margin but has an inherent problem in that it is a poll that is easily gameable via people submitting multiple votes (a technique which likely is being done to a certain extent by all the campaigns.  Well, maybe not by Deb Higgins as is pointed out in the comments to a post BuckDog did on the subject.)

My latest exposure into the difference between what appears to be happening at first glance and what's really happening beneath the surface, at least in regards to the technological aspects of this leadership campaign, occurred when I took a closer look at the Google Maps mash-up Dwain Lingenfelter has displayed very prominently on his home page

Labelled “Link's Campaign Trail”, the map shows the entire province of Saskatchewan with a bunch of green and orange digital push-pins across the length and width of the province.  Green pins show where he's been and orange indicates where he plans to go soon.

Fair enough – great use of technology, very interactive, very cool way to represent that Lingenfelter is running a province-wide campaign and trying to reach out to all parts of the province (of course, this also subtly hints at his apparent ability to set the rules he wants the other candidates to follow – but that's a different post.)

Except that, as with the number of Columbia-based supporters Lingenfelter has on his Facebook fan page, if you look beyond the initial impression this Google map gives, you see something different may be happening. 

When you zoom in to see the text associated with each push-pin, many identify things like coffee parties, constituency meetings and the like that Link has attended or plans to attend.  But there are also a number of push pins that include a generic piece of text, all posted on February 14:

“Link is determined to rebuild the party membership province-wide. 
Throughout the campaign he will be visiting all 58 provincial
constituencies and talking with New Democrats and potential supporters
in every part of our province.  Click on the green balloons to see where he's been, and the orange to see where he's heading soon…”

If the pins with this text were all orange, I could (maybe) understand that they're placeholders showing communities he intends to visit but doesn't have an event to tie into or set-up for himself yet.  But a number of the push-pins are green indicating that these are places he claims to have been as part of his campaign trail.  Yet without a description, you don't know if it's a place where he held a formal event, a place where he stopped for gas and ended up doing some politicking at the nearby coffee shop or if he just passed through. 

Or if you were a really suspicious type, you might wonder if the person who did the mash-up just filled out the map with push-pins to make it appear that the campaign is doing more across the entire province than it really is? [Edit: I'm not going to delete this entire post as one reader demanded.  But upon re-reading, I'm going to strike out this sentence as I think it crosses a line and was inappropriate.]

Again, as with Link's Columbia support base on Facebook and the heavily gamed ActUpInSask poll, things like this aren't illegal.  But my feeling is that this is so much more politics-as-usual and slightly immoral – bending the truth, framing the question and doing whatever else it takes to create the impression that you want to give.

To put it another way, these things all appear intended to send a message: “I'm the oldest candidate in the race yet I also have the most online support – how can you not vote for me?”  But this discrepancy between appearance and reality is a big part of why I'm supporting Ryan Meili. 

I don't think Ryan wants to play these same old games (although to be fair, his supporters appear to have gamed the ActUp poll as much as anyone) and wants to move beyond these type of techniques to a politics that has something that people of all political stripes would find very refreshing –  honesty. 

As an example, in his latest blog post, Ryan admitted that a meeting he held in Wynyard was put together at the last minute and had a small (but mighty!) attendance. 

I don't know if you'd ever hear Lingenfelter admit to something like this and further, I think this is the type of thing that is *really* indicative of the generational shift that is much of what this contest is about.  I believe that people of my generation feel a lot more free to be open, to express their opinions, to share their thoughts honestly without trying to frame things or manage the optics. 

Technology and its potential to facilitate this openness and sharing is a bit part of that so when I see someone using technology in what you might call an “old school” way, I guess it just shows me that you can have all the fancy Google Maps mash-ups you want but if the content isn't there, you're missing the point completely.

One final point (and I know this post has been a bit all over the map – no pun intended).  Like Meili, Link also had a campaign event in Wynyard.  It was a coffee party on February 7.  Ryan Meili's Wynyard event was held in the evening while he was in that geographic area, continuing to his work as a rural relief locum doctor.  As with my technology-related examples, you can look at the surface appearance but the important thing is to look at what's really happening underneath. 

Lingenfelter comes to town and I'm sure he has a well-planned, well-oiled, well-attended event.  Then he leaves.  Ryan comes to Wynyard because he's in the area working in his role as a rural relief locum doctor.  He has an event that's last-minute, poorly attended and comes after a long day at the local clinic.  

But if I'm living in rural Saskatchewan, I know which candidate is demonstrating a true commitment to rural Saskatchewan and which candidate, I would support for that reason. 

Comments 7

  1. Anonymous wrote:

    Actually, all the push pins have an event linked to them. For some reason some if clicked in certain spots show the Feb 14 post but they are real events and can be seen if clicked in another area. You may want to clarify that as there is nothing dishonest about the map. The push pins represent events Lingenfelter has done and will do. None of them are “fake” as you attempt to claim.
    I am not sure why you think Lingenfelters events in rural Saskatchewan are “evil” or “bad” and Ryans are “good” and “positive”.
    Anyway, you may want to clarify the entire post and remove the implication that the Lingenfelter campaign is dishonest given telling a lie about another campaign is dishonest.

    Posted 29 Mar 2009 at 12:36 am
  2. Anonymous wrote:

    How come you excuse Meili or Pedersen supporters for spamming the actupinsask poll or the leaderpost poll as being ok but attack the Lingenfelter campaign as being dishonest for doing it? If you are going to attempt to claim the moral ground you might want to make sure you can actually say the campaign you are supporting is not doing the exact same thing you are doing.
    You claim having family and friends from Colombia supporting Lingenfelter is somehow dishonest but ignore when other Leadership campaigns have family and friends from outside the province support them on facebook. There is nothing dishonest when family and friends join an individual’s supporter page. You ignore when individuals join multiple supporter pages in order to inflate numbers or when individuals say they will be attending events despite being from other parts of the province in order to create the image of a potentially well attended event.
    Ryan doing an event in rural Saskatchewan is no more positive or negative then Lingenfelter doing an event. It is strange to see an attempt to make it seems like when Lingenfelter does an event in rural Saskatchewan it is out of negativity but when Meili does an event it is for positive reasons. There is no difference between the two. Both are attempting to meet as many potential supporters as possible and selling them why they should be the leader.
    Now what is doing politics old school and dishonestly is making an entire post to attack and put one leadership candidate into a negative light all based on a pure lie. That is not doing politics differently that is doing politics in the worse kind of way, attempt to win no matter what lie has to be told. This is politics that Karl Rove would be proud of. This is completely despicable and you should be ashamed that you think it is ok to smear another human being in an attempt to gain political support for your candidate of choice.

    Posted 29 Mar 2009 at 1:08 am
  3. Anonymous wrote:

    Just checked all events listed on the website and all contain information in regards to the event. None were fake or lies. Typically when you attempt to lie and smear another campaign you base it on a smudge of the truth. You want to talk about immoral. What you did is immoral. Completely creating a fake attack on an individual an implying one campaign is immoral is wrong and you have no ground to stand on when attempting to say what is moral and what is not.

    Posted 29 Mar 2009 at 1:16 am
  4. Anonymous wrote:

    Okay, I'm big enough to admit when I'm wrong. The Google map mash-up does appear to return results for every push pin *if* you click in the right spot as you say. I'll post a correction tomorrow.
    But if you're correcting for clarity, I would appreciate the same courtesy. I didn't use the word “fake” in my post even though you put quotes around it in your comment which implies that I did.
    What I did do was say throughout my post that if what I saw happening with his Google Map was the reality, it was another example of Lingenfelter's campaign and supporters exaggerating to frame a certain narrative they wanted to tell about his campaign in the online world.
    Another side of our debate about why this is even an issue I've raised is this: is that if you have a large number of supporters from outside not only the province but the country in your Facebook group AND if you have literally have more votes in an online leadership poll than the NDP has members, then people are going to start doubting a lot of what you do online.
    I'll also give some free usability advice to the Lingenfelter campaign – if I was doing a Google Map mash-up, I'd try to make sure that when people click on what appears to be an event in their community that they get the details they're looking for. If not, they may not attend the event or worse, come to the same conclusion I did.

    Posted 29 Mar 2009 at 5:52 am
  5. Anonymous wrote:

    I wasn't attempting to smear another campaign and I'm quite offended that you would make that accusation.
    I *was* attempting to point out what appeared to be yet another example of the Lingenfelter campaign painting a different reality online than what was reality in the real world. As I said in my reply to your last comment, if there weren't already a couple existing examples of his campaign framing their online reality to suit the message they wanted to send, I probably never even would've noticed the problem with the Google map (I never did before and I've looked at Link's site many times over the past few weeks.)

    Posted 29 Mar 2009 at 6:00 am
  6. Anonymous wrote:

    Where did I excuse Meili and Pedersen for gaming online polls? I said all the campaigns were doing it. It's just obvious that Lingenfelter's supporters are doing it more for whatever reason – maybe they have more time, maybe they have better computer skills, maybe they see less of an issue with doing it in the first place.
    As for the Facebook support thing – do you honestly believe that there is any comparison between Lingenfelter having so much of his online support come from a single foreign country and the other candidates having their (much much lower) levels of non-Saskatchewan support come from other provinces (mostly) and other countries (not so much). Seriously? We live in a global world and of course Pedersen to some degree and especially Meili (who's done a lot of international traveling and work) will gain some support from people who know them in that light.
    Another point you made – what's wrong with people joining multiple supporter pages? It shows that this race isn't divisive and there are many people who can see more than one of the candidates as leader. As for people saying they'll attend events that they have no intention of going to, I admit that this isn't something I like or do myself.
    Finally, I don't think I said that Lingenfelter's Wynyard event was done out of negativity. I said that it was a politician doing what politicians do – not saying it was bad or good. The reason it's different from Meili's event in the same community is that Ryan Meili does events in communities where he is also working, living (albeit temporarily) and attempting to really help people in a direct and immediate manner. You don't see that difference? Honestly?
    I think you're so caught up in trying to disprove my points that you're blinding yourself to the truth in what I'm saying, you're starting to throw out attacks that aren't based in some sort of logic but ad hominems that I'm immoral and that I'm Karl Rove. In reality, Karl Rove's main tactic among many dirty ones is to take a person's main strength and turn it against them. So if I'm saying things that show or imply that Ryan Meili is like Obama, you trying to paint me as one of his supporters is the most Rovian move that you could make!

    Posted 29 Mar 2009 at 6:26 am
  7. Anonymous wrote:

    You said Lingenfelter supporters did it more as somehow doing it more is worse then what Meili or Pedersen did. If it is wrong for one it is wrong for all no matter who does it more.
    So it is ok for Meili to have support from outside the province from friends and family but not Lingenfelter?
    Joining multiple leadership pages is on the same level as voting multiple times in an online poll. It is done to inflate the image of the support a campaign has in a particular area.
    You honestly think Meili is not doing events because he is a politician? Would he have seriously done an event in the town if he was not running for the leadership of the NDP?
    Lets make it clear you created a posted attacking Lingenfelter on a lie and saying that since his campaign was performing a lie that it was immoral. That is immoral and the type of politics Karl Rove would be proud of. You say I simply attack you without reading what you say but you quote me as saying you are Karl Rove when what I said was you are doing politics in a manner which would make Rove proud.
    You should take down an entire post that falsely accuses another campaign of purposely misleading individuals and saying that it comes close to being immoral. That is typical Rove politics. Fabricate a story in order to hurt another campaign. The Meili campaign given your heavy involvement in the campaign seems to suggest that Meili is much more interested in doing politics the negative and mean spirited way.

    Posted 29 Mar 2009 at 3:40 pm
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