Sunday, March 23, 2008

Blindenposting for Barack Obama

I decided that I was impressed enough with Barack Obama's "A more perfect union" speech that I wanted to participate in it somehow. How does a computer geek participate in a political speech? First thing he does is download the text of the speech and reformat it meticulously. I created a TeX version(?) and a subsequent PDF and posted them to my RSS feed.

But it didn't quite feel like enough. I then decided that I wanted to figure out a way to get people to read this handsome PDF I'd created. I've had the idea that almost everybody opens hand-addressed letters, so I decided to put my idea to the test and send out copies of the speech to people I don't know. 100 sounded like too much work, so I went for 25. Napkin math told me my budget would be about 50 cents per letter (stamp, envelope, three page speech), so I'm looking at 13 bucks or maybe a bit more.

Next step: Unqualified political strategization. Pennsylvania's primary is coming up, and so I figured it'd be a good target. Next mission: Where should I send it in Pennsylvania? One thing I decided is that I'd send my blindenpost to a bunch of houses right next to each other on the off chance that a conversation might be facilitated between neighbors about this strange piece of mail. But I digress...Where in PA? How about one of the more forgotten places? Cool, let's exclude Philly and Pittsburgh. Next, how about a place where Hillary is kicking butt? I found this link to a survey that said she's winning big-time in several regions. But which region? I decided I'd sent it to a place there are black people, hoping that it'd be considered more relevant and hence better received. So I found this map and compared it to the Hillary regions, and came up with Harrisburg.

Ok, where in Harrisburg? I decided I'd try to find Hillary country in Harrisburg. I googled for "rich neighborhood" (maybe that's the wrong strategy, I know young people like Obama but so do the wine and cheese people...oh well) in Harrisburg but it didn't work, so then I tried zillow to see where expensive houses were. I found a neighborhood west of the Blahblah river in "Camp Hill" and decided that was my target.

Maybe I'm just stupid, but I find it hard to get info like "what are the addresses of the houses in this picture" out of google maps (or other map things) so I did some reverse-engineering: I typed in an address fragment in that neighborhood into google ("W Dulles Dr, Camp Hill, PA") and came up with a real address. I then did some binary search to find the valid range of addresses for that street. I repeated this process until I had the desired number of addresses.

1-30 W Dulles Dr, Camp Hill, PA 17011
1-20 W Glenwood Dr, Camp Hill, PA 17011

With addresses in hand, I started stuffing envelopes and licking stamps. One question I had to ask myself is whether to use my real return address...I decided that I would, let's hope people don't send me anthrax, etc.

In response to some expected criticisms:
This is a waste of time, this isn't effective.
I know I'd find it very interesting to receive something like this. But maybe it is a waste of time...we'll see: It's an experiment!

Why not just donate to Barack Obama?

I did donate some money, and I feel ok about that. But at least half of that money is going to go towards him saying something I don't believe in, be it negative campaigning or a real issue. His speech, on the other hand, I believe in 85 or 90 percent. So I get a better return doing what I'm doing. I also like the thought of not handing control over to a machine (like the democratic party) and instead keeping it in the hands of individuals.

Why not give some more information in what you're don't even say Barack Obama's name!
I guess I'm going for a different form of stimulation. This is directed at somebody who knows something about the '08 election and could be influenced by something inspirational and honest. Other people are gonna be stimulated by other things, I'm just picking one and going with it. Plus, I think I would enjoy the mystery :) One thing I do wish I'd done was include a list of addresses as a hint of what the recipient could do if they were so inclined.

If you've got a similar effort you'd like to post, send me and email at