Boehner rejects technology. Good for him.

In a minor story this week, Speaker John Boehner rejected CSPAN’s request to install robotic cameras in the House of Representatives.  In doing so, Boehner follows in the footsteps of previous Speakers – and makes the right decision.

CSPAN wanted the cameras to spice up their coverage of the US House – capturing wide shots of the arena and getting reaction shots from Members of Congress who aren’t speaking at a certain time.

If you want an example of what such a broadcast might look like, the Super Bowl kicks off in a few hours.  If Aaron Rodgers or Ben Roethlisberger throws an interception, Fox’s cameras will capture them on the sideline, shaking their heads or talking to coaches.  If a kicker – whatever their names are – misses a field goal, you’ll see the typical lingering shot of them staring at the goalposts and shaking their heads, followed (or preceded) by a shot of the coach looking at the kick, preparing to raise his arms before dejectedly slumping his shoulders.  When a defensive player blows a coverage, you’ll see his coach glaring at him from the sideline.

Fox isn’t just broadcasting the game, they are telling a story.  It’s one reason why sports is interesting to watch, and CSPAN wants to do the same.

But if CSPAN is telling a story about Congressional debate, who gets to write it?  And why stop at jumping around during floor debates?  Why not give individual Representative theme music and bring in Jim Ross and Jerry “The King” Lawler to add commentary, WWE style?

The extra cameras that Boehner rejected would have allowed CSPAN to create their own filter of the coverage, instead of simply showing the debate.  Yes, it’s dull, but CSPAN isn’t supposed to be engaging all the time – it’s supposed to be a stream of raw information.

Americans for Prosperity helps lower holiday week productivity

Channeling 1980s classic Nintendo games, Americans for Prosperity has a fun game called “Lame Duck Hunt” on one tab of their Facebook page.

The game isn’t all that challenging, though the gloating images of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid that taunt you when you miss make it slightly more frustrating than it needs to be.  This isn’t a game review, though, it’s a strategy review, and there are a few things AFP gets very right.

First, you can’t play the game without surrendering an email address and a zip code, meaning that anyone who participates in this little time-waster tells AFP which Congressional district they live in and how to get in touch with them.

(You do have to re-submit your information each time you play, which discourages repeat users.)

Once you’re in, you predictably shoot down ducks, which then disappear in a cloud of feathers and leave behind warnings like “Higher Debt,” “Card Check,” or “Huge Tax Hikes” – the policies which ostensibly could be the result of the lame duck Congress.  You can then share your score with friends.

This is where AFP’s aim starts going awry.  The game never offers any backing for the labels – there are no details about suggested or proposed legislation which would lead to union bailouts, huge tax hikes, or higher debt.  The message at the end invites me to “visit the Americans for Prosperity website” for more information – but there is no link.  Contrast that with the game released by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce last week, This Way to Jobs, a digital version of Chutes and Ladders which outlined the pitfalls of launching a small business.

Further, I have played the game several times (for… uh… research, for this post – that’s the ticket).  That means I’ve entered my email address multiple times, and haven’t yet received a follow-up auto-responder email.  After anyone plays the game, a quick follow up email inviting further action – while the issues are still fresh in the player’s head – could help AFP determine who is really on board with their policy agenda and who just hates video ducks.

Ideally, the game over screen and follow up communication would also allow users to identify what future actions they would be willing to take.  At the very least, it would invite a user to become a fan of AFP’s Facebook page.

These extra steps may not help with the lame duck agenda, but 2011 will be a critical year as the Republicans and Democrats try to set themselves up for success in 2012.  Lame Duck Hunt is a cool idea, and well-timed – between the impending holiday and people taking off work early to beat traffic, Thanksgiving week ranks only ahead of the dead week between Christmas and New Years in terms of productivity.  To that end, it’s guaranteed to bring web traffic – and it looks like AFP was content with that. A literal map to GOP victory

The historic highs Republicans are enjoying in this week’s generic ballot poll numbers are nice, but it alone won’t restore GOP control of Congress in November.  A pretty cool website called literally provides a map to GOP victory in November by allowing potential activists to be connected to nearby Congressional races which are up for grabs.

Ballots aren’t generic – and in some cases Democrats have plenty of advantages.  For instance, let’s say your Congressman had a long list of embarassments – maybe he famously accused an eight year old of attempting to carjack him, or promised to “earmark the [expletive] out of” appropriations under his purview, or said “I like to hit people” when describing his affinity for boxing, and/or had a birthday party interrupted by what eyewitness observers described as two girlfriends fighting.  Yet, the people of your district keep electing him to the House, apparently for earmarks and giggles.  But next door, maybe even in a Congressional district you lived in up until, say, June 28 of this year, your involvement could really help the folks on the ground.

40Seats gives you an at-a-glance view of what’s wrong with the incumbent, and gives users options to allow varying degrees of activity – from making phone calls to putting a yard sign out to donating to walking precincts:

The credits indicate the site is mostly a mashup of tools that are open, available, and free – which is what makes 40Seats even smarter than it looks.

And no, sadly, Jim Moran is not targeted.