Essembly and my ideal organizing app

Essembly is a fun toy for people who like to debate about politics and meet likeminded folks, but it doesn’t yet do much useful to help you get informed or take action.
The starting point is kinda fun. The system poses some political question. You answer on a scale of one to four, and then the system lets you explain your answer. Some of the questions are put together by the editors of the site, and others by participants.
The explanations are what really make it work as a game. When I filled out their initial quiz, one of the questions was:
Preserving the environment is usually more important than protecting jobs and business.
Grrr!!! What a horrible question! This false dichotomy is toxic to real progress. How about, protecting the environment through clean energy can be a major creator of jobs and businesses. Moreover, reduction in fossil fuel carbon may be the only way to make sure that we have a viable economy that supports the current population.
Once I realized that I could comment, and people could debate each other in their answers, I was less mad and more entertained.
Debate is an important part of political learning, as Scott Henson teaches citing Christopher Lasch, who argues that journalism’s goal of objectively informing people is a fallacy, since people really understand things through argument. The advocacy framing provided by blogs like Glenn Greenwald’s actually makes news easier to understand, even if you don’t agree with the blogger all the time (Greenwald is perilously right, but that’s a digression).
The site gives people strong identity, with pictures and background information, which will hopefully help the site stay civil.
The problem is the site doesn’t provide good ways to get beyond the opinions that readers bring to the table. I’m not going to go to Essembly as often as I’ll go to a blog site that brings and contextualizes news in the context of the readers’ opinions, with references to go deepen when I care to.
The site makes it easy to make groups and “friend” people in the social networking site manner. But it doesn’t yet provide tools for people who want to do anything more.
What I really want from an activist site is a set of tools that helps not just to affiliate, but to organize. A tool to arrange a group visit to a legislator. A tool to build a mailing list,with distributed administration. A tool to build shared talking points, and to write letters to editors and decision-makers. A tool to donate for a shared purpose.
Essembly is a fun start, but in game terms, it leaves people at level 1.

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