The Belief Engine (The Proof Engine)

proof engineSomeone just emailed me today and wrote that PTTN “is a terrific idea if it is handled properly.” I agree that it must be handled well. What follows is the core of my “management strategy.”  I really will welcome comments and additional suggestions. 

The “proof” of Proof Through the Night is going to be three things:  The number of active participants; the growth rate of participation; and most importantly whether or not the participants develop the ongoing habits of being adequately informed; thinking critically about the information; and taking action. So we will be measuring these things.

To get the ball rolling, in January and part of February my plan is to recruit a first wave of participants. They will have a clear mission and time-frame. They will need to make a commitment. The theme will be that they are the first wave of people fighting for their country… in this way. Starting now, I and Mark Zottola will also be recruiting a program team. Their primary mission is to remove whatever obstacles the participants are having with the program and website. Secondarily they are trying to improve the program and website in ways to make it more attractive and user-friendly. But their main job is to “walk with” the participants, periodically asking questions like:

* What is interfering with your use of the website?  What’s keeping you from learning?  What’s keeping you from having positive feelings about PTTN?  (Stage 1)

* What’s interfering with you building good political habits — taking in political information, thinking about it critically, and then taking action?  (Stage 1 and 2)

* What’s keeping you from effectively inviting others?  (or)  What keeps them from seeing the value of participation?  (or) Is anything interfering with your support of them, or their positive feelings toward the program?  (Stage 3)

We will use that information to make the program or website continuously better. If people feel they need short educational videos, we will try to create them. If something in the site is vague, we will clarify it. — But the key word is “need.”  We will never be able to make the website as thrilling as a blockbuster movie, but if people understand that they are fighting for their country, and that they will get both short-term and long-term benefits from increasing their political power, then we don’t have to have the sexiest site on the Web.

The first wave won’t move as a unit. Some people who are already politically knowledgeable will just take the quizzes and move forward. Their challenges (and ours) might be with inviting and supporting their friends and family who seem somewhat interested. By the way, if someone doesn’t succeed with family and friends, I think they can adopt new people who hear about PTTN, and these people will be their descendents, their “children” in the chain reaction. 

Someone last month suggested that I really get rolling with Facebook and social media. I think that would be a mistake. I fear having a million ‘likes’ on Facebook, and no real buy-in.  I also fear a lot of people being turned off by a 1.0 website and never coming back. 

Let’s say that 20 people start the first wave, and only eight pass it on to an average of two people each in four months. If we double from eight to 16, and 16 to 32 by the fall, and 32 to 64 by next January, that will seem feeble to many, but then all we need to do is to keep the “Proof Engine” rolling.  At that rate, we’re reach a majority of the electorate in nine years. I have a feeling that it will grow much faster than that, but I feel that we must maintain high standards. By the way, it’s not a failure at all if someone takes six or eight months, but ideally we want the turn-around at four months. 

In a way, this project is like the Manhattan Project (the chain reaction) and D-Day (the first wave hitting the beaches) rolled into one, and its also a real-life Mission Impossible (transforming American politics in ten years or less.) 

Just now my eyes got moist when I thought about just how badly millions of Americans want something like this. It’s just bewildering how important this mission is.


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