Like many of you, I blacked out my site for the protests against SOPA and PIPA. These are bad laws that describe themselves as being anti-piracy but will hinder business, destroy jobs, undermine the working of the Internet, and – to add insult to injury – won’t stop piracy. Khan Academy has a great overview; my previous post about it is over here.
In this post, though, I’m going to rave, because I’m majorly impressed.
The major feature of my SOPA blackout page was a simple widget that detected your location, listed the representatives you needed to call to tell them about your opposition to the bills, and then let you call them straight on the page. This is like magic to me, even though I know it’s a Twilio integration. Brilliantly executed.
The three developers, Drew Inglis, Nick Meyer and Tess Rinearson, built Grassroutes as part of PennApps, a weekend hackathon at the University of Pennsylvania held a couple of days before the protest. It’s not just for SOPA and PIPA: you can relabel it for any political issue that you want to drive action for. Like nothing else before it, it turns slacktivism into direct action that spreads virally among site owners. And, again, it’s slick, simple, beautiful and well-built.
Grassroutes made it to the front page of Hacker News, where hackers continued the work by (for example) turning it into a Facebook app, and I certainly used it to call my representatives. My hope is this is part of a new wave of apps that will overcome the traditional criticisms of politics online and lower the barrier to direct participation in the democratic process.