October 28, 2008

Robocalls

By Laura Chan and Emi Eaton
Topics:
Around DC

It’s the typical scenario, you’re getting ready to cook a meal, all ingredients are out and your arms are elbow deep in pasta sauce and ground beef when the phone rings. Wiping off your hands, you pick up the phone — but instead of your Aunt Margaret calling to see how your new job is, you get a pre-recorded, “Hello, this is a representative from… calling to ask for your vote…” Curious, you listen for a bit but then hang up because the raw meat is sitting on the counter and the cat is wandering somewhere in the house. You head back to the kitchen and spoon up the now slightly over boiled spaghetti.

Tossing the beef into an oiled sauce pan, you are stirring and about to add the veggies and sauce when the phone rings again. You drop your spatula and go to pick up the phone once more. “Hello, this is a representative from…” You sigh and hang up again. Back to the kitchen and the now slightly-burnt-on-one-side ground beef. You finish up your sauce, throw together a mixed green salad and pull out the plates. As you spoon on the dressing the phone rings again. Fearing the worse you pick up, “Hello, this is a representative from…”

Now not only is your sauce boiling, so is your blood pressure. “Didn’t I put my number on a do not call registry?” you ask yourself as you shove the receiver back in the cradle. The table gets set, and your plate is in front of you finally. Picking up your fork you almost commence to shovel down your “darkened” not-so-al-dente spaghetti when that infamous ring once again reaches your ears. Ok, so the phone is now in pieces on the floor, your meal is ruined because you threw it across the room, and you feel like Robocop needing to do something aside from destroying your dining room to end the injustice of these annoying calls.

Perhaps not everyone has such a violent response to what are termed “robocalls,” but it could perceivably happen, especially when one receives the reported 10-15 calls a day before elections and public voting on legislature. One man has made it his mission to stop these calls. His name is Shaun Dakin, and he is the CEO, founder, and the only employee of StopPoliticalCalls.org. Mr. Dakin’s message for our luncheon discussion over pizza, salad and gourmet cupcakes, was that in today’s era there is a new high speed form of information exchange different from the previously accepted television, radio ads and newsprint. It is the almighty Internet that is Mr. Dakin’s choice of poison.Twitter

To get his message out, Shaun Dakin has had to be highly proactive and constantly on the watch for any reference on the Internet regarding his issue of interest. Personal daily blogging on sites such as Twitter, described as a “real-time short messaging service that works over multiple networks and devices,” and Facebook, a social networking website, helps Mr. Dakin get his opinions out in a straight forward manner and has made him known in every single circle that discusses his topic.

His arsenal also includes Google. By using the mega search engine, he can find any link to words relevant to his topic and immediately post on blogs when the topic comes up. And if a news agency pops up in his search, all the better. When they have any interest, however far reaching or even distantly connected to his topic, he is there contacting them to give the facts and information in exchange for free PR. This has been a full time non-paying job and the primary tactics in his grass-roots movement. His take home point was that without a new blog or post on an almost daily basis, a website and its issue is dead. In this way he has presented himself as the expert in the field of robocalls, with knowledge that has landed him in various arenas including CNN and testifying in front of the U.S. Senate.

So ladies and gentlemen — whether it’s the irritating fake smiling gnomes on lawns across America or the unintentional consequences of thousands of homeless starving horses due to the supposed “anticruelty” equine legislations, don’t throw your spaghetti across the room in frustration. It’s up to each one of us to make our voices heard effectively in our increasingly tech savvy world. And with that, you all now have permission and the excuse to Facebook and blog without embarrassment.

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