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Just sign the damn thing!

April 15, 2013

change_orgI did something new last week. I started a petition on for ICAN. Now I have signed many online petitions in my time and I have written quite a few too. But I have never used a large online petitioning platform before.

The title of the petition – as you may already know – was “Prevent a nuclear catastrophe – Back to the negotiating table”. At the start things seemed to be going well enough. I obsessively watched the signatures clocking up and overnight the first 500 were there.

But then it started to slow down. I mailed a few more friends, posted the petition on several Facebook pages, tweeted it again and asked everyone to retweet. Still the numbers got slower and slower. Now they are only creeping up. Five days later, we have under 2,000.

I asked some friends: what do you think? How can I get people interested and sharing? One of them said “You know, you should write a blog about how difficult it is to get people to sign petitions.” So here it is.

Everyone is worried about something different

Although I (and the nearly 2,000 people who have signed the petition) think that the Korean crisis is a major problem, there are people who think that, say, Syria is more important, or some other pressing issue. Take a look at what the really big petitions are about: building a Death Star, gun control in the US, dog policy on United Airlines, Monsanto tomatoes, the death of bees. Some of these I even support.

People are in denial about nuclear war

So I said to my friend, “but if a 10 kiloton bomb was dropped on Seoul, one of the most densely populated cities in the world, about 140,000 people would die and at least a million be injured or seriously contaminated by radiation, so why are people not more worried?” And she answered: “They don’t think it will happen because it can’t happen. It would be too dreadful to even contemplate, so it simply can’t happen.” In other words, people (and the media) are blocking out the whole idea. They are in denial.

People don’t believe petitions work

I can buy into this argument to a certain extent. A lot of petitions do little more than raise awareness about a problem. And yet they are a good way of conveying to a company or a government that there is serious concern about something. If they still choose to ignore that, then there should be some thought of how to follow up with a campaigning escalation, an action or even civil disobedience, depending on the seriousness of the concern.

There are too many petitions

Like point no. 1, we compete with thousands of other petitions. You could spend all day signing worthy causes and sharing them on Facebook and Twitter. People are getting choosy about what they want to put their name to. It is not as easy as it used to be. If you want to get your petition “featured” on an online petitioning platform, you need to get at least 10,000 signatures.

The learning curve is steep. I’m reading all the tips and tricks and trying to work out how to improve my “reach”. Other petitions have staff working full-time on just getting their petition out there.

This is a long-winded way of just asking you to sign the damn thing. Oh, and could you please also share it with your friends? Thanks.

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