Week 7: Global Zero

February 6th, 2014

Elliot Carter ’14, Black Fellow in International Policy

One of the last things I did during my fellowship  was prepare a report on the outcomes of my social media work. Here are some excerpts from the section where I described content models I developed, and remarked on how they did…

New Content Models

1. Sciencey / educational photo essay with anti-nuke message:



  • This was very successful on Tumblr. I did two posts in this model, and they got something like 80 and 100+ notes. They also were responsible for attracting roughly 50 new followers.
  • This tactic targets people outside our traditional circles.
  • I am not sure if this model is exportable beyond Tumblr, because its success may be contingent on the large science community there.

2. Historical / educational photo essay with anti-nuke message



  • This was the first content model I experimented with.
  • Same approach as the science post; target people outside our traditional circles
  • It didn’t get great feedback but I suspect it would have done better if I posted it now, as opposed to early in my fellowship when we didn’t have as big a following

3. Budget Graphics






  • Most people think nukes have already been paid for and have no idea how much we continue to spend on upkeep / ‘life extensions’
  • Big numbers are hard to understand. I wanted to compare it to a number that people are familiar with and care about, like the population of their city.
  • This approach targets the entire city, not just people who are interested in nukes. Anybody who lives in one of these cities will care about this, not just people in our traditional circles of politics / peace. Example: I have gotten reblogs from a Baltimore dating website. There’s potential here to appeal to totally new people.
  • Since the ‘million bucks’ thing uses hyperbole, there’s a chance to bring humor into this model (see the Portland one for example). This should be further exploited.
  • This content model is very well suited to Pinterest or Instagram.



Week 6: Global Zero

January 29th, 2014

Elliot Carter ’14, Black Fellow in International Policy

With only two weeks left in my fellowship, I am spending more time reflecting on what I have accomplished thus far and what I still want to accomplish while I’m here. This past week I made progress on a writing assignment that is very important to me, and managed to get a lot of smaller assignments checked off my to do list as well. Things have actually been getting more busy here than ever, so it’s kind of a race at this point to see if I can get everything I want across the finish line before I have to leave.

The writing project I mentioned is the same one I’ve been talking about for a couple of weeks – my blog post. After struggling with some writers block in past weeks I finally got my act together and submitted a rough draft a couple of days ago. It came back with heavy revisions, and I am currently in the (long) process of tweaking the piece into something acceptable for publication on the website hopefully. Content wise, the blog post is essentially an argument why the US’s nuclear weapon budget is a strategic mistake. I use a historical allegory to make this point by comparing the nuclear triad of 2014 to the Maginot Line of WWII. Basic point: woe to the military that can’t remain forward thinking. I hope to have the rough draft in better shape by Friday, at which point I will submit it for approval, and probably another round of revisions.

My work with social media continues to bear fruit. Today I had my second story ‘go viral’ (sort of). I have also greatly exceeded the growth metrics I have been shooting for, so that’s good. The importance of social media in political and professional spheres has been one of the biggest surprises of my fellowship. I really had no idea how seriously some organizations take their online presence in venues like Facebook. It makes sense though, as social media is probably the best way to build grassroots support and get your message out to like-minded people. It also came as a surprise how older people have totally ceded the social media domain to younger people. I think this is a good area to have some experience in, and I’m glad I am going to be able to cite it on my resume.

An area I think I have not done enough in is the production of infographics. In earlier posts I mentioned doing a little research and support work on them, but thus far I have not actually made any of my own. I think this is a field similar to social media, where the digital skills of young people are very much in demand by older people in the field who don’t want to have to learn all the new tricks. I intend to make at least one of my own infographics over the next two weeks before I leave.

The final thing on my radar right now is student symposium. I got an email about it yesterday from Cornell and I really want to take some of the research I have been doing here about nukes and turn it into a full project. The blog post I have been revising is a natural starting point.

Week 5: Global Zero

January 23rd, 2014

Elliot Carter ’14, Black Fellow in International Policy

I have spent a lot of the past week continuing to develop the concept of my editorial blog post. I noted in a previous post about how my major in History has prepared me to think about issues and events in terms of arguable thesis, and that continues to help my approach. One new area for me though is transforming those thesis into something newsworthy. A history essay is never confronted with the question “so who cares”, but that is an important part of journalism and blogging. There needs to be some inherent timeliness to the story, or else you need to get creative and come up with some connection to current events.

I had been struggling with a way to present my opinions about nuclear weapons in a story that had a timely-news hook but I think I’ve come up with a couple of options now that will have that covered. The basic issue I wanted to explore was nuclear weapon’s (lack of) military utility. I am exploring 2 current events twists for this story:

1) Comparing my analysis to an analogous world war 1 defense program (2014 is the hundred year anniversary of WWI),

2) The pentagon has been in the news recently freaking out about having to cut service personnel to 420,000; I could say “if they’re looking at ways to save money what about the nuclear program…”

In the end I’ll probably use some combination of the two instead of choosing just one of them.

Researching and writing this blog post has been the most exciting thing I’ve done at GZ. I personally am really interested in national security and international relations so it has been a pleasure getting to delve into the nuts and bolts of the nuclear weapons issue.

Week 4: Global Zero

January 14th, 2014

Elliot Carter ’14, Black Fellow in International Policy

My work level this past week ratcheted up another level as I tried to balance my time between my creative work and some other tedious (but very time consuming) stuff I have been tasked with.

On the creative front I designed a new mini-series of info graphics to roll out on the social media platforms. The purpose of this series was to educate the public about the surprisingly large amount of money  we continue to invest in nuclear weapons (620 billion over the next ten years). I was thinking that most people, especially younger people, have trouble contextualizing that number so I tried to come up with a way to emphasize how staggering 620 billion is. I ended up doing a little division and figured that if you reallocated that much money you could give everyone in a city of 620,000 a million bucks each. I found a bunch of cities that size (Baltimore, Boston, dc, Nashville, Denver, Portland, Seattle) and combined pictures of them with the ‘million bucks each’ text. Part of the appeal of this strategy is that the pictures will have a lot of resonance with anybody who lives in those cities or is familiar with them. Here are some of the pictures:

baltimore Boston Brooklyn DC denver nashville newyork portland


Week 3: Global Zero

January 7th, 2014

Elliot Carter ’14, Black Fellow in International Policy

Things got rolling here at full speed when everybody came back from holiday vacation.  I am still continuing with my social media work, but have also been  given the green light to go ahead on an editorial idea I mentioned in my first post. Also, sat down with my supervisor over lunch today and did a sort of evaluation / check in thing where he looked over my work and gave feedback.  He had a lot of really nice things to say about my social media work and I was able to do a little showing off with the new (very positive) growth analytics for the three accounts I am managing.

The opportunity with the editorial is something that came straight out of some of the Cornell history courses I took last year.  In those classes its common to have to formulate a sort of- unique thesis in a topic you have been covering in class and then expand that into a essay where you’re trying to prove your thesis, or prove your point or whatever. I think those classes have had a big impact on the way I approach things because as soon as I got to Global Zero and began to explore the issue of nuclear non-proliferation for myself I began to have these thesis’s pop up in my head regarding the information I was taking in.  Armed with my Cornell education, it is second nature at this point to a start to think about expanding those thesis’s into larger pieces, and that’s what I pitched to my supervisor and he approved. I am basically writing a history essay. Except its not historical obviously, its timely.

Anyway, I am super busy here trying to wrap up before 7:30 when they lock the door (its 7:28), so I’ll catch you next week!

Week 2: Global Zero

December 19th, 2013

Elliot Carter ’14, Black Fellow in International Policy

The second week is over and I’ve got lots of new updates about Global Zero! I have been given some new responsibilities on the social media front.  I am now the point man for three lesser known websites, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram.  I have been given the keys, so to speak, and it will be my responsibility over the coming weeks to come up with a plan to expand our presence there and try to achieve some growth views / connections / traffic back to the main website.  I have an exciting amount of freedom in how I do this, and I have been experimenting with a couple different models for new content.  In the past, Global Zero’s presence on the three new sites has been very limited, and all they had really done was repost facebook content on them.  I have some new ideas for specially tailored content that can play to the uniqueness of each different site and I hope that will have more of an impact than what we had been doing.

One challenging project I did last week was some legislative research about a life extension program for tactical nukes and the new 2014 Defense Appropriations bill working its way through Congress.  The Defense bill is one of those laws that is hundreds of pages long and nobody ever reads in its entirety.  I was tracking differences between the House and Senate version, and then wrote up a little report on the impact of the program and its budgeting. This was totally new territory for me and I had to sort of teach myself as I went along.

One of the most memorable days this last week was when the team did an all hands on deck mail-stuffing day.  GZ was sending out their holiday time letters asking for donations and there were over 2,000 letters that had to be stuffed. The whole team pitched in to make it go faster and we all spent the day around the conference table watching Netflix and assembly-linning the letters.

Over and out.

Week 1: Global Zero–Washington, D.C.

December 11th, 2013

Elliot Carter ’14, Black Fellow in International Policy

My first week at Global Zero has been very exciting! The office environment is wonderful. It’s a pretty small staff of about 12, they’re all young and very high performance people. The office culture is pretty relaxed (people sit on big yoga balls instead of chairs!) I work in a big room with 2 other people, Sean and Anita, who have been very helpful and friendly. The office building is located in the U street corridor (NW Washington), which is a very trendy area full of small offices, restaurants and bars.

I got started on day one working with social media. A big part of what Global Zero does is grassroots outreach and mobilization, so social media is a big deal. We also rely on Facebook as a way to stay in touch with and organize the 150+ student Global Zero chapters around the world. Over the course of my first week I put up about 10 pieces of content on the international Facebook pages. Facebook in the professional world is a very different creature than the one I know from personal use. The reach is huge (over 30,000 people see the posts) and there are high expectations for content quality because everything we put on our Facebook page could be construed as a PR statement. My part in this is finding stories in the news that fit our mission and speak in some way to different regions. The European Facebook page needs stories about Europe; the US page needs stories about the US, etc. Ideally each page gets at least one new post per day. Once I found appropriate stories to highlight I would write a sentence or two for a hook / intro that appears next to the link. There’s an art to the hook and it gets pretty fun once you’ve done a few. My favorite trick is to end them with a question because it gets more people to comment. Here’s an example of one I did for the Southeast Asia Facebook: “68% of Indians survive on less than $2 a day, but the government spends $5 billion a year on their nuclear program. Today, the Indian military test launched the Prithvi-II, part of their new generation of nuclear capable missiles. Something wrong with this picture?“ The best part of the Facebook work is when there aren’t any appropriate recent news stories. When that happens we pick some amusing / interesting historical story about nukes and we post that to educate people. We ended up using one of these historical posts this week; it was a ridiculous story about how for years during the Cold War the country was so close to the brink that the launch codes for all of our missile silos was “000000” – supposedly so that they could be launched faster! I’m a huge history nerd so I have a lot of fun finding and reading stories like that.
Another component of political social media is infographics. Infographics are pictures with words that convey information in a visually appealing way. They’re important for social media because they fit a lot of information in a small space and people are more likely to read it if it’s a pretty picture instead of just text. I began doing research for two new infographics, one on the recent Iran deal, and the other on the difference between tactical and strategic nukes. I’ve never made an infographic before so for these first two I am going to be working closely with the digital content guy, Alex Bonk, over the next week.

In week two I’m hoping to keep up the social media stuff and also begin a campaign research assignment (which I’ll tell you more about when I begin.) I also have a really cool idea for a blog post but I haven’t told them about it yet. I’m going to pitch it soon and I’ll let you know how it goes.
I am also including some pictures of the office. They’re from the first day and I was a little nervous taking pictures so I waited until the end of the day when most of the people were gone, that’s why the office looks dark and empty. Try to imagine it full of energy and smiling young people sitting on yoga balls. Catch you next week!






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