Nate Wilcox (natewilcox) Thu 2 Oct 08 14:47
Did you guys see the guy running for legislator in Kansas, I think it was, who raised his funding via PayPal asking for $8.32 from everyone? --------------------------- That sounds vaguely familiar, got any links? --------------------------- I would expect innovation to be trickling up from small local campaigns, especialy since this year tools like twitter and facebook have to be factored in. --------------------------- The Republicans in the House of Representatives have made the only remotely useful political use of Twitter I've seen thus far. Some cool things have been done with Facebook but the innovations have all been tactical, not strategic. When the Dean campaign opened up a blog and accepted public comments, that was paradigm shifting. When Joe Trippi took a suggestion from a blogger and brought Howard Dean to a meetup (remember meetup?) that was big. When the Draft Wesley Clark movement raised hundreds of thousands of dollars with NO official campaign, that was mind-blowing. The Obama campaign has been nothing in the conceptual department. The campaign wants money and volunteers? OMG! Figuring out clever new ways to squeeze the activist orange isn't innovation. It's great and I'm glad they're doing it but that doesn't make it intellectually interesting. One of my political mentors once told me "politics ain't chess, its checkers" and I have to remind myself of that almost everyday. The emergence of online technologies as a factor in American politics only happened once. We figured out how to do it a few years back, now its just a matter of implementation. Same thing happened with media politics. The big ideas were figured out in the 1960s but the horizon for implementation took longer. Mass media politics didn't really trickle down to state wide races until the mid-1980s. Similarly there are very few local campaigns that have even caught up with the Dean/Clark concepts. I know of a couple but they are rare exceptions. Some local campaigns are still stuck in the yard sign, button and billboard stuff and haven't even figured out media, it could be a while before they start making use of the internet at all, much less effectively.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Thu 2 Oct 08 14:54
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 2 Oct 08 15:21
Nice writeup there, Sharon. So that candidate was playing on net culture to get attention outside his district, looks like.
Lowell Feld (netrootsrising) Thu 2 Oct 08 16:33
"Are there particular stories we might include here that didn't make it into the book?" Definitely, there are lots of good stories that didn't make it into the book. Some of them are told at our website (http://www.netrootsrising.com/); for instance this one (http://www.netrootsrising.com/2008/07/barbara-kreykenbohm-on-a-sunny-afternoon -in-april/) by Webb super-volunteer Barbara Kreykenbohm. Barbara starts off, "On a sunny afternoon in April at the northern Virginia kick-off rally for James Webb I timidly reported to the volunteer coordinator telling him that I was willing to help in any way." Again, this woman became a superstar of the 10,000-strong "rag-tag army" that helped elect Webb in 2006, so I think it's particularly striking that she began "timidly." Also, check out my interview with Annabel Park (http://www.netrootsrising.com/2008/07/annabel-park-on-real-virginians-the-kore an-american-community-etc/), an amazing woman who is currently fighting - along with her friend and fellow filmmaker Eric Byler - the anti-immigrant movement in Prince William County. In 2006, Eric and Annabel flew out from California, enraged by the "macaca" insult to a young Asian American man (Annabel and Eric are both Asian American), ended up staying a lot longer than they thought they would, and contributed enormously to the campaign, including videos that are still on YouTube like "Real Virginians for Webb" and "Generation Webb." There are tons of stories like this, but we had to keep the book to 80,000 words. :)
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 2 Oct 08 16:59
I love how the book is packed with examples and nicely footnoted, too, by the way. Shifting to the present moment for a second, I know I have gotten multiple live-blogging announcements for tonight's VP Debate, and that topics in the <politics.> or <media.> conferences in The WELL will be hopping tonight. It's so exciting that little blogging and forum and miscellaneous ad hoc think tanks will all be doing what they do this evening. One of the big questions at this point in the netroots evolution is where to go to get info and have impact at any particular point in time, such as for the debate. That there are many choices is very impressive. Tomorrow it will be interesting to trace what we all did for the evening.
Lowell Feld (netrootsrising) Thu 2 Oct 08 17:06
I'll probably live blog it on RK (www.raisingkaine.com), but that's more because I enjoy live blogging (or am a masochist?) more than anything! :) Meanwhile, there will be hundreds if not thousands of bloggers doing the same thing - in their own style and in their own way, of course - on their state or national blogs. I think that where a person ends up going to watch the debate and/or participate in a conversation comes down to whose commentary they find interesting, which community they feel most comfortable hangin' with, what mood they're in, etc. There are a ton of choices, including just watching it on the good ol' "boob tube" and listening to the talking heads spout their "wisdom." :)
Lowell Feld (netrootsrising) Thu 2 Oct 08 17:08
"I love how the book is packed with examples and nicely footnoted, too, by the way." Thanks! I can't imagine having a book that doesn't have footnotes and/or endnotes, a complete bibliography, and an index. Anyway, Praeger was adamant about all that, and I agree with them 100%.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Thu 2 Oct 08 18:00
I think blogging has been especially helpful on the state and local level. There's a ton of things I hear about from local bloggers that aren't covered by the local media -- or are covered by the local media *because* the bloggers publicize them.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 2 Oct 08 22:03
A lot of what we're talking about here - live blogging the debate and blogging in general - is really more or less casual conversation, like people sitting in a bar or hanging out in a viewing party. It's nice to have, but it doesn't necessarily have relevance to political process. I think we have to make the distinction between conversational uses of technology, and uses of technology for activist organizing. An example that Nate and I were both involved with: Fred Lewis used Drupal to create a "Clean Up Texas Politics" site as a focus for activism around campaign finance issues, and Bob Jacobson used Infopop to create forums for public input to the Dean campaign's policy positions. I think it would be interesting to discuss examples of effective activism supported by technology, apart from the ongoing buzz of conversation in blogs, chat rooms, and on Twitter. (Speaking of the latter, see http://election.twitter.com/topic?t=%23vpdebate)
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 3 Oct 08 05:26
Have you guys read Here Comes Everybody, by Clay Shirky? He gets into the use of technology in politics as well.
Nate Wilcox (natewilcox) Fri 3 Oct 08 07:30
I think it would be interesting to discuss examples of effective activism supported by technology, apart from the ongoing buzz of conversation in blogs, chat rooms, and on Twitter. ---------------------------- the SaveMuniWireless effort in Texas in 2006 is a great example. http://savemuniwireless.org/ A unique coalition of technology activists from Austin & around the country came together with small town officials to defeat AT&T in a lobbying fight. AT&T wanted to prevent communities from making free wireless access available in their towns. For many of the small town mayors, librarians and local business leaders, muni wireless is literally a lifeline to the 21st century. The face that a fairly rag-tag coalition was able to beat AT&T's well-oil lobbyist machine was hugely inspiring. The organizers used an innovative combination of blogs, wikis, email lists and CRM (customer relationship management) software to organize their efforts. And yes I've read Shirky's newest book and seen him speak several times. The fundamental problem with applying Shirky's (brilliant) analysis to politics is this: Politics is our search for leaders. You can't crowdsource leadership. You can crowdsource policy ideas. You can crowdsource organizing. You can crowdsource lobbying. You can crowdsource Get Out The Vote. But you can't crowdsource an elected representative. Until or unless we get leaders who are willing to use the available tools to interact more directly with those they represent we will still be in a transitional era. Some of the voters are in an interactive 21st century while others are still in the broadcast 20th. And almost all our elected officials are in the latter camp. There's a great essay from Zack Exley called "Will Obama Put on the Makeup" that addresses this. http://www.techpresident.com/node/26 Here's a quote: "Obama and his senior aides aren't doing the deep thinking they need to do on their own about this medium. They, like most of their competitors, have delegated "the Internet thing" to staffers who are far outside of the inner circle ("senior staff" is not the inner circle), and have refused to take personal responsibility for understanding the potentials of the medium on their own. In Obama's case, it's inexcusable because the Internet is just dying to make him president." Keep in mind Exley wrote this in early 2007 and the Obama campaign has adopted some of his suggestions. But one key thing I'm still not seeing remains: "There is a standard form of political email communication that has been established in the world of non-profits and political campaigns--and it is death. I must confess that I'm one of the half-dozen or so people who brought this form into the position of total domination that it now holds. But before you hunt us down to punish us for the damage done to your inbox, please understand something: we were forced into that awful, soulless form of communication--forced to send out all those crappy, disembodied emails because the candidates and their inner circles (on whatever past campaign) could not be bothered with something as "trivial" as email--even when the email was going to millions of supporters, and raising tens of millions of dollars. And the medium was still so new and fresh that we got away with it. Dear leaders, we "Internet people" did the best we could without your involvement. We raised a lot of money with those ridiculous emails signed in your names. But guess what? People hate them now. We scorched the Earth. There's not one sucker left who will take seriously an email signed, "Barak" that's actually written by Obama's, "Internet guy." ... "So, candidates, that leaves you with one option: write your own damn emails. And why not? You're spending several hours each day right now doing "call time"--harassing big donors for $4,400 checks. But how much do you actually raise per hour that way? $30,000? $40,000? But if you built a genuine relationship with your email list, then each email would be worth twice that--even if you didn't ask for money in the email (but only included a "donate" button at the bottom). And each time you actually ask, so long as you have a good reason, you'll make millions per email. Building a "genuine relationship" with your supporter base online doesn't mean simply writing the same boring emails, but writing them yourself. No, it means writing to your supporters from the campaign trail in the same way that you might write to your spouse (without the smoochy stuff) or to a close friend: tell them the exciting things you experienced that day, what they made you think of, a joke you heard, and what occurred to you is really at stake. Some emails could be four pages, and some could be four sentences. Maybe sometimes you should just send a picture you snapped yourself. If you write to people like that, I promise you, they will go nuts. You will have something amazing on your hands. And you will have taken politics up to a whole new level of honesty and integrity." That's what we still haven't seen. Candidates and office holders who use the online medium to DIRECTLY interact with their constituency. Someday...
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 3 Oct 08 11:31
That's interesting, and authentic, but I certainly understand why it doesnt happen. I met a women last year who ghost-writes blog posts, facebook, myspace, tweets, etc, for public figures (My impression was more CEOs of cool companies and pop culture stars, but obviously she doesn't tell.) She said once she gets the guidelines she can do a lot for them without approval or editing needed. Now and then she will need to get actual clarification -- do you know this person, for example -- but she said that was very rare, because she has good manners as well as being able to get their written "voice" down. Why is this something somebody can make good money at? Obviously because politicians and others with high volumes of requests for attention are typically overwhelmed and need to simplify to survive. Getting a surrogate to do it (and I'd like to think that could be tracnsparent, that ghostwriting would not be required) tends to seem like the only solution for a hyper-busy person. However, if you timed it so that it was a couple of times a week at most, it could be more poweful than FDR's radio Fireside Chats. This is something candidates do much better at the local level, where media opportunities and event possibilites are more limited.
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Fri 3 Oct 08 11:35
Like hiring a speechwriter. Something interesting happened out here in Idaho. The communications director of the Idaho Democratic Party, a former AP reporter, was dumped in favor of a woman who basically started the left-wing blogosphere out here in 2003, I think it was.
Nate Wilcox (natewilcox) Fri 3 Oct 08 11:55
I met a women last year who ghost-writes blog posts, facebook, myspace, tweets, etc, for public figures (My impression was more CEOs of cool companies and pop culture stars, but obviously she doesn't tell.) ------------------------------------ I know some people in that field as well (I guess I am in a sense in that I frequently ghost write emails for politicians), and boy does it strike me as weird! People are having faux-relationships with celebrities. How deep does it go? Do people correspond for years without finding out? Will the celebrities and CEOs at some point have their identities completely subsumed by their surrogates? What if a 21st Century John Lennon wanted to drop out and bake bread and his surrogates didn't want to let him? Could he re-establish his rights to his online persona?
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 3 Oct 08 13:26
Great territory for speculative fiction! It is weirder than the model from 100 years ago of the Important Man dictating to his secretary, that's for sure!
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Fri 3 Oct 08 21:31
"However, if you timed it so that it was a couple of times a week at most, it could be more poweful than FDR's radio Fireside Chats." If it's an essay, once every two weeks would be plenty.
Gail Williams (gail) Sat 4 Oct 08 08:37
Hmm... Brian, I just realized we both just got distracted by the scalability fallacy. The behaviors that make this medium feel so intimate are frequency, responding/interacting in community, being informal. Just having a candidate or an elected leader write an essay at intervals (or put a statement out on youtube instead of doing it in a press release format) is only a partial step. It might be better than nothing, but if it's still canned and one to many, it's hard to see how it could be such a step forward. I'm thinking more about the interactions between supporters now. Opened up to a degree, accessible for new talent. Perhaps that's where the change is, along with all the examples of bloggers modeling questions that traditional journalists then pick up.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 4 Oct 08 13:45
It's interesting that you bring up Save Muni Wireless. As you know, I was the instigator of that effort, and I think it's important to note that it would not have succeeded without support from some rather large tech corporations that opposed the legislation because it would stifle broadband proliferation, and that was contrary to their economic interests. One of the most effective things we did get the word out and help organize a response. Many of the municipalities that had wifi projects in development weren't aware of the legislation until they heard about it from us, and their input was critical, too. The web site we used for updates, created and managed by Chip Rosenthal, is still up at http://savemuniwireless.org/ We had quite a bit of help from Consumer Union, but I'd say the real powerhouse organizer was Adina Levin. While she was finding people and coordinating action online, a big piece of the work was walking the halls at the legislature. Our victory was actually limited - there's still active legislation that was passed around 1985 that prohibits municipalities from setting up networks and charging for bandwidth, legislation that was passed to keep Austin from creating a fiber to the house network that would have been innovative but would have facilitated competition with SBC, not AT&T. The legislation we defeated wold have prevented any, even free, municipal public networks. It's interesting how ad hoc was the genesis of Save Muni Wireless. I had been working on a wireless-focused economic development project and was asking around about the 1985 legislation, wondering about its limits and whether it would hold up. Someone pointed me in a particular direction, which led me to Consumer Union, where someone had just got wind of the new bill and the restrictions it would bring. We called a meeting via email, and after the first meeting started working our networks to find volunteers who would visit the legislature and speak at the hearing. I think we made a great case for eliminating the prohibition, but we probably should have looked at the bigger picture, and we couldn't have won without a coalition that included well-funded and influential interests. Also interesting to hear Zack Exley's ideas du jour, considering his disinterest in cooperating with a grassroots, community-based effort offered to the Kerry campaign by volunteers who could have made it work. All he had to do was listen. However I think there will always be a wall between the grassroots activists and candidate campaigns, don't you? A campaign's interests are really about money, no? If you're a political consultant, you want to sustain your paycheck and make sure funds are flowing into the organization. That's your priority, and from that perspective your concern about constituents and issues will always be sidelined by funding strategy.
Brian Slesinsky (bslesins) Sat 4 Oct 08 19:21
"It might be better than nothing, but if it's still canned and one to many, it's hard to see how it could be such a step forward." That's underestimating the power of good writing. Would you say that jrc's columns are "canned"? How about a book by your favorite author? It's inevitable that communication between a candidate and millions of people is going to be one-to-many, but there's nothing wrong with that if it's done right. A blog would let a candidate have that kind of direct communication on a weekly basis, unfiltered by the media, assuming it's sufficiently well-written that people find it worthwhile to subscribe to it. This would go a long way to correct for canned stump speeches and gaffe-obsessed media coverage. There's no reason a politician who knows how to write can't do what newspaper columnists have been doing forever (though less frequently, probably). For communication in the other direction, answering a few letters written to the campaign (inevitably filtered down by the staff) would give the some evidence that letters are read by someone and a few of the good ones will reach the top. (Again, this isn't much different from what newspapers already do.) Being good on TV is still important, but I'm hopeful that we'll see more politicians who use the written word effectively. That would be a fairly big change.
Gail Williams (gail) Sun 5 Oct 08 09:42
Yeah. Good points, and well-expressed (of course!). The power of the written word and the power of being present with individuals in a many-to-many setting are two parts of the power of the net, and the first half of the equation shouldn't be dismissed. You're right that there are good halfway steps on the second half, particularly if do we start electing good writers. (and/or editors) Jon, that's such a great story of making thing happen! From my perspective of being involved at the local level, when you say >A campaign's interests are really about money, no? I would say that after meeting the budget needed to communicate, (usually including some staffing), the campaign's interests have to be about motivating voters to show up for your personor cause, which is sometimes nearly forgotten in the fray, leading to some wasted spending sometimes.
Gail Williams (gail) Mon 6 Oct 08 11:01
(By show up for your person or cause I mean actually cast a vote for your candidate or initiative.) By the way, the Tom DeLay saga in the book was fun to read because although it was in the national news, and talked about in some blogs and some WELL topics I read at the time, it is so much harder to get the context when you're far away. The comments about the disruptive power of MoveOn's involvement were interesting, too. I was thinking about that this weekend because my sweetie went to Reno (from San Francisco) to register voters, and told me they started with a briefing to get the volunteers to pronouce the name of the state properly. (I grew up in California, so Nevada rhymes with "Ned had a..." but one of the effects of the growth of the population here is that the more Spanish-esque but less English-speaking local pronunciation has been gaining in California blue counties.) "Missionaries" bringing political truth from afar can be disturbing. Spammy, if you will. What can groups who want to emulate MoveOn do to counter those pitfalls?
Sharon Lynne Fisher (slf) Mon 6 Oct 08 11:44
Heh. One of the things I had to teach my boyfriend when he visited was how to pronounce Kuna (cue-na) and Oregon (ORegen) correctly so he didn't sound ignorant. When Howard Dean came here in 2003, I told his advance people, "It's Boise, not Boize." It took me a year to learn that but I also learned it really mattered to some people. On the other hand, some people had never heard of that. The advance guys did a survey among those of us, and half of us said "Boise" and the other half said "What are you talking about?" Which is why, when Howard Dean visited, he said, "Hello, Idaho!"
What is going to amuse our bouches now? (bumbaugh) Mon 6 Oct 08 14:51
That's great, Sharon! (Spammy missionaries! Perfect.) Gents, to what extent does the Mcain announcement about abandoning Michigan mean really abandoning Michigan? Does it just mean no TV ad buys (no spending scarce dollars)? Or does it mean no e-mail campaigns, either (no spending scarce attention)? How is this going to look different come the midterm elections or in four years? And what are the issues around FEC rules and any of this organization? (Oops. Too many questions, probably. Pick and choose as you will.)
Nate Wilcox (natewilcox) Tue 7 Oct 08 07:27
""Missionaries" bringing political truth from afar can be disturbing. Spammy, if you will. What can groups who want to emulate MoveOn do to counter those pitfalls?" ------------------------------- We discuss this quite a bit in the book -- especially in the chapter about the Howard Dean campaign in Iowa. That's where they brought in thousands of volunteers from around the country, put them all in orange hats and did everything but give them the organizational support to be anything but counter-productive. A piece that didn't make it into the book discussed similar efforts on Dean's part in New Mexico where out of state volunteers were matched with local activists who knew the territory intimately and were in fact making their own mash-ups of the Dean campaign lit to better fit the area. That's where campaigns ultimately need to go -- find local organizers who know their turf and their people and give them support and infrastructure. Its kind of alchemy though -- squaring the circle if you will -- because running a huge organization requires a lot of top down centralization and its hard to surrender that control of the last mile.
Nathan Wilcox (natewilcox) Tue 7 Oct 08 07:33
Gents, to what extent does the Mcain announcement about abandoning Michigan mean really abandoning Michigan? Does it just mean no TV ad buys (no spending scarce dollars)? Or does it mean no e-mail campaigns, either (no spending scarce attention)? -------------------------------------------------- Its strictly TV. The online campaigns require very small budgets relative to the massive TV buys. I don't know about their online advertising. I'd be surprised if they were doing much of that in the first place. I'd also be amazed if they're doing a great deal of state-specific email in the first place. The Obama campaign does a fair amount of that but that's because they've emphasized having active field programs in so many states. Something McCain hasn't even in states he's competing in. I'm not sure I understood your questions about the mid-terms and the FEC.
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