Wednesday, May 30, 2007
I’m at the second version of the mesh conference as I type and it’s been an interesting morning. I missed the keynote with Mike Arrington, but made it for the always inspiring panel keynote with Tom Williams and Austin Hill
What Austin and Tom are doing online is truly inspiring and one of the key points I took away from their discussion was the notion of charity being absolutely conducive with UGC in order to engage and provide a sense of community to the donors. It isn’t just about being a credit card. (more thoughts about this later, and UGC in general)
The first panel discussion of the afternoon was “The Web and Politics” with Scott Feschuk, Garth Turner and Phil de Vellis (Phil of course being the paid consultant on the Barack Obama campaign who mashed up Apple’s ‘1984′ ad with a speech of Hilary Clinton). I have to say it was entirely more cynical than I expected and really take issue with the myopic view expressed by Scott and Phil. But then again, they are allied with specific campaigns, I suppose their view of what politicians and campaigns should be doing online is, out of necessity, tied to getting a vote from the “constituent”.
What struck me as quite narrow minded is the thought that most people who comment on blogs are stupid and should be ignored. Wow. I can imagine how well that thought would carry over into a townhall meeting for example. Yes, there are trolls who will always only seek to disrupt, but the majority of people are not and have views and opinions which shouldn’t be ignored. The web is not a giant press release, nor a news conference on CNN. Garth at least seemed to recognize and embrace that notion.
A common thread that emerged was that politicians would only want to use these new social networking tools if it could be shown they could persuade someone who may not have voted for them to do so. The panel was in agreement that it probably couldn’t be done.
Phil mentioned dailykos.com quite a few times as being a site worthy of attention by politicians, but went on to state that most of the commentators there (vs. those who post ‘diaries’ or in non-blog terms, articles) should be ignored as crazies. If that is the take of the folks advising politicians then I suppose it’s not surprising the candidates feel they can or should ignore what the voters have to say. Obama for example posted a highly contentious ‘diary’ last year on Daily Kos and when large numbers of the community disagreed with his position he and his staff ignored, rather than engaged, and subsequently appeared to alienate a hell of a lot of the American voters (who may be Democrats but hadn’t declared which nominee they would support for President) who took the time to post passionate comments in disagreement.
Does that serve the goals of the campaign? Maybe. Does it undermine any subsequent fundraising or outreach efforts Obama will need for his run? Probably.
Interesting discussion all in all, and it says a lot about the state of politics that a politician, Garth Turner, came off the best in the panel.
I may post updates to these thoughts as we go, but I’d like to hear from other ‘voters’ how they would like to see their politicians or candidates interact with them online.