Day 1 of mesh 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 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.

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Comments (9) to “Day 1 of mesh 2007”

  1. And youve fallen hook line and sinker. Garth edits and deletes from his blog every day numerous comments that HE doesnt want people to see on the blog. He lets his regular posters and alter egos (he posts as several different characters on his blog) attack others without editing or cautioning them on their tone…but when someone wants to point out Turners hypocrisy… he doesnt even post the comment.

    Garth is a leader of digital censorship.

  2. For the record, I certainly do not think commentors are crazy. My point was that if vapid, angry comments bother you, ignore them.

    Don’t let them color your view of the blogosphere. More significant are the longer writing of bloggers or diarists.

    I also took issue with Garth’s reaction to constituent emails. Politicians should pay attention if they are innundated with emails. Sure it is a pain, but this is what it takes to get many of them to listen.

    Introduce yourself to me and let’s talk further.

  3. Well, I certainly did not fall for it hook line and sinker. I took issue with what Garth said about moderating his comments, but took more issue with calling voters stupid, which he did not. my point was that he came off better in the discussion than the two consultants – for the reasons I articulated, although the entire panel was disappointingly cynical.

  4. Philip, I also took issue with Garth’s stance on responding to constituent emails, although if he was on the same side as “Make Poverty History” then the emails were redundant and would be annoying and I can see his point.

    If you’re at the social later today I’ll try and find you.

  5. I don’t think anyone called voters stupid. And I’m still not sure why you think my view of the electorate is cynical.

    I specifically stated that citizen admakers are likely to have more of an impact with video than campaigns. And I defended the power of collection action using the internet as an organizing tool.

    That being said, I agree with you that Garth was a better panelist than me. He’s an excellent speaker and has done something amazing with his blog.

    No politician in the United States — except for presidential candidates — has as many active commentors.

  6. Just saw your latest post. Yes, definitely find me. We’ll have an interesting chat. I’m self-admittedly a newbie in your country’s online politics, which might explain why I held back on the panel. I’d like to learn more.

  7. Phil, I appreciate this further elaboration and I certainly wouldn’t want you to feel that your opinions are any less valid just because you’re not a Canuck.

    In terms of the ’stupid’ and ‘crazies’ remarks by Scott and yourself, neither of you said “voters” but by definition people posting comments are citizens and voters, not abstract contributers on blogs. I felt that distinction was important so I highlighted it.

    Btw, you did refer to the majority of the comments on dkos as being written by crazies vs. the more measured or valuable contributions of the diarists. It have just been flippant, but it rubbed me the wrong way, as you can tell!

    I’ll look for you.


  8. Sounds like some great ideas being shared over there at Mesh… I wish I could be there myself! I wanted to share a thought on the notion of “stupid bloggers”, especially in regard to political blogging. But, of course, not being there to hear what was said on the panel, I don’t want to put words in anybody’s mouth.

    Putting aside the inevitable trolls (the ones who purposely instigate conflict and enjoy watching a community melt down), I’ve often seen people argue right past one another in heated conversations, and it seems that quite often, people with disparate styles of communication just don’t recognize what the other is trying to say. If a site like dKos wants to be a sort of sieve for filtering grassroots policy ideas up to the dealmakers, then there is a certain style of writing — possibly a certain type of personality — which is better suited to that role than others.

    But, not everyone is a masterful writer, or a great public speaker, or a great storyteller. I often see people who are very passionate about political issues, who have a strong desire to influence the discussion, but their message is lost because it’s not framed in the “proper” style. Just because one can’t write a position paper doesn’t mean they should be excluded from the political process.

  9. Hi there tamera (and phil): i kind of regretted the “idiots” comments when it came out, but only because i feared it might be misinterpreted. What I said was that the new “interface” between public and politician — as Garth described it — is devalued by the presence of idiots (the submoronic sorts we see leaving inane comments all over the web). I’m not saying, obviously, that everyone is an idiot — only that their presence sometimes prompts politicians to ignore or underestimate the more quality feedback and ideas that might be out there.

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