In my last post, I mentioned that I was one of a group of online community professionals who were attempting to help the Kerry campaign in 2004. Sanford Dickert, who brought us together, has posted his own account.

The team began to work on the plan – and, through the hard work of the people on the team, we had the initial draft that Jock shows on the Greater Democracy post by the self-imposed deadline. The challenge we had was, at that time – the campaign was focusing on fundraising, staffing up and the insanity behind building up for the coming Convention.

But it should be clear – that DemComm was another skunk-works project: no one in the senior staff (with the possible exception of the Dir of Internet) knew about DemComm. We all knew that the goal was to prepare a proposal for the campaign that would be guidance for development – and help in supporting Cam’s community solution. Cam’s proposal (which I think is still one of the better ideas the campaign generated at the time – combining the best parts of threaded discussions, forums AND blogging) – was not accepted due to cost concerns and potential political liabilities (“What if someone said something on a Kerry Community blog that was racist or anti-American? Even though it came from an outside user, it still is a Kerry-branded site…”) So, while we had some of the best people working on DemComm, the challenge was – as a priority, the community effort had a very different focus.

It’s part of a longer piece by Sanford, who I met at the Digital Democracy Teach-In we helped O’Reilly organize in 2004. I had been engaged in trying to corral the social technology and social media experts who had been involved in the various progressive campaigns that season, to find ways that we could work together to build stronger progressive networks. This led to the creation of an “activist technology” group and a very effective workshop Dan Robinson and I put together, and Jerry Michalski moderated, the day after SXSW Interactive ended in 2005. It also led to a sustained connection with Sanford and other collaborators he brought together with similar intentions. I think that, long-term, our efforts and commitment have paid off. I’ve been less involved in politics this season because I’ve been focused on creating a new business, because I’m more interested in supporting multipartisan grassroots efforts than candidate campaigns, and quite a bit because I think capable people are using the tools much more effectively in 2008… as Exley’s piece confirms. For more on the 2004 accelerated evolution of political technology, check out Extreme Democracy, a book Mitch Ratcliffe and I co-edited.

Author: Jon Lebkowsky

Co-wrangler of Plutopia News Network, cohost Radio Free Plutopia. Podcaster, writer, dharma observer, enzyme. Former editor/publisher, FringeWare Review; associate editor at bOING bOING and Factsheet Five; writer at Mondo 2000, 21C, Wired, Whole Earth Review, Austin Chronicle; sub-editor at Millennium Whole Earth Catalog; blogger at Worldchanging. Digital culture maven, podcaster, writer, dharma observer, enzyme. On The WELL, Cohost of VC (virtual communities), Media, and Civil War (.ind) conferences.

One thought on “DemComm”

  1. Thanks Jon – and, as I said, in our emails – the effort was a tough one then. At the time, we were not connected to the field organization then. The Kerry Campaign’s focus was fundraising and getting email addresses – coordinating with the field and local offices was (at the time) the least of our worries.

    After our efforts had been marginalized due to the Dean Campaign’s success – it was Kerry’s success in the primaries and the sudden surge in online fundraising that brought the team a level of respect.

    I think Obama’s coordination of field training, data distribution by the Blue State Digital Team and the overall organization’s acceptance of the Internet and data tools as a successful lubricant for campaign success that finally broke the dam.

    But I do ask one question – has the campaign actually driven the success of community, or did the community drive the success of the campaign – once the campaign provided the tools to operate with?

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