I had some great hang time at OSCon with Doc. Doc is the metaphor meister, but he’s nobody’s fool. I emphasize his non-foolishness because historically the king’s metaphor meister was a brightly dressed fool who was allowed to say outrageous things that the nobles could not. Many of the fool’s gems were metaphors, and Doc comes up with more pithy comments than anyone, and also reports everyone else’s. I think of him stalking through the jungle with his metaphor net and pith helmet.
Yesterday he quoted Jakob Neilsen: “Cluetrain was marketers defecting to the customers’ side of marketing.” After a week at OSCon, I’m back to report that Neilson’s describing a cultural trend, not an isolated event. We’re all defecting from tired viewpoints to previously inconceivable ones.
On the evening of June 30, I heard Howard Dean speak in New York. He worked the crowd with his articulate plainspokenness regarding health care, state’s rights to regulate couple’s rights, and in a clever finale to the list, the glory of a balanced budget to secure our future. He got a rousing, lingering round of cheers and applause. When we quieted down, he added, “Look what just happened: A crowd of liberal New Yorkers cheering for fiscal responsibility!”
That’s a mass defection. What a contrast to the mass defecation on George Tenet this week!
The Open Source Democracy
Am I just seeing penguins or is this a cultural trend?
Which is why big companies are using open source tools to do DIY IT, as Doc calls it.
Is Democracy the Killer App?
What would an open source country look like? It’s been done many times before. They’re called revolutions, hard reboots that are really messy, with all those bodies and widows and orphans. Usually they end up hacking a Colonel. Those are the lengths people will go to install an open source government.
Democracy, the killer demo.
Unfortunately, like our current republic, most of those revolutionary open source installations suffer from a slow but persistent memory leak. The revolutionaries revert to type and act like the old leaders. Think of Castro and the NeoCons here. Remember the Gingrich Contract with America? (Reproduced below for convenience & blog stickiness. BTW, did anyone else feel a disturbance in the Force when they made a newt our most powerful legislator?)
That’s why Thomas Jefferson felt that a new open source government should be installed by its users every generation or so.
The Über Issue
As I said last time, an ad hoc smart mob might be reaching a critical mass around the Dean campaign. If it is, the mob’s collective sense may be that the key issue behind the movement is their new sense of empowerment, not the candidate or issues. That might not even bother Howard Dean. Every leader wants to leave behind something larger than himself, and open source democracy sure would be it.
Make no mistake, these people love Dean and there are many reasons why they should, the DLC and pundits notwithstanding. Dean is smart, human, informed and charismatic. On the main points that people like in a president, he seems ahead of the candidates of both parties. On his campaign blog a while back, a worker commented that Dean had left his notes behind before a talk, but that, “as usual, he just improved on the notes.” Doh. Natural, coherent speech seems the most presidential of traits.
As Doc points out in his link to my Steal this Campaign post yesterday, the candidate is just the start of the appeal. Beyond the issues and the candidate, which are features, lies the real benefit. The Dean campaign is facilitating a different character of participation, by entirely new people, who are not as focused on the candidate and issues as on the process they want to establish, which looks nothing like the process we have.
Fix it in the Mix
These new constituents are collectively buying the Dean campaign, just as big Republican donors are buying Dubya’s attention–I’ll bet Kenny Lay has already slipped a couple grand into his old buddy’s pocket. Dean supporters, with their $112 average contribution, seem to feel a collective confidence in Dean’s willingness to listen to them just as Republican donors feel in their ability to be heard by the candidate they’re buying. Dean’s indicated that we’ll see a White House blog in 2005, and he’s guest hosting Larry Lessig’s blog next week. It’s the transparency, stupid!
If the citizens own this candidate, and there’s a way to aggregate our collective sensibilities into a coherent expression of policy preferences, then we should be confident we can steer the country after buying our candidate. Amazon knows all about its users’ preferences, thanks to all those Linux boxes, why shouldn’t the president we buy?
Now that’s an aspiration greater than mere presidency: “I am the preferred puppet of the American people. My job is to understand their collective common sense and make it so.” If you have a puppet for pres
Are Mobs really smart?
All my smart mob talk gives Mitch and some others the willies. They say that if we get too confident we might fail to get Dean elected, that elections are won in meatspace, not cyber and so we Netizens can’t assume we’ll connect with actual citizens. My point is a different one. If the smart mob reaches critical mass, it’s a fundamentally different animal than the one that currently elects governments, with radically different capabilities. Its effect on party machines and mechanics would be like the effect of P2P networks on the music biz. And it’s all about meatspace, not segregated from it.
I went to a Dean Meetup 10 days ago and wrote 3 letters to Iowa Democrats. So did about 20,000 other people. I’ve never written a campaign letter in my life nor had anyone around me. It gets no meatier than that. This was an example of the effect of the civic level of cyberspace that Jim Moore described on the eve of of Dean’s Super Monday:
Based on a series of digital messages, 60,000 people have registered to go to Meetups and do things like write letters with real ink on real paper. The experts who specialize in managing the torrent of money flowing into candidate’s coffers every other year don’t like this formula which is more complicated than buying attack ads on TV. Because it’s human.
Let’s try a viral mob-forming experiment. I’m dropping this in the meme pool to see what happens. I know people who can build this function overnight:
As the salesman says, “Sign here, press hard, third copy is yours.”
Contract with America*
An Example of Memory Leak in Partisan Politics
As Republican Members of the House of Representatives and as citizens seeking to join that body we propose not just to change its policies, but even more important, to restore the bonds of trust between the people and their elected representatives.
That is why, in this era of official evasion and posturing, we offer instead a detailed agenda for national renewal, a written commitment with no fine print.
This year’s election offers the chance, after four decades of one-party control, to bring to the House a new majority that will transform the way Congress works. That historic change would be the end of government that is too big, too intrusive, and too easy with the public’s money. It can be the beginning of a Congress that respects the values and shares the faith of the American family.
Like Lincoln, our first Republican president, we intend to act “with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right.” To restore accountability to Congress. To end its cycle of scandal and disgrace. To make us all proud again of the way free people govern themselves.
On the first day of the 104th Congress, the new Republican majority will immediately pass the following major reforms, aimed at restoring the faith and trust of the American people in their government:
Thereafter, within the first 100 days of the 104th Congress, we shall bring to the House Floor the following bills, each to be given full and open debate, each to be given a clear and fair vote and each to be immediately available this day for public inspection and scrutiny.
Further, we will instruct the House Budget Committee to report to the floor and we will work to enact additional budget savings, beyond the budget cuts specifically included in the legislation described above, to ensure that the Federal budget deficit will be less than it would have been without the enactment of these bills.
Respecting the judgment of our fellow citizens as we seek their mandate for reform, we hereby pledge our names to this Contract with America.