The Eagle has Landed

Zack Rosen is a brilliant young man who represents everything that’s right about the Dean campaign. He’s a student in the Computer Science Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, one of the world’s finest CS programs. The last UIUC CS student who made a major difference was Mark Andreessen when he wrote Mosaic, the little web browser that grew into Netscape. The UIUC’s Computer Science program is trolling for some reflected glory from Zack. The CS Department’s home page has a link to the Wired article describing Zack’s vision.

On July 19 & 20, Zack and his friend Evan DiBiase met with Zephyr Teachout at our apartment in New York. Zephyr is Howard Dean’s Director for Internet outreach. Wouldn’t you love to be able to tell your grandkids you held that job the year politics got re-invented? The thumbnail images on the right link to Evan’s photos from that weekend. Mouse over them for a description.

In early July, I had asked Zephyr if she’d like to use our apartment to meet with Zack to plan Dean Internet v. 2.0. The mini-summit was set up and Zack and Evan drove over from Pittsburgh and Zephyr flew down from Burlington.

Zack told us that weekend that if he went back to school in the fall, he’d just flunk out since he’d be working full time on the project. So, wouldn’t it make sense for the campaign to hire him and save a brilliant career from premature ruin? When he put it that way, it was impossible for the campaign to resist.

The results of our work excited us all and now Zack’s in Burlington working on several important projects, supported by a small army of volunteers around the country.

As I’ve said before, his major project involves the best imaginable toolkit for grassroots campaign management. Joe Trippi, Dean’s campaign manager, told Larry Lessig last week that this is an open source campaign, that the important and truly effective stuff originates and is championed by the people and then spreads to campaign management. Everything that we’ve seen so far is the result of lashing together existing tools and web services, ad hoc, into the most effective Internet-based campaign ever.

We ain’t seen nothin’ yet

Rev 2.0 of the Dean Internet involves the RSS-based DeanSpace toolkit that I’ve described before. The system uses interacting RSS feeds to facilitate viral interaction among purpose-built local campaign sites, with blogs, mutual help, email lists and every other goodie you can imagine. Probably some we can’t imagine.

Our next Dean event at the apartment will be a get-together here prior to the big Dean rally in Bryant Park on Tuesday and I’ve asked Zack to spread the word among the Dean interns who are thinking of a road trip. Every month or so, it’s exciting to host a dormitory for committed, clear-eyed young people with a high purpose.

It’s amazing how much fun you can have by offering the right people a place to sleep in Midtown Manhattan with no check-out time. Oh yeah, with free pizza. Part of the deal.

I’ve depicted the DeanSpace concept before, when it was called Americans for Dean, but here it is again:

Brainstorming at Britt's Apartment
Hanging Papers
United Nations
The Triumph of Industrial Design
Zack and Britt
Line of Bottles
Hard at Work
Gathered around the Cinema Displayfire
Late-Night Discussion
Digital Photography

Open Sourcery

These truly are the best of times, because our tools have become permission-free. Just as there is no way to stop us from Purchasing the Dean Campaign by buying our own votes, there is also no way any force on earth can keep citizens from equipping themselves with the tools to contribute money, ideas, talent and shoe leather to the political activity of their choice. DeanSpace is building an open source toolkit. I call it Campaign-in-a-Box (notice that little RSS Feeds widget in the center):

The campaign has built a rapid feedback loop that’s not going to disappear after the election. These donors will be just as demanding of the President they bought as any other donors. And that’s where the DeanSpace network comes in. Remember that widget called RSS Feeds in the network graphic?

It’s a technical breakthrough in campaign organization, a chaordic disruption of party politics, and another genie freed from its bottle. This is a big deal:

  • The campaign (or resulting presidency) can’t ignore the comments posted to its own blog
  • Interesting comments rise through the Dean sites to reach a broader audience
  • More information moves to the campaign than from it
  • More initiatives and work get proposed and acted upon from outside the campaign than within

It’s a Kick in the RSS

What Zack saw before almost anyone else is that the aggregator is the network. By distributing a consistent toolkit, Deaniacs (as they call themselves) will build a zillion Dean sites. Each of those sites will vote good ideas to the top and expose them in their RSS feeds. Other sites will absorb those good ideas and vote the best ones further up the hierarchy of common sense.

War is a series of campaigns that try to perfect the means for blowing things up. A Presidential election is a series of campaigns that try to perfect the means to aggregate lots of voices around a candidate’s shared vision. Both kinds of campaigns have, until now, forced the troops to conform to the whims of HQ. For the first time, a Presidential campaign is submitting to the elegant chaos of the grass roots. If that campaign elects the President, we’ll be started down a path that looks nothing like the road that got us here.

11:12:19 PM    

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