Now that has to be the most common headline in the blogosphere today.
Dave Winer just said that the Dean campaign is only a start, dismissing it as no more than a start, that eventually the voters should write the campaign blogs, not the campaign itself. That seems to me to be true already with the Dean campaign. Matt Gross, the campaign’s chief blogger, is a blogger who just showed up one day at the campaign because he felt it ought to have a blog. So, whether or not Matt is a voter or a campaign worker is questionable. When I spent a week at the campaign as a volunteer worker, I discovered that even the paid staffers (by far the minority) functioned as volunteers–they’re voters who feel so strongly that they somehow find a way to work on the campaign full time for slave wages or less. And the campaign blog is written by several of the staffers who have become celebrities themselves. NYC Deaniacs enthused about getting their autographs at the Bryant Park Rally!
I’d like to clarify a huge misunderstanding about the Dean campaign, arising from not digging deep enough to get it how the campaign blog works: The real story of the Dean campaign is not the official blog, but the comments to the blog. The abundant, passionate and uncannilycomments are the fuel for this campaign. The threads they build there are the way this community maintains its community. And, importantly, they are half a million people who have explicitly declared themselves to be a community, which explicitly proves that this is precisely what Dave says it is not.
A Natural Law for Trolls?
I just called Dave on that issue, and his response is that there’s a natural law that if you have comments turned on long enough, the trolls will flood the place and make it uninhabitable, (especially, regarding this case, if Rush Limbaugh links to it). I opined that natural laws are routinely revised and that the Dean campaign’s success with comments requires us to update that law, if there is one.
Kevin Marks just pointed out that a differentiator is whether commenters are responding to a single item, which brings out the worst in us, or whether they expect to continue interacting over time. For the Dean campaign, the vast majority of commenters are committed to another year of building a presidency and the next 8 years helping to manage that presidency.
When a troll shows up, they thank the troll for reminding them to contribute to the Dean Troll Fund, and leave it at that. In other words, each of the commenters doesn’t feel required to respond to others, treating the comments tool as their Dean-oriented blogging tool.
Jim Moore agrees that the Dean comments are inspiring and are demonstrating the unexpected effect of comments that are both voluminous and civil. This new phenomenon deserves some serious attention.