Political Power – Shall we shape it or endure it?

It’s easier to invent the future than predict it.
              —Alan Kay

We’re at democracy’s inflection point. Democracy is where the web was in 1993 and we can shape it any way we like. Broadcast politics seems vulnerable and the key to political power is to let go of the illusion that politicians, governments, campaigns and political parties are in charge of the voice (power) of the people (polis).

It’s the governance, stupid! But the means to effect better governance will arise only from politicians and stakeholders dissatisfied with governance as usual.

This is an outline of some obvious thoughts about specific ways that politics might be affected by Internet technologies. Historically, every campaign is an echo chamber striving to become a megaphone for its master’s voice. The Internet allows the echo chamber to expand to include millions of voices mastering the politicians.

I had not realized until recently that the voices outside an Internet-powered campaign must drown out the voices within. The Internet clue is that any campaign is assured of victory if it can inspire a smart mob to use the right tools to organize itself into a viral, loose hierarchy. Until the constituents build their own bridges and form their own hierarchies of influence, every campaign’s echo chamber is sound and fury signifying not quite enough.


  • Politics follows money
  • The 45th President will reflect and amplify the forces that elect him
  • Only our preconceptions limit our ingenuity and power

Desirable outcomes

  • Universal participation
  • Issue-based voting
  • Fact-based campaigning
  • Voter-financed campaigns
  • Low average contribution amounts
  • Inter-campaign civility (community vs. advocacy)

Strategy: Leverage the individual campaigns’ urgency

If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.

Like the tech industry, emergent democracy needs critical deadlines to make urgent the deliverables that we might otherwise express as theories. Primaries and elections provide those deadliness and change agents must embrace that urgency. Change needs a series of galvanizing conferences and enterprises to develop the next generation of tools to assemble broad but powerful constituencies.

We should not assume that this public-spirited activity has no ROI. As the Republicans have demonstrated, the payoff from winning is to influence the $1.7 trillion annual budget. To those without extraordinary access and influence, the elimination of special interests is as profitable as was the gaining of influence by the current holders.

  • Consensus-building open source web apps
  • Each nomination and election provides last minute deadlines
  • Election season is development crunch time


Democracy’s essential resource is an unassailable voting system. Closed source unauditable voting can only be offset by a broad-based voter-verifiable ballot record. Until e-voting is open source and auditable, a few imperfect mechanisms might stem the rush to managed polling:

  • Digital photos of voting screens
  • Voter-controlled digital ID
  • WiFi PollCams monitoring sensitive polling places (from 100′)
  • Open vote declaration through auditable web sites

Voter Education through Fact-rich Timelines

  • Issue-based event timelines
    • Documented, linked statements depicting the history of issues & events
    • Transforms arcane facts into a time-based story
    • Abundant charts & graphics
  • Categories
    • Military procurement
    • Energy policy
    • Health care industry
    • Individual lobbyists and their clients & fees
    • Corporate convictions, plea bargains & individual wealth
      • SEC & court records
  • The $1,000,000 Timeline Challenge
    • Prove an error, win $1,000
    • Quiz show

The Web-based Electorate

  • Multiple opportunities for citizen expression
  • A low level of expression may evolve through higher forms.
    • Email becomes
    • Blog comments become
    • Group blogs become
    • A personal blog
  • Blogs may aggregate into a Knowledge Base
        (Might the knowledge base finally arrive?
         Perhaps through the urgency of a campaign.)
  • Election Issue namespace to aggregate sentiment
  • Comments can aggregate into issues compilations
    • Campaign blog comments are implicitly issue-based, begging for aggregation and indexing.
      6:28:29 PM    

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