Bookmarks for March 13th through March 15th

I find this stuff so that you don’t have to.

You can find all my bookmarks on Delicious. There is also even more stuff on my shared Google Reader page.

You can also see all the videos I think are worth watching at my video scrapbook.

Obama’s democracy

Interesting paper from Delib on the approach to government taken by the Obama administration in the States:

The reality has certainly been a lot more muted than most geeks would have liked. Nothing overly glam and technologically ground-breaking, but instead a steady stream of pilot e-democracy projects and iterative improvements using an array of different web 2.0 tools.

Obama’s democracy 2.0

Learning from Obama

Edelman have published an interesting white paper on what lessons can be learnt from Obama’s use of the social web in his campaign. It’s worth a read.

Here’s the headline list of learning points:

  • Start early
  • Build to scale
  • Innovate where necessary; do everything incrementally better
  • Make it easy to find, forward and act
  • Pick where you want to play
  • Channel online enthusiasm into specific, targeted activities that further the campaign’s goals
  • Integrate online advocacy into every element of the campaign

This seems to tie in rather nicely with some of the messages I have been banging on about of late, including the emphasis on prototyping, ‘worse is better’, etc.

An open transition

Another Saturday evening post about how the internet can have a positive effect on the way democracy and government operates. This one is straight from the US.

An Open Transition is a site set up by a coalition of folk including Lawrence Lessig, Mozilla and the Participatory Culture Foundation. It states:

President-elect Obama has made a very clear commitment to changing the way government works with its citizens. To this end, we offer these three principles to guide the transition in its objective to build upon the very best of the Internet to produce the very best for government.

Those three principles are:

  1. No Legal Barrier to Sharing
  2. No Technological Barrier to Sharing
  3. Free Competition

There’s also a video explaining things a bit more:

It will be interesting to follow this one, and see what influence it might have.

Flaming for Obama

Lovely piece in Prospect this month from Peter Jukes, talking about the occasionally fractious community of Democrat bloggers in the US:

For many in Britain, blogging, especially political blogging, is a bit of a disappointment. Many of our political sites are tacked on to party websites, or are simply online versions of established media outlets. They tend to be either controlled, conformist and rather dull, or unmoderated rants, the kind of online graffiti rightly parodied by Private Eye.

These sites in the US foster a real community spirit and encourage the best material to float to the top:

On first view, websites like Daily Kos and MyDD may look like simple news providers, but underneath they are powered by a specific community and its democratic preferences. Soon after joining, you can write your own piece, or “diary.” With enough interest from other users, your diary can rise quickly up the recommended list or “rec list” until you are ushered on to the front page. In their comments, other readers can annotate and correct your piece, provide new links and background, “flame” you with insults, heap you with praise or just crack a joke. These comments are themselves subject to voting. The more votes you acquire the more privileges you get—a privileged user can, for example, hide the abusive or unsubstantiated comments they receive from others. Becoming a member of these sites is like joining the editorial board of an interactive newspaper or, with the increased popularity of embedded YouTube videos, the news team of a television network.

Jukes laments the lack of such communities in this country:

There is nothing in Britain that replicates the passion and activism of these sites. The nearest equivalent is ConservativeHome—and perhaps it is no surprise that an opposition party latches on to this alternative form of communication. I still wait for real signs of a popular centre-left blog in Britain. (If you want to start one up, let me know.)

Learning from Obama

One of the interesting topics to emerge from 2gether08, specifically the sessions on whether UK politics is ‘big enough’ for the web, and ‘egov to wegov‘, was where we stand on campaigning online, especially in comparison with the US.

This ties in neatly with a speech made by the Skills Minister, David Lammy, last week:

The danger, in a world where Westminster has created its own industry of think-tanks, lobbying firms, PR agencies and media outlets, is that we lose the rich diversity to a generation of politicians who have emerged not from the professions, the business community or the unions but from within Westminster itself.

It’s dangerous because people struggle to find the connections with this political class that seems to operate in a different world.

This has been picked up by a few commentators, such as Simon Dickson:

But he’s absolutely right: the [online] tools are cheap, often free, and easy. It’s not whether you can do it, it’s what you do with it. It’s also quite interesting to see him talking in terms of a ‘fightback’. It’s often said that campaigning is easier when you’re in opposition: by pre-emptively accepting defeat, could that kickstart Labour’s online efforts?

Andrew Grice in The Independant:

Mr Lammy was calling for a cultural revolution in our politics to reconnect it with the people, as Mr Obama has done. New Labour, he admitted, was never “a movement that filtered down to ordinary people”.

Andrew Sparrow in The Guardian:

It was a speech about the lessons to be learnt from the US presidential elections and Lammy’s intention, I’m sure, was to promote a debate about the way Labour should change, not to deliver any coded criticism of the prime minister.

But his message, or at least one of them, was that “the political messages and methods of the 1990s are beginning to look very tired and dated”, and time and time again he made points that it would be impossible to imagine Brown saying, or even supporting.

Paul Canning has written regularly about the Obama campaign, too:

In the UK internet use is already by a majority, is growing over other media use and is only going one way – up. I would imagine that the Tories are ahead of the game on this (my impression, though I’m advised it may well be the Libdems – it’s definitely not Labour) but once the real facts have been unpacked it would be a huge mistake for the other parties to just think ‘fundraising’ and not recognise that – as well as having a compelling candidate – running from the bottom-up, empowering supporters and making use of the Web’s power is really what’s behind Obama’s success.

So here’s the thing. Politicians need to connect with people through conversation, conversation that can be messy and result in a loss of control. It means that the politicians go on a journey themselves through their campaigns, learning from their electorate rather than lecturing them – and they need to tell the story of that journey so that others may connect with them.

The web provides the tools for this to happen, and can be deployed quickly and pretty cheaply. All the political parties should be looking across the Atlantic and identifying the lessons they could learn from both the primary elections just finished, and the presidential election to come.

They also need to be planning this now, because while this stuff is dead easy to do, it’s damn hard to do it well.