Hangin with the Not-So-Technical Crowd

By Chris Nolan  |  Posted 2005-08-25 Print this article Print

Opinion: There's a bit of distance between the people who craft legislation that affects technology and the people who use it and rely on it.

As summer ends and the fall legislative session begins in Congress, its worth taking a few minutes to consider the differences between two worlds: those who live and breathe on the network and those who think of online communication as more like a phone call or a TV show than a constant, reliable presence. This is the first look—inspired by a conversation I had last week with The Gillmor Gang—at how these attitudes will affect digital politics in the coming year. This week, we look at the not-so-technical crowd. Next week, well look at tech-savvy attitudes. The first thing tech folks might want to remember about Washington is that congressmen dont really make their own phone calls. The other little fact: Many of them dont type.
Click here to read more about how Roberts nomination highlights the Webs influence.
They have cell phones and Blackberries, of course. But much of the time, those devices are carried by the staff member who is escorting the senator or congressman that day. It is that person—colloquially known as "the guy" because he usually is—who is charged with answering the phone and responding to any urgent pages, including making sure the lawmaker makes it to the House or Senate floor for a vote. The Internet is uncharted territory for these people, filled with rumors and porn and worse. They have heard of AOL and Microsoft, but they dont know Craigslist.org or HotorNot.com. They think Microsofts interests are aligned with Silicon Valley. "Open source," if theyve heard of it, makes no sense to them. Theyve never used Google maps. And most are pretty sure this blogging phenomena is a passing fad. And they dont know too many other folks who think differently than they do. In other words, theres a bit of distance between the people who craft legislation that affects technology, the technology, and the people who use and rely on it. Thats important to remember as Congress begins consideration of two pieces of legislation thats going to be important to the tech businesses: Copyright law and the rewrite of the 1996 Telecommunications Act Next Page: Its who you know.

Standalone journalist Chris Nolan runs 'Politics from Left to Right,' a political Web site at www.chrisnolan.com that focuses on the intersection of politics, technology and business issues in San Francisco, in California and on the national scene.

Nolan's work is well-known to tech-savvy readers. Her weekly syndicated column, 'Talk is Cheap,' appeared in The New York Post, Upside, Wired.com and other publications. Debuting in 1997 at the beginnings of the Internet stock boom, it covered a wide variety of topics and was well regarded for its humor, insight and news value.

Nolan has led her peers in breaking important stories. Her reporting on Silicon Valley banker Frank Quattrone was the first to uncover the now infamous 'friend of Frank' accounts and led, eventually, to Quattrone's conviction on obstruction of justice charges.

In addition to columns and Weblogging, Nolan's work has appeared in The Washington Post, The New Republic, Fortune, Business 2.0 and Condé, Nast Traveler, and she has spoken frequently on the impact of Weblogging on politics and journalism.

Before moving to San Francisco, Nolan, who has more than 20 years of reporting experience, wrote about politics and technology in Washington, D.C., for a series of television trade magazines. She holds a B.A. from Barnard College, Columbia University.


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