Biting the Hand That

By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2004-02-10 Print this article Print

Feeds You"> Covering a story about the conglomerates that pay their bills is certainly a challenge for the traditional press. It also strains the credibility of artists locked into long-term catalogue contracts. Thus we see Bob Dylan signing RIAA petitions in the full-page spreads of national newspapers. As with the political campaign, this is fundamentally a battle for shelf space—where ideas and messages compete with entertainment favorites (sex, violence, more sex) for airtime. Although the content industries are making their stand on file-sharing technologies, the real contest concerns eyeball time—the amount of time paying attention to an information feed.
Trippi correctly recognizes the tactical power of the onliner tools—blogs, wikis, the loose federation of emerging "social software." But as a straddler of both constituencies, he may be missing the political dynamics of the Internet world and technologys impact on the field troops in the campaign.
Take blog comments—please. The CTOs of the various campaigns defend their use as a simple user interface for casual involvement by newbies. But converting the undecided into active offline participation involves more than just the harvesting of good ideas. Comments destroy the signal to noise ratio of blog brands, trading the appearance of democratic participation for muddied messaging and vulnerability to comment spamming. Instead, authenticated private RSS feeds could replace e-mail and public blogs as a collaboration engine, routing separate comment feeds via group filtering to allow good ideas to bubble up and noise to wash out of the system. Dynamic group formation and attention feedback loops such as Technoratis attention.xml service could be harnessed to manage rapid response teams, monitor media trends and squeeze more strategic business intelligence out of the information firehose. Many observers attribute Deans collapse to a decision by the electorate about his electability. Dean himself bought into that when he declared his Iowa rant "unpresidential." But it may be that many voters looked at how the Kerry and Edwards campaigns adopted Deans tactics—particularly technology—to their own ends. No one is calling Kerry the Internet candidate, but he is well-positioned to take advantage of those tactics, given his decision to follow Dean in opting out of federal matching funds. Technologists from all four major campaigns used the OReilly conference as a gathering point for discussing shared usage of campaign software in the general election. Trippi is not yet willing (at least publicly) to separate the candidate from the insurgent technology that launched him. But if there was a daily RSS briefing circulating to that new Insurgent Party campaign, you might be reading a more blunt assessment. When that feed exists, and comments are routed into relevant threads by social software dynamics, whichever candidate leverages the platform will have my vote. Discuss This in the eWEEK Forum Messaging & Collaboration Center Editor Steve Gillmor can be reached at Check out eWEEK.coms Messaging and Collaboration Center at for more on micro-content and collaboration technologies.

Steve Gillmor is editor of's Messaging & Collaboration Center. As a principal reviewer at Byte magazine, Gillmor covered areas including Visual Basic, NT open systems, Lotus Notes and other collaborative software systems. After stints as a contributing editor at InformationWeek Labs, editor in chief at Enterprise Development Magazine, editor in chief and editorial director at XML and Java Pro Magazines, he joined InfoWorld as test center director and columnist.

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