If you believe the Tuesday morning quarterbacks, the Internet Bubble II has burst. The vaunted Dean Machine coughed up a mere 18 percent of Iowas caucus votes, deflating the Deaniacs secret dreams of West Wing Steadicammed conversations. But lets hold off on the post-mortems for a bit.
The Iowa results are clearly a referendum on Dean, Edwards, Kerry and, terminally, Gephardt. But theyre more profoundly an endorsement of information routing technologies such as RSS and its derivatives. The speed with which Kerry and Edwards, and Clark in New Hampshire, rose out of the pack is dwarfed by the accelerated pace of information capture and syndication.
Take Dave Winers
Even with the biased reference point of the Dean campaign, Channel Dean accelerated the acquisition of a real-time snapshot of the Dean corpus. While the majority of links were from traditional media such as the New York Times, CNN, AP and the Chicago Tribune, key blog sites were also well-represented. Drilling down on a Doc Searls post, I quickly found my way to a popular political site, the Daily Kos, and from there to a blistering “deconstruction” from inside the Dean campaign.
By the following morning, Dave Winer had detailed a Channel Dean outage, precipitated by his filing a quote (We came in third) by Dean on CNN. As we learned during the Nixon residency, the cover-up is always worse than the covered-up. By morning the feed was live again, and Dave had some fodder for
Its easy to pigeonhole this as just so much inside baseball, but for political junkies (yes, I am) this is the stuff of which campaigns are made, and broken. Channel Dean, once born as a transmitter of success, is now reborn as a metric for monitoring how a campaign falls apart, or survives, or regains its footing. If the other campaigns dont adopt the technology, they cede the real-time connection to Dean.
: Why Does It Matter?”>
Why does this matter? The Net has enormously accelerated the conversation that the aggregated campaigns have joined. A range of collaboration software, from sales force automation to wikis to the nascent social software tools, has compressed the electorate into rapidly forming affinity groups. Once in place, these groups become a dynamic type of focus group, with the enhanced ability to create, test-market, refine and deploy strategic muscle at lightning speed.
Its difficult to catch this change at the surface level—where network and even cable news operations can only sound-bite the dynamics. But the RSS space—as a synthesis of both a filtered mainstream media and the bottom-up drivers of the blogosphere—is the quickest way to take the pulse, and affect (or reinfect) the process in return.
You can see the change in the candidates gait, their smile, their resignation, their anger. Deans concession speech was Nixonian, but dont forget we did get another big chance to kick him around some more. Kerry saved his voice for the conversation with Ted Kopell, where he synthesized many of the core Democratic themes in his best televised appearance to date. Edwards flipped from channel to channel with the satisfied glint of an attorney who has his closing argument lined up.
And dont forget the Republicans—particularly Ed Gillespie, the elegant RNC chairman who coolly handicapped the race with clarity, humor and insight. Something important has changed. Perhaps the old pros are right and this election will come down to whos cuter or whos got the wedge issues. But if Iowa is any indication, the conversation has been altered by the presence of the network—and RSS.
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eWEEK.com Messaging & Collaboration Center Editor Steve Gillmor can be reached at [email protected].