RSS for President

The political campaign is on, and collaboration technologies are driving the conversation. So says Messaging and Collaboration Editor Steve Gillmor.

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 Channel Dean as an example. For the Blogerati crowd, this is no big deal—an RSS aggregation feed compiled by one campaigns editorial board. For those whove mastered the non-trivial task of choosing and downloading an RSS newsreader, the feed was a quick way of absorbing one campaigns take on the confusing, fast-moving messages of the caucus denouement. For the RSS-oblivious, it may be seen as a wake-up call down the road.

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 Scripting News.

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.

Next page: RSS: Why does it matter?