I’m still waiting for my invitation

Back in March, David Cohn wrote a post about his Geek Thesis: Drupal and the New Left. He raises many interesting questions.

Around the same time, I wrote a blog post, The Innovation Invitation, which talked about a general sense that the 2006 Presidential campaigns are not encouraging innovation the way Gov. Dean’s Presidential campaign did.

I had a good discussion with David on the phone about these issues, and today, I received a follow up email from him. Here is the gist of my response, altered a little to fit the blog.

My post, The Innovation Invitation gets to my key view that it is not Drupal per se that mattered, but an embracing of open source, which in my mind is a simple extension of openness and transparency in government. I think that is one of the reasons Drupal has caught on less amongst conservatives than it has amongst liberals, and part of the reason I've never been concerned about whether or not they embraced Drupal. To the extent that we get anyone, independent of their political orientation, to embrace openness in government, that is a good thing.

Two books that address some of this is Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope: Lessons from the Howard Dean Campaign for the Future of Internet Politics edited by Tom Streeter and Zephyr Teachout. It should be coming out any day. I have a chapter in the book describing how I got involved and touches on the ideas of the innovation invitation.

The second book is Extreme Democracy. This book was edited by Jon Lebkowsky and Mitch Radcliffe and came out in 2005. My chapter was more on the nuts and bolts of DeanSpace, but the whole book explores the idea of democracy being affected by technological ideas like extreme programming.

Recently, the Texas Forums has been having a session on the book, and we’ve discussed the lack of an innovation invitation in the 2008 election cycle.

I think it isn’t Drupal per se, that mattered in the Dean campaign, but this invitation to innovate. I think that most campaigns are very hesitant to invite innovation, and that Joe Trippi captured this hesitance best in his blog entry, The Perfect Storm

One of the other reasons I think this has not happened before is that every political campaign I have ever been in is built on a top-down military structure — there is a general at the top of the campaign — and all orders flow down — with almost no interaction. This is a disaster. This kind of structure will suffocate the storm not fuel it. Campaigns abhor chaos — and to most campaigns built on the old top-down model — that is what the net represents — chaos. And the more the campaign tries to control the “chaos” the more it stiffles its growth. As someone who is at least trying to understand the right mix — I admit its hard to get it right. But I think the important thing is to provide the tools and some of the direction — stay in as constant communication as you can with the grassroots — two way/multi-way communication — and get the hell out of the way when a big wave is building on its own.

All of this was prologue to answer David’s questions about my current involvement with the Edwards campaign and if they are using Drupal in any way.

Yes, I am supporting Edwards. In that, I add comments to blogs and on social networks when I have time indicating my support. I have suggested using Drupal to try and replicate what we did with DeanSpace, but no one was interested enough to follow up. Yet even that would simply be replicating what has been done before and not inviting people to come and innovate. I do not believe any of the campaigns are inviting people to innovate the way the Dean campaign did, so I believe that the innovators have moved on to focus on things other than presidential politics.

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