The New York Times reports that Senator Clinton’s campaign has hired an experienced political blogger. The 2008 Presidential Election is going to heat up the blogosphere in the next two years. But I’m really afraid most of the candidates won’t actually do it right. I’m afraid they’ll try to use the web as a top-down communication tool, and not a giant listening device and organizing device that actually empowers citizens to be involved in government. The Dean campaign really energized voters, most of whom are dissatisfied with both political parties. (According to Joe Trippi’s book, the number is 70%.) The web offers hope for politics and government, but only if it is used in the right way.
After I finished Joe Trippi’s book in July 2004 (which ought to be required reading for every political candidate in this country) I wrote this impassioned post about how the internet will affect politics and government. It may be one of my best posts ever. Unfortunately, our political social networking site iCount was never fully funded or fully developed. So it sits today as a site that aggregates political feeds. Fortunately, Phil Windley has kept it alive. When Provo Labs has more bandwidth, perhaps we should revitalize it.
I hope to see the day when most elected officials and political candidates in this country have their own blog and actually write their own posts and read feedback from their constituents. I would love to see them continually in touch with the people they represent and serve.
My hopes for our political future are inspired by my own personal experience at MyFamily.com, where I was in touch in a remarkable way with millions of customers. One of my favorite things to do at MyFamily.com was to write daily surveys on any imaginable topic to see what our users thought about things. We had about 100,000 users logging in each day back in 2001. And we had a pop-up survey that came up whenever someone logged in. So we could get 6-8,000 responses per day on one or many surveys.
I wrote more than 300 surveys in a one or two year period. I knew what my customers thought about digital cameras, genealogy, languages classes, cooking, hobbies, how many yearbooks they had in their homes, what genealogy software they used, their plans to buy a new computer, how many had high-speed internet, scanners in their homes, how many relatives they kept in touch with, where they planned to vacation next summer, etc, etc, etc. And those are just a handful of the survey topics that I can remember off the top of my head.
I could write a survey, post it, and within a few hours have more than 1,000 responses. It was amazingly powerful! I felt completely in tune with my customers needs, wants, desires, plans, thoughts and feelings. (To supplement the quantitative feedback from these surveys, we did weekly phone calls with actual customers and we read emails and listened to calls in the call center for qualitative feedback.)
(The only thing close to this feeling that I’ve felt since is from blogging. But the feedback I get is on a much smaller scale. I can’t wait to have 10,000 blog readers a day and a survey tool that will allow me to do the same thing. I love to know what people think about new ideas. But that may never happen.)
Imagine if every elected official could get 1,000 responses from constituents on any question that came up. A personal, instant poll. And imagine if they could write their own survey questions, point to it from their blog, and get the survey results in hours as well as comments on their blog to provide them with texture.
The web provides this power. The question is, will any candidate embrace it and use it in a way that empowers the rest of us and could create the most energized campaign in history?
Read my 2004 post and tell me what you think about all this. Which candidate do you think will be the darling of the blogosphere in the 2008 election?