With all due respect to Dave, who seems compelled to broadcast the arrival of every new political weblog, I really couldn't care less.

Actually, that's not true. I think that if I see another politician's face or campaign slogan on the front of a weblog, I'm gonna be sick. So I guess I do care. A little.

I really don't understand all the excitement. Another political candidate has decided to add "weblog" to the list of ways that he and his campaign staff can pollute our lives with more political bullshit. Yippie!!! As if that somehow validates or improves the image of weblog technology or the candidate.

Far from it.

Same shit, different medium.

Maybe the ratio of talk to action will someday improve in politics enough that I'd bother to pay attention, but I don't think an installation of MovableType and an RSS feed are going to do the trick.

No thanks.

What next, IM chat sessions with a candidate?


(Don't take this the wrong way, Dave. It's not you. It's the politicians.)

Posted by jzawodn at September 29, 2003 05:29 PM

Reader Comments
# Daniel Von Fange said:

Exactly. Weblogs are cool. A well used weblogs is even a powerful. But power and truth do not always go together, that's for sure.

on September 29, 2003 06:21 PM
# Daniel Von Fange said:

Excuse the horrible grammar. :( I must have let my thumbs do the typing.

on September 29, 2003 06:23 PM
# kasia said:

So when are you running for office?

on September 29, 2003 06:30 PM
# Hemo said:

As if the politicians are actually maintaining the weblog _themselves_. Our tax dollars and donations hard at work paying for a techie and a writer to come up with new or post the same old garbage on a 'new' medium.


on September 29, 2003 06:35 PM
# Jon Gales said:

It's just a cheaper way to lie :P. Although it will be interesting when someone links to an old Dean/Flame of the moment permalink that says the exact opposite of what he/she does. Live speeches are a lot harder to archive.

on September 29, 2003 06:35 PM
# courtney said:

I find that if you mire yourself in a political stance, you also mire yourself in an anti-somebody stance. And that unfortunate result tends to blind people to some important things in life. When one mires oneself in politics, it becomes all too easy to focus on prominent individuals and 'the others' and let 'the others' take all the blame for these societal problems - and expect those 'others' to do something about these problems. Everyone else must make the sacrifices, and do the work, because you have 'the answer'. No one wants to get involved. It's not their problem. Or, they'll talk and talk and talk, but never actually do anything (i.e., politics). If you're working to help others, you don't generally have time to get involved in political policy battles - you're too busy working on someone else's behalf. Anyway, that's why I have no time for those whose world revolves around politics, or any other ivory tower ideas. Show me the product of your labor to signifcantly, materially, and personally help someone else, and then I'll be impressed.

on September 29, 2003 07:37 PM
# milk said:

im chat sessions with oneís parliamentary representative are a great idea. i don't know about the u.s.a, but in the u.k, many constituencies have 'surgeries' where local people can come along to meet their mp (member of parliament) to debate issues with them. of course, like many things, i donít see why this can not be done online. of course, one would have to look closely at the details of moderation and the actual format of the online stream (what mix of im and/or a/v).

on the matter of politicians using blogs; no offence, but i think itís a big cop-out argument to just claim that all politicians spout the same shit and itís just not worth it. of course you get dodgy politicians, and from what i've seen on the u.s.a (with it's voting system in desperate need of reform) there are a fair few over there, but that's quite a separate matter as to a politicians use of blogging/rss news.

personally, i think its very handy to know what oneís party/favorite party member/local member has to say on the issues of the day or on issues relating to where one lives, what the latest news is from the party conference, what new policy papers and documents have been released. granted, u.k political parties are more Ďwith ití seeing as they donít have as much to manage as parties in the u.s.a, but i still see great applications whatever nation one lives.

on September 30, 2003 12:52 AM
# saberworks said:

It seems to me that scripting.com should be called blogging.com, since all Dave does is blog about blogging all blogging day long. It seems more like a blogging linkfest than an actual blog. Why bother?

on September 30, 2003 01:11 PM
# Jack said:

I think there must be at least a thousand political blogs out there right now.

on September 30, 2003 01:13 PM
# Dave Winer said:

Jeremy, I agree with you.

The interesting thing about the Dean campaign, which was the first to blog, is how the blogs drafted him, he didn't go seeking them out.

And Clark has Cameron Barrett, who's one of the original A-Teamers from 1997.

But ultimately what's going to matter are citizens, voters, who cover the election and route around the press; and it might happen this time, a candidate emerging from blogspace, someone who doesn't need to learn how blogs work, and won't pay lip service to direct communication, it could be someone who's already doing it.

I wrote about this in two DaveNet pieces. I still believe what I wrote then, even more than I did then.

1. http://davenet.userland.com/2003/09/02/tipsForCandidatesReWeblogs

2. http://davenet.userland.com/2003/04/30/citizenBloggersInNewHampshire

on September 30, 2003 01:37 PM
# Rogers Cadenhead said:

I've been dodging most of this news about politician weblogging, but I suspect it will prove to as significant to electoral campaigns as weblogging has been to mainstream media.

There are some interesting one-to-one and networking effects that happen when large numbers of people gather and communicate through weblogs. I'm getting a much different look at the Valerie Plame Wilson scandal through weblogs than I do from the nightly news and newspapers. (One strong difference: I've known about this story for more than a month.)

The one-to-one interaction the Internet makes possible is already transforming the 2004 presidential race: Howard Dean's ability to mobilize support and raise large money from thousands of small donors wouldn't be happening without the Web.

If hundreds of webloggers begin covering the race for their own candidates or their own views and are read by thousands of people, it turns the news business on its head. Considering how terrible the pro media covered the last presidential race, I'd welcome this revolution.

on September 30, 2003 02:09 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:


I'm *not* complaining about indviduals who say what write what they think about a canidate. I'm talking about a canidate's "official" weblog.

Was that somehow not clear?

on September 30, 2003 02:15 PM
# Rogers Cadenhead said:

It was. But I think the official entry of politicians into blogging throws them into the mix and could have interesting side effects.

For instance, what if several dozen of the Iowa Caucus participants were blogging?

on September 30, 2003 02:23 PM
# Dave Winer said:

Jeremy, I think we're all in agreement.

To prove it let me amplify.

Dean is so unimaginative about the Web that he raises millions of dollars on the Web to spend on television ads.


Suppose Dean earmarked just $2 million of the money he raised for a weblog for every US voter who wanted one, whether or not he was going to vote for Dean.

What if Clark did that?

Boy would that blow things open.

Think about all the local candidates who would follow their lead.

If done right, one could start a new political party right now, or take one over.

Think about it. When the ball goes in play, lots of shit can happen. Jeremy, the ball is in play now.

on September 30, 2003 02:39 PM
# Derek Willis said:

I'm with Jeremy on this one, and I think that we're not all in agreement. I'm not saying the scenario that Dave sketched out couldn't happen, but I do know enough about politics to know that whomever the Democratic nominee turns out to be will need every last cent he can gather for television advertising.

Until the number of people who have weblogs and view them as their primary source of political information surpasses those who get it from television, it's suicide to abandon TV. Hell, candidates want to buy time just so their opponents don't get it.

That's why I firmly believe that if weblogs are ever to change campaigning it will have to come from the bottom, not from a national race. It's a nice thought, but the idea of taking money from the ad budget and essentially giving it away is the political equivalent of emptying your gun of ammunition before the showdown.

Now, I do agree that somebody could use weblogs (or other forms of communication) to expand a new party. That's certainly possible, but that's not what any of the presidential candidates are trying to do. They are trying to win an election. It's a lot easier to shape a party when you're the head of it - ask any sitting President.

It's good that we have people who are asking the "what if?" questions, it really is. But this is a presidential race, something that affects every American, whether they have a weblog or not, and we can find better stages for grand experiments.

on September 30, 2003 03:15 PM
# Shelley said:

"Dean is so unimaginative about the Web that he raises millions of dollars on the Web to spend on television ads.


Suppose Dean earmarked just $2 million of the money he raised for a weblog for every US voter who wanted one, whether or not he was going to vote for Dean."

I'm going to need to take a hiatus from reading as well as writing a weblog, because I want to respond to these statements, though I know it does no good.

First, those who have access to the Internet have all they need to have a weblog -- free weblogs all over the place. And, there are probably 1 weblogger for every 1000 voters (if that) in the US -- all of whom most likely watch TV. What's a better use of money?

Perspective. Really need to see some real perspective hitting the ground about now. I know that webloggers want to remake the world in their own image, and that everything non-weblog related is s__t, but webloggers are still a small minority of people. And most non-webloggers think we're a bit odd.

on September 30, 2003 04:08 PM
# Seth Finkelstein said:

One idea I've thought of developing, is that politicians want to sell the illusion of connection, and thus employ blogs to that end. But this does not revolutionize politics. In fact, all it does is provide punditry-fodder to fill fodder-slots.

on September 30, 2003 04:24 PM
# Anil said:

And, there are probably 1 weblogger for every 1000 voters (if that) in the US -- all of whom most likely watch TV.

I'd guess the ratio of webloggers to voters is closer to 1 to 10 than 1 to 1000, and I'd also bet (though this statement I can't back up with hard numbers) bloggers vote in higher numbers than TV watchers, and probably influence more people than TV watchers.

Still doesn't change the rest of the points raised, or the importance of the concepts, but the reality is that weblogs will have more of an effect than naysayers would anticipate.

Doesn't make politics any more interesting to those who don't care, though. :)

on September 30, 2003 05:05 PM
# Seth Finkelstein said:

Raw ratio is not what's relevant. Bloggers talk almost entirely to other bloggers, and it's pretty much a very narrow demographic of professionals.

Call it the "Compu-American Social Club".

on September 30, 2003 05:21 PM
# Derek Willis said:

The Census Bureau says that there were 129 million registered voters in November 2000 (110 million of which reported voting), which would mean that there are between 10 and 13 million American bloggers out there, which is a lot. Not saying it isn't true (since I don't have any evidence either way), but that figure would have to be reduced by the bloggers that don't discuss politics. Again, I realize that I'm playing the role of naysayer here, but I'm just trying to be realistic.

on September 30, 2003 05:30 PM
# rr said:

There are about 160 million registered voters in the US. About 105 million of them voted in 2000.

Are there closer to 16 million voters blogging or 160,000? You decide.

The importance of blogs, the Web, and the Net generally for the future of politics is that it replaces a small, expensive, highly asymmetric communications spectrum (i.e., the available cable and satellite TV channels and the U.S. mail) with a huge, cheap, symmetric one.

What's the single biggest reason for the sorry state of state and national government now? The corrupting influence of campaign finance. Why do candidates need so much money? To buy TV spots. It won't make a big difference in the short-term, but in the long-term, the Net may be the ultimate campaign finance reform.

on September 30, 2003 05:38 PM
# Jeremy Zawodny said:

I dunno about that.

If everyone moves to the web, then we'll see politicians buying ads on sites like Yahoo, MSN, AOL, and Google, right?

That isn't cheap either. They'll still need buckets of cash.

on September 30, 2003 05:48 PM
# Seth Finkelstein said:

Besides, why not just buy a few A-list bloggers?

Arguably, we're seeing the beginnings of that now.

on September 30, 2003 05:55 PM
# rr said:

I don't really see Web ads as a likely direction, but even so, the cost is orders of magnitude below TV. Airtime, because there's so little of it, is incredibly expensive.

on September 30, 2003 06:01 PM
# Jacob Levy said:

Dave just doesnt get it that some people don't *want* to blog. I tried it and hated it. One more thing to do, one more audience to take care of -- who needs it..

That's why offering a blog to everyone who wants one is like offering a second steering wheel to a trucker -- who needs it. Me personally, I'm a programmer. I express myself that way. Weblogs are for people who know how to express themselves in English, this comment is proof of that (;-).

If Clark were to offer everyone a weblog I'd automatically decide to not vote for him. Same for anyone kooky enough to try something as daft as that. Who would want to owe the Clark campaign, who would want to be in their debt?!

Blogs are not cool. Blogs are like handkerchiefs and sausage. They're just an ordinary way of writing whose novelty will fade away soon and become commonplace like the postal service, the interstate highway system, or being able to call your aunt in Brazil on the telephone. Who rants and raves about being able to fly coast to coast in six hours nowadays? Get over it, man! It's boring, ordinary, and nothing to get excited about. Jeremy is absolutely right, blogs are just one more way to pollute our lives with political drivel.

Bloggercon shmoggercon :)

on September 30, 2003 08:02 PM
# Brendyn Alexander said:

I think you're being too general in your concept that blogs will fade, Jacob. That's like the fortune tellers who say "In the future, disaster will happen." Sure, it inevitably does. All fads fade out as new ones come in. That's the clyclic aspect of our culture.

Onto the blog aspect and it being like a second wheel. To me, personally, a blog is cathartic. If I'm frustrated about something, I want to write it down. What is tangeable to me is what allows me to pick apart my thoughts one by one. The only issue I have with blogs is the inherant boundary in their Internet-wide availability. I can't post everything I want to because everyone can read it. But, that's an obstacle that can't be overcome.

In the swirl of the technicality behind weblogs, people have forgotten one of the core aspects of their invention: the psychology behind virtual community building. There's so many more interesting things to look at than the encompasing factors of a syndication language. Look at why people want what they want? Why are comments so important, why is discussion such a key to the success of these online diaries. People write what they feel to be seen. They're not pointless if communication takes place. No communication is bad.

To get back on the topic: announcing every presidential blog is nice to see. Information is abundant, but sometimes people can't find it at the moment it's created, so others need to step in and publish metadata about those items so others are aware of them. I thank Dave for posting weblogs of presidential campaigns. Without them, I wouldn't have stumbled upon (quite as easily, I'll say) the platform descriptions of the candidates.

The bottom line for me, I guess, is that by retelling what has already been told, the entire purpose of metadata and metacontent is fulfilled. What's the point of having information if no one knows about it?

on September 30, 2003 09:25 PM
# Bill Seitz said:

Aside from the economics of campaigning, I think a more to-this-point issue is what candidate blogging accomplishes.

I'd rather see an evolving hypertext of logical justification for one's positions (hey a wiki) than a regular repeating of the same superficial message ("last week I told union members in Iowa that I felt their pain, this week I told union members in Ohio that I feel *their* pain").

(Of course then we'll need people running archive comparisons to track Clark's daily position on Iraq....)

on October 1, 2003 12:20 PM
# EK said:

Maybe the ratio of talk to action will someday improve in politics enough that I'd bother to pay attention

Let's see. If you don't pay attention, the process will somehow improve? :-)

Of course politics sucks. So do most things. But if you don't participate, it won't get any better. Find a candidate you like, and support 'em. Or if they're all disgusting, run for office.

I'm volunteering for a campaign for the first time ever. It's difficult (and sometimes annoying). But it's also exiciting, instructive and hugely worthwhile.

It's really easy to bitch about politics and politicians (on average, politicians do suck). But when you start researching the issues, talking to people, and donating time and money that you realize politics is hard and it matters. The country doesn't get run by magic, and some politicians are much worse than others.

on October 1, 2003 02:54 PM
# courtney said:

I take great comfort in the knowledge that our political system was designed to do as little as possible. See the Federalist papers and the Anti-Federalist papers.

on October 1, 2003 08:14 PM
# Lis said:

I'm surprised nobody here has mentioned Sturgeon's law in all this.

on October 3, 2003 06:00 AM
# Bill Brown said:

Blogging is just a cheap way of reaching people, except that they have to come to you. Frankly, I don't see what stops political campaigns from huge spam campaigns. They don't seem to have a problem with unsolicited phone calls and spam would expand a candidate's reach like blogging never could.

Plus, a exposition of your ideas and political platform would probably look quite like a valid email to all of the Bayesian filters out there.

Personally, I think official candidate blogging is not going to reach many people. Even those savvy about the net aren't going to trust a candidate's blog anymore than they necessarily trust his speeches, his press releases, or his official web site. The cynicism surrounding politics is widespread; at best, you're reaching the choir.

on October 3, 2003 06:42 AM
# d.w. said:

Crude analogy time: I can't help but feel that blogging about politicians is like banging your **** against a wall. If you do it hard enough, yeah, it makes noise, but in the end you're probably the only person standing close enough to hear the "thwap thwap thwap", and all you end up doing is making yourself very, very sore.

on October 3, 2003 08:01 AM
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