Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Exley explains.


Zack Exley weighs in with a pointed self-defense at Kos. In short, he says he comments were generally misrepresented and specifically misquoted. Fair enough. While my overall criticism of the Kerry/Edwards online campaing stand, it's hardly fair to hold Exley responsible for word he says he never said, or those whose meaning was misconstrued.

Still, a couple of points from his defense leave me scratching my head. He writes...
My main point was that the conventional wisdom of Internet politics mistakenly de-emphasizes list building, email communications from the campaign to supporters, doing tools right, and constantly evaluating every online endeavor that consumes resources INSIDE the campaign on the basis of measurable positive results for the campaign.
Really? Where does that "conventional wisdom" come from, exactly? Who in the online community argues against creating and refining voter lists? Who's advocating doing tools wrong, purposely? Who claims that results don't matter? It's that kind of generalization that could lead even a friendly observer (and really, I want to be a friendly observer) to misconstrue what Zack's talking about.

He goes on to say that...
I keep getting criticized by Internet thinkers for being all top-down. The reason: I keep telling them that when it comes to campaigns (and only campaigns) they need to stop focusing on communication among supporters TO THE EXCLUSION of communication from the center.
..but it never seems to occur to him that if a campaign's online activity is perceived as being "all top-down" some responsibility for that perception might accrue to, well, the Director of Online Communications, for instance.

One of the most frustrating parts of any campaign is the postscript. When successful, there's always a line of people willing to take full credit, and when there's failure, the same lineup is on hand to insist that they had little to say about the campaign and little to do with the outcome.

In fact, there's praise and blame to be shared, regardless of the outcome. The Kerry/Edwards campaign didn't win the election (pending a miracle in Ohio), but they got a lot of things right along the way, some of which Zack Exley can rightly claim credit for. They got a lot of things wrong, too, and Exley shares some degree of culpability in some of them, including the final outcome. Any truly usefull assessment of the outcome has to recognize both sides of the credit/blame equation.

Exley learned a lot from the '04 campaign, and has a lot to teach us, but those lessons won't be fully digested by him or translated to us without a higher level of objectivity. That may well come in time. It hasn't, apparently, happened yet.

(Daniel has a different take and an independent defense of Exsley that's worth your attention. And thanks to Linnet for tipping me to Exsley's comment at Kos.)


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