Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Putting my credentials...

...as an unrelenting Kerry apologist at risk (though they're a bit tarnished already), let me just say that Kos is right, at least if Zack Exley, who left Move On to take the reigns of the Kerry on-line shop, actually believes what he said. Exley's an idiot.

Of course, I often felt that way during the campaign, as I watched the steady deterioration of the official Kerry/Edwards online presence, but now I understand why. It sounds like Zack never got it.
"The difference between the approach of the left in general, and the Republicans, is that the left was more interested in just putting cool software up. The idea was to put up the tools and let people use them."


"The belief was 'let's get 5,000 people out there and they'll talk to each other, but to put a president in office we need to get people organized and trained." In the end, he said, a field organization was far more valuable than blog blather.
Just whose belief was that?

For starters, "the left in general" means, well, it doesn't mean anything that I can discern. But whatever it may be, "the left in general" wasn't the Director of Online Communications for Kerry/Edwards. Zach Exley was, and if he believed what he says they (whoever they are), he definitely is a fool. I've certainly never heard anyone except Zach Exley express the notion "'let's get 5,000 people out there and they'll talk to each other" was a way to organize a campaign, or that "cool software" was the key to campaign victory.

There probably were 5,000 or so folks involved in commenting at the official Kerry blog, and the comments were about the only useful portion of the blog (well, 10% or so of them). The general utility of the blog, though, might be reflected in the dearth of links it drew from places like this. I was actively blogging on behalf of John Kerry for over a year, and the number of times I found occassion to link to his blog could easily be counted on my fingers. (Of course, maybe one reason I was partial to the comments was that every link out to here came from within them.) I was a relatively small fish in the sea of supportive bloggers, I admit, but all of us were cut off when the campaign inexplicably decided to drop its blogroll altogether (roughly coincident with Exley's arrival, as I recall), and between us we had a lot more than 5,000 pairs of eyes to offer.

I don't fully share Kos' objections to the fundraising emails that came on a near daily basis from the campaign, but that may be a reflection of my old-school political training that dictated that every communication from a campaing should include a pitch. It's worked for countless cycles, and based on Kerry's record-setting fundraising success it seems to work now. If you don't ask, you don't get. Still, there has to be more than a pitch to make the pitch more effective, and there's no question that the campaign did fall down on that score more often than was wise. The on-line audience is information hungry, and "We need money" just isn't that informative.

The only useful tool I can recall was the Kerry Core fundraising program, that allowed bloggers and others to track the contributions that they solicited. It was fun to watch the Upper Left Kerry Core account pass the $2000 mark, meaning I raised more through the blog than I could have legally contributed as an individual. I have no idea what the combined take from that program was, but it had to be impressive.

What else was there? A blog that cut itself off from the blogging community. An online forum, generated from the grassroots and staffed by volunteers, that was cut off from the main site. And, of course, the repeated iterations of the startling news that the campaign needed money. Meet Up? A fairly useful way to get in touch with fellow Kerry supporters for moral support and to plan activities - until the campaign took over, after which they seemed to get increasingly bigger and, perversely, less useful.

And Exley's remarks are the best explanation I've heard for the problems with Kerry's on-line organizing. His principle on-line organizer just didn't get it. Now he moans...
"There wasn't a shortage of people - but we didn't have an organization."
But Zack, whose fault is that? The people's? Or the organizer's?


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