phi (totient) wrote,

how to ride a groundswell

Reading the news, I see a lot of fuss over how Howard Dean is turning the net into a fundraising juggernaut. Sometimes the articles mention the campaign organizing tools that organizers can download to start new cells (and I think that's really the right term), or the sense of belonging that supporters get from reading the rather compelling campaign blog. But all of this is made possible by a deeper, GNU-style integration of unseen volunteers in a technical capacity. There are periodic postings calling for particular bits of Web expertise from his vast support base, and the underlying infrastructure is, as a result of this labor, incredibly robust.

Case in point: Dean has a petition up to stop the Victory Act (the new name for Patriot II now that it has actually been introduced). If you've filled out a petition or donated money on his site before, the petition comes up with your contact info automagically filled out; all you need to do is click a button to submit it. This instantly transmogrifies the poll from a useless Internet toy to paper-petition equivalency, all the while retaining the ease of finding the folks who want to sign it and getting them to do so. It's this kind of structural integration of net.random labor into the campaign that shows Dean's real advantage in this campaign.
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