Friday, June 27, 2008

Will Washington use us?

It's Friday, but Monday already came. (Heh.)

This is a followup to my Monday post Will Washington use Mr. Scoble?

Incidentally, Mr. Scoble saw the title to this post in FriendFeed and replied:


But that's not his complete answer.

When I walked into the Speaker of the House’s press room and saw a staff member (Jesse Lee, Senior New Media Advisor for Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi) typing a blog into WordPress, I knew the world had changed....

Not that Robert cried or anything.

But has the world truly changed?

Dave Winer received an email from someone who is touted to be Mr. Web 2.0 (with apologies to Ron Paul).

When I saw the email in my inbox entitled Strategy Briefing For You I thought for a brief instant that the Obama campaign had figured out that I have a mind, that I have an education and a resume, and I might be someone worth briefing. Three paragraphs later the disappointment hits. Watch the video then give us money.

I (like to) think Obama needs more than my money. I think Obama needs my mind and my influence and experience. My creativity. I think Obama might, from time to time, want to brief me, without asking for money. I think Obama might want to invite me to a meeting of people from Berkeley or Northern California or the tech industry, or academia, or any number of my other affiliations (Bronx Science alumni?) where people put their minds together and think about ways to co-create a new America.

I don't think that Winer was simply tooting his own horn here. In the ideal world, the Web 2.0 candidate will listen to all of us and interact with all of us. Saving democracy. Participation. "ontarioemperor liked this."

But you don't need the Web 2.0 tools to do this. Back in 1977, that noted political think tank Saturday Night Live conceived of a similar interactive government, via the telephone.

Walter Cronkite: Our next call is Peter Elkin of Westbrook, [Oregon], whom I am told is 17 years of age.

Peter (on phone): Hello? Hello?

President Jimmy Carter: Yes. Hello, Peter?

Peter (on phone): Is this the President?

President Jimmy Carter: Yes, it is.

Walter Cronkite: Do you have a question for the President?

Peter (on phone): Uh.. I, uh.. I took some acid.. I'm afraid to leave my apartment, and I can't wear any clothes.. and the ceiling is dripping, and uh.. I, uh..

Walter Cronkite: Well, thank you very much for calling, sir..

President Jimmy Carter: Just a minute, Walter, this guy's in trouble. I think I better try to talk him down. Peter?

Peter (on phone): Yeah..?

President Jimmy Carter: Peter, what did the acid look like?

Peter (on phone): They were these little orange pills.

President Jimmy Carter: Were they barrel shaped?

Peter (on phone): Uh.. yes.

President Jimmy Carter: Okay, right, you did some orange sunshine, Peter....

President Jimmy Carter: Just remember you're a living organism on this planet, and you're very safe. You've just taken a heavy drug. Relax, stay inside and listen to some music, Okay? Do you have any Allman Brothers?...

Back to Dave Winer.

It should be noted that Winer isn't a non-thinking baba booey with regards to Barack Obama. He has publicly documented his thoughts throughout the election, including both positive and negative thoughts about Obama, and has even said nice things about John McCain on occasion. Bearing this in mind, I provided a non-succinct (oops) response via Disqus.

While it is questionable whether any major party national political candidate can truly interact with people in a two-way conversation, you have a valid point in noting that Obama's (and Ron Paul's) vaunted Web 2.0 strategy is in fact a one-way street.

While you are stable enough to digest your epiphany and act accordingly, I'm sure that there will be a few people who will sink into deep depression upon discovering that Obama is not the perfect savior, but a savvy politician.

This raises the question - can all of the technologies that we play with truly have a revolutionary impact on politics? I haven't read all of Robert Scoble's material from his Washington trip, but I get the feeling that the tools are only having limited effects on the national level. A couple of tweeting Congresspeople do not a revolution make.

But perhaps there's hope on the local level. The local level is sometimes ignored because it isn't as sexy as the Beltway, but many of the things that impact our lives actually occur in city councils and county boards. Perhaps interactivity tools can REALLY bear fruit in our neighborhoods.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - we're all so focused Obama, McCain, Barr, and the like that we forget that the local governments affect our lives much more than the Federal Government does.

After all, it wasn't the Federal Government that was going to use eminent domain for the Foothill & Towne project.

For a discussion of Web 2.0 and local government, See Computerworld. And the Association of Local Government Auditors.

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