There’s Two Days I’ll Never Get Back

I spent Thursday and Friday at George Washington University’s 2005 Politics Online Conference.

I could write up my reaction to it, but why bother when Rex Hammock has already ably covered all the bases for me?

It never ceases to amaze me how slow the thinking is in this sector. People are more interested in having meaningless “debates” about confected questions like whether blogs are going to destroy “old media” than they are in looking hard at real issues.

Example: I took a ton of flak last year for saying that e-mail was broken as a tool for constituency communications. And yet, at one panel I attended, a panelist noted that it had been impossible for many organizations to do any e-mail communication with their membership on the recent prescription drug bill because the ubiquitous SpamAssassin throws any e-mail with “prescription drugs” in it into the bit bucket. And everyone in the room hearing this nods their heads and starts talking about “how do we get around SpamAssassin?” rather than the more obvious question of “why the hell are we so dependent on a medium where our messages get drowned out by those of criminal bottom-feeders?

That’s not to say it was a total wash; I did pick up a few good ideas, and it was nice to see the usual suspects and meet a few new people as well. But oof, if this is the state of the art in thinking about political technology, all I can say is that 2001 called, it wants its ideas back…


Sandy Smith

March 13, 2005
10:30 pm

“why the hell are we so dependent on a medium where our messages get drowned out by those of criminal bottom-feeders?”
Because, as I pointed out in the flack storm, most of the people they’re trying to reach are not yet using RSS. If all vanguard political types were young urban hipsters, RSS would probably be the way to go. But lots of them are retired dorks with time on their hands as they await the sweet, sweet embrace of death, so if they’re online at all, they’re probably just doing e-mail.
That being said, yes, they should be moving toward RSS because soon Baby Boomers will be getting their senile citizen discounts and inflicting even more grievous harm upon the body politic, and a vocal minority of them will have had their children forcibly move them to RSS feeds so they can talk about the hot day it was yesterday as they were out at the water sport park with their kids without getting labeled as kiddie porn.

Jason Lefkowitz

March 13, 2005
11:41 pm

Chicken and egg. One reason people don’t use RSS more is because nobody is really taking the time to explain it to them. People said the same stuff about e-mail (“you’re gonna ask people to hook their computers to the INTERNET? Forget it, too complicated, better to stick to direct mail”), and that was less than ten years ago, so this stuff can move from “bleeding edge” to “mainstream workhorse” pretty quickly when the benefits to the user are clear.
And if RSS is only for “young urban hipsters”, somebody better tell the AARP:
They don’t seem to think figuring this stuff out is beyond their members’ capacity, and that’s even with the relative complexity of getting started with RSS today. In 2 or 3 years when this stuff is all pointy-clicky and there’s no more 6 different versions of RSS and orange buttons that spit XML at you and the like, it will be even easier.
It would behoove smart nonprofits to figure out how to benefit from these developments now, rather than getting beaten to the punch by someone else with a little more foresight down the road.