Yesterday, Kos responded to the pro-Clinton strikers. His post argues the following:
- The site has never claimed to include everyone on the left or all Democrats.
- The site has embraced a particular vision of political mobilization and the transformation of the Democratic Party (50 state strategy; grassroots oriented; change the DLC; reject consultants; no PAC money, etc.). Hillary Clinton actively opposes that vision.
- Clinton is not winning the primaries and cannot win without dividing the party and staging a coup against the popular vote via superdelegates.
- Clinton’s response has been to foment “civil war” within the party and for that she deserves whatever the blogosphere, Keith Olbermann, and others can throw at her.
The long quote below sums it all up nicely. The bold text was in the original:
To reiterate, [Clinton] cannot win without overturning the will of the national Democratic electorate and fomenting civil war, and she doesn’t care.
That’s why she has earned my enmity and that of so many others. That’s why she is bleeding super delegates. That’s why she’s even bleeding her own caucus delegates (remember, she lost a delegate in Iowa on Saturday). That’s why Keith Olbermann finally broke his neutrality. That’s why Nancy Pelosi essentially cast her lot with Obama. That’s why Democrats outside of the Beltway are hoping for the unifying Obama at the top of the ticket, and not a Clinton so divisive, she is actually working to split her own party.
Meanwhile, Clinton and her shrinking band of paranoid holdouts wail and scream about all those evil people who have “turned” on Clinton and are no longer “honest power brokers” or “respectable voices” or whatnot, wearing blinders to reality, talking about silly little “strikes” when in reality, Clinton is planning a far more drastic, destructive and dehabilitating civil war.
People like me have two choices — look the other way while Clinton attempts to ignite her civil war, or fight back now, before we cross that dangerous line. Honestly, it wasn’t a difficult choice. And it’s clear, looking at where the super delegates, most bloggers, and people like Olbermann are lining up, that the mainstream of the progressive movement is making the same choice.
And the more super delegates see what is happening, and what Clinton has in store, the more imperative it is that they line up behind Obama and put an end to it before it’s too late.
I agree with Kos’ assessment of the primary situation and the problems with the Clinton campaign’s reprehensible actions. I also agree that the pro-Clinton “strike” on the site is a violation of the norms established many years ago. This was clear from Allegre’s diary entry announcing the strike, in which s/he argues for a strange vision of Democratic unity in which party members don’t criticize each other (in a really bizarre twist, Allegre then mis-attributes that idea of unity to Barack Obama…this is polemical bunk). The Daily Kos leadership and community have never embraced that kind of vision. From a strategic perspective, I agree that they never should.
Kos’ post interests me for other reasons then. In it, he re-iterates the norms governing the community through a reference to the founding ideals of the site and an extension of those ideals to the current primary election situation. The preservation of the site’s original ideals depends on such occasional interventions from the community leader. In turn, the ideals and norms maintain the basis for large-scale collaboration and conversation.
But if that’s the case, does it negate what I wrote earlier about the significance of defection from large-scale collaborative communities? I don’t think so. Highly symbolic defections like this one still matter even if they are not grounded in an accurate interpretation of community norms. This skirmish, no matter how mundane or over-blown it has been, is part of the ongoing process of managing discursive production on the site.
March 15, 2008
If, like me, you spend too much time lurking around in the blogosphere you already have a sense that the dailyKos and MyDD communities have squared off behind the Democratic candidates. This was hardly surprising and certainly didn’t seem out of place in the flame-friendly environment of web-based conversations.
But this might be something new: yesterday evening, one of the many prolific community members on the Kos site, Alegre, announced a writer’s strike of Hillary supporters in her diary entry. Responses – both positive and negative – piled up quickly, including this one apparently from WGA member Jeff Lieber.
I am not really interested in discussing the merits of the arguments in the strike debate. Rather, I want to draw attention to the questions a strike raises about the nature of governance in Web 2.0 communities.
I blogged about this a few weeks back in one of my early posts. Building effective institutions of governance in the context of collaborative peer-production presents a number of deep problems. On Kos, conversation management is probably the most obvious of these. To understand how conversations are managed on Kos, though, you have to understand a little bit about the technical platform of the site.
Currently, Kos uses Scoop, a conversation management tool originally developed by Rusty Foster for the Kuro5hin community. The features of Scoop have helped Kos scale from the one-man show it once was back in 2002. Scoop includes a built-in, decentralized system for generating and measuring reputation among site users. Basically, every registered user can rate the other registered users’ comments. In addition, by commenting on other users’ diaries, community members can bring that diary increased visibility. The result is a massive conversation that pretty much runs on autopilot.
With the exception of Kos, ct the tech wizard, the contributing editors, and the handful of community members with front-page privileges, this reputational system structures the conversation among the site’s users. The problem is that the system isn’t fool-proof – or flame-proof. Angry blocs of polarized users can “approve” negative comments, thereby generating a feedback loop of discontent. Their opponents then retaliate in kind and create their own “peer-reviewed” circuit of annoyance. As the negative momentum builds, the argument attracts more attention through the site’s reputation systems and results in further polarization and negativity. The threat of a widespread disengagement becomes credible as more and more people find reasons to defect from the cooperative knowledge production model that makes the site so interesting in the first place.
My analysis may or may not be sound here, but the most important question – as Lenin always understood – remains: What is to be done?
Telling everyone to “just be nice” doesn’t work. The actions of the flamers already run counter to the behavioral norms set out in the FAQ on dKosopedia. Similarly, the strike seems unlikely to achieve the stated aims of those who have threatened to leave the site. Rather than bring about a return to civililty, the departure of Clinton supporters for MyDD and other sites will only reproduce the fragmentation of the political blogosphere within the progressive community. It is too early to know what this would mean for the netroots’ project of building a new democratic politics. But does it really have to come to that?
Instead, why not design a new technical platform to manage the conversation? What would such a platform look like? It would need to incorporate many of the existing features that have made Scoop so powerful and effective. However, it would also require some mechanism for recognizing negative/hateful feedback loops and enabling the community to address them in a more productive way. Political dialogue – whether between members of opposing parties or merely supporters of two Democratic candidates – will continue to be divisive. The trick is to leverage that divisiveness (is that a word?) so that it can produce a self-sustaining community that continues to generate strategic political advantages.
March 12, 2008
“If Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn’t be in the race,” she said.
Really. The cite is an April 15, 1988 Washington Post story (byline: Howard Kurtz), available only on Nexis.”
Smith goes on to place the quote in its original context in the article, but the context only makes Ferraro sound worse. Her views were echoed at the time by…Ronald Reagan.
Remind me again why Clinton hasn’t condemned this?
Update: Greg Sargent at TPM Election Central picks up Ferraro’s latest retort to those who criticize her statements: “They’re attacking me because I’m white!”
<sigh>, Geraldine, bigotry from privileged white folks who call themselves “liberals” really has no place in a presidential campaign. If the media and the public actually “took it easy” on black presidential candidates as you say, why does that sort of attitude not translate into “taking it easy” on black defendants in our courts? Or black students in our schools, or black athletes who resist “safe” public images, or black cultural figures who get pigeonholed into representing “their” race, or…do you get the idea yet?
February 28, 2008
A series of questions I’m working on at the moment and some of the resources I’ve found:
- How do ideas move through the political blogosphere?
- What role does the political blogosphere play in “agenda setting” within the mainstream media (msm), political party elites, and networks of expertise (think tanks, consultants, etc.)?
- Do these roles vary for blogs on the right versus blogs on the left
- Also, how does blog governance operate across the political spectrum? Is there a predominant model of community organization that has emerged? Are there patterns that correspond to whether the blogs come from right or left?
- How do large, collaborative blogs produce stable community and governance structures? To what degree are they self-organizing and to what degree do they rely on various “levers” to reproduce stable patterns of collaboration and sufficiently low rates of defection?
Some interesting tools that should help me approach these problems include the following:
- Chapter 7 of Yochai Benkler’s The Wealth of Networks
- Existing tools that measure blog influence such as Blog Pulse from Nielsen and an interesting looking French project called blogopole
- Several papers and reports such as: “The Emergence of the Progressive Blogosphere” (which incidentally, seems to answer a few of those questions about the differences between right and left – at least, as of 2006); the work of Lara Adamic (I think she designed some of the blog tools like Blog Pulse); Matthew Hindman’s research on stuff like “googlearchy”; and whatever it is Ed Chi and the folks working on “Augmented Social Cognition” are up to at PARC in Palo Alto..
There are others (and I’ll try to keep adding them as I dig them up), but this is a good start. The big questions that I can try to answer here really have to do with the way this architecture (in the sense that a community design is often unplanned) relates to the “culture” of the political blogosphere. How does citizenship – or something like it – emerge in the blogosphere and other social spaces of the collaborative web? Why are the power-sellers uniting and what are they going to do?