Yesterday, Kos responded to the pro-Clinton strikers. His post argues the following:

  1. The site has never claimed to include everyone on the left or all Democrats.
  2. 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.
  3. Clinton is not winning the primaries and cannot win without dividing the party and staging a coup against the popular vote via superdelegates.
  4. 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.

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.

Kos points to a Ben Smith posting on Politico that puts Geraldine Ferraro’s recent racist comment in historical perspective:

“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?

An article by Siobhan Gorman in today’s WSJ looks at the data-mining activities of the NSA in some detail (link via Slate’s Today’s Papers column).

Here are some highlights from the (very long) piece. I’ve bolded some parts for emphasis:

“NSA officials say the agency’s own investigations remain focused only on foreign threats, but it’s increasingly difficult to distinguish between domestic and international communications in a digital era, so they need to sweep up more information.”

“If a person suspected of terrorist connections is believed to be in a U.S. city — for instance, Detroit, a community with a high concentration of Muslim Americans — the government’s spy systems may be directed to collect and analyze all electronic communications into and out of the city.

“The NSA uses its own high-powered version of social-network analysis to search for possible new patterns and links to terrorism. The Pentagon’s experimental Total Information Awareness program, later renamed Terrorism Information Awareness, was an early research effort on the same concept, designed to bring together and analyze as much and as many varied kinds of data as possible. Congress eliminated funding for the program in 2003 before it began operating. But it permitted some of the research to continue and TIA technology to be used for foreign surveillance.

Some of it was shifted to the NSA — which also is funded by the Pentagon — and put in the so-called black budget, where it would receive less scrutiny and bolster other data-sifting efforts, current and former intelligence officials said. “When it got taken apart, it didn’t get thrown away,” says a former top government official familiar with the TIA program.

My favorite spooky detail: the FBI maintains a telecommunications activity information database that it used to call “Carnivore.”

Update (Tuesday 9am): mcjoan over at DailyKos has a cogent detailed post on this story. She also offers some convincing arguments why this is yet another reason why the FISA legislation currently sought by the administration should be scrapped.

DemFromCT’s post on DailyKos this morning got me thinking about the way the media has handled the latest events in the democratic primary…

What’s really clear about these results (and their relative meaninglessness as far as the delegate count is concerned) is that the rhetoric of Hillary’s doom/re-birth had long since escalated out of control.

On this front, I blame the MSM for hopping on the Obama bandwagon following his victory in Wisconsin. What has really happened has been a steady momentum shift towards Obama in terms of pledged delegates, not a “roller coaster ride” of life and death wins and losses as Slate’s John Dickerson more or less puts it in his column today.

Sure enough, had Obama won last night, this deal would be sealed and the Hillary-death-watch would be complete. Nevertheless, the bottom line is that Obama’s campaign still holds the cards in terms of delegates – and that is unlikely to change in the next few weeks. This is not a resurrection, it’s a chess match where one player has already lost most of the pieces and is scrambling to avoid checkmate.

Sadly, for the journalists among us, this less dramatic story line is pretty boring and doesn’t promise the thrills and spills variety of politics that editors would prefer to sell.

Full disclosure: I support Obama and have made a donation to his campaign.

I also posted a similar comment in response to DemFromCT’s original story on DailyKos.

I’m working on some preliminary research for a study of DailyKos and some of the other political blogs that continue to define the networked public sphere.

In the process, I had to start thinking more seriously about what it means to do an ethnography of this kind of community.  I’ve done some work on this before, so I had a few ideas, but the challenges and scope of Kos are a bit daunting.

As a result, I’m focusing on breaking down an initial assessment of the site into several categories (see below). I then use these to structure my observations and to help define problems that I’ll have to solve later (possibly with more than just a tab-happy browser window, the Internet Archive, and two tired eyeballs).

The main categories are:

  • History and Evolution of the site – including community structure, software, interface, layout, etc.
  • Organizational/Institutional Structure (behind the scenes stuff like money, hosting, contractors, etc.)
  • The Current Community
    • social network topography (i.e. is it just another bow-tie?)
    • practices, norms, governance, etc.
    • signs of life off-line?
  • Technical Platform & Software
  • Content (production & consumption)
  • Networks and public-sphere functions (linking, SEO, connections to the media, political parties, etc.)

Obviously, these overlap a lot and the list can get much more detailed (indeed it does in my notebook). The important stuff – at least the stuff that a lot of smart Internet research has identified as important – seems to be accounted for…

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