Friday, October 31, 2003

Dan Conley is off the bandwagon

Some sobering commentary (Updated URL – permalinks to Dan’s site appear broken) from Dan Conley, the guy who used to run

Dan does a good job of identifying trends he thinks will be decisive in 2004, and risks he sees in a Dean candidacy/presidency. I disagree with Dan, but want to take more time to digest his comments before responding. In the meantime, swing over to Dan’s new blog to read it for yourself.

Don't fear failure, and you'll succeed

I finally got to read the article in this month’s ABA Journal about lawyers who go out on their own, and the lawyer most prominently featured is none other than one of my best friends, Erik Heels.

Congrats to Erik on the coverage, but more importantly, congrats are due for his success. If you need an IP lawyer, you need to talk to Erik. Period. He’s an author (with yours truly on a couple books), a prolific columnist, and he’s got a great sense of humor to boot.

One of the things that doesn’t explicitly get mentioned in the article is Erik’s discipline; you get a sense of it in reading the article but I think it’s a key to his success. Not only did he write up a business plan, he stuck to it and forced himself to measure his progress against his plan. He included a small group of us in his bi-annual updates, so that he was accountable not only to himself but also to friends who had been part of the genesis of his law practice. The transparency in those e-mails, coupled with his ability to stay focused on his plan (in spite of some pretty remarkable obstacles) took courage and more than a little faith.

Also featured in the article is another friend, Greg Siskind. Both Erik and Greg took paths that at the time seemed non-obvious. And both have succeeded, without sacrificing their families or their happiness.

New Macro with MTMacro - Google queries

If this works, I should be able to add <google> tags to my blog posts, and it will automatically create a linked Google query: Rick Klau.

Code for the macro courtesy of Code Poetry, who lists all macros on their site here.

Feedback on MT-Amazon plugin

I experienced a few problems this morning with the MT-Amazon plugin. It happened while I was monkeying around with my template, so I originally assumed it was something I’d done… but nothing I did to the templates fixed the error. Eventually I found a couple threads at the discussion board that seemed to confirm what I suspected: that once’s Web Services go down for some reason, it sends mal-formed XML back to Movable Type.

This is where MT-Amazon comes in. This is a known problem (see here for an exact replica of the problem I saw), yet MT-Amazon doesn’t fail gracefully. It would be possible to see the error from Amazon and do nothing; instead, once MT-Amazon gets data in a format it’s not expecting, it chokes, causing Movable Type to choke as well.

I’m going to pay attention to this over the next few weeks — it’s entirely possible that this is an isolated case. I read quite a bit and like pointing people to the books that I’m inclined to keep using the MTMacro/MT-Amazon combo. But if it causes the site to become inoperable from time to time that’s not good. Has anyone else seen this?

Thursday, October 30, 2003

K-Collector for Movable Type

I was IM’ing with Matt Mower yesterday and he let me know that he was going to be getting me an early version of the K-Collector Client for Movable Type sometime tomorrow.

I’m excited about this, as I see K-Collector as an incredibly powerful way of aggregating and classifying content across blogs. See a demo of it here and see if it starts to make sense…

Changes to the blog

I’ve been doing some tweaking to this blog in the past couple days, experimenting with some “Movable Type” plugins to extend the functionality of this site. Some new items:

  • Installed MT-Amazon, a plugin that lets me link this blog to using the Amazon web services API. Without the technobabble, that means that I can trigger look-ups to Amazon when the blog publishes, and Amazon will populate the blog with the appropriate info.

  • To extend MT-Amazon, I also installed Brad Choate’s MTMacro plugin, which lets you define macros that will perform magic. By following Brad’s example, I can now create a tag called “Amazon” that will let me create a link to Amazon without having to remember my Associates ID, or how to format the URL to the book. To link to a book by John Grisham, I just enter in:

<amazon keyword=“John Grisham”>John Grisham</amazon>

The result looks like this: John Grisham

(Note the pop-up window, populated by the book cover, price, and link to buy the book? That’s using MTMacro to query via the web services API, then passing the data through to the Overlib Javascript applet for display.)

  • Update (10/31 10:20am): Seems like Amazon’s Web Services are down; I’ve been getting error messages all morning. Until further notice, I’m disabling this functionality. Oh well. **

I had looked at MTMacro a while ago, but had some trouble understanding how it could help me. Now I’m starting to see just how powerful it really is — it lets me extend my weblog in any direction I want. I need to give this some more thought, but there’s huge potential in using this to push Movable Type well beyond simple weblog publishing.

In all likelihood, more changes are coming: friendlier archive URLs (no more numbers!), creating a weblog that tracks all articles I’ve ever written (finally), breaking up my Movable Type templates into a series of modules that can be bulit by using the MTInclude command (which will make the site a true template-driven site with as little repeated code as possible), and more…

Lunch with Jim McGee

Just returned to the office from a thoroughly engagaing lunch with Jim McGee. Jim is every bit as smart and engaging as his weblog would have you think he is.

As has become the norm in first-time meetings with fellow bloggers, all of the ordinary “getting to know you” stuff is gone. We already know each other, we already have an idea of what interests each other, and we jump right into a completely thought-provoking discussion. It was true when I met Chris & Joy, Ernie, Buzz, Matt, Denise, Jonas, Ross and many others.

John Robb wrote about this last year too. With “social software” getting so much attention lately, I think we would be wise to recognize that weblogs have become one of the best ways to get to know people you should know. You decide which people to associate with in part based on what they know — and blogs help establish that.

I’ve been fortunate enough to meet several of my friends face to face, but the most surprising thing is that after meeting them face to face it only reaffirmed what I already knew: they’re interesting, thoughtful people who I’m lucky to know.

The Island of Lost Maps

I just finished reading The Island of Lost Maps, by Miles Harvey. It is ostensibly about Gilbert Bland, the con man who stole maps out of centuries-old books stored in libraries around the country.

But it’s really just a great read — about the history of maps, the author’s own obsession with maps, the influence of maps on modern history, and the conservation challenges facing contemporary libraries. It may not sound compelling, but I found it to be a thoroughly engaging read.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Caption contest


Post your captions in the comments. Have fun.

And remember, folks… no wagering.

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Picture with Governor Dean

Many thanks to Darcy Evon, CEO at who happened to snap this picture of my wife and I with Governor Dean last night while the official photographer was taking her photo. That one will have us looking at the camera, but Darcy was kind enough to e-mail me a copy of her pic so I have a copy already!

Dean with Robin and Rick_cropped.jpg

Richmond Journal of Law & Technology - new issue out

For the lawyer types reading this, you should check out the latest issue of the Richmond Journal of Law & Technology. It includes articles on:

  • California’s Database Breach Notification Security Act: The First State Breach Notification Law is Not Yet a Suitable Template For National Identity Theft Legislation (HTML, PDF)

  • Towards a Theory of Cyberplace: A Proposal For a New Legal Framework (HTML, PDF)

  • Appealing a Rejection at the Patent Board of Appeals: Analysis of Recent Board Decisions and Non-Appeal Alternatives (HTML, PDF)

  • The Academy Chokes on Food Biotech, Public Policy Suffocates (HTML, PDF)

  • Globe Newspaper Co. v. Commonwealth: An Examination of the Media’s

“Right” To Retest Postconviction DNA Evidence (HTML, PDF)

I’m particularly proud of The Journal’s continued publication; I founded The Journal over nine years ago while clerking for EFF along with Brennen Keene and Ben Leigh. (Brennen opted to do Law Review, and left The Journal, but his early input was very useful.) That The Journal continues to thrive (this year’s staff numbers 47 students, nearly quadruple the number of students who worked on our first issue) is exciting. Congrats to all who worked hard on getting the first issue of the tenth volume out the door. That’s an incredible accomplishment.

Ye Gods! TMQ speaks

Courtesy of Jim in my comments, I just found out that Gregg Easterbrook has posted an update about the status of TMQ.

While we wait for TMQ to return (I’ll gladly offer this website as a home, though I doubt I quite qualify for “prominent website” status, which Gregg seems to have set as a prerequisite), be sure to visit the Homage to TMQ contest as well.

Great "get local" event idea

Though my wife and I couldn’t attend this event (it was my birthday, and we’d already made plans), the DuPage for Dean crowd had a great time Saturday night. Organized by Karen and Doug Henk (Karen heads up volunteering efforts for us in DuPage), this was an innovative outreach event that I think would work in any community. Here’s Karen’s write-up:

Thanks to all who participated in the scavenger hunt last night. We had 10 people, and I would estimate we hit about 50-60 houses. Beth helped me scavenge my own neighborhood, and it was great to meet some more Democrats in the neighborhood and introduce them to Howard Dean. The other 2 teams, however, blew us away. Frank and Lorreta Valentin and Joan Schaeffer decided it was silly to skip perfectly good houses that didn’t happen to be on the Democratic voter list, so they hit the houses in between too! They ended up having to stop by the library and photocopy more fliers! Then Doug and Donna May went with Ron Wachholtz, and they gave away every flier they had and collected every “real” item on the list (there were several dubious items such as “A link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda”).

The “scavenger hunt” idea was to get people to go out, spread the word about Howard Dean, hunt down a couple real items in the process, then gather back at the organizers’ house to eat and share stories from the evening. Thanks to Karen and Doug for organizing the event, and thanks to everyone who attended this first effort. There are plans to do more of these as the Illinois Primary nears; in the meantime, start your own in your neighborhood!

Monday, October 27, 2003

Open thread: Chicago fundraiser

Saw a lot of familiar faces tonight at the Civic Opera House, where several hundred people raised a lot of money for Governor Dean’s campaign. In many ways, it’s reassuring to see several of the same people who have been with the campaign in Illinois since the early days this year.

Also exciting was to see so many new faces. I’ll post some pictures tomorrow. If you have some and you’d like me to post them, just drop me a line (I’m rick at and I’ll get them up.

Were you there? What did you think?

Kudos to Jenny Lehner and Kevin Conlon’s office for putting on a terrific event.

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon

I’m writing an article about social networking and the crop of sites that are gaining some attention lately (Spoke, LinkedIn, Ryze, Tribe, and ZeroDegrees). As a teaser, I wanted to write about the original Oracle of Bacon developed by a couple of grad students at UVa.

Here’s the shocking thing: Kevin Bacon isn’t even among the top 1000 most connected actors. Even Mark Hammill (#1000) is more connected than Kevin Bacon. Bacon is actually #1222 (out of more than 700,000 actors in the database).

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Where's John Robb?

Twelve days since John’s last post. Anyone heard from him?

I hadn’t seen this discussed elsewhere: — an RSS-driven calendar service that lets you post an RSS version of your calendar to your weblog. Simple idea, great execution.

Look for an upcoming nugget on the sidebar soon…

Update 8:10pm: OK, so I probably should have played with this before posting about it. I was under the impression that you could create your own calendar of events; it appears to be more of a group service geared to letting groups and friends track who’s going to what event. The XML syndication is a way of exposing your events on your blog.

That said, it’s not designed to just create a list of calendar entries you’d like to put on your blog. Guess we’ll have to wait for that service.

Happy Birthday to me...

Light posts the last couple days, thanks to a much-needed weekend of Internet-free time. Many thanks to my parents, who flew in and not only helped me celebrate but also graciously watched the kids last night so my wife and I could spend a night kid-free downtown Chicago.

Friday night, we took my parents to Heaven on Seven with my folks (they just opened in Naperville, further proving my theory that everything you could ever want is in Naperville). Saturday, Robin and I ate at Bistro 110 off of Michigan Avenue. If you’re a fan of French food, it’s a spectacular place. Casual atmosphere, excellent food.

And now I’m back, slowly reconnecting. More later…

Friday, October 24, 2003

Dean Soars into Huge NH Lead (Zogby)

Zogby News!

Dean Soars into Huge Lead in New Hampshire: Now Leads Kerry 40-17 Among Likely Voters; Clark and Edwards in Distant 3rd —New Zogby Poll

Perhaps most interesting: Dean has the lowest unfavorable rating (11%) of all candidates; Kerry has a 26% unfavorable rating.

Cudahy calls for restoration, not revolution

Over at Greater Democracy, Michael Cudahy posted a very thought-provoking essay about how the Democratic primary race may be losing its focus. More specifically, I think, he’s arguing that the focus — on Democratic partisans to the exclusion of Republicans and Independents — is broken and will inevitably lead to a Democratic defeat in November.

I’ve been swapping e-mails with Jock Gill (also of Greater Democracy), Josh Koenig, and Michael over the past day and Jock (quite rightly) chided us for not having this conversation in the open. So here goes…

I’m not sure I understand the thrust of Michael’s message. On the one hand, he seems to be implicitly rejecting Dean’s message of “taking our country back”, while at the same time indicating that the Republican party has manipulated the system into a shadow of the republic it was meant to represent. If we’re not “taking it back” from them, then what, exactly, is Michael asking for?

On the other hand, he is saying that as a disenfranchised Republican he feels that he doesn’t have a home because the Democratic candidates aren’t eagerly pursuing his vote. This seems a short-sighted complaint: the primary season is about the party choosing its candidate; the general election season is about the country choosing its president. Many states are closed primaries and don’t let disenfranchised Republicans vote for a Democrat (unless they change parties, which is unlikely to be an attractive option), so what value in the primary season do disenfranchised Republicans represent to a Democrat?

I come back to Michael’s essay. He concludes with an assumption I’m not sure I buy: that the current crop of Democrats is only interested in listening to the echo chamber, that the innovations in technology are being abandoned as the primaries approach and that the conversations are increasingly deaf to bi-partisanship. I’d like to see evidence of this before I challenge his conclusion… as this doesn’t really match my experience (I’ve personally spoken with a number of Republicans who are attracted to Dean’s fiscal conservatism, and I met last night with my county’s Clark campaign coordinator, who reported that 1/3 of their attendees at MeetUps are Republican and Independents).

Bottom line? I may be reading too much into this, but it reads like Michael wanted to come out and say he was no longer supporting Dean (Cudahy published a well-circulated essay, To Dare Mighty Things, in which he expressed support for Dean), and instead chose to write a more general piece that framed the issues in terms of a worrisome trend among all candidates.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

LazyWeb - and an iTunes request October 23, 2003 Archives

My idea is: A plugin for winamp, Windows Media Player, w.bloggar, zempt, iTunes or whatever – not dissimilar from the one for w.bloggar (which generates a “Currently listening to: Band Name – Song” string) – that will parse the id3 tag of a given song, and using the ITMS link maker generate the HTML for a blog post that links the song you are listening to, to its counterpart on iTMS if available.

This is a great idea, as I’ve found over the last few days that iTunes is running about non-stop. And what would make it really interesting would be if iTunes had some kind of associates-like system (similar to Amazon’s program) where I’d get a couple of pennies for each song purchased from my blog.

Come on, Apple, I want my free music.


On a different note, I found this suggestion at a site called LazyWeb (URL updated 10/24), which is destined to be my favorite hang-out. The premise is simple: come up with an idea you want someone else to build? Just add a ping to the LazyWeb ping site, and it will add your request to the top of the heap. (You’ll notice that I did this for my suggestion that someone build a Movable Type plugin to auto-link comments.)

What a great use of TrackBack, along with lazy users everywhere who get to plant ideas in the heads of developers who you just know won’t let the idea die until they build it. (That’s the theory, anyway.)

Here’s hoping someone comes up with solutions for my request as well as Scott’s excellent iTunes suggestion…

Political Site of the Day

Many thanks to Political Site of the Day for choosing this blog as its site of the day.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

EMC buys Documentum

Interesting — I just saw on my blog that one year ago today, I linked to Documentum’s purchase of eRoom. Last week, in case you missed it, hardware storage company EMC bought Documentum for $1.7b.

This is a non-obvious growth strategy. I think consolidation among the content management players makes sense (for instance, my old company, iManage, is close to merging with Interwoven). But how does EMC (a hardware company) make sense of this acquisition?

EMC, Documentum and LEGATO have achieved a combined total of more than $2 billion in software license and support revenues in the most recent 12 months. People ask me if this means EMC is really becoming a software company. The correct answer is to think of EMC as the one company that offers the best choice of comprehensive information storage solutions for the widest range of customer needs. (source: An Open Letter from EMC President & CEO, Joe Tucci)

Come again? This consolidation would seem a preemptive strike to be competitive ahead of Longhorn’s 2006 release, but EMC seems focused on the storage problem when it seems to me that the real challenge is retrieval. And from what I know about Documentum (admittedly not much — it’s been a while since they were a competitor), they’re focused on the classification, not the retrieval.

Though I can’t fully articulate my feelings on the subject, I’m also increasingly certain that the disruptive innovation posed by blogs, wikis and hybrid products from companies like SocialText will result in less centralization to the enterprise storage challenge, not more. Which makes me wonder whether Documentum’s roll-up under EMC isn’t at least a bit like tilting at windmills.

Crazy traffic

This is nuts: over 800 visitors today, almost all a result of searching for Tuesday Morning Quarterback at Google (or any Google-affiliated site). That search points to a post I made over a year ago about my admiration for Gregg Easterbrook; 17 have commented as of 6pm this evening.

(In case you’re wondering, this is at least triple my usual visitor number.)

Adding conversations to my blog's homepage

Thanks to a little hacking of Movable Type, I’ve added three new features to the right-hand column on the home page. You can now see:

  • Last five trackbacks. While those looking at individual threads will see which other sites have linked to me, this seemed a better way to highlight that there may be a conversation forming outside of this blog that’s related to something I wrote.

  • Last five comments. Comments are a bit hard to see (they require additional clicks, and not everyone does that), so now you can see the last five things others have said, with links to the full threads to see the entire conversation. This is especially useful when there are threads that get some attention (thanks to Google) that may be old, and you wouldn’t know there was a conversation going on unless it was highlighted on the home page.

  • Most frequent commenters. This is one way to acknowledge and thank the people who are contributing the most content to this site other than me. And it might give you an idea of who’s hanging out here.

Other suggestions? Does this enhance your use of this site? It seemed interesting to me (which is why I added it), but I’m genuinely interested in hearing whether you find it useful as well.

Happy anniversary...

… to Jim McGee, who’s been blogging for two years as of today.

If you aren’t reading Jim’s “musings”, you should be. He’s one of the sharpest commentators on the KM implications of blogging around.

Here’s to many more!

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Easterbrook's firing

This is wild: do a search at Google for Tuesday Morning Quarterback and my post from last year is in the top 10 results. Furthermore, as a result of the controversy swirling over Easterbrook’s firing from ESPN, there’s now an active thread in the comments about what happened. (Check out the haiku homage!)

My views (for what it’s worth): I disagree with Ed Cone — I loved Easterbrook’s informed football commentary peppered with self-deprecating humor. Easterbrook’s comments last week were particularly unfortunate, and regardless of whether you’re willing to cut him some slack, he said what he said. (For a good write-up on the basics, see Ernie’s post earlier today.)

Disney has every right to fire him — this isn’t a First Amendment issue, it’s an employment issue. Disney owns ABC, which owns ESPN. And if the higher-ups at Disney are unhappy wiht what he said, they can certainly let it be known that they don’t want their name on his paycheck.

Is that right? I don’t know that the question much matters. It isn’t how I’d handle it — but I’m not Michael Eisner. (Thank God for small favors.) Easterbrook will land on his feet, and hopefully he’ll have learned only that you should read what you write before you hit “post”.

May we return quickly to cheesecake, links-that-shall-not-be-linked, diatribes against the blitz, and obscure college scores of the week.

Dean Gala Event on 10/27 in Chicago

Rather than paste the entire invite into this post, let me just remind any Chicago-area readers that I am a host for next week’s Gala Fundraiser in honor of Governor Dean. It will be from 6:30pm to 8pm at the Civic Opera House, and Governor Dean will be in attendance. Tickets are $150/person or $250/couple. RSVP online here or by sending an e-mail to Jenny Lehner at the campaign.

Hope to see you there!


I downloaded iTunes for Windows last week, and share the enthusiasm expressed elsewhere. It is by far the easiest to use and most sophisticated music management application for Windows. I’ve been a MusicMatch user for about four years, and always found it to be a little too user-unfriendly.

Some things that make it so good:

  • The ability to link directly to tunes at the iTunes music store. (My first song bought at iTunes? Oklahoma by The Call.)

  • Smart Playlists that let you build playlists without requiring you to manually build them (based on your ratings, recently played songs, etc.).

  • Audible integration. I was an Audible cusotmer a long time ago, and still had a few books in my “library” that I had never listened to. Thanks to iTunes, I can add them to my iPod… and since my iPod has so much disk space, I can listen at the highest sound quality (a big improvement over my old MP3 player, which could only handle the inferior “2” setting which was worse than AM radio).

In classic Apple fashion, the fit and finish of the application is just “right”. Very easy to use, very sophisticated functionality. A big win.

When blogs hit the big-time

I think David Weinberger’s thoughts on what happens when blogs get “really big” are right on. Lots of meat on this post; his thinking is consistent with a lot of what I’ve been thinking regarding blog communications and where things are headed.

Yesterday was a good example of how my blog has changed my communications style. I wanted to know if Denise had seen comments on a particular issue at DigitalID World; instead of sending her an e-mail, I mentioned her in my blog. Within a half hour, she replied — and anyone interested in that issue saw the reply. Very cool, and a good example of where this is headed.

If you think about it, current e-mail inboxes are about the last place you want to look for valuable information. You can’t Google it, nobody else can see it, and it’s grown too unwieldy to be much use.

Idea for a Movable Type plugin

I want to let people in comments refer to other comments, and then have the plug-in auto-link to those comments. The idea would be to let people say:

In comment16, Rick said…

The plug-in would look for strings that say “commentxxx” where xxx is the number assigned to the comment, and then auto-link the string to the permalink for the comment. End result? A way of linking related comments without actually threading the discussion.

I can assign permalinks to comments. I don’t know how to parse text and modify the resulting HTML… Anyone care to lend a hand?

Monday, October 20, 2003

E-mail management

Jeremy Zawodny has discovered that the only good time to clean up your inbox is when you’re on a plane. He’s totally right — the only time I manage to delete the vast majority of my inbox is when I’m on the road.

It used to drive my old boss nuts — he never had more than ten messages in his inbox at a time. I think I’ll send him a message right now.

Knowing how to find the people you need

How often do you get a phone call asking you to spend a weekend at the headquarters of a U.S. Presidential candidate? If you’re like me, it’s not exactly a daily occurrence. So when the Dean campaign called a month ago and asked if I had a few free days to spare, I eagerly booked my trip. I left Friday morning and returned yesterday. You can read my observations here and here.

Since I focus on the technology aspect of things on this blog, I thought I’d share some of the virtual “community” that I feel a part of as a result of this trip. First off, it goes without saying that my invitation was a direct result of my blog (the one focused on the Dean campaign).

Secondly, I was helping the web team get their Movable Type installation updated with some time-saving plug-ins. A couple examples of how responsive the “blogosphere” can be:

  • Trolls are having a lot of fun spoofing identities at the Dean campaign blog. Impassioned debate is one thing — deliberately misrepresenting your identity to complicate debate is another thing entirely. (Side comment to Denise: did this come up at Digital ID world?) So I sent a note to Ben and Mena Trott to ask what they thought a good answer was for us, and ended up in an e-mail discussion with Ben less than twenty minutes later. The resolution is under development, but we should have something to look at shortly.

  • The campaign blog includes a count-down showing the number of days left until the Iowa Caucus. Previously they’d been manually updating it, a cumbersome effort. (Yes, they could have used javascript countdowns, but several solutions were many lines of code and are browser-dependent.) There’s a Movable Type plugin, but it required the countdown to show up in the years/months/weeks/days/hours/seconds format; we just wanted to show days. I sent an e-mail to the author of the plugin, David Raynes, and he rewrote the plugin to do what we needed and uploaded a new version to his website. All that was done in less than two hours.

  • I wanted to show some of the tech guys at the campaign what they could do with RSS aggregation, and wanted them to look at K-Collector. I pinged Matt Mower by Instant Message and fed some of the campaign’s questions to him; we had instant answers.

  • Doing my penance for Buzz (who was disappointed I wasn’t at PopTech this weekend), I showed ActiveWords to a number of people. They were floored at how much it could make their life easier; I dropped him an e-mail and quickly got a response addressing a couple questions they had. Now they’re talking about arranging a time to give demos to a few key people who didn’t get a chance to see it on Saturday.

So often, your ability to get things done is dependent on who you know. Thanks to the blogosphere, that’s actually not the case anymore. Now, your ability to get things done is dependent on knowing how to find out who you need to know, then communicating with them. Blogs (and e-mail, and IM) make that whole process infinitely easier. As a result, I got a lot done thanks to the generosity of many people, several of whom I’ve never met.

The meaning of "roots"

“We are the great grass-roots campaign of the modern era, made of mouse pads, shoe leather, and hope.” — Howard Dean, June 22, 2003, The Great American Restoration

So much has been written about the “grassroots” nature of this campaign that I’d begun to not even hear the word “grassroots”. To me it had become a synonym with individuals working on the campaign (as opposed to the traditional top-down controlled campaign). I’d heard it so often that it lost meaning.

Then I was talking with Mathew Gross this weekend while in Burlington, and it dawned on me: that the roots we were building weren’t about the people working on the campaign, it was about the roots each and every one of us are growing in our communities to make them (and ourselves) stronger.

Today’s post at the campaign blog from Kris and Page is just the latest example of what I’m talking about: by getting out and talking with neighbors, they’re connecting to the community in ways that many of us had stopped doing a long time ago. A few years ago, Cliff Stoll asked in Silicon Snake Oil whether the Internet was brining us together or giving us ways of staying apart, and concluded that in many cases it divided us.

No more. The real gift of the Dean campaign has been its ability to add water to our roots — so that our involvement in our communities gets stronger. My wife and I moved to our town three years ago, and with two little ones we’ve been busy trying to raise them. We hadn’t been as involved as we would have liked, but reasoned that we’d get more time “later.” The Dean campaign was the impetus to jump in — and as a result we’re meeting our neighbors, traveling to surrounding towns, marching in parades and fliering at local events. The end result is that for the first time we feel anchored in a community — we’ve now lived in Naperville longer than we’ve lived in any other town. We want to stay here and continue to grow those roots.

Our experience is not unique. As our roots grow, our ability to effect real, lasting change grows. It is not simply that we are empowered to act, we must act. It’s our responsibility.

When Howard Dean states that the campaign isn’t about him, it’s about us, he’s not stumping. This is what the Washington Post today called transformational politics — and it’s why the impact will not just be Howard Dean in the White House, but a completely new way of looking at our role in our own towns and cities. Then — and only then — will we have achieved real change.

Pilots for Dean

Check out Timothy Sipples’ new DeanSpace site, Pilots for Dean. It’s a clearinghouse for pilots who want to offer seats on their planes to go to campaign-related events. Very, very good idea. (And I’m just a bit giddy at the prospect that Timothy is in Wheeling, Illinois, less than an hour away from DuPage County! Looks like we might be able to hitch a ride or two to Iowa in the upcoming months.)

I'm back...

I’m a bit caught up on sleep after getting back from Burlington. For the first time, the fact that I’ve been out of college nearly 11 years is painfully obvious to this body.

I don’t think there’s much to add to my comments from Saturday, other than to reinforce the awe that the staff feels for the grassroots. For those who read the campaign blog, you know about Saturday’s Iowa Victory Day project. The campaign set up a site at to encourage each of us to write letters to Iowa and New Hampshire undecided voters.

Response was so positive that the system crashed early Saturday morning. By early afternoon, the developers added a ton of additional names to put up with the initial push; by late Saturday night, you’d written more than 1,000 letters. (As of now, it’s up to over 1500 letters written.)

While all of this was happening, staffers kept walking the hallways muttering “1,000 letters!” as if it was impossible to believe.

Is it possible that included among those who are underestimating the Dean campaign is… the Dean campaign? :)

Keep up the great work, people!

Saturday, October 18, 2003

Update from Burlington

I’ve now been in Burlington for 24 hours, and already I’m adopting the peculiar patterns that appear to be standard: I’ve slept less than 5 hours. I’ve worked on the blog (look for “Most recent comments” and “Most freqent commenters” coming soon), had some far-reaching discussions about “what’s next?” and been an outsider’s voice sharing my two cents with various people about what’s working and what’s not.

Some observations:

  • the motivation of the people who are here is pure. A sign hanging over Garrett Graff’s desk says that “This campaign is about: Bringing people back into the political process; Restoring our role as an idealistic moral force in the world; and building a new American community.” Everyone I’ve talked to believes this.

  • Ideas truly are coming from outside in, not the other way around. While building the “most recent comments” functionality into the homepage, I noticed this comment from “Med Student for Dean”. He (she?) was watching ESPN Game Day, and noticed that some enterprising Wisconsin for Dean supporters had strategically placed themselves around the Game Day hosts, so that every time the cameras pointed at the hosts, you saw Dean placards (and one guy even had some Dean masks!). I told the media guys (whose cube is opposite the Net Roots area) to turn to ESPN; sure enough — there were the signs. The media guys got it on TiVo, and John Pettit is working on getting a photo of the broadcast up so Joe or Matt can blog it.

  • Everyone here is in awe — seriously, in awe — of what we are doing. By we I mean the grassroots. They speak about the people leaving comments, the people planning events, the people writing letters — as if even they can’t believe how much we’re doing. (And they don’t realize that we are in awe of them. So I guess it’s fair.)

  • People just walk in — at 9am on a Saturday morning — offering to help. Two women showed up this morning from Indiana. They’re visiting friends, and they wanted to know how they could get involved. One woman, who’s retired, is planning to go to New Mexico for two weeks in the near future. The other is planning to host a house party.

Being here makes you feel like it can happen. We can shock the world.

Keep up the great work that you’re doing.

Friday, October 17, 2003

I'm in Burlington

Greetings from Dean for America headquarters! Already I’ve met Zephyr, Joe, Mathew, Nicco, Karl, Jerome, Clay and several others. The energy in this office is incredible.

More later…

Thursday, October 16, 2003

From last year

Don’t be an ape.

8th inning, one out

What is it about teams of destiny and one out in the 8th inning? The Cubs have a three run lead over the Marlins going into the 8th inning, then implode.

The Red Sox had a 3 run lead heading into the 8th inning, then…

Well, I don’t really want to talk about it. There’s still hope. on Dean's Dollars – Dean dollars – Oct. 16, 2003

WASHINGTON (CNN) — You know you’ve had a good fund-raising quarter if the financial report being submitted to the Federal Election Commission (FEC) is taller than the candidate submitting it.

This is not funny: Of Dean, Churchill, and the Cubs

No one quote would do this essay justice, so just take a few minutes and go read the whole thing. It’s a terrific view of why Dean should be seen as a tremendous asset to the Democratic Party, an assessment of his many accomplishments to date, and a good game summary of the Marlins/Cubs game.

Like I said: just go read it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

The curse

Something tells me that this search will yield far more hits in the next few days after the Cubs’ collapse.

From tomorrow’s Washington Post comes this nugget:

One doesn’t want to overstate Bartman’s problem, but it is possible that no one in the history of the world has ever managed so publicly, and so efficiently, to make (and this is the technical term) a complete buttface of himself.

Usually in sports, it is an athlete who suffers the curse of his team, but this time a civilian took the fall. By yesterday morning, the sports-talk radio folks had already concluded that in 50 years, no one will remember all the ways the Cubs imploded in the eighth inning — they’ll just remember the weak fly ball falling out of the sky like a mortar shell on poor Steve Bartman.

I feel for the guy. And for Cubs fans everywhere. No fan should have to endure this heartbreak.

ALCS goes to game 7

Red Sox win 9-6. Here’s hoping the Cubs pull it off tonight. Admit it: don’t you just ache for Steve Bartman (the fan who interfered with Alou’s catch on the left field line)? And then the Sox win tomorrow night…

… Pigs flying, a wind chill in Hell — what else would follow?

Matt Langer wants to advertise in the NY Times

Matt Langer has an idea that might be crazy enough to work: get a bunch of A-list bloggers to work together to raise $156,000 to put a full-page ad in the Sunday NY Times.

The goal? Highlight the ability of weblogs to bring undiluted news and commentary to the masses, and shine a spotlight on the failure of the mass media to do the same.

You never know…

Department of Homeland Isolation

Joi Ito reports that as a result of the draconian security interviews in place at U.S. Customs, he will cut back on travel to the U.S. for the forseeable future. I can’t say I blame him — and his comments are not isolated. The CEO at a former employer of mine (he’s from India, but is a U.S. citizen) has found the airport harassment so bad that he’s considering moving his family out of the country rather than deal with the ongoing mistreatment.

It seems to me that the real impact of President Bush’s foreign policy decisions (preemptive strikes, open hostility towards the U.N., exceedingly tough immigration restrictions, increased border control) will be economic: as countries find that dealing with us is increasingly difficult, their citizens will look elsewhere for jobs, education, business opportunities and the like.

This is not a time when we want foreigners deciding that they’ll wait for a while until they come back.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Justice Scalia in the Big Easy

Ernie reports on Justice Scalia’s recent trip to New Orleans, and concludes:

[T]he reactions he receives from those who staunchly disagree with his views on constitutional interpretation are often filled with scorn and contempt. Which is unfortunate, but also strange. I can understand how people would not accept most of his views, and I’m certainly not saying I agree with everything he says either. But how can you not be at least intrigued by a judge who believes that the power of his office should be constrained? Most people who govern want to arrogate power, not decline it.

I’ve never been a Scalia fan (his “homosexual agenda” line from his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas was only his most recent unfortunate comment), but I tend to agree with Ernie. Principled individuals in any level of government are to be admired, even (especially?) when they are at odds with our own views.

A politician who listens?

Jen Klyse notes that Andy Rosenberg is running for Congress in her district, he has a weblog, and he’s even responding to comments on his own site by himself.

The site looks great, and Andy’s involvement in his own site is commendable. Well done!

Fast Company on Joe Trippi

Good article at Fast Company about Joe Trippi and the .com that is the Dean campaign.

This sounds about right to me:

So while he’s frustrated when people focus on the “phoney baloney dotcom thing,” he readily acknowledges the parallels. “Every presidential campaign is a startup,” he says, “and every one becomes, essentially, one of the fastest- growing corporations in America.” But, he says, those who think that this is simply the next are missing the point: “We’re actually trying to get people to participate in democracy again. And we’re using the Internet to get the message out faster and earlier and asking supporters to help spread the word. If you want to call that a dotcom, go ahead. We simply call it a bunch of Americans.”

Monday, October 13, 2003

Stop that comment spam

Jay Allen has released MT-Blacklist.

I’ve installed it (if you did your own Movable Type install you’ll be fine — you just need to ftp a few files up to your server and run the config) and look forward to cutting down on the number of ridiculous comments left here.

Most interesting (as noted by Ben at SixApart) — that MT-Blacklist may soon offer the ability to let sites collaboratively share blacklist data via XML-RPC to eliminate spam as it appears.


Social networking

I’ve been a Ryze user for a little over a year (my Ryze page is here). In that time, I’ve rekindled a couple of friendships (one was more than 10 years old) and cemented several friendships with people I’ve met online.

But there’s been a lot of press attention focused on the social networking phenomenon — last week’s article in Fortune was just the latest that caught my eye — and I’m wondering what your reaction to the social networking phenomenon is.

The general idea (and I’m over-simplifying here) is to let us each leverage our networks of contacts among each other; if you know people who I want to connect to, presumably these systems will help me do that. It’s an interesting take on managing credibility and identity (several of the systems appear to reinforce the idea that you are who you know, or more apt, you are who knows you). But this is a notion that’s near and dear to my heart: as an exec at a CRM company that focuses on leveraging the complex web of relationships inside an organization, it seems that these systems rely on overly altruistic individuals.

That may not be fatal, but it seems limiting. In an corporate environment, how do you encourage people to share what they know? I took the time to look up some people I know (at LinkedIn, I have 12 confirmed relationships on my first day), but is the “average” user going to do that? Seems to me that the current crop of social networking tools are designed for the early adopters among us who are willing to invest time and energy… which begs the question: which sites will cross the chasm?

Some links if you want to know more:

Companies: – LinkedInRyzeFriendsterTribe

A few articles: – Ross Mayfield (Ross is CEO at SocialText, and one of the true visionaries on these issues) – Wired MagazineMSNBCCorante (where’s CSO says that this stuff will just get folded into CRM apps in the near future)

Do you use any of the sites mentioned above? Which ones and why? Feel free to look me up on LinkedIn or Ryze and link to me.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

Everything you need to know about internationalization

It’s rare that Joel Spolsky writes on a topic that it doesn’t immediately become one of the best articles written on the subject. This week’s article — on internationalization — is no different.

While I’m not a programmer, I do work for a software company and issues of interationalization inevitably arise. Customers are often as misinformed as our employees are — meaning that we end up talking past each other and focusing on the wrong issues. I have no doubt that Joel’s article will go a long way to addressing the fundamentals on the issue.

Even if you don’t care about the issue, Joel’s history of how we got the mess we’re in is a fascinating tale of computer science gone bad.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Jealousy is...

… someone else having a Treo 600.

Slate on the Debate

Great analysis of yesterday’s debate (I didn’t watch it) from Slate. The concluding line is an interesting observation:

[T]he guy that’s standing in the way of Dean’s presidential ambitions is Dick Gephardt, not John Kerry.

New politics site - Campaigns Online

Johns Hopkins University announces Campaigns Online:

The blog will highlight the use of technology in the 2004 Presidential campaign as well as other state and local campaigns.


Tuesday, October 7, 2003

Weblogs and the Constitution

Ed Cone: Weblogs bring second amendment logic to the first amendment.

Union Station fundraiser

I just watched Martin Sheen’s intro for Howard Dean (courtesy of DeanTV). One for the ages.

RSS authentication follow-up

I just did a quick experiment, and discovered a feature of my newsreader (NewzCrawler) that I didn’t know existed: authentication.

Last week, I wrote about RSS authentication, and said that “aggregators and web servers will need to be able to pass authentication information back and forth so that individual subscribers can subscribe to private RSS feeds.”

Well, if only I’d actually tried this out. Using .htaccess, I restricted access to the following directory:

In that folder is one file, an RSS feed. Unless you have the proper username and password, you cannot access that RSS feed. (Try it: username “test”, password “password”.)

I did a little digging, and found this extremely useful summary of the status of aggregators that support RSS authentication (link found via LockerGnome).

Monday, October 6, 2003

RED SOX WIN!!!!!!!!!

Un-freaking-believable. Most exciting baseball game I’ve ever seen.

Blogs: Publication or Conversation?

Referring to posts from Ernie and me over the past few days, Jerry Lawson says, “I’m not sure why the people who want to impose their dislike of editing should be the ones who get to make the rules.”

I’m not suggesting I have any more right than anyone else to make the rules. But I don’t think this is as cut-and-dried as Jerry makes it seem.

It seems to me there are several things about weblogs that lend themselves to a sense of permanence. If one materially edits the substance of a weblog post, it destroys that sense of permanence, and in the end I think diminishes the power of the “blogosphere” (such as it is).

Permalinks are citations, pure and simple. The very purpose of a permalink (a “permanent link”) is to direct a reader to the words said by someone else. If a permalink doesn’t direct you to the words as the blogger read them, it only leads to confusion.

Weblogs are not websites. Permalinks and the chronological nature of posts distinguish weblog entries from web pages. Both of these characteristics explicitly encourage dialogue — I write something, Ernie links to it and adds his own comments. Jerry links to both of us, and adds his own thoughts disagreeing with us. I add to the conversation, and so it goes.

Without either the chronological ordering of posts or the ability to pinpoint link to what Ernie and Jerry said and when, our ability to have a conversation goes away.

What I don’t understand is how a conversation can happen if what was said is in question and open to interpretation.

And this gets to the heart of the matter, I think. If the purpose of a blog is to provide a public service (as Jerry says is his purpose), then I think this issue is largely moot. But if the purpose of the blog is to participate in an ongoing discussion, I just don’t see how post-publication editing fosters that at all.

With the development of technology like trackback, I tihnk this only becomes more important. Trackbacks are themselves timestamped — which indicate when I linked to someone. The construction of posts, coupled with links and tied together with trackback pings all indicate a flow of conversation. If any of those underlying posts materially change, then it becomes nearly impossible for a reader to reconstruct the conversation or follow its points.

Now I’m not arguing that posts can’t be edited, or shouldn’t be edited. But I do believe that I owe my readers an explicit acknowledgement of any changes I make. People who read this site through a news aggregator are quite likely to get my post within the first thirty to sixty minutes of the post being online; people who read the site in a browser might not see it for 24 or more hours. If I make changes during that gap, it’s quite likely that the conversation that stems from my original post will branch — with two people reacting to what they think is the same post but could have significant differences.

I think the most I could hope for is an acknolwedgement of what a person’s policy is. To that end, I think Dave’s statement is exactly right. While there’s been considerable consternation among some about Dave’s edits of his own posts, they don’t bother me at all: I know he does it, and that allows me to put it into context. I’m on notice that he reserves the right to change whatever he wants. (As a result of the thinking I’ve given this, I’ll be creating a similar policy and will post it tomorrow. )

Let’s see where this conversation goes. Thanks for listening.

Clark campaign sponsoring Google searches

This is interesting:

The Clark campaign is the #2 sponsored search result when you look for information about Howard Dean.

Interestingly, they’re also sponsoring John Kerry. But no other candidates. Certainly would suggest that the Clark camp doesn’t see any threat from the Lieberman, Gephardt or Edwards campaigns.

Now before anyone goes off and says they’re the first to do this (ahem!), the Dean camp did this briefly back in March. More interestingly, one has to wonder why the other candidates (including Dean) aren’t doing it now?

Bottom line: this is smart. Really smart. Clark’s guys are proving that the Dean campaign isn’t the only one thinking creatively about leveraging the web. TiVo faces challenges

TiVo Faces Challenge to Take PVR to the Next Level of Value

Ad Age’s editor Scott Donaton is confident digital video recorders (DVR) will reach critical mass and eventually reshape TV advertising as we know it. The question is will DVR become more than simply ad skipping, and can current market leader TiVo stay ahead of that game? TiVo’s new president, Marty Yudkovitz, a longtime NBC executive, is determined to convince advertisers and agencies that TiVo represents more of an opportunity than a threat, with targeting, “long-form content,” audience measurement and interactive capabilities. Rick Bruner posts. [via

Washington Post on editing your blog

Howie Kurtz reports on my fact-checking on the Clark blog.

Washington Post: No Do-Overs in Sports!

Howie Kurtz picks up on the story in today’s Washington Post by quoting Garance Franke-Ruta’s entry in TAPPED last week:

Hey — no do-overs in sports!

Josh Marshall lands an exclusive with Wes Clark, but American Prospect’s Garance Franke-Ruta does some fact-checking:

“Blogger Rick Klau has the goods on another example of what is becoming a pattern of easily avoidable inaccurate claims from the Clark camp. Earlier this week, Clark granted an interview to uberblogger Joshua Micah Marshall. It was just one interview the Clark camp tried to place with bloggers this week, and it was part of a broader strategy of trying to create a network of bloggers who could stir up Clark chatter in the blogosphere, according to my Clark sources. And it’s a pretty smart strategy: The Talking Points Memo interview provided Clark with a chance to give the sort of nuanced, thorough explanations of his policy stances and political beliefs that more traditional news outlets would never have space for — and Clark acquitted himself very well in the interview.

“But then his team announced on ‘During the General’s recent trip to Washington D.C., Joshua Marshall over at the well-known Talking Points Memo did an interview enroute from Dulles Airport. This is the first time a blogger has interviewed a presidential candidate.’

“This simply wasn’t true. Liberal Oasis interviewed Howard Dean by e-mail back in May. Klau pointed this out and the Clark bloggers changed their story.”

First rule of politics and journalism: Be careful about claiming the “first” anything.

Clarification: Jerome Armstrong was the first blogger to talk with a presidential candidate in person Liberal Oasis has the distinction of the first formal interview. Both were with Howard Dean.

And a postscript: the Clark team has changed their language again, now saying, “This is believed to be the first time a blogger has interviewed a presidential candidate face-to-face.” (emphasis mine)

Believed by whom?

Graham blog - authorized or not?

Check out this post to the Graham blog. Note the use of the word “flaky” to describe two of the frontrunner candidates, “very disappointing polls and fundraising,” the discussion about settling for a cabinet post, then note the author’s clarification in the comments:

I am posting my own opinions only. I am not a part of the Graham campaign and I am not a blind cheerleader either.

In another comment, he provides further information:

…many of the bloggers are not specifically members of the campaign staff, but are enthusiastic supporters who the campaign noticed talking positively about the Senator out on the net, and asked if we (I’m one) wanted to offer our positive viewpoints of Bob Graham here on the blog.

Other than in the broadest possible terms, we were not instructed what’s on message or off message, and I think the reason is that the campaign wanted this to be a true blog, with a diversity of opinion, and even some posts that might be contradictory or diverge somewhat from the official compaign message.

Now, I have no problem with the campaign’s use of outside bloggers to add “authenticity” to the message. But I think they’re making a big mistake in not explicitly identifying posts that aren’t from the campaign. Many people who end up at the site have no idea what a weblog is, and will only go by what’s on the screen. And here’s what I see:

Note the use of the words “official weblog”.

At the bottom of the page is this disclaimer:

“Paid for and authorized by Bob Graham for President.” (emphasis mine)

In other words, this page repeatedly reinforces the official nature of the site. And the posts that are made by volunteers aren’t identified as anything other than “official” or “authorized”. So the only conclusion I would reach as a new visitor to the site would be that these were posts made by the campaign.

And in the post linked above, we see Graham calling two competitors “flaky” and admitting that his strategy might really just be to angle for a VP slot or even a cabinet appointment. Not exactly the image you want to portray.

Chris Smith is back

After a long hiatus, Chris Smith (KM guru at A Big Law Firm Who Shall Remain Nameless) is back among us. Good news!

Sunday, October 5, 2003

TiVo innovates again

Just experienced a first with TiVo — while watching tonight’s Trading Spaces $100k episode, an ad for the Cadillac SRX. While the ad played, a TiVo message appeared on the screen: “Push thumbs up for more info.” Being me, of course I did (to my wife’s chagrine, who just wanted to watch the show). And it took us to ads that TiVo had downloaded in advance — we had the ability to watch a full-length “test drive” of the car or even order a full brochure for the car.

Great idea. Cadillac gets data on not just reach but viewings (now they know how many people watched the ads), gets demographic info about who the ad was interesting to (they have some statistical data on our household (married couple, kids, etc.), and even which shows are more in keeping with their market (they’re likely running this promotion elsewhere).

More info here from AdAge. Nice.

Feedster comes into its own

I’ve written about Feedster before, but this weekend it has really shown its power as a meta-aggregator of any posts that have discussed BloggerCon. Dave Winer has put together a singularly spectactular collection of the leading minds on weblogs in all their various flavors.

Here’s the thing: being a conference about blogging, it’s no shock that there are a ton of people blogging about it. (Who knew?) And Feedster has built a page that presents any weblogs that talk about BloggerCon, giving those of us who couldn’t make it to Boston an unprecedented view of the conference.

I have checked in periodically over the weekend, and I feel like I was there. I periodically checked Feedster, and saw real-time reports (from those who were fortunate to win the war of WiFi at Harvard) as well as longer reports written when the attendees made it back to their hotel room.

Is there any doubt that conferences as we know them will never be the same?

Kudos to Dave for putting the whole program together, and many thanks to Scott for Feedster.

Dean and Clark can scale; can Bush?

This is impressive: in just two weeks, the Clark campaign pulled in $3.5 million, more than 2/3 of which was raised online. Added to Dean’s $5m in the final two weeks and that’s an impressive showing by two “outsiders” in the race.

Let’s put this in perspective: as the quarter ended, the Dean and Clark campaigns combined were on pace to beat President Bush’s fundraising in Q3. ($4.25m per week, 12 weeks in a quarter = $51 million over an entire quarter.) Now this is entirely hypothetical — after all, fundraising surges towards the end of a quarter and isn’t representative of the entire quarter’s giving. Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing take on the two candidates’ totals.

Perhaps most impressive for the Democrats, and most troubling for the Republicans: Dean’s average donation is $80 and Clark’s is just $167. It’s the small dollars that are fueling these campaigns. Those people who give in small amounts can be persuaded to do so again.

Much like the decentralized “open source” movement that the Dean campaign has been modeled on, these two campaigns have proven that their fundraising model is sacalable. The Bush model is much harder to scale — there are only so many $2,000 donors out there.

Saturday, October 4, 2003

Instapundit weighs in

Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, has some observations about weblogs in presidential politics from today’s BloggerCon. This nugget in particular was quite insightful:

In this cycle, and (perhaps) the next one, blogs will have more relevance in the run-up to the primary than in the general elections. Blogs aren’t tools of mass persuasion, and won’t be at least until there’s a “mass.” And maybe not even then. But they’re great at building buzz, and mobilizing interested people. That’s more relevant in the early stages than the late ones.

(Thanks Ernie for the pointer.)

Betsy Devine's comments at BloggerCon

Betsy Devine has some observations from BloggerCon today. Responding to Dave Winer’s frustration at raising money online only to plow it into TV ads:

[W]hen I donated money over the web I sure didn’t mean for Dean to go plowing the money back into “the web.” I wanted my money to help Dean become president.


Heath Row transcribes the session

Heath Row has a near-word-for-word recap of the weblogs in presidential politics session at BloggerCon today.

Weblogs in presidential politics

Tim Jarrett has great coverage of today’s BloggerCon panel on weblogs in presidential politics: Part I, Part II and Part III.

Dave Winer doesn't get the Dean campaign

This isn’t terribly surprising, given his comments on the campaign to date. But still, it’s surprising that the opinion would be expressed so definitively, especially when the facts are so at odds with the opinion. Britt, who’s at BloggerCon, just reported on a comment made by Dave Winer:

Dave Winer just said that the Dean campaign is only a start, dismissing it as no more than a start, that eventually the voters should write the campaign blogs, not the campaign itself. That seems to me to be true already with the Dean campaign. Matt Gross, the campaign’s chief blogger, is a blogger who just showed up one day at the campaign because he felt it ought to have a blog. So, whether or not Matt is a voter or a campaign worker is questionable. When I spent a week at the campaign as a volunteer worker, I discovered that even the paid staffers (by far the minority) functioned as volunteers–they’re voters who feel so strongly that they somehow find a way to work on the campaign full time for slave wages or less. And the campaign blog is written by several of the staffers who have become celebrities themselves. NYC Deaniacs enthused about getting their autographs at the Bryant Park Rally!

I’d like to clarify a huge misunderstanding about the Dean campaign, arising from not digging deep enough to get it how the campaign blog works: The real story of the Dean campaign is not the official blog, but the comments to the blog. The abundant, passionate and uncannilycomments are the fuel for this campaign. The threads they build there are the way this community maintains its community. And, importantly, they are half a million people who have explicitly declared themselves to be a community, which explicitly proves that this is precisely what Dave says it is not.

It’ll be interesting to see how the panel discussion goes this afternoon, when Mathew Gross will join other campaign bloggers in a discussion controlled moderated by Dave.

Novak blows another cover

This really makes you wonder: CIA Leak Also Exposes Agency Front. What was Novak thinking?

The name of the CIA front company was broadcast yesterday by Novak, the syndicated journalist who originally identified Plame. Novak, highlighting Wilson’s ties to Democrats, said on CNN that Wilson’s “wife, the CIA employee, gave $1,000 to Gore and she listed herself as an employee of Brewster-Jennings & Associates.”

“There is no such firm, I’m convinced,” he continued. “CIA people are not supposed to list themselves with fictitious firms if they’re under a deep cover — they’re supposed to be real firms, or so I’m told. Sort of adds to the little mystery.”

Friday, October 3, 2003

Setting the record straight: first blogger interview with a presidential candidate

Turns out I was wrong. Liberal Oasis was not the first blogger to interview a presidential candidate. That distinction goes to Jerome Armstrong of He met with Howard Dean in June of 2002.

And if you want to see the early (and I mean early) coverage on Howard Dean, you can do no better than to browse through Jerome’s posts about Governor Dean that go all the way back to April 26, 2002. It makes for some great reading. (And it also reminds you how much Jerome’s posts are missed.)

(Final trivia note for the night: is the site perhaps most famous for being where Mathew Gross got his start. Within a couple months, he was working full time in Burlington as the Dean campaign’s chief blogger.)


Ernie follows up the thread on editing blog posts with a discussion on semi-sorta-kinda-permalinks at Dave Winer’s site. It comes as no surprise that Dave edits his posts — he admits as much and has been clear it’s his policy to do so as he sees fit. Update (10/3/03, 10:42pm): Dave left a comment indicating Ernie mistakenly posted two different posts of Dave’s, rather than two versions of the same post. The point remains re: editing, but the example used was evidently not indicative.]

But this begs the question: what the hell is a “permalink” if not a “permanent” “link” to what you said?

Let’s call them ephemeralinks.

Now there’s a term I can get behind.

Please tell me this will get discussed at BloggerCon.

Tapped picks up the edit story...

Writing in Tapped, The American Prospect’s group blog, Garance Franke-Ruta notes:

FACT CHECK CLARK, PART II. Blogger Rick Klau has the goods on another example of what is becoming a pattern of easily avoidable inaccurate claims from the Clark camp.

Atrios thinks it’s much ado about nothing. And I can’t say I disagree, though I still think that the larger question re: blogs is an important one: do politicians’ blogs have any obligation to note when content has changed on their site?

Unedited vs. Unfiltered

Mitch Ratcliffe has a timely post (considering yesterday’s discussion here about the Clark Blog’s editing of their posts) about the different takes on editing in the blogosphere.

I’m glad to see Dave link to this discussion, as I think it increases the likelihood it’ll get discussed at BloggerCon tomorrow. (Scratch that: Dave seems to suggest it will get discussed. Excellent!)

Thursday, October 2, 2003

Quote of the day

From Ernie comes a great little story about having clams with our Attorney General.

The quote is at the end of the article. It’s a keeper.

Great feature at the Kerry Campaign Blog

They’re not the only campaign to highlight news that’s not flattering to the Bush administration, but the way the Kerry campaign packages it is outstanding: What would George Bush learn if he read today’s newspaper? I love it.

Back story: In an interview with Brit Hume on September 22, President Bush was asked how he got his news. His response was the concluding exchange of the interview:

HUME: How do you get your news?

BUSH: I get briefed by Andy Card and Condi in the morning. They come in and tell me. In all due respect, you’ve got a beautiful face and everything.

I glance at the headlines just to kind of a flavor for what’s moving. I rarely read the stories, and get briefed by people who are probably read the news themselves. But like Condoleezza, in her case, the national security adviser is getting her news directly from the participants on the world stage.

HUME: Has that been your practice since day one, or is that a practice that you’ve…

BUSH: Practice since day one.

HUME: Really?

BUSH: Yes. You know, look, I have great respect for the media. I mean, our society is a good, solid democracy because of a good, solid media. But I also understand that a lot of times there’s opinions mixed in with news. And I…

HUME: I won’t disagree with that, sir.

BUSH: I appreciate people’s opinions, but I’m more interested in news. And the best way to get the news is from objective sources. And the most objective sources I have are people on my staff who tell me what’s happening in the world.

(The jokes pretty much write themselves, don’t they?)

Graham dropping out?

CalPundit points to a FoxNews story that indicates Senator Graham told at least one colleague he’d be dropping out. This isn’t conclusive, however, as Graham staffers are still insisting he’s in and a fundraiser for tomorrow night is still on (as of this evening).

And Blog Graham chief blogger Joe Jones is scheduled to present at this weekend’s BloggerCon. Should be interesting.

Greg Siskind (re)joins the blogosphere

My good friend Greg Siskind (who most recently co-authored a book with me) is back in the saddle with a blog focused on immigration law issues. Greg is the pioneer who started one of the first law firm websites a decade ago. And he’ll tell you that he maintained a weblog before there were weblogs. He’s got a point — of course, he used the very popular “Notepad” blogging software that was in use in the mid-90s. :)

You can read Greg’s entire note about that here. And I think by any objective measure, Greg’s right: the page he links to fits any conventional definition of the term “weblog”. Save that for a trivia question someday…

Greg’s is a very influential voice on immigration law issues, and I have no doubt that this blog will be a must-visit for anyone with an interest in the subject. Welcome (back) Greg!

One quibble, Greg: why no RSS feed?

Dean fundraiser in Downers Grove, IL

If you’re anywhere near DuPage County this weekend, be sure to stop by David Ham and Anna Wanderer’s house on Saturday for a Fall Barbecue — it promises to be a fun time. David and Anna will be showing off a little animated banner (which will show up here just as soon as they release it) that pokes a bit o’ fun at our current President.

You can RSVP through the Get Local site. Hope to see you there!

My follow-up to the Clark campaign blog edits

Full post is here (posted to my tech blog, because I think the issues are more appropriate in the blogs and ethics discussion than they are in a Dean forum).

Editing blog posts

I now have three separate copies of this post from the Clark campaign blog in my news aggregator. Why? Well, they’ve changed the language on the post at least three times that I can tell:

  • Draft 1: “During the General’s recent trip to Washington D.C., Joshua Marshall over at the well-known Talking Points Memo did an interview enroute from Dulles Airport. This is the first time a blogger has interviewed a presidential candidate.”

  • Draft 2: (after I pointed out this wasn’t true) “During the General’s recent trip to Washington D.C., Joshua Marshall over at the well-known Talking Points Memo did an interview enroute from Dulles Airport. This is the first time a blogger has interviewed Clark.”

  • Draft 3: “During the General’s recent trip to Washington D.C., Joshua Marshall over at the well-known Talking Points Memo did an interview enroute from Dulles Airport. This is the first time a blogger has interviewed a presidential candidate face-to-face.”

It’s funny — in Tips for candidate weblogs, it doesn’t say anything about noting when the text of a post has been modified. I wonder why that is?

And wouldn’t it be great if this came up during this weekend’s BloggerCon panel on weblogs in presidential politics? All the players will be there. How about it Dave? We know where you stand, but this is a great topic for discussion. What (if any) responsibility do candidate sites have to acknowledge when the text of a post has changed? Where should we draw the line? And is the line different for a politician than it is for an individual? Why or why not?

Wednesday, October 1, 2003

Law firm marketing job

I know there are several law firm marketing types who read my blog. If that sounds like you, then head on over to Bag & Baggage for a new job opening.

If you want to brown-nose a bit, find out where Denise is registered and get something for the littl’ ‘un on the way…

TPM Interviews Wesley Clark

Take a look over at Josh Marshall’s interview of Wes Clark. It’s a good overview of the candidate and worth a read.

Note to the Clark blog — Liberal Oasis interviewed Howard Dean back in May.

Update: The folks maintaining the Clark blog have changed the text of the post. It originally read “This is the first time a blogger has interviewed a presidential candidate.” It now reads “This is the first time a blogger has interviewed Clark.” Kudos for the quick correction.

Update #2 (10/2/03, 9:41am): Thanks to dean4me2004 in my comments, I see that the Clark guys have changed the language again, this time to say that “This is the first time a blogger has interviewed a presidential candidate face-to-face.” Not really. David Weinberger, well-known blogger (and NPR commentator) rode the press bus during the Sleepless Summer Tour in August and did interview Dean (entries were cross-posted to the Campaign Blog as well). Now, if we want to get picky, David didn’t publish a long-ish transcript of his interview. But still… this is getting silly.

Update #3 (10/3/03, 10:02pm): Turns out we were all wrong. The distinction of first blogger to interview a presidential candidate belongs to Jerome Armstrong, who interviewed Howard Dean in June, 2002. Details here.

RSS Authentication

Jeff Beard posted a graph that shows how the vast majority of hits to his website are courtesy of his RSS feed. While I don’t disagree with Jeff — that RSS feeds make it far easier to distribute your content, and increase the likelihood that your content will get read, let’s not get carried away. My news reader (NewzCrawler) polls my subscriptions every half hour — which means that on an average day I’ll account for at least 20 “hits” to Jeff’s RSS feed. Does that mean I’m reading Jeff’s site 20 times per day? Definitely not (though it is good!).

What it means is that my aggregator is shifting the content to me, and I get to browse content that’s interesting to me when I’m free to do so.

Most statistics programs today don’t have the facility to uniquely identify RSS subscribers, which means it’s nearly impossible to measure the true impact of RSS feeds on your readership. This raises an issue I’ve been thinking about for a while: if I wanted to provide a secure RSS feed (i.e., password-protected), how would you go about doing it?

Seems to me that the various aggregator vendors are going to need to support a standard for authentication in RSS feeds. I’m not the only one who’s thought about this — see this thread from August as one example. (Note: Userland’s suggestion that you pass the username and password through the URL string is flawed for a number of reasons, not least of which that URLs are sent cleartext and can easily be compromised.)

Bottom line — aggregators and web servers will need to be able to pass authentication information back and forth so that individual subscribers can subscribe to private RSS feeds. This would vastly improve RSS as a content delivery vehicle, and would also answer Jeff’s question above about how many people are subscribing to his site.

The real power of such a paradigm is for value-added feeds: you might get excerpts for free but have to pay for full content. Or people like Esther Dyson could publish her Release 1.0 (subscription cost: $795/year) to subscribers via RSS; only those who have valid ID could get the feed.

Update, 2006: For those finding this post via a search engine (which, according to my logs, is a number of you… for the past 18 months I’ve worked for FeedBurner, in part because of what I recognized back in 2003: RSS is an extraordinarily powerful mechanism for publishers to deliver content. I realized then that measuring RSS would be critical, and right around the same time a group of smart guys were starting a business to address that need: FeedBurner was born, and I joined in early 2005 to help build out the business. If you’re a publisher looking for help understanding how to make RSS a part of your content strategy, drop us a line.