Monday, October 20, 2003

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.

1 comment:

  1. It didn't come up directly. The conference was more focused on big ideas and standards than small but important practical applications. It's precisely the type of thing digital identity ultimately will address, though.