Open source politics isn’t just a set of principles. It’s a way of doing politics, from the ground-up. Everyone in an open source community has the same right to speak. Based on the content of users’ code leaders emerge, "committers" who can enact changes to the project on their say-so.
In this way a business model becomes a political system.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
Almost three years ago, Markos Moulitsas Zuniga and Jerome Armstrong were hired as "Internet consultants" by the Howard Dean campaign and dutifully told those folks what they should do.
Scale the intimacy. That is, don’t use a blogging system like Movable Type, which Dean’s campaign was using at the time. Instead, use a Community Network System like Scoop (or Drupal) to turn the Blog for America into a massive community, so that as the primaries approached and millions of people sought the intimate relationship the first volunteers had gained from the site, it would scale.
They were ignored. Instead of slinking away, Armstrong and Moulitsas drank their own Kool-Aid. It did for them what that radioactive spider did for Tobey Maguire in Spiderman. It transformed their sites — Dailykos and MyDD, into super-sites, communities that would scale and grow in value the more people joined them.
All this should be known (by now) at The New York Times, which concocted an unctuous piece of nonsense that the Kos and MyDD sites were "shaking down politicians" when in fact they were doing what I have just described, telling pols what to do and having their advice (on the whole) rejected.
This is not the first time I’ve recounted this. I have reported on my knowledge of all this at my old blog, Mooreslore.
Flash forward three years and Dean still hasn’t gotten the Clue. His brother’s Blog for America and his own DNC blog still use blogging software. They don’t scale. But Markos and Jerome do, so guess who’s running the Democratic Party clubhouse, and guess who has the best-selling book?
Kos and Jerome.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Kos’ ambition is not to be Richard Viguerie, but to be Nick Denton.
He envisions a series of sites on a variety of topics — like sports —
each filled with happy users contributing their own takes, reading
others’ takes, taking polls, etc. etc. etc. — and the ads from that
traffic making him and his little family a comfortable living.
Instead he’s created a monster. And here comes The New Republic
to slay it. TNR, like the National Review, has never made money. It
prints magazines to gain influence. It’s subsidized by its owner and
friends, always has been. Then along come these, these kids who
prove that, with a little technical know-how, the right hardware and
some discipline you can make a lot of money at this, not just for
yourself but for all those people you support.
So TNR created a scandal. Out of whole cloth. They swift-boated Kos
and Armstrong. And by extension, the whole "liberal blogosphere." They used a Clueless New York Times report (hidden behind the paid firewall), added their own charges, and threw it over the wall.
Once again, they’re Clueless.
At the heart of the charge is the idea that a shared list run for a
BlogAds network called Liberal Blogs is, in fact, a sort of Netroots
secret lair. The charge is that Kos and Armstrong used this channel to
get their fellow bloggers to keep quiet about their "scandal," which
TNR and the Times were trying to concoct.
This is a lie. The BlogAds list is a business list. In order
to gain more revenue, BlogAds allows sites to associate with one
another. Kos and Armstrong are grouped with high-volume liberal blogs
in order so that ad buyers can write one check and get a ton of
traffic. It”s good for business. But unlike the other sites in this
network, as I noted, DailyKos and MyDD are communities, run by many
people. They are not the personal home pages of Kos and Armstrong.
The real reason these bloggers didn’t go with the "story" was that
it was a non-story, a lie, as anyone who covers blogs regularly (like
the National Journal Blogometer) freely admits.
Since the Times and TNR have chosen to show their ignorance, bloggers on the list have finally responded. Kos (finally) sees the political implications. Steve Gilliard uses a barnyard epithet. Ezra Klein gets the facts straight. Stirling Newberry blames Joe Lieberman. Back at MyDD, Chris Bowers does a little counter-attacking, basically running TNR out of the left altogether for heresy.
So as to avoid this nonsense in the future, can we get our terms straight?
- A personal blog. This is a personal blog. It has one author. Atrios is also a personal blog.
- A group blog. Some popular blogs, in order to maintain their audience, started adding authors and became group endeavors. Firedoglake is a group blog.
- A corporate blog. A page on a corporate or journalistic Web site where blog items are posted on behalf of the company. That’s where character assassin Jason Zengerle works. (I also work at a corporate blog.)
- A community site. A site where any registered member can contribute and comment freely. DailyKos is a community site.
- A blog network. A group of blogs organized around a topic
are aggregated for the purpose of advertising. I belong to BlogAds, but
my traffic is not yet large enough to justify my membership in a group.
(Maybe you can change that — tell your friends.)