25 November 2008 ~ 24 Comments

From Linux to Obama

I’ve worked on and written a lot about the Open Source movement, and how collaborative, online and open movements have transformed our politics—and our country—over the past decade. It was the Dean campaign’s restless legion of hackers, programmers, and supporters that got the ball rolling, opening up our politics in a way that has permanence beyond any election or cycle. And, before that, it was Linux and the rest of the Open Source movement that hadn’t found their impact on politics yet, but certainly understood the power and potential of online collaboration.

As I’ve said over and over, this technology-driven, bottom-up transformation has completely changed the way elections operate – from recruiting new supporters, to raising money, to pushing new ideas (and rejecting bad ones). And it changed how communities form and ordinary citizens communicate across the board — from political organizing to parenting advice.

I quote from Doc Searls article here, but I encourage everyone to go here and read the whole thing. It is a must-read, written by a man who was there from the beginning – Doc Searls.

I’ve never read a more accurate explanation of how the Linux movement and Open Source influenced and formed the foundational thinking for the political movement that, now, has helped produce Barack Obama’s Victory.

About the Dean-team:

The first time I met Joe was in a video IM session. Joe’s face was on the screen of my laptop in California, while my face was on Britt Blaser’s laptop, which he carried around the halls and meeting rooms of the Dean Campaign headquarters in Burlington, Vermont – as if he were a waiter with a talking snack tray. The tour worked so well that I was already familiar with the layout of the place when I arrived in the dead of Winter and the height of the campaign’s energy: mid-January, 2004, on the eve of the Iowa Caucuses.

Several memories of that visit stand out for me. One is of Nicco Mele minding racks of servers and other LAMP-based electronics, and grumbling about what a mess it was dealing with the various state and local party operators, each with their own patched-together tech, which usually qualified more as problems than as “solutions”. Another is of Zack Rosen, sitting on a box in the corner of a cubicle with three or four other geeks, hacking something in Drupal. Zack got involved through HackersForDean, which he did with Josh Koenig. Another is of Dave Winer, working on what he called “a really interesting RSS project to roll out in time for the Iowa caucus results on Monday night.” Posting that same day (January 17), Dave added, “I am neutral on the Democratic presidential candidates. I may have opinions, but in my technical work, they’re simply not relevant. I believe in politically agnostic tools.”

Looking back, I think what I saw was the equivalent for politics of the Tech Model Railroad Club or the Home Brew Computer Club. It was where a new and highly practical tech movement started. Britt Blaser calls it “the first campaign that functioned more like a Web service than a marketing blitz”.

The article goes on to discuss the post-Dean developments, from Blue State digital and MyBarackObama to the Sunlight Foundation and DFA. Again, give it a read and have a great Thanksgiving.

24 Responses to “From Linux to Obama”

  1. Francine hardaway 25 November 2008 at 12:18 pm Permalink

    I have believed in the power of the network and the Open Source movement to change the world since I learned about it, and I still didn’t realize what a big force it was in the Dean campaign.

    That being said, Obama could go even further if some Obama top communications people identified themselves on social networking platforms, interacted with commentators like some of us on Twitter, Identi.ca, NewsGangLive, and Gillmor Gang, and took ideas back. Right now, the only thing that seems to go back to the campaign or the President-elect is money. So it’s still not a “listening” movement, which is the essence of social media.

  2. kyle 25 November 2008 at 4:06 pm Permalink

    I agree with Francine, and USA Today published the donations weren’t all that much of a change after all: http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/2008-11-24-obamadonors_N.htm

    I haven’t received an email from Obama’s camp since shortly after the election asking to donate money to help pay back the DNC. Would be nice to be getting emails like it was during the campaign………Unless I’m missing something, it’s Changed.

  3. kyle 25 November 2008 at 5:55 pm Permalink

    They must be reading your blog!! Just got an email announcement from Obama!!

  4. Mike Warot 26 November 2008 at 11:04 am Permalink

    Joe, I want to know who reads the stuff that comes in to Change.gov, and when do the rest of us get to see all of the suggestions, etc?

    The site seems to be a black hole from which nothing emerges, which is bad form for social media.


  5. jhc 1 December 2008 at 3:11 pm Permalink

    No change at change.org. Obama looks more like McCain than McCain.

  6. Samudra 15 March 2009 at 11:01 pm Permalink

    I have posted a complete how-to for the linux newbs at LinuxBuzz.net

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