Sunday, June 11, 2006

YearlyKos convention draws in the netroots

Out in the desert of the west of America - a place that overcame the good Dr Hunter S Thompson with fear and loathing, a mean landscape that is a gateway to paradise for some, a sour vanishing point for the dissolute, just a few beers on the road for the voyagers to the Promised Lala-Land, and one of the fastest growing human metropolises in the western hemisphere - over a thousand political wonks, professional politicians, computer geeks, spies, and desperate Democrats gathered for the first-ever meeting of the new wave of representatives of electronic democracy.

They call it YearlyKos.

While this reporter was not physically present, allegedly I was being kept up to the minute with on-scene convention blogging; but all that we've read so far were miscellanious ramblings which didn't rise much above the level of "ooh, saw Markos with Warner, wow." Not particularly enlightening.

There are some online venues - notably PoliticsTV and YouTube - streaming delayed action video of such luminaries as DNC head Dr Howard Dean, Senator Barbara Boxer, political strategist Joe Trippi, and the online sparkplug Markos Moulitsas himself, erstwhile Big Blogger and creator of the event.

As the convention chugged along, unless you paid a subscription fee for live streaming from Air America, all we were getting by way of information out of the convention was gossip. Not that I expected much from the bloggers on the scene, and, in all fairness, these folks are new at their jobs. Certainly nothing along the lines of Edward R Morrow's reporting from London should be expected, say, although had a reporter on the spot, and reported with a measure of detachment. And in their defense, having covered the '68 Democratic convention in Chicago - and the only time I want to do that again - I can testify that getting any real sense of what is being said or accomplished at this kind of gathering - especially one generating as much internal heat and confusion as this one seems to be doing (at least for the participants) - is frustrating in the extreme for even professional reporters. Still, I had expected a bit better sense of what, if anything, is actually be accomplished at this convention from a group of such dedicated political bloggers.

We probably all know what it feels like to be at a convention, or any big event like the Fourth of July; it's a circus, and if anything of substance is occurring (or occurred) there, it's anybody's guess. And while I applaud the idea of the convention itself, I have a bone to pick: Why, if we are all allegedly online, did we not have a live connection to the convention? In all this electronic Web 2.0 wonderfulness, how did it escape the organizers that they had here a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the real power of the Internet and online activism, and provide real-time, two-way conversations/questions/answers between the actual convention-goers and online bloggers who couldn't physically be present?

Oh, well. Maybe next year.

To be honest, I think the real purpose of this convention was for a lot of otherwise disconnected online activists to meet in person, and to get a sense of who they all actually are. Kind of a Democratic pep rally, family reunion, and out-of-towner, complete with right-wing spies.

In any case, it will probably be some time before we see any truly measured evaluation about the real meaning of this convention, even as bloggers all over the blogosphere had been pounding their keyboards virtually non-stop for the last forty eight hours (Google reports 513,000 citations for YearlyKos); in the meantime, let's assume that a good time was had by all, right-wings spies included.

So as the sun sets over the boojums, the tired conventioneers head out into the great American desert, back to civilization, back to their jobs, and back to carry on the good fight, and the democratic electrons fly batlike down the mighty T1 lines of this great Republic of ours. Long may she wave.

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