I recently picked up my copy of the March 20 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine and read their cover story on The Machinery of Hope, describing the how the Obama field organization is “transforming the way political campaigns are run.” I may be biased but I think this belongs to the growing list of enterprise 2.0 success stories. But remember you read about it here on March 5 in How Obama is Using Web (and Enterprise) 2.0 in the US Primary Campaign, long before the Rolling Stone came out. Rob Paterson commented on my post on March 5, “Imagine a fortune 500 CEO with this approach and what they could do.” Keep Rob’s comment in mind as you read this long excerpt from the much longer Rolling Stone article.
“Over the past year, the Obama campaign has quietly worked to integrate the online technologies that fueled the rise of Howard Dean —as well as social-networking and video tools that didn't even exist in 2004 — with the kind of neighbor-to-neighbor movement-building that Obama learned as a young organizer on the streets of Chicago. "That's the magic of what they've done," says Simon Rosenberg, president of the Democratic think tank NDN. "They've married the incredibly powerful online community they built with real on-the-ground field operations. We've never seen anything like this before in American political history." In the process, the Obama campaign has shattered the top-down, command-and-control, broadcast-TV model that has dominated American politics since the early 1960s. "They have taken the bottom-up campaign and absolutely perfected it," says Joe Trippi, who masterminded Dean's Internet campaign in 2004. "It's light-years ahead of where we were four years ago. They'll have 100,000 people in a state who have signed up on their Web site and put in their zip code. Now, paid organizers can get in touch with people at the precinct level and help them build the organization bottom up. That's never happened before. It never was possible before."
The meeting in San Marcos wasn't advertised in any traditional sense. Instead, the campaign posted the event on my.barackobama.com — its social-networking site affectionately known as "MyBo" — and e-mailed local residents who had donated to the campaign or surrendered their addresses as the price of admission to an Obama rally. And the volunteers who showed up won't be micromanaged by Ukman or anyone else from the campaign. They'll be able to call their own shots, from organizing local rallies to recruiting and training a crew of fellow Obama supporters to man their precincts on election day. To identify and mobilize Obama backers, they'll log on to the password-protected texasprecinctcaptains.com, download the phone numbers of targeted voters, make calls from their homes and upload the results to Austin headquarters. They'll also organize early-voting open houses — which will be publicized on MyBo — to boost turnout among core supporters…. Over the course of the three-day weekend, the Obama campaign trained 4,000 precinct captains in more than twenty communities, from El Paso to Corpus Christi.” (end of quote)
(BTW it is my understanding that our friend David Weinberger was the mastermind of the Dean internet effort, Trippi was the campaign manager.) Regardless, their version is the same as I what I wrote after interviewing Central Desktop CEO, Issac Garcia, on March 4. Central Desktop is one of the tools the Obama campaign used to train and empower the precinct captains. As a disclaimer, I support Obama but have no relationship to his campaign except that I voted for him in the Massachusetts primary. One of the things I admire is the organizational effectiveness of the campaign and its use of the new web. One of my hopes is that this will be used to get more people involved in our government after the election.
However, the effective use of the web is certainly not limited to Obama or the Democrats. One could argue that the Republicans made more effective use of blogs in the 2004 election (or at least it was a tie). I remember reading in the Guardian in 2005 on how the UK Conservatives wanted to learn from their US counterparts how to use blogs to help to regain some of their lost position. But all of this use of donation sites, web sites, and blogs is web 1.0 and web 2.0. I feel what Obama is doing is enterprise 2.0 since the tools support those within his campaign’s organization or enterprise. It seems to be that this is different from has been done before in political uses of the web (as the Rolling Stone article suggests) and it is consistent with his message of considering everyone part of the enterprise that he and his campaign are trying to build. In light of this, they are giving their enterprise participants the tools to help build the enterprise themselves and empowering people to make more decisions.
There are a number of other web initiatives within the Obama campaign. There is an Obama blog like almost all campaigns now. Today there was post on with excerpts from the morning news. It was posted at 9:30. Two hours later there were 319 comments. A few hours later there 521 comments. A post showed a video of Obama explaining how easy it was to register to vote in Pennsylvania. There was a warning that you had to register to vote by March 24 and you can download the registration form along with many ways to get it turned in. There is a community blog page also for all the Obama campaign bloggers.
Another web initiative is the MyObama.com referred to in the Rolling Stone article. In addition, there is the Obama Answer Center, a dynamic FAQ listing. The Answer Center was developed by RightNow Technologies and I am scheduled to talk with their project leader for the effort later this week. I will be back with what I learned. In the meanwhile here is one of the first questions and their answer:
Question: “What is the Answer Center and how does it work? “
Answer: "Barack is running a different kind of campaign -- one that is more open and connected to you. That's why we created the Answer Center, a database of questions-and-answers that helps you find information on everything from volunteering to policy.
Here's a step-by-step guide for navigating the Answer Center:
1. Type your query into the field called "Search by Keyword" and click "Search."
2. Click on the question for which you want to see an answer. (You can click on anything that appears in blue font to link to an answer.)
3. Browse through as many Q&As as you'd like.
4. To browse all answers for a particular subject, choose that subject from the "Search by Category" dropdown and leave the keyword field blank.
5. If you can't find the answer to your question, click here to suggest a new question."