Noam Cohen looks at Obama’s online success in the Sunday Times. Placed alongside similar recent pieces from Umair Haque, David F. Carr and Marc Ambinder , and we have a trend, (which makes me skeptical.)
In Obama and the Rise of Asymmetrical Competition, Haque’s thesis is that the Obama campaign “reversed tremendous resource asymmetries” by “shifting from core to edge” and “leverag[ing] resources at the edges of the firm, instead of at it’s core…:[O]ften, in a hyperconnected world, instead of hoarding a critical resource, more value can be created by sharing it at the edges….[Today, ] “pint-sized revolutionaries are able to pop seemingly out of nowhere and topple yesterday’s giants – fast.”
David F. Carr, a BO volunteer in Florida, explores “the Barackobama.com Difference.”
Obama’s strategy didn’t rely on unique or bleeding-edge technology—far from it—but on using established hardware and software to empower a highly decentralized, largely self-organizing, network of volunteers…. The secret sauce is not so much the software as how the campaign uses it. The Web tools that let volunteers organize themselves happen to mesh particularly well with Obama’s message [of] “this is your campaign, this is not about me.”
Mr. Obama’s notion of persistent improvement, both of himself and of his country, reflects something newer — the collaborative, decentralized principles behind Net projects like Wikipedia and the “free and open-source software” movement. The qualities he cited to Time to describe his campaign — “openness and transparency and participation” — were ones he said “merged perfectly” with the Internet. And they may well be the qualities that make him the first real “wiki-candidate.”
The flood of praise for the campaign’s online successes often obscures the real-world challenges that accompany it. Obama campaign CTO Mike Slaby addressed those challenges at a forum organized by Northwestern’s Media Management Center and the Kellogg School. Your believers are the best advocate for you, he said. But since you you don’t get to tell people what to say, the key is communicating to your peopole the values you want them talking about. In any case, it’s “scary to give up control.”
Aminder takes on another theme we’ve looked at here– how the online campaign could translate into governance:
What Obama seems to promise is, at its outer limits, a participatory democracy in which the opportunities for participation have been radically expanded. He proposes creating a public, Google-like database of every federal dollar spent. He aims to post every piece of non-emergency legislation online for five days before he signs it so that Americans can comment. A White House blog—also with comments—would be a near certainty. Overseeing this new apparatus would be a chief technology officer….But the Web, like the politics it seeks to transform, is unruly and fickle. The online networks that have turbocharged Obama’s candidacy could end up hemming him in, and even stalling his agenda, as president.