Twitter Updates

Thursday, June 10, 2004

95 Theses learned by the politician run over by Cluetrain

I fondly remember the good ol' days, Dot Com Parties galore, the New Economy, the feeling there was so much happening you must be missing something...everything moving so fast, taxi's speeding at twice the limit confident there would be somebody waiting to hop in when you got out. Culture occuring in real-time and if you weren't out of bandwidth you weren't doing something right. Cut'n'paste business plans beaming from handhelds, deals on cocktail napkins and drinks in company mugs. SFgirl posse emails with 10 pages of DCPs and only 15 hours until you had to be at work the following morning.

When I did make it to work the next morning, I remember trying to explain these things in conference rooms filled with political hacks who had made their bones in campaigns when targetting meant direct mail and message was something to control. Traversing these between these worlds felt like traveling in time.

To travel in time once more, I've modified (with apologies) the Cluetrain Manifesto 95 theses to politics:

1. Campaigns are conversations.

2. Campaigns consist of human beings, not demographic sectors.

3. Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.

4. Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.

5. People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice.

6. The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media.

7. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy.

8. In both internetworked campaigns and among intranetworked supporters, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.

9. These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.

10. As a result, voters are getting smarter, more informed, more organized. Participation in a networked campaign changes people fundamentally.

11. Voters in networked campaigns have figured out that they get far better information and support from one another than from politicians. So much for consultant rhetoric about adding value to political message.

12. There are no secrets. The networked campaign knows more than consultants do about their own candidates. And whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone.

13. What's happening to political campaigns is also happening among supporters. A metaphysical construct called "The Candidate" is the only thing standing between the two.

14. Politicians do not speak in the same voice as these new networked conversations. To their intended online audiences, politicians sound hollow, flat, literally inhuman.

15. In just a few more years, the current homogenized "voice" of politics-the sound of policy statements and brochures-will seem as contrived and artificial as the language of the 18th century French court.

16. Already, politicians that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone.

17. Consultants that assume online markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves.

18. Politicians that don't realize their campaigns are now networked person-to-person, getting smarter as a result and deeply joined in conversation are missing their best opportunity.

19. Campaigns can now communicate with their voters directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance.

20. Politicians need to realize their voters are often laughing. At them.

21. Politicians need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.

22. Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the campaign web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.

23. Politicians attempting to "position" themselves need to take a position. Optimally, it should relate to something their campaign actually cares about.

24. Bombastic boasts do not constitute a position.

25. Politicians need to come down from their Ivory Towers and talk to the people with whom they hope to create relationships.

26. Public Relations does not relate to the public. Hacks are deeply afraid of the voters.

27. By speaking in language that is distant, uninviting, arrogant, they build walls to keep voters at bay.

28. Most campaign programs are based on the fear that the voters might see what's really going on inside the campaign.

29. Elvis said it best: "We can't go on together with suspicious minds."

30. Party loyalty is the political version of going steady, but the breakup is inevitable-and coming fast. Because they are networked, smart politicians are able to renegotiate relationships with blinding speed.

31. Networked voters can change politicians overnight. Networked knowledge voters can change sides over lunch. Your own "triangulation initiatives" taught us to ask the question: "Loyalty? What's that?"

32. Smart voters will find politicians who speak their own language.

33. Learning to speak with a human voice is not a parlor trick. It can't be "picked up" at some tony conference.

34. To speak with a human voice, campaigns must share the concerns of their communities.

35. But first, they must belong to a community.

36. Campaigns must ask themselves where their political cultures end.

37. If their cultures end before the community begins, they will have no campaign.

38. Human communities are based on discourse-on human speech about human concerns.

39. The community of discourse is the campaign.

40. Politicians that do not belong to a community of discourse will lose.

41. Campaigns make a religion of security, but this is largely a red herring. Most are protecting less against competitors than against their own voters and workforce.

42. As with networked campaigns, people are also talking to each other directly inside the company-and not just about rules and regulations, boardroom directives, bottom lines.

43. Such conversations are taking place today on political intranets. But only when the conditions are right.

44. Campaigns typically install intranets top-down to distribute corporate information that supporters are doing their best to ignore.

45. Intranets naturally tend to route around boredom. The best are built bottom-up by engaged individuals cooperating to construct something far more valuable: an intranetworked political conversation.

46. A healthy intranet organizes supporters in many meanings of the word. Its effect is more radical than the agenda of any union.

47. While this scares politicians witless, they also depend heavily on open intranets to generate and share critical knowledge. They need to resist the urge to "improve" or control these networked conversations.

48. When political intranets are not constrained by fear and legalistic rules, the type of conversation they encourage sounds remarkably like the conversation of the networked campaign.

49. Org charts worked in an older campaigns where plans could be fully understood from atop steep management pyramids and detailed work orders could be handed down from on high.

50. Today, the org chart is hyperlinked, not hierarchical. Respect for hands-on knowledge wins over respect for abstract authority.

51. Command-and-control management styles both derive from and reinforce bureaucracy, power tripping and an overall culture of paranoia.

52. Paranoia kills conversation. That's its point. But lack of open conversation kills campaigns.

53. There are two conversations going on. One inside the campaign. One with the voters.

54. In most cases, neither conversation is going very well. Almost invariably, the cause of failure can be traced to obsolete notions of command and control.

55. As policy, these notions are poisonous. As tools, they are broken. Command and control are met with hostility by intranetworked knowledge workers and generate distrust in internetworked campaigns.

56. These two conversations want to talk to each other. They are speaking the same language. They recognize each other's voices.

57. Smart campaigns will get out of the way and help the inevitable to happen sooner.

58. If willingness to get out of the way is taken as a measure of IQ, then very few politicians have yet wised up.

59. However subliminally at the moment, millions of people now online perceive political campaigns as little more than quaint legal fictions that are actively preventing these conversations from intersecting.

60. This is suicidal. Voters want to talk to campaigns.

61. Sadly, the part of the campaign a networked voter wants to talk to is usually hidden behind a smokescreen of hucksterism, of language that rings false-and often is.

62. Voters do not want to talk to flacks and hucksters. They want to participate in the conversations going on behind the political firewall.

63. De-cloaking, getting personal: We are those voters. We want to talk to you.

64. We want access to your political information, to your plans and strategies, your best thinking, your genuine knowledge. We will not settle for the 4-color brochure, for web sites chock-a-block with eye candy but lacking any substance.

65. We're also the supporters who make your campaigns go. We want to talk to voters directly in our own voices, not in platitudes written into a script.

66. As voters, as supporters, both of us are sick to death of getting our information by remote control. Why do we need faceless polling and third-hand campaign news to introduce us to each other?

67. As voters, as supporters, we wonder why you're not listening. You seem to be speaking a different language.

68. The inflated self-important jargon you sling around-in the press, at your conferences-what's that got to do with us?

69. Maybe you're impressing your contributors. Maybe you're impressing K Street. You're not impressing us.

70. If you don't impress us, your contributors are going to take a bath. Don't they understand this? If they did, they wouldn't let you talk that way.

71. Your tired notions of "the campaign" make our eyes glaze over. We don't recognize ourselves in your projections-perhaps because we know we're already elsewhere.

72. We like this new political marketplace much better. In fact, we are creating it.

73. You're invited, but it's our world. Take your shoes off at the door. If you want to barter with us, get down off that camel!

74. We are immune to advertising. Just forget it.

75. If you want us to talk to you, tell us something. Make it something interesting for a change.

76. We've got some ideas for you too: some new tools we need, some better service. Stuff we'd be willing to vote for. Got a minute?

77. You're too busy "doing our business" to answer our email? Oh gosh, sorry, gee, we'll come back later. Maybe.

78. You want us to vote? We want you to pay attention.

79. We want you to drop your trip, come out of your neurotic self-involvement, join our party.

80. Don't worry, you can still win races. That is, as long as it's not the only thing on your mind.

81. Have you noticed that, in itself, politics is kind of one-dimensional and boring? What else can we talk about?

82. Your campaign lost. Why? We'd like to ask the guy who created it. Your political strategy makes no sense. We'd like to have a chat with your consultant. What do you mean she's not in?

83. We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall Street Journal.

84. We know some people from your campaign. They're pretty cool online. Do you have any more like that you're hiding? Can they come out and play?

85. When we have questions we turn to each other for answers. If you didn't have such a tight rein on "your people" maybe they'd be among the people we'd turn to.

86. When we're not busy being your "target voters," many of us are your volunteers. We'd rather be talking to friends online than watching the clock. That would get your name around better than your entire million dollar web site. But you tell us speaking to the voters is candidates job.

87. We'd like it if you got what's going on here. That'd be real nice. But it would be a big mistake to think we're holding our breath.

88. We have better things to do than worry about whether you'll change in time to get our vote. Politics is only a part of our lives. It seems to be all of yours. Think about it: who needs whom?

89. We have real power and we know it. If you don't quite see the light, some other outfit will come along that's more attentive, more interesting, more fun to play with.

90. Even at its worst, our newfound conversation is more interesting than most rallies, more entertaining than any TV talk show, and certainly more true-to-life than the political web sites we've been seeing.

91. Our allegiance is to ourselves-our friends, our new allies and acquaintances, even our sparring partners. Politicians that have no part in this world, also have no future.

92. Politicians spent millions of dollars on self research. Why can't politicians hear this timebomb ticking? The stakes are even higher.

93. We're both inside campaigns and outside them. The boundaries that separate our conversations look like the Berlin Wall today, but they're really just an annoyance. We know they're coming down. We're going to work from both sides to take them down.

94. To traditional politicians, networked conversations may appear confused, may sound confusing. But we are organizing faster than they are. We have better tools, more new ideas, no rules to slow us down.

95. We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting.

Since you read all the way to the bottom, buy the book.

- Bob Brigham
Bob Brigham Politics: Bay to the Beltway
Online + Campaigns + Politics + Elections + San Francisco + News + Blogs + Presidential + Battleground + Senate + Congress

No comments: