DFA Night School

The first ever political training I ever attended was last summer. It was a Democracy for America training on campaign management. I figured since I've been volunteering for over 10 years, it was probably time to formally learn something in the field.

It was a bit disconcerting that the presenters were closer to half my age. It was also energizing that there were so many younger people involved and passionate about politics.

Earlier this week, I took part in another training offered by DFA in their Night School. This one was on blogging and building an online community. There were some interesting items, though some were not cited, unfortunately.

Did you know that in 1996, only 4% of the General public went online to get news or information about an election? In 2004, that number jumped to 29%. Granted, 29% is still a relatively smaller segment of the population, but the jump is considerable. With the rapid expansion of broadband, it'll be interesting to see how much faster that grows.

Of Internet users, 22% in 1996 went online while in 2004, 52% did so. Over half, which depending on the demographics can be a significant number.

But, The Pew Center, which conducted the study, found that in 2004, 62% of Americans did not knows what a blog was.

Only 2% of Americans say they get their news from the blogs.

Now I understand why so many people feel the need to develop multiple personality disorder each with the love the sound of their own typing. With so few people paying attention, any loud noise, however fake, appears to be a bigger projection. Shakespeare could have been talking about those bloggers when he said "It was a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."

Political blogging also shows interesting trends.

Left-leaning blogs number about twice the size of Right-leaning ones. And this, in one way, translates into financial support for candidates. Rightroots, a Republican online fundraising site, has raised a grand total of $32,477.06. Act Blue, the Democratic counterpart, has raised $7,057,608. Locally, that gives $914.00 to Ray Meier and $8,836.16 to Michael Arcuri (numbers as of Aug 3, 2006).
Hey, while I'm on the topic, do me a favor and go to my Act Blue site for Michael Arcuri and drop him some financial support, please? 10 bucks or 4000 or anything in between will make a difference.
Another very striking difference in the blogs is the community-mindedness of the two sides. One aspect struck me as soon as I started looking at blogs. Left-side blogs invite comment and dialogue. They might moderate comments, but they allow commenting and publish critical comments. The goose-stepping Right-side does not.

There's also a tendency of Left-side bloggers to claim what they post. Real names are not hidden or avoided. As many of you have seen in my comment area, that's not the case on the other side. Not only do they feel OK with slinging comments while hiding, but, very often, their pseudonyms are just down-right creepy.

Other things in the training didn't sit comfortably with me. They recommended that pieces be no longer than 500 words. Now, I'm in a district where the one newspaper around does print letters to the editors. But, they only print 3 a day (4 if we're lucky). And each letter is no more than 150 words.

Think about that. How many cooking recipes have less than 150 words to them? And we're supposed to somehow discuss serious problems with too few words. Think back to the last time you had a moving, meaningful conversation with a friend. Did you stop speaking at the 151st word? Did your friend stop listening at word 151?

We're living already in a ADHD fostering culture and I'm not living my life or thinking my thoughts in sound bites. Clear, reasonable, critical and thought-filled dialogue is the sound of heaven.

Another tool they stressed was networking. And I had to laugh about that one. Utica's a pretty small town. It's more like 3 degrees of separation here. But it turns out it's not just the geography of the town. I was accompanying Michael Arcuri as he went door-to-door in another part of the district and when the 3rd or 4th door he went to turned out to be relatives of a Utica friend, I could only laugh. This week, I had a comment left for me here by someone I hadn't seen in years, but she found my site when we crossed paths on another site. When you're from Utica, not only is Utica a small town, but so too are New York and the Internet!


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