Internet technology hosted by Berkman Center

How Channel Dean came to be

Monday, January 19, 2004

It's a long story, but even the longest story begins with a single weblog post. ;->

I've been talking with Jim Moore, who is the Director of Internet & Information Services at Dean For America, for months about using blogs and RSS technology in the campaign. Some of the missives I've written on Scripting News have been the result of these conversations. (Jim and I know each other because we're both fellows at Berkman Center.)

The time wasn't right, until late last week, when I drove up to Burlington from Cambridge. Then the question was, what would be the next step? Dean For America already has a website, a weblog, they do nightly emails to hundreds of thousands of people, they have raised huge amounts of money on the Internet. If the goal is to introduce more technology to help the candidate win, what's the first step? Amazingly, this was my decision. Jim delegates, we've known each other long enough that there's mutual trust.

So this is what I came up with. Let's introduce Dean For America to the world of RSS, and vice versa.

I saw the Dean organization as both users and producers of information. So I set up a group aggregator on a private server, and gave passwords to the members of the Web team. These are really bright hard-working people, true believer types, and complete information junkies. It worked. Within a few hours people were downloading all kinds of aggregators, installing them, exchanging feeds, and (most important) evangelizing the idea outside the geek domain in Dean For America.

The second step was to get a feed coming out of DFA, sort of a clipping service, the stuff they read, in big publications like the Washington Post and NY Times, the wire services, and on weblogs. Yes, these guys read the blogs, and they hire from them too. I met a staff economist who was hired based on what they learned about him through his weblog.

Anyway, we reached the mileston, the result is Channel Dean -- an RSS feed that's like a clipping service for people interested in US politics. Here's the FAQ page.