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I'm very pleased to see others use this term in relation to the current Internet-powered revolution.  I've used it many times in the past, mostly as it related to the Dean campaign taking off in a way that was impossible four years ago.

Critical mass is about more than just numbers, though.  It also represents a diversity of ideas and skills coallescing and building to the point where something greater than the sum of its parts arrises and spurs further creativity.  So many things are hapening at once to drive this revolutioon that it truly is magnificent to watch and be a part of it.

I see three main factors involved.  First, the open source community is creating such a diversity of web applications that no matter what you want to do, you can find it online or find something that can be modified to suit your needs.  Put out a call for a set of features, and someone out there is bound to answer it.  Drupal, for example, was modified to become DeanSpace and now CivicSpace and is enabling hundreds of small grassroots groups to create their own online communities with no programming or even design experience required.

Secondly, the basic concept of how the Internet should be used is changing from an information system to an organization system.  The blogosphere was the catalyst for that, in that it allowed two-way communication with people in a position of power and simultaneously, communication within the audience.  Not only can people now easily publish themselves, they now can get instant feedback and ongoing discussion that helps them shape their message and reach a broader audience.  The sudden explosion of ideas allowed by that free-flowing medium has served us enormously well over and over again.  Joe Trippi and the Deaniacs took it one step further, and found ways to connect those people together offline as well as online, organizing all of this energy into a powerfull force that very nearly upset the entire Democratic party.  This would have been impossible without the wealth of new software tools made available.  Everythig from MeetUp, to Dean's Get Local tools, to CivicSpace and other organizing tools are enabling this mass of people to settle out into local clumps, each able to be remarkably effective within their sphere of influence.

The third is the people themselves.  Not only are their more of them, but they're less geeky and more creative in more diverse ways than the people online four years ago.  MoveOn.org and the Dean campaign both showed an incredible degree of talent rising from the bottom up that has allowed them to do things no one else ever even thought of before.  The fundraising is really just a subset of this, with more peole to donate and more creative ideas for encouraging them to do so.  Even just the sense of community obtained by way of Trippi's organizing and the communication revolution of the blogosphere encourages people entirely on it's own because they see their ideas being picked up and acted on, and they're empowered in a way they never could be before.  That connectedness was probably the single biggest factor in the rise of Dean.

What we are experiencing now is really just the ignition of this great engine we've created.  We're only now beginning to learn how it runs, and we're still perhaps a few years from learning to make it purr.  We also need to learn how to turn online energy into real world results.  Some of that is already happening, as evidenced by the explosion of Rathergate from the right, and the reaction to the Sinclair scandal now building on the left.  We won't have matured, however, until our ideas here begin to be felt by everyday people outside of our community in their daily lives.

Dean gave us a taste of what that could be like.  Imagine a world where the political process is driven by the people and the influence of corporate money and corporate media are balanced or even beaten our by our grassroots organization.  The blogosphere already serves as a real-time watchdog on politicians, the media, and some aspects of business, and we're now learning to couple that with near instantaneous action.  As our numbers grow, so does our speed and our power.  It becomes harder and harder for politicians to lie and pander, and it becomes impossible for the powers that be to contain information and control the national agenda.

As I said in a high school English paper eight years ago, the Internet has the potential to become the greatest tool for freedom that the world has ever known.  While my thoughts at the time were centered on availability of information, we are beginning to get a feel for that power now, learning how to use it with ever greater efficiency and effectiveness.  That is an amazing thing to watch and even more awesome to be a part of, however small.  Welcome to the wired revolution, folks.  It won't be televised - it'll be blogged, emailed, and IM'ed.

Originally posted to Sean Robertson on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 08:09 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The revolution needs to be organized (none)
    This isnt about just having masses of people in high numbers. People need to be much better organized. People need to be more strategic. Right now I'm watching people go after Sinclair, but it's not in a very organized way.

    There has to be a step by step way to doing this, a systematic way which is used every time a media company tries to politically sway an election. There should be a strategy in place to prevent big media companies from doing this and there should be a strategy in place to enforce the rules if they do.

    This site is very good but it needs to be more organized, more high tech, and more cutting edge and I'm willing to help out with this. Kos, or any of them can contact me and I'll help, I also share my ideas, so we have the ideas and we have the people to implement them. After this election the process to build a foundation should begin. The goal should be to make dailyKos the most organized cutting edge political blog on the internet. The way we can do this is by simply combining the creativity and mind power of 200,000 of us who visit to come up with ideas to better organize the site.

    Have a poll, have a brainstorm, and just do it.

    Rageaholics are unfit for command. Rage as an addiction

    by Lucian on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 12:10:11 PM PDT

    •  The Trippi effect (none)
      That's part of my point, is that the organizing is now happening, thanks in large part to the Dean campaign and the tools and ideas it generated.  Even beyond that, every time a new fraud is exposed on the blogs, we get a little more organized as people find ways to react to it.  Witness the whole Sinclair thing - a web site was up within an hour and the entire community was mobilized nationally and in local groups to deal with it.  Each new action item spreads like wildfire and is picked up and acted on independently by local groups in ways that are most relevant to them.  That kind of organization and specialization was impossible four years ago, because there simply weren't enough people to create the groups from.
      •  We have the power to replace TV (none)
        You don't understand that the power we have to communicate is limitless. We havent even intergrated peer to peer technologies yet which could bring the price down of hosting sites and blogs. We have all sorts of technologies and I'll list some.

        Bit Torrent, we have the ability to watch movies and videos in high quality using peer to peer technologies. This means we could host our own shows, and anyone can tell the news, make ads and videos. This technology needs to be further intergrated into the blogsphere system.

        Audio streaming technology, such as peer to peer audio or radio which would allow anyone to set up an Air America style radio station for minimal costs.

        Community building tools also need to be made. This means we need chatrooms, we need a social networking tool like tribes http://www.tribe.net/ or friendster http://www.friendster.com

        Jobs, we need something like monster.com or criagslist http://www.craigslist.org/ to provide progressive job oppurtunities to the community.

        We could start a co-op, we can set up a book review and promotion system, and build an entire progressive economy around these blogs. Many people have a chance to make a lot of money, save a lot of money, and support something they believe in and I think in the future blogs will become very important and create plenty of jobs for most of us.

        What everyone has to understand is that once the tools ARE made, these tools will not only be useful politically, but they will be useful economically, as well as a good way to see progressive ideas in action.

        If you do want to get involved and you are a progressive we need a job's list in which anyone can offer jobs to anyone progressive. This makes things organized. Bloggers and Diary writers who become popular and who have fans should have the ability to write books which is a way to profit. People who write diaries and who can talk well can do web broadcasts and web radio. Individuals who can give speeches can create videos and put them on their blogs or in a video section as .torrent or even stream them via P2P.  The key to all of this is securing the blog diary system so popular diaries can be rated. We need a web of trust system to secure the diary system and web of trust based systems currently work pretty well for Ebay and sites like Epinions.

        The future looks very bright, even if Bush win's the election, the time of republican monopoly over the media will be over very very soon.

        Rageaholics are unfit for command. Rage as an addiction

        by Lucian on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 12:40:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  asdf (none)
    Organization is absolutely key. What this site needs (after the election) is an exhaustive media contact center. Names, phone #s, and email addresses of the editors, reporters, television personalities and other creepy crawlies who hold even the slightest influence. Suggestions can be posted to reward good behavior or bombard those who repeat Repug talking points.
        This page could be combined with an ongoing boycott/letter/phone call campaign, like what we're doing with Sinclair right now. The cause is submitted to the community, we vote, and if enough votes are garnered the company/advertiser name, address, and spokespeople are posted in a conspicuous place and all 20,000 Kossacks can train their guns on one target at a time and take down advertisers one by one. Coordination with MoveOn and the rest of the lefty blogs would make us unstoppable.
        Our current efforts are too scattershot. Sinclair's stock might get hit, maybe Toyota or Iams will say something, we might even get that movie off the air. But I want to see a well-coordinated blogosphere attack that can obliterate a television network or radio talk show if need be. It'll be the Death Star of liberal politics.
        If you've ever used the Repug website to contact media, you'll see an embryonic stage of what I'm imagining. They have email addresses of all major media to send their astroturf form letters to. It's primitive but it's better than what we have. Post celebration, this should be our top priority.

    Democrats are here to remind us that life is unfair. Republicans are here to make sure it is.

    by spitonmars on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 12:31:43 PM PDT

    •  There should be a special section of the site (none)
      For action against corrupt media. But the goal should be to replace the media. We don't NEED them anymore. There are enough people with access to these blogs that the blogs will replace the media in influence after a while.

      Use the blogs, and attack corrupt media who try to pull tricks like Sinclair.

      Rageaholics are unfit for command. Rage as an addiction

      by Lucian on Tue Oct 12, 2004 at 12:43:45 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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