Mother Jones: What is the most exciting new use of technology in politics?
David All: I think the biggest impact that hasn’t yet been realized is that now you can contribute money through MySpace. Entrepreneurs are going to be figuring out ways to better utilize social communities or “socnets” and truly mining your data because MySpace and those other things are just profiles where people put favorite movies, favorite everything else. So it will be a new form of targeting a message. So perhaps out of all of your supporters you’ll find one who loves Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, so you’ll create a video just for that message and then send it to all those people. You know, “Hey, this is John Smith and my favorite movie is Mr. Smith goes to Washington, dadadada.” There are companies out there that are doing this stuff, that are buying information to find out patterns and the way that people are connected through networks based on preferences and other things.
MJ: What are your thoughts about our definition of “open-source politics”?
DA: So you guys are actually saying this isn’t true?
MJ: We’re saying there’s some truth, but there’s probably a lot of hype here.
DA: Well, obviously I disagree. The Internet is clearly not going anywhere. In 2004 I think less than 25 percent of the population had broadband access. Today, we’re already at over 50 percent. By 2012, if not sooner, probably by 2008 or 2010, we’ll be at 100 percent or as close to that as possible. And then the next step will be free broadband for everyone. You know, the more people who get online, the more people are going to find how great it is. Instead of the one source of information that you used to have, you now have too many sources of information. You can look at it all and investigate to see what matters. The truth is that there is no one technology that is going to change the world of politics. It’s going to be a blend and a cornucopia of different stuff. I mean you know Twitter is going to have an impact. I can’t wait to see the first Twittering president.
MJ: We’ve got Edwards using it, I hear.
DA: I’m his friend and he hasn’t sent me anything yet. Twitter is an awesome phenomenon because it may actually engage the candidate himself with the campaign. As odd as that seems, that could actually happen. I’m predicting that Time‘s person of the year is going to be “us.” It’s no longer going to be “you”-the idea that it is one person. It’s going to be the group that is changing the world.
MJ: What do you think is the most overhyped open-source politics technology?
DA: It is probably Second Life right now, just because it is really hard to figure out. It’s not a final version of a three-dimensional Internet that we’re going to see. I don’t even know how to create stuff in Second Life and I’m really good at this stuff. Did you listen to the MoveOn town hall last night? I mean, that thing was awesome-a perfect use of technology. We have nothing on the right that compares to that.
We don’t have a George Soros, someone who is willing to just give millions and millions of dollars for a spaghetti tactic-you know, to create 30 different 527 organizations that are all focusing like a laser on one particular issue. That’s the infrastructure that you need. And you need those resources. The RNC has never called me. They don’t call any of the tech and politics crowd. They’re just going it alone, which is fine if you want to continue to be a failure.
MJ: So it sounds like you think that the real issue here is just a lack of interest from the higher ups?
DA: No, I think it’s a number of reasons. We’ve never needed the Internet before. When talk radio emerged in ’94, it was a very taboo thing, and it wasn’t until Newt Gingrich brought talk radio hosts into the Capitol that people started to engage talk radio. Now there’s an entire strategy focused on it. The White House has a talk radio person, the RNC does, and it’s seen as an effective medium. But the Internet-we haven’t needed to run around the mainstream media like we do now. And people are slowly realizing that those New York Times reporters are simply not going to call you. So this idea of a broadband bypass strategy is starting to get to these guys. My hope is that we don’t literally need to hit the iceberg during the 2008 elections and get swamped and that the guys will begin to see the light now.
MJ: When I talked to Bill Green at RightMarch, I asked him why they don’t do more of the stuff that MoveOn does with podcasting and social networking, and he was like, “Well, I don’t think that our members are as interested in that because they’ve got families and they’re working people and they don’t have time to meet at someone’s house and watch a webcast.” Do you agree with that?
DA: What I’ve noticed is that people are very communication-centric. Whatever form of technology they use most prevalent is what they think everyone else uses or should use and there’s no deviation from that. I’m a lot different. I use it all. Facebook, MySpace, all of that stuff-I’m out there, just because I know that it’s different communities of people. So, number one, I think that the problem is Mr. Green doesn’t do anything other than think and write emails. So he doesn’t understand the importance of connecting with thousands of people throughout the nation to spread a message because he’s always doing that through email. And everyone he’s talking to is doing the same. So it’s just creating all these different walled gardens and I think that’s the wrong approach. It’s like the new websites that are popping up like QubeTV. They’re trying to be a conservative YouTube and here’s the problem: Can you imagine if every conservative left YouTube? What would happen? It would be another New York Times. I don’t think we need to be building gardens and digging moats. I think we need to plop right down among the group of people singing “Kumbaya” and tell them why they’re wrong. You know, be willing to get yelled at and everything else, but at the end of the day they are going to appreciate you.
Since I started my company, one of the greatest things is that I now have people that I call friends. Like Matt Stoller of MyDD and Jerome Armstrong of MyDD. We hate each other politically, but we’re friends. You know Joe Trippi and I are friends on Facebook, and me and Micah Sifry. So it’s just recognizing that we’re people and it’s okay to disagree on the issues. It’s not a “I hate you” thing. It’s a “We’re usually in this thing for the same exact reasons, just different causes.” And that’s okay.