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Dean: a shared hallucination?

Filed in: politics, quotes, Web, Thu, Feb 5 2004 01:07 PT

Howard Dean

The size of the (300-person) MeetUp in NYC was as much a testament to MeetUp as to Dean — it’s a wonderful tool for turning interest into attendance, but it created a false sense of broad enthusiasm. Prior to MeetUp, getting 300 people to turn out would have meant a huge and latent population of Dean supporters, but because MeetUp makes it easier to gather the faithful, it confused us into thinking that we were seeing an increase in Dean support, rather than a decrease in the hassle of organizing groups.

We’ve seen this sort of effect before, as when written correspondence on letterhead stopped being a sign of a solvent company, thanks to the desktop publishing revolution, or with the way email to politicians matters less than telegrams, because email is cheaper and easier to send. As we get the tools to make such gatherings easy, we need to concentrate on the outcome of those gatherings, rather than assuming strength simply by looking at the number of attendees.

Clay Shirky, in an article on the apparent failure of Howard Dean, 3 February 2004

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