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Digital Democracy Teach-In

by Tim O'Reilly
Jan. 8, 2004

I'm organizing an event I'm calling the Digital Democracy Teach-In, to be held in conjunction with our Emerging Technologies Conference (ETech) at the Westin Horton Plaza in San Diego. The Teach-In is on Feb 9; ETech as a whole runs from Feb 9-12.

There's been a lot of buzz about Howard Dean's unprecedented internet fundraising ($40 million to date, the largest amount ever raised by a Democratic candidate). Wes Clark has been emulating Dean's techniques and is now catching up. And after less than five years, MoveOn.org is now one of the largest and most effective advocacy organizations in the world, with more than two million members. These success stories are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to online activism, and show us the changing face of democracy as the internet becomes an integral part of our society. What's particularly interesting is that both the Dean/Clark campaigns and MoveOn have developed a kind of bottom-up style, where participants help to shape the direction of the organization via networked communication (whether blogs or specialized software.) Some people have referred to the process as a kind of "open source democracy."

I've been exploring this space, and have tried to put together an event that helps spread the word about what the digital democracy pioneers are doing. Wes Boyd of MoveOn.org is keynoting, but we've also got key people from the Dean and Clark campaigns, a bunch of noted bloggers, Scott Heiferman from meetup.com (which has become a critical political organizing tool), and other online activists. We've also got a panel on the critical issue of transparency and trust when using electronic voting machines.

We actually moved eTech to this earlier date (from its usual April time slot) because we wanted to have the Teach-In early enough in the campaign season to help make a difference in getting people involved.

Whatever your politics, the increased use of the internet for everything from fundraising to activism is extremely interesting. I'm looking to hear more about success stories in this space, and especially about tools that can be adapted and used by others, not only for campaigning, but for making government more responsive after the fact.

Tim O'Reilly is the founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media, Inc., thought by many to be the best computer book publisher in the world. In addition to Foo Camps ("Friends of O'Reilly" Camps, which gave rise to the "un-conference" movement), O'Reilly Media also hosts conferences on technology topics, including the Web 2.0 Summit, the Web 2.0 Expo, the O'Reilly Open Source Convention, the Gov 2.0 Summit, and the Gov 2.0 Expo. Tim's blog, the O'Reilly Radar, "watches the alpha geeks" to determine emerging technology trends, and serves as a platform for advocacy about issues of importance to the technical community. Tim's long-term vision for his company is to change the world by spreading the knowledge of innovators. In addition to O'Reilly Media, Tim is a founder of Safari Books Online, a pioneering subscription service for accessing books online, and O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, an early-stage venture firm.

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