Digital Politics: An Interview With CivicSpace Founder Zack Rosen

by Spencer Critchley

We may have the seductiveness of the amazon.com shopping cart to thank for CivicSpace, an enhanced content management system (CMS) that has spawned many of the leading political web sites, starting with that of the Howard Dean for President campaign.

As an impoverished University of Illinois computer science student, Zack Rosen browsed his way across titles such as Emergence, Smart Mobs and Linked - and then accidentally bought them all. When the expensive pile arrived, he figured he might as well read it, and he quickly found himself absorbed in ideas of connection via networks. At the same time, he began hearing more and more about longshot presidential candidate Howard Dean, and how his campaign was using the web to find supporters and raise money. Things clicked. Rosen entered his zip code for a Dean meetup, and soon he found himself working with a team of like-minded technologists, adapting the Drupal CMS to build Deanspace, which would eventually evolve into CivicSpace, a robust and growing platform for grassroots online political organizing (aka netroots), especially in its pairing with CiviCRM, a politically-oriented Customer Relationship Management system.

I came across CivicSpace while researching open source technologies for montereycountydemocrats.org. Our team elected to custom code the main public site, while also using or experimenting with pre-built solutions such as Wordpress for our blog, and CivicSpace, Advokit and dotproject, among others, for our internal needs. CivicSpace has proven to be one of the most robust and usable of them all.

I interviewed Zack recently via email.