Howard Dean's weblog team blew it in the past week. I kept looking at them for some insight into why they did so poorly in Iowa. Some critical thinking. Some honesty. I wanted to see if they were building a learning organization that'd be honest with themselves and with their supporters.
So far, I haven't seen it. In fact, not only have they not aired their dirty laundry, but they actively supressed negative things.
You expect that from a corporate weblog (like mine) right? Shouldn't politicians' weblogs be held to a higher standard? Especially when you consider that Microsoft lets me air our dirty laundry (like I did here when a Windows Media exec made a comment I didn't agree with, but more on that in a few paragraphs).
On the evening of the Iowa caucuses, Howard Dean was on Larry King Live and admitted to the world “we came in third.” Dave Winer, who was helping them get a new Dean news channel (named Channel Dean) going, thought that was important news and posted it. Within a few minutes, though, people inside the campaign took down that comment and didn't post anything else.
We thought that Howard Dean was going to give us a new look inside his campaign, his thinking, his team's thinking.
We thought wrong. Howard Dean and Joe Trippi weren't running a weblog, they were using the weblog as a new form of PR. They viewed it as a channel to only deliver good news and pleas for money, not as a way to give us real insight into who Howard Dean is and how his campaign team thinks. Even tonight, I reread the Dean blog, trying to find something negative about the candidate and all I found was gushy “spin” of the news. He's behind in the polls, but the weblog “spins” me as “Dean's coming back.”
Translation: politics as usual, only using weblog technology.
What's the result? Well, for one, I am far less likely, after this weblog post, to talk about Howard Dean's campaign. Why? Because I realize now that we're not having a conversation with the campaign team, we're only being talked to. No different than if we were watching campaign ads on TV.
Worse than that, they missed a critical way to get new support from the weblog world and get a new kind of conversation going. They weren't able to switch gears. They weren't able to admit that they had faults (or that the person and ideas they were evangelizing had faults).
What's the lesson there for Microsoft and its webloggers? For me?
1) If we fail at something, we better INCREASE the conversation, not decrease it.
2) If something is going wrong, acting like it's not won't make the problem go away, and will probably turn off those people who could help you turn it around.
3) You should set expectations ahead of time properly just in case they DO go wrong (that's why I don't talk about Longhorn's shipping dates, for instance — if you're new here, I work on the Longhorn team as an evangelist — Longhorn is the next version of Microsoft's Windows operating system). [The Scobleizer]