Friday, June 30, 2006

"John Edwards courts tech crowd in Seattle" (UPDATED)

UPDATE: Ray Minchew passes along this comment:
Seems odd to have a bloggers' conference in Seattle, with Edwards and Gore making appearances, and nobody from the local blogosphere present. All the bloggers mentioned are what I call 'corporate bloggers', folks using the medium to pitch themselves and/or their products and services. In other words, not the influential bloggers, but 'bloggers' seeking to use the medium to increase their influence.

My $.02, anyway...
Howie opinion: I didn't see any reference to Gore being in attendance, but Ray's point is still a good one.

From the article in Saturday's Seattle P-I:
John Edwards, the former U.S. vice presidential candidate, sought common ground with bloggers and other hard-core techies in Seattle on Friday -- conceding, among other things, that he's sometimes too polished for the unvarnished Internet age.

"I'm trying to retrain and recondition myself when I get asked a question to actually answer it -- to not say what I've been trained to say, to not say what's careful and cautious," said the former U.S. senator from North Carolina, widely considered a likely candidate for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination.

"Back to the geek issues, please," organizer Chris Pirillo reminded the crowd when the discussion strayed from technical subjects such as Internet infrastructure to political ones such as the future of the Democratic Party.

One recurring theme mixed the two areas. Several in the audience stressed the importance of authenticity in politics, and the potential for blogs and other technology to give Americans a more accurate view of campaigns and the legislative process by getting closer to what's really going on.

Edwards and his wife, Elizabeth, are already blogging, offering digital videos and using text messages as part of the anti-poverty initiatives they're now leading. Other politicians and campaigns also have embraced blogs, following Howard Dean's early success with that strategy in the 2004 presidential primaries.

But one Gnomedex attendee pointed out that the human voice so fundamental to blogs contrasts with the practiced messages delivered by many politicians.

Edwards agreed, and acknowledged his own shortcomings in that regard, saying that he can often sense when he is slipping into that mode.

"The problem is that we're so trained and so conditioned over a long period of time that being normal and real and authentic requires you to shed that conditioning," Edwards said of politicians. "It is not an easy thing to do."

Edwards then alluded to the next presidential election.

"My own view is the next president of the United States, or certainly the one after, is likely to be the single candidate who doesn't sound like a politician," he said. "I want to tell you on a personal level, I'm trying every way I know how not to do it.

"We've been trained to do the wrong thing," he concluded. "That's the problem."

During the appearance, Edwards adhered to a core principle of the blogging world, offering brief comments and then taking questions and leading a discussion.

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