Saturday, August 26, 2006

Bloggers and the MDP Convention, Day 1

My (brief) thoughts and observations from the MDP Convention today. I try to avoid "blogging about blogging" as much as possible, but I decided to indulge myself this once. Read on, folks...

The Blogger's Caucus
  • The Blogger's Caucus was really cool. We had a lot of candidates show up, including our Governor and Senator at the same time! Most of the candidates came in, spoke for a bit, and left. This is understandable, especially given the time constraints. It was really great to get so many candidates, but the downside is that it didn't leave much room for conversation.
  • Speaking of the candidates, I apologize if I leave any candidates out!
  • Andy Coulouris, Democratic nominee for the 94th Michigan House of Representatives, showed up to the Blogger Caucus today. I volunteered for Andy's campaign on the weekends and learned a lot about local politics in the city of Saginaw, voter ID, and GOTV in the process. He used MySpace in his campaign to attract volunteers, and he generally shows a lot of love for grassroots activists. I appreciated that he actually spent time observing the Blogger Caucus and listening to everyone, instead of just getting in and rushing out (again, not that there was anything wrong with the candidates that did that, either!)
  • Matt mentioned that the MI Republicans have been trying to make a Republican weblog modeled after Michlib that includes the ability to post diaries and participate with other users. Thanks to blogs like Michigan Liberal, Daily Kos, MyDD, and others, we're way ahead of them on this!
  • Stabenow came early on. I didn't get the sense that she reads blogs regularly (not everyone has the time for that or can make it a priority), but she was supportive enough to grace us with her presence.
  • Granholm "gets it" when it comes to the Michigan netroots. I already knew that she reads Michlib religiously, but it became clear that she also understands the dynamics behind blogs structured like it. I've seen her speak in a wide variety of situations, and I think that she demonstrated her understanding of the blogs through the unique way that she spoke with us. She was on message, but she used some different techniques in conveying it, and gave us some of her suggestions for how we can be more effective as a collective. She notices who posts and what they post, which was made clear through the way that she tried to familiarize herself with everyone in the room. Also, the unsolicited "I have to say hi to who got the gravy here," was sweet.
  • Okay, that was hysterical when Granholm realized who David Boyle was -- I worried about what might have happened. David (very cool guy) has some... creative ways of expressing his dissatisfaction with some of the Governor's policies on dkos and michlib. He also got in an e-mail argument with Dan Mulhern, which he later posted on Daily Kos. She was very gracious and appreciated his role as a dissenting voice. David was very good-natured about it too. I think its one of those things where you had to have been there. I couldn't stop laughing, though.
  • Nancy Skinner was great -- of all the candidates, I think I enjoyed her talk the most. It was a bit wordy and there was a lot of name dropping, but that was perfect for her target audience (a.k.a. us). Like Granholm, she's also demonstrated a clear understanding and appreciation for the netroots, particularly at the national scene. She pointed out that blogs generate buzz and help pick good candidates.
  • The fact that Skinner is a former radio and TV personality was clear in her messaging and the way she views the blogs, which is a good thing. She is very direct and not afraid to say what is on her mind, which is a very refreshing change of pace from the usual. She seemed to imply that blogs provide a good alternative source of information when the regular news fails to pick up on stuff. Her own blog is excellent - Jordan does a great job and her posts are neat too (like the one about her experiences with fundraising).
  • She didn't say it outright, but I think that Skinner wasn't completely happy with the blog coverage of her race at the local level (unhappy that coverage doesn't exist). In particular, the sense that I got was that there is a lack of representation for Skinner by locals at websites like Daily Kos. In terms of MI Congressional Candidates I've always been the most excited about her, but I'm not a resident of the district and I don't want to talk about it without fully understanding the local issues. Understandably, most of the local blogger focus seems to be on the Governor's race.
  • Marcinkowsi lamented the impact that advertising has on the mass media. No argument from me!
  • It looks like David LaGrand has an interesting race ahead of him. It would be awesome if we could take that seat from DeVos' own turf, which makes it a great race to give some attention to. He had a great story about Betsy DeVos too!
  • Rep. Andy Meisner swung by as well. I'm very interested to see how the House leadership race plays out.
  • Rebekah Warren stopped in as well -- she had a campaign blog through her primary. Ann Arbor politics fascinates me.
  • It was explained to us that donating online for Michigan House and Senate candidates using a system similar to ActBlue is complicated. I really wish that we'd have something like that up, but apparently it would be pretty expensive to look into it.
  • Appreciated the talk on how to grow the Michigan Blogosphere -- too bad we ran out of time! Be sure to check out
  • Finally, Matt was the star of the show. He could have easily gone in a completely different direction, but instead Matt effectively explained what makes all of this work: the community. His story was very personal and I'm sure that more than a few people in the room identified with it and were inspired to start blogging.
Convention Speeches and Other General Convention Stuff

  • It was neat to see some real energy and controversy over the AG nomination. We all know how its going to end, but having that floating in the background made things much more interesting.
  • As WK pointed out, so much paper! Most of which probably actually wasn't read.
  • Generally, Democrats seem to be very cheery people and open to conversation. It was exciting meeting all kinds of new random people, especially other fellow activists from Saginaw.
  • Very cool to see many of the Michigan bloggers all assembled in one place at "Blogger's Row."
  • IMO Kwame was the second best speaker next to Granholm in the main auditorium. I've seen Kwame speak and I know how good he is, but he still somehow seems to impress and surprise me every time. Regardless of what people may think of him, he really understands how to turn a phrase and work a crowd. "Some people are saying 'Amway, Amway, Amway'...we're saying 'no damn way.'"
  • One of the things that I found to be the most incredible about Granholm's speech was that she can effectively take anything and infuse it with energy and excitement. Instead of simply reading off a list of businesses in Michigan, she worked the crowd by simply switching up her speech patterns. I know that people didn't know what all of those companies did, but they were still hanging on her every word.
  • My favorite parts of the Granholm speech: "You may not have a lobbyist with a fancy don't need one. You have me." "You can buy a whole lot of blue smoke for two billion dollars...but eventually that smoke is going to clear." The A-Z thing. The crowd spontaneously chanting "four more years."
  • I've heard Senator Stabenow speak a few times and I like her "race to the bottom" message. It is a simple and compelling argument, and it makes for great quotes and soundbites. Still, I don't envy anyone that has to follow Granholm on stage.
  • Kwame introduced UM Dems own Aghogho Edevbie, who introduced the Governor. I was totally caught off guard, but I was thrilled to see a fellow College Dems member up there! I really identified with his message about Michigan being a great place to live.
  • Speaking of the College Dems, it was fantastic to see so many high schoolers and college students out in force at the Convention. One of the things that Kos and Armstrong touch on in Crashing the Gate is how vital it is to make sure that the next generation of Democratic activists stay involved in the party so we continue to remain strong. I definitely saw that going on today.
Bloggers, Michlibbers, and Others

I know I am forgetting some people here. Apologies in advance.

The coolest part of the convention was undoubtedly meeting the other blogger's (and Michlib regulars) that I've been reading and interacting with over the past few months. In a lot of ways it was very surreal, but the cool factor far outweighed that. Shout outs for particular people that I appreciated meeting or running into (again, not a complete list, and in no particular order):

  • djytd. He was kind enough to let me borrow his computer.
  • Jordan, the blogger from the Skinner campaign. Of everyone that I met today, I was the most surprised and impressed by Jordan. From reading his posts online, I totally thought he was thirty or something. It turns out that he's actually a junior in high school. This kid is a rising star and worth keeping an eye on. I'm excited about the day that he'll start his own blog! Also, Nancy Skinner gave him props at the Blogger's Caucus, which must have been cool for him.
  • Jon Koller. Given that we both go to UM, I was surprised that I hadn't ran into him yet -- I was missing out. I'd actually been reading his old blog before I ever discovered Michigan Liberal, and so today it was neat to get his perspective on how the Michigan blogosphere is evolving.
  • LiberalLucy. I met her before at the get-together in Lansing. She's the kind of person that its easy to feel comfortable around very quickly -- its a great quality to have.
  • David Boyle. I always love reading David's stuff because no matter what, I know I'm going to have some kind of reaction to it. I'm always curious about what he's going to say next. In person, David is very relaxed and pretty funny.
  • Wizardkitten. I ran into her real early in the morning, so I first got used to meeting someone in person after already talking to them online with her. Next to Michlib I probably read her the most, so it was great to see that she was able to make it down.
  • Nazgul. He's another one that I've been reading for a while (and doesn't live too far away from me in Saginaw), so it was great to finally meet him. Republicans, watch out for this one!
  • Hy D. From his posts and comments at the convention, you can tell that he's been watching politics for a while. He's a fellow UM guy, which is always a plus!
  • Ron Suarez. He's the guy who knows a lot about RSS and some of the other technical aspects of blogging, and is also from Ann Arbor. I sat next to him at the now infamous "Blogger's Row." I've heard a lot of things from the opponents of Progressives of Washtenaw, so it was interesting to hear from a POW and future City Council member!
  • Cordelia Lear. What a lifesaver. She put together a fantastic guide to convention logistics for us first-timers, which I kept in my pocket through the day.
  • Christine Barry. Her blog is another one of my favorites. One of her blog posts posts (linked from lpackard's "Build the Michigan Blogosphere" posts on Michlib) was helpful in getting me started. Also, she kept my Congressional District Caucus entertaining!
  • lpackard and matt. Its clear that they work really hard to grow the Michigan blogosphere, and they have had a tremendous impact. I met them for the first time at a debate between Mark Brewer and Saul Anuzis, and it was talking with them that inspired me to finally make a concerted effort to have my own blog. Once I made the decision, I went to Michlib for the resources to do it. After I started posting, I went to Michlib to share my opinions, publicize my site, and get feedback. If nothing else, I'm glad to be a part of the blogosphere just to be a more informed participant of the democratic process, and I wouldn't have made a serious effort at it without them and the site.
  • I think that covers it in terms of bloggers. I'd also like to shout out Clint and John from the Granholm campaign (who show the bloggers a lot of love and run a great blog of their own), the Granholm campaign volunteer coordinator Mike Griffith, and everyone else from Team Granholm!
  • Also, shout out to everyone in the UM Dems.
Coverage Around the Internet

In case you're interested, I've put together some links with coverage of the convention from our fellow MI bloggers. This is an incomplete collection of what information is "out there." I'm sure a video of the Governor's speech will end up on YouTube, other people have audio that they recorded, and I know that Julielyn and some others have pics that aren't yet on the Internet.

My favorite post is probably from new blogger Laura Fisher, who has a step-by-step breakdown of the Blogger's Caucus at her blog a later date. She does a great job of capturing the mood of the room and how the focus of the Caucus evolved over time.

We've got some other bloggers commenting on the convention as well. Jordan's got some stuff up at Skinner's blog. Nazgul's got some good stuff too. Let me know if I missed anything -- I'm sure we'll be seeing more tomorrow.

Pics! Christine Barry has some great pictures from the convention online. Skinner's picture doesn't really do her justice -- she was very animated but it was in tune with the mood of the room that she was working up. David Boyle has pics of Granholm at the Blogger's Caucus over at (why can't I think of a clever name for a blog like that!?!?!?). WK's got her own pics and commentary as well.

The Granholm Campaign has a transcript up of her convention speech. She was incredible, but the transcript doesn't do her justice. Trust me, wait for video. My sympathies go out to anyone who has to follow her on any stage.

Finally, Matt and some of the others (like Jordan from the Skinner campaign) were blogging live during the speeches. Here are the threads:
Hopefully we see some exciting stuff tomorrow so we can do a part two! I know Jordan from the Skinner campaign, David Wishinsky, and others are planning on showing up.


At 7:25 PM, Blogger Cathleen said...

What a great wrap-up! I was so tired by the time I got home it was hard to write it all down, and I just started rambling..

It was wonderful to meet you- keep writing, you do some excellent work!

Cathleen (wizardkitten)

At 8:29 PM, Anonymous SharonRB said...

Here's a link to my album from the convention. I posted the best of what I took, but the lighting in the rooms was pretty bad and a lot of my pics were pretty blurry because people just weren't standing still much (note the dancing shots at Stabenow's reception).

WGTG -- I followed the link from Nancy's blog, so now I know who you are. You were sitting a few seats down from me. I was next to Jordan.

Feel free to spread this link around to anyone who might want to see the pics.

At 11:07 PM, Anonymous Christine said...

Hi it was great to meet you too!

I'm not updating the flickr gallery ... use the coppermine gallery to see all of my convention pictures.

(or follow "photo gallery" link in nav bar at top of site)


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