You could tell who we were at the busy local Oakland, CA bar

Matt had an anti-Arnold hat on, and more than one political button adorned his jacket…and I was the only guy in the place with a yellow legal pad.

We talked about Richard Pombo the scuzzy GOP congressman in neighboring CA-11, we talked about Jerry McNerney, Pombo’s 2004 grass roots environmentalist opponent, we talked about the upcoming vote on ballot initiatives and that day’s protest by Alliance for a Better California…

and we talked about the heartbreak that ABC wasn’t opposing Proposition 73, an anti-choice proposition that would change the California State Constitution to put in “life begins at conception” language, in addition to opposing Propositions 74-78

but Matt had some other interesting things to say that I thought I’d pass on:  thoughts about the state of organizing and the netroots today…
One lasting impression that I took from the conversation was this:  Matt had been at an Anti-Arnold demonstration in Contra Costa county that day, you may have read about that demonstration here, in babaloo’s diary about it…and Matt had seen a women he knew from the Wellstone Club in Berkeley passing out hundreds of leaflets she’d copied herself.  Now, that’s an activist!

The Wellstone Club in Berkeley  has some truly great veteran activists full of insight and hard won pragmatic wisdom.   But you likely won’t find them here, or on dKos or MLW.  (And if they’re were here, how would we know?…think about it.)  You won’t even find them on their blog.  And though you are likely to see them at demonstrations like the anti-Arnold one last Wednesday…

the place you can find many activists online is in the world of  Yahoo User Groups and netserve discussion boards.  Matt pointed out how significant this was…and here I have to ask you to just imagine him yelling in a crowded bar over a beer…”I CAN’T TELL YOU HOW IMPORTANT THIS IS, DUDE…”….

Matt pointed out that like Democracy for America and…the local Wellstone club’s primary means of reaching it’s members and activating them is email notification…and, yes, that often means, “over-email-notification”….novice moderators turning their “notify new comments” feature ON and flooded members email inboxes…argh.

Basically, what Matt was trying to get through my hardened “kossack” skull was that the addictive nature of “on-line” scoop discussion that we do here at BooMan was not something that millions of politically active people, especially those who aren’t super computer savvy, relate to or participate in.  ie. There’s a TON of activism that is not really visible online to all of our detriment.  It’s hidden in email lists and members-only discussion groups.

Further, since Matt and I were talking about these very issues…online organizing and how to actually find the local activism and activists and candidates we are concerned about, there is a flip side too.

We in the scoop discussion world, let’s face it, do our activism by, uh…running into a crowded room and yelling:  LOOK AT ME!!   LOOK AT ME!!  ACTION UPDATE!!  ALERT!!  ALERT!!!

We surf from hot issue to hot issue.  (can you say Obama)  We are about conversation…very much about conversation.

You see, we have user names that don’t indicate…where we live.  (and though for creativity’s sake I wouldn’t change that, could we embed something in the name display that would tell us that kind of info?)  We have blog names that, as Chris Bowers pointed out, in an unfortunately titled but really essential essay…I’m not going to blogroll you, give no idea what they are about.  We tend not to deliver organization and “actionable information” to our online peeps in a straightforward way, or, when we do, it’s in the form of diaries that scream rather than persuade and inform.

(Just to note here, I responded to Chris in that essay that my take would be to find a way to innovate so that the headline could read:  “I am going to blogroll you.“…ie. to make blogrolls useful instead of irrelevant, to push for more, and more useful, online democracy, to get around this notion of “A-list” blogs telling puny blogs what to do…but that’s another story.)

There’s a reason that so much of our activism and discussion online in scoop based communities is ad hoc and helter skelter.

Like I said above, our websites are like the TV show CHEERS.  We’re all running into the bar and trying to get our online friends excited about what we’ve got to say.  That can be cool for building online community, but is no substitute for actually coming together and building some kind of structure, or at the very least, innovating ways to build that structure into the achitecture of our “bar.”

One of my cafe friends “Jerry from the Bronx” is a long time left-wing activist.  He’s older now, but since he came up long before the anti-war movement….(he was a student activist fighting institutional anti-Semitism and racial segregation at City College in New York if that gives you an idea of the time frame he brings to it)…always says this to me:

The 60’s anti-war and civil rights struggles had the advantage of ready access to left-wing organizers.  People who, for whatever reason, had their heads screwed on straight about organizing people to do things, to make things happen.

The secret  was this, we didn’t have to invent the wheel every time we did something.  We were able to work together and get stuff done.

What my conversation with Matt told me is that we are in a new moment of “inventing the wheel” and we’re still figuring out how to make this work, and maybe, laying down patterns that will last for a good long while.   I thought, in the spirit of that conversation, I’d share our discussion with you and see if we can’t spark a few ideas of our own here on BMT.

As you can tell, I’m interested in these issues, and will follow up on them.

{this essay is a BoomanTribune exclusive}

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