The law of unintended consequences

I’m sure that when the Bush team brainstormed the idea of having a “make your own poster” tool on their web site that they did not think the idea through to its logical conclusion.

If they had, they probably wouldn’t have gone ahead with it.

Thursday, Slate reported that readers could visit the Bush Campaign web site and create a Bush poster with any slogan you want. Repeat: any slogan.

When I tried visiting the tool mid-day (Seattle), each time I clicked Make Poster, the page refreshed. No poster. Then I remembered: this is the Bush site. The one that wasn’t Mac-friendly in 2000. Why would that be different this year?

So I fired up MSIE on the PC — only to get a custom 404 (sorry, that page can’t be found, maybe you mis-typed the URL) page. I learned this evening such a 404 is the default action for dot-Net (Bush’s technology) when the server is busy. Bad default choice. Bad consultants for not changing the default.

One of my friends — a not-very-liberal suburbanite motorcyclist — was successful in the early afternoon. His poster slogan? We take Deficit to a whole new level. Probably not what the campaign had in mind.

So how do we use this medium to empower our core constituencies without providing ammo to our opponents? Tough call in an open medium.

The Web will reshape at least part of the political spectrum, Howard Dean proved that. How big, how influential that part is in this election is anyone’s guess. Matt Stoller wrote about it in November:

We are in the midst of a transformation of the political infrastructure, and consequently in the way that America governs itself…. the rules of campaigning are being, if not rewritten, then deeply supplemented. Low cost communications and the ability of anyone with a computer and a phone line to publish are pushing the boundaries of traditional political gurus and campaign workers. What are the new rules of politics, and how are the political parties echoing their ideology and methods on the web?

It might be a rough ride. For certain, it will be an exciting one. Hang on.

By Kathy E. Gill

Digital evangelist, speaker, writer, educator. Transplanted Southerner; teach newbies to ride motorcycles! @kegill

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