I was under the (perhaps mis)apprehension that all this had been hashed
out with the hackers, but it sounds like it may not have been. Of course
it's a tough choice. You guys have two choices, really:
(1) work w/the campaign (2) work outside the campaign
Hmmm... I was going to respond to some of the other messages, but I think CMR already hit all the important notes. So I'll talk simply about working with/without the campaign.
I don't think it's as simple as that.
Here's the deal as I see it. Hack4Dean as an organization is highly informal.In many ways, there is no us. We have no leaders. We have no qualification for membership. We are an ad-hoc collective of individuals motivated by common cause, but we are by no means an official organization. It's quite unlikely that we will en masse agree to work under or be independent of the campaign.
There are also many facets to what we envision, and it's similarly unlikely that all those facets would fall under direct campaign purview, or that the campaign would even want them to.
For example, the tool (the kit) we're building will not be owned by the campaign. It must not be. It will be a free-standing unit of open source software. Much of it is copyrighted by the original Drupal people and the new stuff belongs by default to whoever coded it. There's nothing for the campaign to gain from owning this part of the movement, by owning the "kit".
Where it does make sense for the campaign to step in and own things is on the meta level: the ideas of the Visable Volunteers (MetaDean Talent) and a Dean Space central aggregator (MetaDean) are both good ones for the campaign to run. The campaign can also promote the kit much as it does meetup, and of course once the network is up and running the campaign will be a major source of content.
You at HQ are right to be cautious about how all of this is implemented, about how the Sites will be hosted and who will offer support. But as I see it, it's really not something you want to try to control. On the one hand you won't be able to -- the genie is already out of the bottle as they say -- and on the other hand, the more controlling force you exert, the less participation you will have.
Maybe the campaign needs to have a "party line" on these issues, a stance they're sticking with; something that will legally protect you from whatever any individual might attempt to do with the products of our collective efforts. Individuals can either toe that party line (and work under the campaign) or remain independent, which means they are not allowed to coordinate.
I see the main advantage of working with the campaign being, from a political point of view, that the work you are doing can not only win the presidency but transform politics. Because there is a driver behind it -- Dean -- it will grow exponentially.
I'll have to respectfully disagree with you here, Zephyr. As much as I like Howard Dean and want him to win the presidency, the truly transformative power of what we're doing comes from it's ability to be picked up and used by any campaign by any party anywhere in the world. If it's just a DeanTool this will not happen. It will need to die (and hopefully be reborn) on election day. If it's something else -- the virtual town hall -- then it has a life and an impact that reaches far beyond Decision 2004.
In my vision, Howard Dean will not just mention Meetups on the
stump, but setting up Dean Community Sites. I really believe this is the
next phase of the revolution -- and I'm sorry if you're feeling some of
the constraints, but I hope you decide that they are worth it.
I think we all share this vision, but at the same time I strongly doubt the campaign exercises any direct control -- legally or content-wise -- over Meetup.
Similarly, IMHO our effort needs to be fundamentally independent from the campaign for a time (as it has been for the past months and functionally still is now), until it is mature enough that we (the hack4dean working group) can release our code. At that point, the campaign is free to pick up the ball and run with it, and various elements of this group will be free to do the same, to pursue whatever other dreams they have for this movement.
We're not there yet.
From my recollection, this project has always taken a longer view than the Dean campaign. When I first started, there was significant doubt that Dean would even make it to the GE, yet I/we continued to work because we felt our project had more to do with the spirit of the Dean campaign (participation, empowerment, community) than with the actuality of it's success or failure. Even if Dean didn't make it, I thought, our project would help carry his energy forward.
Now with Dean as a frontrunner, we run the risk of turning too much in the opposite direction. To my mind, it's of the utmost importance that the effort of developing this kit be an all-volunteer Free software effort. Once this is done, it seems likely that the hack4dean group will splinter: some will continue to work on the kit, some will break off and focus on helping people set up nodes, some will go to work directly for the campaign in one capacity or another, some will attempt other things. This is natural and good.
Hope this clarifies more than it confuses -josh