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Now that Hillary has announced that her campaign is a “conversation,” Todd Ziegler rounds up the conversational elements of her site.

Political campaigns are perhaps the most corrosive of genuine conversations because campaigns make run-of-the-mill control freaks look like drunken libertines. Their idea of a great conversation is generally the sort of Bush town hall meeting where citizens are frisked for ideas before entering. The best hope for a conversational campaign is one that brings supporters together and then gets out of the way. But campaigns want to be at the center of every conversation.

For example, Todd wonders why campaigns have abandoned for house parties. Part of the answer is that campaigns want to have more control over the meetings’ data and governance, and that’s not totally illegitimate; is a civic-minded group (bless ’em), but it’s still a private company.

But campaigns generally are not re-creating MeetUp. They’re replacing meetups with house parties. That’s what the Kerry campaign did, and I could never convince Zack Exley (who’s also civic-minded, bless him), who was in charge of Kerry’s Internet campaign, that house parties are fundamentally different than the Meetups that fueled the Dean campaign.

First, and most obviously, house parties traditionally are traditionally fund raisers. Dean Meetups were not. The house party message is clear: Have a nice chat while you take out your checkbook.

Second, campaigns generally assume more ownership of house parties than Meetups. At times, the Dean campaign provided some topic they thought the group might want to talk about. A couple of times, Dean addressed the Meetups via TV. But there’s a real difference in feeling between that and arriving at a friend’s house and being dealt the official house party “kit” materials.

Third, and most important, house parties are in private spaces. Meetups were in public spaces. A house party is put on for the attendees. The host has an obligation to make sure it goes well. But a Meetup in a bar or a restaurant is an empty space within which we are trusted to figure out what to do…what to do during the Meetup and what to do to take our country back (as Deaniacs put it). House parties are parties with guests. Meetups are meetings among citizens.

It’s a subtle difference, and I can’t quite articulate it. But I’ve been to house parties and to Meetups, and the difference is very real. [Tags: ]

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