Monday, September 25, 2006

Reading :: Extreme Democracy

Originally posted: Mon, 25 Sep 2006 21:15:09

Extreme Democracy

by Jon Lebkowsky, Mitch Ratcliffe

I've been delaying blogging this book review because a decent review would take more time than I think the book is worth -- and because my colleague Mark Longaker has already written an incisive review that will appear in Technical Communication Quarterly in a few issues. But I'll summarize my impressions here.

This collection, written just before and just after Howard Dean's implosion in the 2004 primaries, varies in quality even more than a normal collection does. Some chapters, like Clay Shirky's, are really smart and insightful. Others, like James F. Moore's "The Second Superpower Rears its Beautiful Head," are just awful in their reductionism and naivete. Still others present interesting case studies of community-based technologies, especially Drupal, which was used to power many of Dean's community sites.

The book itself is essentially a print version of a collection of online documents, and that leads to some charming formatting and copyediting mistakes. Often block quotes are not set off from the rest of the text, so we have to guess who's actually speaking at any point. Hyperlinks are formatted as underlined, but of course without the actual links, leading to sentences such as "See this about Allbritton's breakthrough."

Overall, the collection is so situated in its originating time period that it is dated; only a few pieces manage to escape that situating and become more widely useful.

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