Howard Dean For President In 2004
August 14, 2003
Interview With DeanSpace's Zack Rosen

From mild mannered student at University of Illinois, to self-proclaimed hacker for dean, Zack Rosen is now headed to Vermont to work on the Dean campaign.

I first met Zack online on his "Hack4Dean" list, when we both realized we were headed for ILAW in Stanford at the end of June. While at ILAW, we were both on a panel about "Blogging and Democracy," where Zack gave a rather detailed explanation of how his Americans for Deans system works.

By the end of the week, Zack had arranged for Howard to blog on Larry's blog while he went on vacation.

In the weeks that past, Zack has gotten even more involved with the Dean campaign, and has decided to take a break from school and move to Vermont to work on the campaign.

I asked Zack to answer a few questions about the work he's been doing and the work he's going to do in Vermont -- and to maybe let myself and other's know how to get more involved in what AmericansForDean has metamorphized into: DeanSpace.

So Zack -- How did the Dean on Lessig's blog arrangement come about?

Well, I can hardly take much credit for that enthralling piece of history, but it sure was fun watching it unfold. Here is what happened....

During my magnificent week at iLaw, I was CC'ed into an ad-hoc mailing-list conversing and brainstorming about the AmericansForDean / DeanSpace project. One night I mentioned in a mail to the list that I had given a mini-speech about it at an iLaw seminar, and that Lawrence seemed to be enthused afterwards. I also mentioned that "everyone wants to get Lessig and Dean together". I of course had no authority to declare this to be so, but in my mind I could not imagine anyone who would not want to get Lessig and Dean together so it seemed justified enough to include in the 3AM list-mail. In any case, shortly there-after, one of the recipients decided to act upon my made-up truism, and invited Lawrence to get together with Dean. Of course nobody really could imagine what this "event" would entail, but after a bit of discussion, Dean's camp and Lessig agreed upon a guest-blogging bonanza much to my delight.

So was that how you connected with Zephyr Teachout? How did you get involved with the "official" folks to the degree where they offered you a job?

Zephyr was one of the members of the ad-hoc mailinglist that made the Lessig-Dean thing happen, so I had been exchanging emails with her for a bit. But, later that week I was interviewed by a Wired News reporter who also interviewed Zephyr as well for the story. That is what put us in direct contact. Since then she started getting involved with the development community and a few weeks later I told her I wanted to work on the project full time rather than go back to school. In another few weeks after sending over a resume and meeting with Zephyr I was offered a job.

So it was you who proactively wanted to go work on the campaign? They didn't lure you away from school?

I think it was a pretty mutual thing, but I offered to move down to Burlington before they offered to pay me.

So what are you going to be working on in Vermont?

While I am not to sure where exactly I will be put to task, I do know there is way more work to be done than I will ever be able to do. I will probably be spending most of my time helping and coordinating with the DeanSpace project, showing campaign offices how use the software, and helping them figure out how to run an open-source meta-mesh web-community powered grassroots Presidentical campaign.

Wow. That's a mouthful. What's an "open-source meta-mesh web-community powered grassroots Presidentical campaign?"

I think the two kludgy words that people will get hung up on in that description of the software the DeanSpace community is building are: "meta-mesh". Open-source means the tools are liscensed under GPL and created by a community that resembles typical open-source development communitities ala Web-communities are pretty well understood, and have been around for a while: kuro5shinorg,, yahoo-groups etc.

So what the hell does "meta-mesh" mean? It is intended to describe the magic twist we are building into the web-community software we are assembling. We are making very robost RSS feed content importing and exporting tools into the DeanSpace web community "kits". The idea being that all the different Dean community sites running our code will then have the ability to share and syndicate content and users easily across the network of Dean web-communities. We are attempting to construct a grassroots campaign network from the numerous deployed sites running our code. The goal is to have all content and users on the network wrapped in metadata, so the different sites act as two way filters to the campaign network with communities built around them, rather than as isolated independant communities.

So let's talk more about these community "kits." What will they include?

Well the feature spec hasn't been completly worked out yet, but here is what is to be expected. * News / blog system * Personal blog utility for individual users * Threaded / peer-moderated forum tool * Mailing list integration * Media posting / download utility * Calendar / event system (i.e. meeting wednesday at 9 at Smiths house..) * Project / action ticketing system (i.e. help me make flyers, sign up here...) * Dean Endorser - lets users make endorsements that show up on the page and can be emailed to friends / family * Presence system - shows users who are currently online and allows users to find other users with similiar interests / affiliations.

When will the kits become available?

Don't quite know yet. We have some early code up now you can download on, but it is missing quite a bit of functionality. I think a realistic goal would be two more weeks for the first complete 1.0 release, but we will see.

So walk me through the process of downloading and setting up one of these systems. I go to the Deanspace website, and download X and do Y....

One of our members, Alison - - just made a walk through wizard for the setup process.

It is is pretty early and not very formalized, but it should help neophytes through the install / setup process. Experienced geeks knowledgeable with PHP / mySQL web backends will find the install and setup process a cynch. There is some pretty decent documentation up on in the "manual" book as well.

One of our immediate goals is to create comprehensive walkthroughs of the setup process. The manuals / wizard is the beginnings of that.

How can people become more involved with DeanSpace if they are so inclined?

Oh this ones easy. Head over to DeanSpace, make an account, join the mailing lists, read the documentation on the site, and pitch in. The development community is very open. We have bi-weekly IRC meetings and rowdy design debates. Help is very much appreciated; there is absolutely way too much work to get done.

Posted by Lisa at August 14, 2003 08:31 AM | TrackBack
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