It Happened to Me

Saturday in a Nutshell

11:00 a.m. Wendy (yup, she flew in on Friday!) and I show up at the hospital to help Dad check out.

12:30 p.m. Lunch at Mom and Dad’s. Me, Wendy, Mom, Dad, sister Eileen, brother-in-law Richard, nephews Aidan and Nico.

At lunch, Aidan says “We’re all together now!” to which Dad says with a smile, “That’s right!”

2:00 p.m. I take Wendy on her

very first Christmas shopping trip. We buy presents for my sister,

brother-in-law, and cousins, who’ll all be gathered at the deVilla

extended family Christmas party on Saturday.

Wendy’s shop-fu is very good.

5:00 p.m. On the expressway bound for home when my cell phone rings. It’s In the Hall of the Mountain King — the family ringtone. I can’t answer because the phone is in my pocket and I’m driving.

“I’ll get it as soon as I get a chance to pull over,” I tell Wendy.

A minute later, the phone rings again. Family ringtone again. This

time, we’re off the highway, so I manage to pick up. It’s Eileen,

telling me that Dad was sweaty, spaced out and weak and that an

ambulance was coming for him.

I swung the car around and made tracks for the hospital for the second time that day.

5:15 p.m. Since we were

close to the hospital, we beat the ambulance to the ER. Minutes after

we arrive, Mom, Dad and the paramedics arrive. Dad’s passed out on a

stretcher, looking very pale with an oxygen mask strapped to his face,

while Mom very calmly reports all the details to the attending

physicians and nurses. All I can do is stand there. Wendy takes my hand

and squeezes it.

Mom tells us to wait in the ER lobby.

6:45 p.m. It turns out that

Dad’s blood sugar dropped to a dangerously low level. An IV helps bring

it back to a normal level, and he’s conscious again.

He tells us that he has no recollection of being taken from his bedroom

or the ambulance trip. “I felt as though I was in space and someone was

performing strange procedures on me. The next thing I remember is being


“Dad, you sound like an alien abductee,” I say, which makes him smile.

“You should eat,” Mom says. “Can we get you something?”

“I want a roast beef sandwich,” replies Dad.

I take everyone’s orders and Wendy and I go to the nearby Quizno’s.

7:30 p.m. ER picnic! Mom,

Dad, Eileen, Wendy and I are eating in the ER. Quizno’s isn’t fine

dining and the atmosphere of the ER isn’t anything to write home about,

but the stress of the past couple of hours has made us all famished.

I’ve visited Dad in the ER a number of times — he’s sort of like the

Indiana Jones of diabetes — and they always have a knack for putting

him beside a guy who’s pipelining five gallons of phlegm in his lungs.

I really hate that sound.

“Poor Wendy,” jokes Dad, “she’s been in town only two days and she’s been to the hospital three times already.”

9:00 p.m. Dad’s been moved to

the Cardiac Care Unit — the place he left only that morning — for

overnight observation. Mom, Eileen, Wendy and I make sure Dad’s all

right and head home.

Dad left the hospital late Sunday afternoon and had dinner with the family.

It Happened to Me

Notes from Internet+Society 2004: The Election Panel

Photo: Votes, Bits and Bytes logo.

Continuing my (admittedly late) series of notes from the Berkman Center’s Internet+Society 2004 conference, here are my notes from the session on the 2004 US Election.

Here’s the writeup of the session taken from the conference schedule:

Affecting the Outcome II: Election 2004 in the United States

What happened here in the United States? Did the internet play a key

role in the outcome of any aspect of this election year – local, state,

Congressional, Presidential – or was it just another bubble? Did new

actors come out to vote? And how, if at all, will the way this year’s

leaders were elected change the way our leaders govern? Presume that

new participants have gotten involved in the political process, and

that longtime political activists are now further empowered to

communicate with leaders in power. After election day, can ICTs help

those elected to govern better? And where to from here?

The panel consisted of:

  • Chair: Prof. Heather Gerken, Harvard Law School
  • Chuck DeFeo, eCampaign manager, Bush-Cheney ’04
  • Zack Exley, Director of Online Communication and Organization, Kerry-Edwards 2004
  • Prof. Sunshine Hillygus, Harvard University
  • Dan Gillmor, journalist, San Jose Mercury News and

Photo: Election panel at Internet+Society 2004 Conference, featuring Zack Exley, Dan Gillmor, Sunshine Hillygus, Chuck DeFeo.

From left to right: Zack Exley, Dan Gillmor, Sunshine Hillygus, Chuck DeFeo

Zach Exley

  • The

    Kerry campaign solicited stories from people about how the Bush

    government affected them. 100,000 submissions were received. They were

    stored in a database and made available online.

Dan Gillmor

  • The

    most important thing that happened was a little incident in Kentucky.

    Ben Chandler, the Democratic candidate for congress, spent $2000 on

    blog ads asking for contributions. He got $80000. The mainstream media

    did an abysmal job covering this campaign: “I’m just horrified”.

  • In this election, a lot of interesting things happened “at the edges”, both positive and negative.
  • Journalism

    is moving from lecture to conversation and newsmakers of the world are

    facing troubling and interesting ways of dealing with the conversation.

    One interesting new byproduct of this move: journalists themselves

    being covered (cites Rathergate).

  • In spite of this move,

    there’s a certain resistance and even resentment of “we media”. CNN

    hired the CBS executive who referred to bloggers as the “pajamahadeen“.

    “There’s a network that doesn’t get it.”

  • A lot of interesting,

    well-written, well-produced professional looking independently-made

    pieces appeared: consider the ads produced for’s Bush in 30 Seconds or JibJab’s This Land is Your Land.

  • Wants to

    see prominent wikis in the future in campaigns, covering every issue.

    They have to potential to provide nuance and deep understanding that

    goes beyond what a campaign’s website says.

  • “We media” has to extend to governance, not just campaigning.

Sunshine Hillygus

  • “I’m going to play the role of academic curmudgeon and talk about the negative effects”
  • The

    internet has removed some hurdles for participation, but only for the

    politically motivated. People who were interested in the election could

    dive in and participate in ways that were not possible before, while

    the disinterested could avoid the entire thing. Contrast this with the

    1950’s, when you couldn’t avoid the election — you had to watch it on

    TV news.

  • The internet has helped to polarize people. There has

    been a proliferation of one-sided sources of information — “echo

    chambers” which reinforce the persepctives of their target audiences.

    Further, the varying degrees of anonymity on the ‘net allow people to

    give extreme views that social norms would not normally allow you to

    express. This movement towards the extreme is causing moderates to drop

    out of the discussion.

  • The removal of barriers to entry has had the consequence of increasing class biases.
  • The

    internet has contributed to pressures on traditional media to produce

    faster, less-researched, more sensationalistic news. Exit polls! They

    didn’t get it wrong, they were statistically unviable. As for the

    ‘net’s “self-policing nature”? Jayson Blair lost his job for

    fabricating, but was has Matt Drudge lost (citing Drudge’s disproved

    story alleging that Kerry had an affair)?

  • We have not yet figured out the balance.

Chuck DeFeo

  • The

    strategy of the Republican party’s e-campaign was to use viral

    marketing — a one-to-one approach. We wanted to have volunteers who

    themselves recruited volunteers. We organzied events like “Walk the

    Vote”, “Neighbour to Neighbour” and “Parties for the President”, which

    gathered people who lived in the same neighbourhood but didn’t

    necessarily know each other that well. These events were held more

    often in homes rather than public places, as Meetup events are.

  • A key part of this strategy was knowing where Republican supporters and undecideds lived.
  • This

    sort of gathering is more powerful than a TV or print ad: it’s someone

    in your neighbourhood promoting by saying “I live near you, our kids go

    to the same school, I share your values.”

  • Additional benefit of these gatherings: “You know your neighbour now”.

One question from the audience

came from someone who wanted to volunteer for the Democrats’ campaign.

He complained that that he, and many others, showed up to help out but

nobody knew what to do with them.

  • Exley:

    Our field program was a disaster. There was no plan, and there were no

    trained volunteers. “It was as if they did not see an election coming.”

  • The

    Right is beating Left at what used to be the Left’s game: grassroots

    campaigning. The Left thinks that grassroots politics is “doing neat

    stuff”, but in fact, it’s still talking to people. It fundamentally

    comes down to a cultural problem: we on the Left don’t have trust in

    ordinary people. We don’t know how to talk to ordinary Americans.

  • I agree with Chuck [DeFeo] — our best campaigners aren’t paid staff people, but real people!

Michelle Levesque: In the last week of the election, the Bush/Cheney campaign site was made accessible only from the US and Canada. Why?

  • DeFeo: “We chose to focus on where we could do the most good.”
  • “There are folks outside the country that would’ve preferred that we did not get our message out.”
  • Exley: “They got hacked.”
  • Chuck: “We did not get hacked!”


people in the audience asked DeFeo to provide the real explanation as

to why the Republicans chose to restrict access to the Bush/Cheney

site, but DeFeo stuck to his original nonsensical reason: because there

were bad people out there. This tactic is what won the election for the

Republicans, so why mess with success?

The audience hissed as the moderator tried to move on to the next question.

Audience question:

Have we shot ourselves in the foot — have we been shortsighted in

looking at the internet as a source of funding rather than a way to

create network effects?

  • Exley: No, looking

    at the ‘net as a source of funding is good. It means that regular

    people are playing a big role. It’s not just a big donor’s game anymore.

  • “I think Chuck is trying to keep you all lulled into thinking that it’s all being hippy and talking to each other.”
  • DeFeo: The goals of the Republican e-campaign were straightforward and we stuck to them:
    • Raise money online
    • Get the president’s message across
    • Empower supporters
  • Sunshine:

    I think it was that the Republicans were on the ball by relying on

    ordinary individual voters. Democrats have been relying on unions.

  • Gillmor:

    Since we’re not going to have real public financing of campaigns,

    anything that helps raise lots of money from the little folks is going

    to be the closest thing. The Republicans are better at this than the


Micah Sifry: Brought up

Ashley Faulkner, the girl whose mother was killed in the 9/11 attacks

and who was later featured in a photograph where she received a hug

from President Bush.The sound bite from this was often used: “He’s the

most powerful man in the world and all he wants to do is make sure that

I am okay”.

This “sense of security sends one back to the father

and mother”, and this psychology is evident in the rhetoric of the

Rebublicans: we speak in terms fatherland/motherland.

Quoting Randolph Bourne’s War is the Health of the State (1918):


sense of insecurity, the desire for protection, sends one’s desire back

to the father and mother, with whom is associated the earliest feelings

of protection. It is not for nothing that one’s State is still thought

of as Father or Motherland, that one’s relation toward it is conceived

in terms of family affection. The war has shown that nowhere under the

shock of danger have these primitive childlike attitudes failed to

assert themselves again, … A people at war have become in the most

literal sense obedient, respectful, trustful children again, full of

that naïve faith in the all-wisdom and all-power of the adult who takes

care of them, imposes his mild but necessary rule upon them and in whom

they lose their responsibility and anxieties.


the question: Is the nature of the bond between President Bush and

hissupporters, democratic/two-way, or


  • Exley: “I’m buying Chuck a drink after this. I called him a hippy, and now you called him a Nazi?”
  • DeFeo:

    He was a type of leader that our nation responded to. I’m not enough of

    a psychologist or sociologist to take the discussion to this higher


Sifry has more on this in this blog entry at Personal Democracy Forum.

Liza Sabater: Doesn’t it make sense that the Republicans did well? A sense of community already exists in their target demographic.


question makes more sense in light of comments she made during the

earlier session on and community. She talked about her

particpiation in various homeschooling groups, where she met all kinds

of people: “fundies, dominionists,

crunchy granola types” and so on. She observed that secular

homeschoolers didn’t have anywhere near the resources that the

religious homeschooling groups and wondered how she, as an atheist

mother, find homeschooling support that was also compatible with her


  • Exley: We had more volunteers, but they were deployed poorly. We may have had more people than the Republicans.
  • Chuck:

    No, we had more people. We had 61 million to your 53 million! [A

    half-dozen people clap in the rear right of the room start clapping].

  • Hillygus: Remember, during a war, the incumbent has a major advantage.

Audience question: Does the campaign’s choice of technology reflect its value?

  • [Unknown]: Moore’s Law doesn’t solve the problem of education.

Audience question [to Dan Gillmor]:

Could you elaborate on you said earlier about being “horrified” by the

mainstream media’s coverage of the election? Has the internet played a

role in the downfall of the mainstream media?

  • Gillmor: “Do you have a week?”
  • The effect of the internet that worries me is that the news cycle is now all the time. It’s led to a preference for getting it first over than getting it right.

    The pressures are enormous: we are a high-margin business, and we’re

    being forced into areas where we shouldn’t go. A lot of this pressure

    from Wall Street.

  • “The public service part of journalism is

    being abandoned, and it scares the hell out of me.” Consider that

    there’s still an enormous part of the population that believes Saddam

    Hussein planned 9/11, and the media hasn’t really worked to debunk

    this. Had it been a belief that questioned the right to free speech,

    the media would’ve jumped on it. I recommend going to Jay Rosen’s site

    to see this covered in more detail.

  • Hopefully the net will step in.

Audience question:

What about the role fear played in the campaign? President Bush said

the country would be in great danger if he were not re-elected.

  • DeFeo:

    “The American electorate is incredibly samrt and know how to form their

    opinions.” Voters are able to decide for themselves from the different

    sources of information. I think we are the better choice.

  • Exley:

    What Chuck said was very important. “When was the last time you heard a

    Democrat say that the electorate was smart?” Did they, the last time we

    won, say “this country’s dumb, I’m moving to Canada?”

  • Hillygus: The study she recently conducted says that the election was about the war, not morals issues.
It Happened to Me

Notes from Internet+Society 2004: The Business Panel

Photo: Votes, Bits and Bytes logo.

More notes from the Berkman Center’s Internet+Society 2004 conference — these are from the “Business” panel.

Here’s the description of the panel:

The most promising Internet business

models have a great deal in common with the most promising political

movements.  They empower the grassroots and serve as platforms

upon which greatness can build.  What can the politician learn

from the businessperson, and vice-versa?


Tod Cohen

  • Talked about the eBay’s “values card”: a small card handed to all eBay employees, which states:
    • People are generally good
    • People usually treat others the way they want to be treated
    • eBay must strive to create an open, honest environment for its customers
  • Some eBay stats — in the 3rd quarter of 2004, eBay had
    • 125 million registered users
    • 348 million listings
    • $1060 per second in gross merchandise volume
    • 56 million PayPal users
    • 2.4 billion feedback comments to date
  • “It’s our job as stewards of the small business community to represent their interests.”

Esther Dyson

  • I’m on the board of
  • For two “interesting

    and educational” years, I was chair at ICANN. “One learns a lot from

    mistakes, and I learned a huge amount there.”

  • “A lot of the utopian stuff you hear about people coming together in the global village is…implausible, to be polite.”
  • In

    business, you have the luxury of getting rid of the customers you don’t

    like. You don’t have to follow due process, save for the laws governing

    business. Governments don’t have this luxury of saying “these people

    aren’t profitable enough to serve”.

  • Government can specify a

    “target market” — a particular demographic — but it can’t stop there;

    it must expand this target market. The Kerry and Dean campaigns failed

    to enlarge the target market. They also failed to listen.

  • The internet is better used as a listening tool.

Debora Spar

  • Never actually ran a business, just have the luxury of watching business
  • Will give the view from Harvard Business School
  • About

    10 years ago, people started changing what they wanted to be when they

    grew up. Nobody wanted to work for a Fortune 500 company, but wanted to

    go to Silicon Valley and work for a start-up. There was a migration

    from school and conventional business models. Students would come in

    and show her their business plans, to which she’d ask “How is this

    going to make money?”

  • The plans were not about making money, but raising

    money — that is, making money without selling anything. No wonder they

    failed. You have to have a business plan that actually has a business

    attached to it.

  • Even with this wonderful technology, we haven’t “turned the world upside down”.
  • What kinds of internet businesses make money?
    • Doing old things in a new way (
    • Way-new decentralized ways of doing things (eBay)
    • Facilitating transactions (PayPal)
  • Rules to follow:
    • Don’t forget the old stuff:: there are rules that have existed since the start of politics that need to be followed.
    • What are the eBays of the political world?
  • Does

    not agree with the fundamental hypothesis of this talk: business is

    about controlling information and revenue generation, which government

    is about disseminating information.


  • eBay is political. It changes how people see themsleves in relation to other institutions.

Jonathan Zuck

  • I’m going to be the odd man out: I don’t care about politics.
  • Most of things we’re talking about aren’t on the radar in the presidential elections.
  • If people feel empowered by the Internet but don’t see results, they may retreat.

Craig Newmark

  • I’m going to ignore talking about business plans and business

    models, because we don’t have one. Intuition and instinct will serve

    you better.

  • What makes sites like Craigslist work is that they’re “more like us“. Corporate sites are “more like them“.
  • What’s working for Craigslist:
    • Following the “moral compass” of the community
    • People actually want to follow the Golden Rule. People expect righteous behaviour from Craigslist.
  • We’re about customer service: genuinely engaging with people

“Why are there two cops in the room?”

Dyson, in response to Cohen’s mention of the eBay values card asked:

“If people are basically good, why are there two cops in the room?”.

She pointed to the two campus police officers stationed at the back.

Their presence was mandated by Harvard’s secuirty department after they

heard that Hoder, who was a guest of the conference, has received death

threats posted on a radical Islamic site.

Reputations online

  • Dyson: People think of reputation systems are about finding

    the bad apples so you can avoid them and encouraging the good apples to

    behave better.

  • Dyson: Internet’s biggest cultural impact: disempowers the powerful
  • Newmark: The openness of the internet is what distinguishes it
  • Spar:

    Although it’s an open medium, it can be closed — it’s possible. Some

    governments are in the business of keeping the internet closed.

  • Dyson: People are forming relationships without meeting face-to-face.


  • Zuck: What makes an application “spyware” is not technology, it’s conduct.

    Spyware and anti-virus software are essentially the same thing. eBay

    has a toolbar that indicates whether you’re on a real eBay site or not.

    Its underlying actions fall under a definition of spyware

  • Zuck: The spam law was not about regulating spam but keeping the states from implementing crazy spam laws.

Trust issues and eBay

  • Zuck: One of the biggest barriers to ecommerce is entrenched middlemen
  • Dyson:

    eBay’s anti-phishing and dispute resolution tools come from outside the

    company. Don’t rely on authorities — try and resolve

    your disputes

A nutty idea

Interesting anecdote: A congressman wrote a paper suggesting that

eBay could be made safe by having it open physical locations across the

country where items for sale would be shown for three days before being



An audience member asked a question about information overload and

privacy statements: “I’m getting swamped” trying to read and understand

these things!

  • [Unknown]: Privacy policies are hard to understand because they aren’t written for you; they’re written by lawyers for lawyers.
  • Dyson: There are distinctions in privacy. Consider the privacy issues around the purchase of a sweater online:
    • They know I bought a pink sweater
    • Why are they sending me ads for blue sweaters?
    • They know my credit card number
  • Mixing up these distinctions makes the debate of privacy

Related Reading

Is eBay the future of internet politics?

It Happened to Me

Neither Did Sammy Davis Jr.

The scene: Monday morning at Canada Customs in Toronto’s Pearson International Airport. I have just stepped off my flight from Boston.

Me: Good morning.

Customs officer: Good Morning. Where are you coming from today?

Me: Boston.

Customs officer: And the reason for your trip to Boston?

Me: Visiting the fiancee and future in-laws.

Customs officer: Congratulations!

Me: Thank you.

Customs officer: I see you’ve declared $150 — are those gifts?

Me: Yes — they’re Chanukah presents.

Customs officer: (Does a double-take, looks at me again.)

Me: What, don’t I look Jewish?

Photo: Joey deVilla playing accordion.

It Happened to Me

Dad Update

Thanks to everyone who left a comment or emailed me about Dad’s being in the hospital. He’s doing much better now and he expects to be sent home from the hospital on Friday.

I was surprised at the number of folks who wrote in defense of People and US

magazines. I suppose that everyone’s got his or her own favourite brain candy. I’m no different: I

myself prefer comic books and have recently been enjoying the set of

old-school Dungeons and Dragons manuals that David “This Boy is Toast” Petite gave to me for my birthday.

When I visited Dad yesterday, he said to me: “I don’t really want

magazines. What I really want is some light entertainment on TV. I want

to watch Oprah and Dr. Phil.”

I sighed, pulled a twenty from my wallet and put in an order for an

in-room TV. Dad’s always been there for me, and if he’s bored stiff in

a hospital room and hankering for daytime TV, I’m going to make sure he

gets some.

I hope he at least tunes in to Law and Order at least once in a while.


Some Images, Once Seen, Cannot Be Unseen

If you’ve never seen the infamous “goatse” image (you’ll have to find it yourself, but it’s not too hard — the image is NOT work-safe!), consider yourself lucky. The rest of us are cursed to see the “goatse” image everywhere [main page is safe for work].

I now see it on the covers of magazines…

Photo: Time magazine showing two hands pulling apart the American flag.

…and books…

Photo: Cover of 'Building Accessible Websites'.

…and product packaging…

Photo: Glad bags packaging.

…and even Disney cartoons:

Anitmation: Disney cartoon showing Pluto flexing his butt prior to sitting on an egg in a henhouse.


What Can You Get a Wookie for Christmas?

Photo: Chewbacca sitting in an actors' chair between takes.

For your listening pleasure: a cute little Christmas ditty called What Can You Get a Wookie for Christmas? [4.7 MB MP3 file, included as enclosure with this entry.]