I’ve just arrived in Charlotte for the Democratic National Convention. I’ll be here throughout the week reporting on tech stories related to the convention, the election campaign, and anyone who talks to an empty chair on stage.
By necessity, I’ll be doing this a bit gonzo style (trade the napkins for an iPhone and a Macbook, but keep the booze), chiefly because I don’t have media credentials for the actual thing in the stadium where suits spend all day waving signs, cheering, and chanting at each other for scripted paeans to their own political pomposity.
As all 24 minutes of my convention-covering experience tells me, these things aren’t really so much about what you see on television, anyway. Well, of course that’s what matters most for the politicians and the parties, who rely on the big stage and TV spotlight for an important chance to tell the public that the opposition candidate is not fit for office, tighty whities, or a job at Applebee’s. But for everyone else, the real action happens outside the stadium, at events and parties around town, where the politically inclined get to celebrate, for once, being the cool kids on campus. That, as you can guess, means flesh pressing, ethanol imbibing, and discussing “issues” with furrowed brows. There’ll even be panels.
In other words, the Democratic National Convention is South By Southwest for khakis.
So, why am I here when I wasn’t at last week’s Republican convention? Two reasons: mildly wilder parties, and Tampa. I live in Baltimore. From there, Charlotte is doable. But Florida? Well, I just got back from China and I was in no mood to haul ass to the Sunshine State to breakdance with Newt Gingrich. This time.
My preference for the DNC, in other words, is not political. And actually, coming here was a last-minute decision. I know you like to think that PandoDaily’s political coverage is super coordinated, but we’re a startup and we’re trying to cover a hundred things at once. It was only as the convention got ever closer that I realized how big a role tech would be playing here.
Many of the major tech and social media companies have a strong presence in Charlotte this week, including Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and Tumblr. They’ll be throwing parties and engaging in outreach efforts, including teaching politicos how to instal MS-DOS.
Startups will also play a big part. Tonight, I’ll be checking out The Roots and the punctuationally challenged will.i.am at a show put on by HyperVocal, Fighter Interactive, and EventFarm, in conjunction with Startup America. The party kicks off a week of events called StartUp RockOn, which includes a panel series that will focus on topics such as governments and startups, innovation in journalism, and innovation in gaming. (I’ve heard the Dems want to bring back joysticks.)
Outside of the organized events, it has already become obvious just how central a role social media and mobile apps will have throughout the convention. The my2012charlotte iPhone app will be my guide to all events, news, and city information this week. Funnily enough, all its restaurants and nightlife information is provided by Yelp, but with a Democratic-oriented interface (ie, it’s blue). To me that suggests one thing: the app-makers assume that most politicians don’t know what Yelp is. It also comes with a pre-hashtagged Twitter stream (#dnc2012).
I, like many others, have also signed up for daily emails from DemList, and I’m following its Twitter and Facebook accounts. Most of the TV stations, as well as others such as Politico, will be live-streaming coverage of the convention and related commentary, just as they were at the RNC. And CNN and Time have co-launched an app, Convention Floor Pass, that features breaking news, alerts, and daily analysis.
It is, as you can tell, all very digital-y. In fact, this must be the most digital-y convention ever, shattering last week’s record set by the Republicans. (I’m making this assumption on the basis that the Dems have more young tikes who understand the Twitters.)
We saw at the RNC just how big a deal social media was in amplifying and fact-checking the messages of Romney, Ryan, Eastwood, and company. This week we’ll find out if the Dems can turn the Internet to their advantage. A good way to start? Well, how about getting Betty White to introduce the President?