In Wiki-Politics, Ron Paul Leads the Field

October 1, 2007

In Wiki-Politics, Ron Paul Leads the Field

Written by Matt Pace (e-mail) — August 30th, 2007 | Listen | EMail This Post

At this time during the run up to the last presidential election, Wikipedia was in its infancy. In July of 2003, the online encyclopedia attracted less than half a million US visitors. Fast forward four years. In July of 2007 over 41 million people, or 1 in 4 people online in the US, visited the site. Wikipedia is now the 12th most visited website and is likely to play a significant role in informing and influencing those who will choose our next president.

All of the candidates have exhaustive articles dedicated to them on Wikipedia that offer in-depth biographical information and near-real time updates on the ups and downs of their campaigns. As anyone (including supporters and detractors) can edit the information, Wikipedia provides a counterweight to the carefully scripted information released on the candidates’ official websites.

The table below compares the activity on each candidate’s Wikipedia articles in July in terms of total readers, time spent on the article (reading, commenting, editing, etc.) and their share of all time spent across all of these articles. Finally, the table compares the overlap between a candidate’s Wikipedia readership and their official website traffic. For example, in July, 42% of the people who read Ron Paul’s Wikipedia article also visited RonPaul2008.com.

Rankings across these metrics were then averaged. Who comes out on top? The results might come as a surprise to those accustomed to seeing the party front runners capturing all of the headlines.

Observations:

  • Lesser known, grass-roots supported candidates, such as Ron Paul, fare particularly well in this comparison. Although trailing rivals in national polls, Paul attracts a sizable following on Wikipedia. In July his article was second only to Barack Obama’s in terms of readership, but accounted for nearly a quarter of all time spent across all of the candidates’ articles. This certainly speaks to the avid devotion of Paul’s supporters (online in particular).
  • Household names such as Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani trail rivals in this comparison. The modest interest seen in their Wikipedia articles could be a result of the public’s general familiarity with candidates whose lives of late have played out on the public stage.
  • The front runners from both parties appear to capture a wider range of readership (not just supporters) than the 2nd tier candidates, given the low levels of campaign site visitation among their Wikipedia article readers.
  • Fred Thompson attracted considerably more Wikipedia interest than his leading Republican rivals in July, not surprising given the uncertainty surrounding his entry into the race and his party’s continued search for favorite candidate.

A touching first hand account of the Ron Paul rally in New Hampshire

October 1, 2007

Greetings From New Hampshire

 

Hi folks. I’m writing this from a hotel room in Manchester, New Hampshire.

Me and my Pittsburgh companion drove for hours and hours (it ended up being like 12 and a half, accounting for traffic in New York), and mostly didn’t sleep last night, but we weren’t the only ones arriving in the wee hours (we checked in at 2).

The rally this morning was scheduled for 9:30. My purpose there was a bit different; we had talked to the New Hampshire folks (who are, by the way, really really impressive as a volunteer organization) and organized beforehand that we were to set up shop selling T-shirts near the back of the crowd, the finances of which is ultimately going to underwrite us bussing in Pennsylvanians (and whoever we pick up along the way) to New Hampshire the week of the primary, which has sort of been the long-term plan of our own local Meetups (we do PA work too, obviously, but our brass ring is getting a few hundred foot soldiers for New Hampshire). So, we set up our little table next to a very nice New Hampshire family selling shirts and schwag for the local group specifically at about 8.

The rally was in Veteran’s Park in Manchester (I’m staying in a hotel across the street), which is a very nice place. It was only a rally in the strictest sense; the actual event (which I linked in my last post, scroll down), was to walk New Hampshire with Paul and his family (a whole slew of grandkids and nieces and nephews were there). It was a speech at 9:30 followed by an extremely well organized system wherein all the rally-goers were registered, given instructions and training, and sent to the three major cities in New Hampshire (which contain 70% of the population) in small groups. It was, in essence, a working rally.

So, the point of the rally wasn’t just to get as many people as possible to hear Dr. Paul speak, but to get several hundred people to come out, get pumped, and hit the pavement, knocking on doors across New Hampshire.

By 9, the park was still pretty spare. Only a few dozen hardcore supporters. But by the time Ron got up to the stage at 10, there were several hundred people there (if you want more specific coverage, over at Lew Rockwell he’s posted some dispatches and a link to a Boston Globe online story that ridiculously guesstimates “250″, a figure I can’t even understand how the reporter arrived at unless he left at 9:15. By 930, there were several hundred people, and Rand Paul (oldest grandson), took the stage and killed (bonus: we actually have three GENERATIONS of Pauls, and I’ve personally met and spoken with a dozen of them, and they are to a person excellent human beings; clean cut, all-American, sharp, dedicated, the exact opposite of wild-eyed crazy Libertarians (not that there’s anything wrong with that)).

I only got to hear bits and pieces of Dr. Paul’s speech, as I was selling T-shirts. But, go read my funhogs post. It was the same thing. The park just seemed to sprout, at 930 on the dot, a crowd of several hundred people, of all kinds. Homemade shirts, young and old, crazy and knock-you-on-your-ass sane, people waving “Don’t Tread on Me” flags, a guy dressed up as a Founding Father with a billboard popping out of his back, some guys with a liberty bell, families, free staters, the whole shebang. If you’ve been to a Ron Paul rally, you know the drill. If not, what are you waiting for?

The speech was vintage Paul.

My favorite part: at one point Ron said “Listen, there are a lot of people out there who think ‘if you can’t convince 51% of people, this election, that you’re right, what’s the point?” But that’s not what Ron’s interested in. He said that during the times in American history that have mattered, everything started at 4%. During the founding of our republic, there were only 4% or so of Americans who really understood what was going on, who really grasped everything. “You guys, you’re that 4%”. He essentially said “look, I don’t care if I can win. That’d be great, but I’m not in this for 51% or nothing. What we’re here for is to POPULARIZE this message. And that’s exactly what we’re doing. And I’ve been a skeptic, in spite of myself, for many years, that it was just too uphill a battle, that I was swinging at windmills. But I’m a skeptic no longer.” It was both a moving story, an inspiring message, and a perfect answer to the “you’re throwing your vote away on a fringe candidate!” folks. He talked about how, at this moment in history, we’re doing something. It may be limited by circumstances beyond our control, it may not ultimately win (it can, of course), but it’s important, and we’re doing it. We’re already doing it. And if it ended tomorrow, we should be immeasurably proud of what we’ve accomplished already. Sometimes, it’s the other way around. Sometimes they really are giants, disguised as windmills. Sometimes, they need to be swung at.

When the rally broke up, several hundred people hit the registration table, and were disseminated across New Hampshire.

But, I want to share a little story.

During the rally, our work had tapered off as people listened to Ron’s speech. The crowd had mostly all massed together tightly in front of the stage (it was a big park, which we covered about half of). The density was tighter the closer to the stage you got, of course, and around the outer perimeter where curious people who had wandered in off the street, people with very young children, us, that sort of thing.

There was this one guy, very unassuming, not wearing any campaign gear, just kind of hanging back and listening and scanning the crowd. My partner thought he was kind of sketchy; I just thought he was taking in the scene. But, he was only half-listening to the speech (as was I, being otherwise occupied).

A lot of people had brought their entire families to the rally, so there were a lot of young kids running through the crowd here and there, small packs of them playing off to the side, or hanging on their parents in the knot of people. There were a fair few of them, scattered around. It was a very family-friendly event.

So, this guy sort of moseys over to our table, asks how much our shirts are. We tell him, chat briefly, he kind of nods and moseys off, checks out the crowd some more.

He comes back and starts counting out a shitload of money. Quietly, he says simply “Listen, how about I buy as many T-shirts as I can, and you get a couple of these guys (there were a few milling around near our table) to pass them out to every kid they can.”

He had no interest in this being anything more than anonymous, but he essentially bought every kid in the crowd (50 or so) free T-shirts, to be handed out anonymously while Dr. Paul as speaking. He laid out the cash, we gave him as good a deal as we could (obviously; essentially 10 free), and a couple of 10-year-old boys took the smallest sizes we had, and saw that every single child in the park got one, refusing money from the parents.

I was fairly moved by that, and I talked to the guy. He obviously wasn’t interested in having it be anything but anonymous, but he said he had already maxed out his campaign donations to the Paul campaign, so he saw this as sort of a way to keep giving. He gave us the money, and sort of moseyed off. After 15 minutes, when the kids in the crowd were almost all wearing Paul shirts, he kind of disappeared into the morning.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about that all day, and thought I’d share. This campaign is really restoring a lot of my faith in humanity. As I said, the rally broke up, we made a good chunk of change with which to help New Hampshire in the week leading up to their actual primary, and hundreds and hundreds of Paul supporters walked the state. Now, I’m cleaning myself up, and my partner and I are going to go barhop with the New York City group (who brought up 22 or so). Back to Pittsburgh tomorrow.

It’s been a fun day. Even not being a part of the core throng, it was hard not being a little inspired and moved, in spite of myself.

Ron’s at 940,000 in his pledge campaign, which ends tomorrow at Midnight.

I’ll be back at around the same time.