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I’m off to the convention this afternoon. Sort of. I mean, I won’t actually be attending the convention itself. Fired Up got the credentials for a state blog from Missouri (only one blog per state got them).

It’s OK with me, though, that I won’t be on the convention floor. If I were, I could listen to the same speeches you can hear on TV. What I’ll do instead is have breakfast each day with the members of the Missouri caucus at their hotel, see what sort of insights and news I can pick up there. Then I’ll go to the Big Tent, a two story tent that’s been erected three blocks from the Pepsi Center, which is where the convention is being held. The Big Tent literally is a tent, but an exceptionally strong one, with AC.

The Big Tent is for bloggers, and I think that’s where it’ll be happenin’. Bloggers do more than cover the stories. They’re coming to wield some power by shaping opinions, and because of that they are part of the story. We’ve been told that members of the traditional media will be coming to the tent to cover that aspect of the campaign.

Not that I figure I wield much more influence than a minnow in Lake Erie, but you take a few thousand of us minnows, feed us regularly, and we start to have some heft.

Anyway, there are a couple of reasons I want to hang out at the Big Tent. The first is that I scored a pass to the private area, the second floor, which is work space for bloggers–with WiFi and, I hope, some semblance of quiet. Not library type quiet, of course, because it’s Bloggerville and people will be networking, trading tips and war stories, chit chatting, and venting.  

But more important than the work space is the panels that will be going on, one or two at a time all day long on the floor that is open to the public. The moderators and panelists will be people with national reputations. For example, one of the Monday panels will be “Revolution in Jesusland: the New Evangelical Politics”, conducted by Zack Exley:

Zack Exley is a strategic consultant with ThoughtWorks, Inc., where he advises organizations on communications, organizing and technology. He is also a co-founder of the New Organizing Institute. In 2005, he directed the online campaign for the British Labor Party’s re-election, and was Director of Online Organizing and Communications for John Kerry’s presidential campaign. Before that, he served as Organizing Director at MoveOn.org, and was an adviser to the early Dean campaign.

Zack spent the 90’s working as a union organizer. He entered Internet politics via his political parody website GWBush.com, which earned him the nickname “Garbage Man” from President Bush, as well as other early experiments in online organizing. He blogs at the Huffington Post about politics. And he writes the blog RevolutionInJesusland.com about the rise of progressive evangelical Christians in America.

Another panel, moderated by Thom Hartmann and featuring Paul Krugman, Arianna Huffington, John Podesta, and David Sirota, will be on the topic: “The Contest: Progressives vs. Conservatives”.

Those are just two of eighteen panels–on Monday alone. Even if I could find someone to sleep for me, I couldn’t attend, much less write about all of them. But I’ll do my best to pass along some worthwhile gleanings. Check in here next week to find out what I learned.