Election campaigns 2.0

Web applications are being customized for politicians and voters as campaigns go online

Political campaigns have discovered the World Wide Web with a vengeance in the 2008 election cycle, and the Web is responding with tools and applications geared to the needs of political campaigns.

The Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which has sponsored debates between major party candidates in every election since 1988, has partnered with the MySpace.com social networking site to create MyDebates.org. This year it will stream live debate video to the site, where users will have access to a suite of interactive applications.

On the campaign side, the San Francisco-based content management company Quantum Art Inc. is offering a turnkey Web site solution for political organizations that want to rapidly launch sites for this year's election season. The software-as-a-service subscription offering is intended to allow quick turnaround on site development without capital costs.

CPD, a bipartisan not-for-profit organization, will host three debates by presidential candidates this year, beginning on Sept. 26, along with one vice presidential debate. This will be the first year that debates will be streamed live to a Web site as well as be covered by TV outlets. As the candidates are speaking, icons identifying relevant issues will appear on the MyDebates.org site. Users will be polled throughout the debates, with results available following the debate. MyDebates.org polling data also will be made available to news organizations. Searchable debate videos will be archived on the site, tagged by event, candidate, issues, and questions asked of the candidates.

'The CPD believes that the Internet can be used to personalize the debates in a way that allows for in-depth examination by individual citizens and joint discussion with others,' said CPD executive director Janet Brown.

MyDebates.org also provides a tool for users to rank themselves on major campaign issues and compare their stances with those of the candidates and other users. It also will let users track a candidate's stance on issues throughout the campaign.

For campaigns that want to launch their own Web sites, there is Quantum Art Subscribe: Campaign, a software-as-a-service offering available by subscription and geared toward political campaign needs. It runs on Quantum Art servers and is maintained by the company. Quantum Art also supplies the content management tools and hosts the sites. Because it is hosted, users do not have to invest in hardware and software to establish a Web site.

The tools are optimized for the specific needs of political campaigns, which typically include registering members and creating member profiles, receiving campaign contributions, conducting membership polls, posting event calendars, publishing articles and issues papers and hosting discussion boards.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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