Monday, April 10, 2006

Campaign Web Sites

I’ve mentioned this before: Ten years ago a small group of political junkies organized a political web project called “Election ’96.” It was sponsored by Bob Cauthorn, then the head of StarNet.

The idea was to provide a spot where local candidates could debate with one another, answer questions put to them by their future constituents, publish their platforms and programs, and raise money. This small group of political naives included a couple of Democrats, a pair of Republicans, a Libertarian and two computer wizards with anarchic tendencies.

We helped any candidate of any party who wanted to come and participate.

We had this great idea that the site would open up the political process. We thought the pols would love it. Not only were we ahead of the curve, there wasn’t even a curve. Basically we gave a party and no one came.

The idea that the pols might actually have to interface with the voters was fairly scary.

Now ten years later everyone has a campaign web site, but they are essentially one-way sites. They tell you how happy the candidate would be to hear from you, and it is simplicity itself to donate money, but there is no place to publicly ask a question and read a candidate’s reply. There is no forum in which the candidates debate, or simply discuss the issues of the day with one another.

Dean is still the only candidate who really mastered the use of the web. The long open threads were a place where supporters could be heard and criticisms of the campaign voiced.

If Latas, Giffords, and Weiss opened up their web pages, and publicly responded to complaints, criticisms, and objections by their fellow candidates and their constituents it would radically democratize the process of running or office. It would also significantly reduce the cost of running for office.

But don't hold your breath.


George Tuttle said...

Art I kind of agree with you there; but I also must add if a candidate would put their stands on issues on their webpage perhaps we would et a better idea on how they would vote.

x4mr said...

Very interesting, but two issues come to mind that get in the way.

First, cannot speak to the Dean thing, but if you visit the campaign offices of these CD8 candidates, you will not find the labor necessary to support such an interactive site. They have people going full bore just to get done what needs done.

Second is the game theory aspect of these sites, which is that some of the most interested visitors are in fact opponents seeking useful material.

Publishing volumes of interaction that will be scrutinized by trained political assassins is risky indeed. Can be done, but TIME CONSUMING.

This being said, probably safe to say that the websites of the candidates in 2016 election will have content we can't even begin to imagine.

x4mr said...

Latas posted tv ads today on dailykos with voting functionality.

People are voting on which of three ads they like the most, and as of this posting, over 130 votes were cast.

Have to ask: Who is casting the votes?