Social Software '08

Howard Dean showed during his ’04 presidential campaign just how much influence grassroots networking can have on national politics, and early ’08 wannabes are following his lead. Sort of. Most of the big names (notable exclusions include Rudy Giuliani) have some kind of social media/software integrated into their campaign websites, but it all seems vaguely half-hearted. For example:

  • Barack Obama has a “group staff” blog on the front page of his site which he doesn’t contribute to, directly or indirectly. His site -does- have a community section, which you can’t access without registering an account. That’s a dealbreaker for me. I do, however, get a kick out of some of the groups on his site: Information Technology Professionals for Obama (made up of “IT professional[s] who are excited about Barrack [sic] Obama’s pledge to build the next interstate system of broadband connectivity”), “The Secret” Believers for President Obama, the Obama Book Club, and my personal favorite: Batman Loves Obama.
  • Mitt Romney has his own streaming video channel – Mitt TV – made up of short clips of his public appearances. All in all, there’s not much more info than one might get watching cable news channels … but he does get points for including recent blog entries in his news links.
  • John Edwards: I don’t even know where to begin. You can check out the exhausting exhaustive list of what he calls “Media 2.0” networks for yourself.
  • John McCain apparently considers three linked images a blog, is calling his grassroots campaign area “McCainSpace,” and plans to respond to policy questions via YouTube. Because YouTube viewers want talking heads.

I’m disappointed. Finances can make or break a campaign, most of which are chock-full of workers / volunteers who are young and technologically-savvy, and who could really put this stuff to use. So, why wouldn’t candidates jump at the opportunity? ‘Splain me, somebody. Is there a reason other than fear?

Ryan has been proudly maintaining and contributing to Language Lab Unleashed since 2005, and is the current President of SWALLT. Since the summer of 2013 he's been causing trouble with his all-star colleagues in the UMW DTLT; when not wrangling websites Ryan can be found doing strange things with heavy objects.

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  1. Laura · March 15, 2007 Reply

    John Edwards does have a Twitter account. Which I think is kind of funny.

  2. Ryan · March 15, 2007 Reply

    Me too – finding his Twitter account was actually what led me to post in the first place! His campaign is blitzing networks with information they can control rather than waiting for pro-Edwards (and anti-Edwards!) groups to build on their own. Kudos to him for taking an active approach … but it’s complete overkill, and it still smells like fear.

  3. Chris · March 15, 2007 Reply

    NPR’s Morning Edition did a bit this morning on candidates using social networking sites. They were pretty complimentary about Edwards’ virtual reality world, chat rooms, etc. all designed by those young tech-savvy folk you mention. What more do you want him to be doing? And what does fear smell like? I guess I buy your argument for some of these candidates, but not Edwards.

  4. Ryan · March 15, 2007 Reply


    Thanks for the link! A fantastic quote from the piece:

    Candidates need to stop looking at this technology as a one-way system […] another way, another channel of broadcasting a message.

    Notice in the blurb from the Edwards Second Life volunteer, he points out the trail you can follow to learn more about John Edwards and “the issues that are important to him.” That’s great – but what about finding out what issues are important to the voters? Does the campaign have a way to accept and document feedback from SL visitors, or are the SL volunteers just running interference?

    Indeed, Robert Smith was complimentary of the way that the Edwards and Obama campaigns have created spaces (“virtual clubhouses”) for supporters to chat with each other about issues, coordinate volunteers, and advertise events, and I agree – it’s better to have something than to have nothing. But there’s still a one-way flow of information unless the voices of supporters (and non-supporters!) are actually making it to the candidate.

    What more would I have Edwards do? I wouldn’t; I’d have him do less. He’s making himself so available on so many fronts that he can’t possibly keep up with it all, and it seems insincere. My argument is that social software should be used in proper quantity (not too little, not too much) and, most importantly, for the right reasons (not just to get email addresses but to actually connect with more people). As for fear: I can’t define it, but I know it when I smell it. 😉

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