Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Network Politics 2008

I just did a quick comparison of Barack Obama's and Hillary Clinton's campaign websites along side the defending champion George W Bush's web presence. What a difference:

First Obama's whole index page fits on a singe screen, no scrolling needed. Then we have the dynamic network stuff; Facebook, Flickr, and YouTube all linked (no MySpace....is it a Murdoch bias??). There is also log in at MyBarackObama.com where profile, network, forums and blog server are available. There is also barackTV, packed with vids of Barack, his family and supporters. The code for videos is copyable so streams can be embedded in blogs and so forth. There is also the Obama blog linked from the campaign website, which is a group blog run by the "New Media team at Obama for America". The blog has links to much of the online content for media coverage the Obama campaign is getting.

Now to George:

Its an odd shape isn't it. The gold swirls, braid and stars mark it as very official (which I suppose it is), plus a third of it falls under the width of my browser window (bad design). Then there is a lot of links on the history of the White House, government policy and actions, 'A Video Tour of the White House by President Bush' ("The first thing I see in the morning is the sun shinning through these big windows. These windows are magnificent. They let in the sun light...") which is not possible to link to from outside of the web page, and links to media reports on Bush provide us with our content. The "Interact" possibilities are only two; Ask the White House: "online interactive forum, the first of its kind in politics, allows you to interact with Bush administration officials and friends of the White House." Well it seems like only selected people can ask the White House with nothing more controversial than; "I believe many Americans are still paying a lot of income tax". The other choice to "Interact" is "White House Interactive" which links to the same page as "Ask the White House". there is an RSS feed on the page, which is kinda progressive. Bush's website is the only site that is bilingual, with a Spanish version linked. I suspect this is more to do with government policy than anything else.

Finally Hillary:

It is the middle of the road style of the three I would say. It does fit on the screen in its entirety. It has some of the monologue staid functionality of the Bush site but it also leans towards some of the interactivity and social networking of the Obama site. This is typified by the Hillary Blog First Post Competition:

Soon we'll launch the official blog of HillaryClinton.com, a crucial part of our exciting national conversation about the direction of our country and the place to go to learn more about Hillary.

We know our readers are going to have a lot to say, so we want to give you the first word.

We're looking for your ideas on how we can work together for change. If you'd like to write the very first guest post on the HillaryClinton.com blog, submit your entry in the form below.

This is sort of halfway between what blogs are supposed to be and the rough realities of public opinion and politics. Clinton's site has no YouTube, Facebook or Flickr links. The blue frame is powdered, whereas it was solid and darker on the Obama site. Here we can "Join Team Hillary", become a "Hillraiser" by resgistering for an account and joining the community of supporters. Clinton's videos are mostly public speaking events with no code or blog embedding posssiblities.

It is interesting to look at the privacy policy from both Obama and Clinton as they are quite different. Clinton's states that:

On occasion, we may also use the information that you provide online to contact you for other purposes or to solicit you for contributions. When you register or sign-up online, we may share your contact information with successor organizations and other like-minded Democratic candidates and organizations, and they may contact you. When you make a contribution to us, we may also exchange your contributor information with successor organizations and other like-minded Democratic candidates and organizations, and they may solicit you (see below for additional information regarding your contributor information). However, we will not sell or exchange your credit card information to any other third party under any circumstances.

Obama's states:

It is our general policy not to make Personal Information available to anyone other than our employees, staff, and agents. We may also make personal information available to organizations with similar political viewpoints and objectives, in furtherance of our own political objectives.

While on first reading I got a more negative feeling from the Clinton site, the Obama statement seems to leave it all wide open to what may be done with any personal information. The Bush Privacy and Security Statement is not surprising; they gather information and if it is necessary they will disclose it.

I am reading Henry Jenkins, Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide (a review by Ravi Purushotma) which I think is an excellent book. In it Jenkins describes the 2004 presidential elections in the USA as a break through for media convergence in the contexts of politics and popular culture. I wonder how the lessons learnt from 2004 will be adapted in 2008. With each website already so different just between these three candidates, how public opinion comes to be built around each will be interesting indeed.

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