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Daily Digest: 8/22/07

BY Joshua Levy | Wednesday, August 22 2007

The Web on the Candidates

  • All hail the mighty WikiScanner! It continues to inspire fine citizen reporting. Today's piece comes from freelance writer Kirsten Anderson who, writing for Off The Bus, patiently describes the many editorial changes made to the candidates' Wikipedia entries on August 17th (though she doesn't name WikiScanner as a tool, it makes this kind of reporting infinitely easier). Anderson details edits, both big and small, made to the profiles for Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, John Edwards, and Barack Obama. While Anderson doesn't specify who made the changes, it's fair to say that edits are generally made by both the campaigns and citizens. It's yet another fascinating description of the fluid way in which "facts" are managed, edited, deleted, altered, and asserted in the online age.
  • In yesterday's LA Times, conservative commentator Jonah Goldberg attempts to poke a whole in the (straw-man) argument that liberals are "somehow uniquely suited to dominating the Web." As evidence he points to various quotes from the '90s that praise the online activism of conservatives. "The argument was that because the Liberal Industrial Complex maintained a stranglehold on the Old Media, conservatives had, with Ninja-like stealth, mastered the fledgling forms: direct-mail, talk radio, cable news and, now, Al Gore's newfangled invention, the Internet," Goldberg writes. Joe Trippi asserts that the open structure of the web is a priori more suited to the Dems (by the way, Trippi's trying to win an election and might not be making the most neutral of arguments). Goldberg's simple rebuke: the left is out of power and, like the conservatives of the '90s, it's been using alternative media to organize. Then there's this war thing, and a deeply unpopular president, which are contributing to a Democratic resurgence.
  • A new poll from Global Market Insite (GMI) presents some interesting numbers about the effect of social networking sites on political opinion. Seventeen-percent of the 2116 respondents have checked out at least one of the candidates' profiles on Facebook, MySpace, or another socnet (and 39% of 18-24-year-olds have). Out of those respondents who have viewed the candidates' profiles, 62% were over 30. If accurate, these results explode two myths: that young people online aren't interested in politics, and that only young people under 30 are on Facebook and MySpace.
  • Change.org, the social networking site that wants it to be easy to do good while you make friends online, released a quiz called Presidential Matchmaker that, like many other quizzes out there, will show you your ideal presidential candidate based on you political beliefs. You can then compare your results to your friends', and can invite more friends to try. It's a hook to get you to use Change.org. Whenever I take these quizzes my top two results are always the same. No, you can't know what my results are. Be my friend and maybe you can know.

The Candidates on the Web

  • Newt Gingrich -- who may or may not be thinking about the idea of possibly running for President one of these days perhaps in the future -- has launched a new site for a "unique non-partisan organization" thunderously called "American Solutions for Winning the Future." The idea is to "rise above traditional gridlocked partisanship, to provide real, significant solutions to the most important issues facing our country." Will Newt provide this solution? "Whether or not I might be a candidate for President is something we will address in September 2007 but the process of transformational change is far larger than any one candidacy and should be seen in that context," he says. The site, which is in "public beta" (seriously?) is apparently trying to appeal to techie youngsters. We know this because there's a period before every header, .like this. .Or this. I'm guessing part of the solution involves writing like everything .is .part .of .an .html .stylesheet. If so, .I'm in!
  • More campaign site weirdness from the candidates: last week techPresident's Alan Rosenblatt discovered the lack of an easy search function on the candidates' websites. Now, the Election Geek notices that only Bill Richardson's site makes it easy to login, which in turn lets you donate money, sign petitions, contribute to comments, or do anything else without having to type in your personal information every time. Every other candidate site, says Geek, presents a byzantine architecture that forces you to click around until you find the appropriate page (and alas, you can't search for it!). Not only does this function help folks navigate the sites, but it's good for the candidates too. "I just found it funny as this is one of the most basic things that appear on just about any commerce or social networking site," says the Geek. "The idea if you want people logged in so you can see what they are doing, present them with targeted information and keep better track of them to ensure they come back."