Getting Political on the Web

Still undecided? You can take the Obama v. Romney app quiz to see whom you lean toward.

Still undecided? You can take the Obama v. Romney app quiz to see whom you lean toward. Courtesy JOnaApps.com

With the RNC's convention just over and the DNC's rolling on as we go to press, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at where the campaigns are with their technology and offer up the websites and apps (in addition to jfp.ms, naturally) that you'll need to track this crazy election to its conclusion in November.

As Michael Douglas' character said in "The American President," the White House offers the world's best home-field advantage. So, it should surprise no one that the White House has rolled out a new Web design this week, complete with apps for iPhone and Android. The site and apps offer photos, blog entries, and news from the administration, and video, including the ability to watch live video in the form of press briefings and official White House events (as opposed to campaign stops).

Even if you're not a fan of this president (perhaps, especially if you're not), I challenge you to check out today's White House site; there's actually some good information available from the administration, including reports on cost savings in the government, information about their online petitions (the "We The People" petitions let people send their opinions in electronically) and access to the visitor records that the White House posts online.

And, yes, you can get the beer recipes. Just visit WH.gov on the device of your choice.

The campaigns, of course, have their own websites--barackobama.com and mittromney.com--as well as apps. The Obama site is slicker, uses more video (and of younger people, ahem) and offers a bit more of Web 2.0 design; both sites provide opportunities to donate and participate in call banks. Romney's site isn't that far away from an off-the-shelf WordPress theme (and some UI questions, like arrows on menu items that don't have submenus), and it does have some tech issues. It couldn't hold my login information from page-to-page--it welcomed me at the home page and then needed me to log in again to see my fundraising goals.

Once you're logged into either site, you'll get plenty of opportunities to donate money. As mentioned, Romney offers you the opportunity to "fundraise" (you log in, complete your MyMitt account registration and set up a fundraising page that you can invite people to). Obama encourages you to "host an event" or start "grassroots fundraising" with personal fundraising pages and goals. You can find local events from each site, sign up for email updates and tweet to your heart's content.

On the app front, again, Obama's is slicker, with a clean, modern design and more of an "app" feel to it, while Romney's feels a little more like a mobile website, with less interaction. To Romney's credit, the mobile app has more on the "issues" than we hear in mainstream media, including his position on issues such as how to tackle Africa's challenges and his opinions on worker training and "human capital." Obama's app is not as detailed on the issues, and (either cleverly or cynically, depending on your point of view) breaks each issue into multiple "tweet-able" paragraphs, complete with the tools to actually Tweet them. (Tweet-bites, anyone?)

There are, of course, plenty of places on the Web to find political discourse, but the one that really stands out if you're talking about where the race stands today is Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight.com, which is now a blog at the New York Times. There you'll find remarkable insight into polls, demographics, the electoral college and--barring overt voter suppression or hanging-chad-like disasters--you'll probably know who is likely to win the election before Wolfe Blitzer does.

The New York Times also has an app called "Election 2012" that offers access to FiveThirtyEight and much more, although you'll run into the Times paywall pretty quickly if you don't have a subscription.

Still an undecided voter? You might try the Obama v. Romney app by JonaApps (jonaapps.com) that offers a quiz to help you figure out which of the candidates you're closer to by answering some simple yes-or-no questions. Nuanced, it's not, but it has some fun audio and animation, and it is free (with, of course, in-app purchases). iPhone, Android and iPad versions are available.

And finally, whatever your political leanings, you might gain some comfort--or amusement--by hearing the dulcet sounds of Obama's measured Chicago accent speaking whatever words you'd like them to in the iSpeech Obama app (ispeech.org/apps/obama). Whatever you type, he'll say, on Blackberry, iOS or Android.

Plus, for old time's sake, there's an iSpeech Bush, too. Don't misunderestimate that one.


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