An informal analysis of the presidential candidates’ websites shows some promising developments for participatory media. John Edwards launched his presidential campaign in Second Life. Barack Obama’s campaign has created my.barackobama.com, a community for supporters who are encouraged to build profiles, network, organize events, even create their own blogs, all under the tagline “This Campaign Is About You.” Mitt Romney’s team has a page linking to (friendly) blog posts. Hillary Clinton’s site has a blog placeholder, but her campaign team clearly misses the point regarding user-generated content. From her blog page:
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. And if you already have your own blog or other website, please post your entry there and let us know about it. We’ll select one entry as the first guest post on our blog.
They were doing fine until that last sentence – “we will select one entry as the first guest post on our blog.” The Clinton and Romney sites raise a key point about the campaigns’ embrace of social media – will they allow both sides of a debate to be heard? My guess is they won’t; politicos are the ultimate spin masters, and I can’t imagine their handlers will let unfettered commentary flow through the blogs and other online forums they are hosting. I’m sure we’ll see plenty of plaudits for each candidate’s qualifications, but not much debate. Which, of course, defeats the purpose.