Obama campaign unveils online tool to help canvass neighbors

Provides list of undecided voters and tools to update progress on campaign Web site

Barack Obama's campaign has rolled out a new online voter contact tool aimed at providing supporters with a virtual peek into the campaign's voter registration database.

The tool called, Neighbor-to-Neighbor, provides users with the names and addresses of neighbors that the campaign has targeted as undecided voters. The tool provides a script for users to jumpstart conversations with neighbors on the list, a customized flyer for distribution, an online interface to report on the results of their outreach efforts and support and training, the campaign's Web site noted.

"You can go door-to-door or make calls at any time that's convenient for you," the campaign Web site notes. "There's no one who knows your community better than you do, so help us build support for Barack Obama and this movement for change by beginning in your own neighborhood."

Indeed, this reporter received a list of 25 names and addresses of undecided voters within less than a mile of her home address when testing the tool. The tool advised that those names would not been assigned to anyone else for canvassing and asked for an online progress report of the neighborhood canvassing.

Nancy Scola, a blogger at TechPresident, projected that the tool could be an "under-the-radar killer app" in the waning days of the election.

"The personal over-the-back-fence approach was one that reaped dividends for the Bush-Cheney campaigns of both '00 and '04," she noted. "Campaigns have dabbled before in putting walk lists and contact response forms online before, but in scale and ambition Neighbor-to-Neighbor is singular. It remains to be seen, though, if my neighbor Sally isn't a bit freaked out that I found out on the Internet that she's female, 47, and still on the fence about who to vote for."

Julie Barko Germany, director of the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet at George Washington University, said that the tool is a new twist on the old tactics of handing out neighborhood walk lists or just sending a volunteer or campaign representative into a neighborhood to talk to voters.

"I remember seeing a Web site for the state Republican party in Michigan or Minnesota in which members could log in, retrieve the names of a few people in the neighborhoods, figure out who they were voting for, and report back into the site," she added. "It's crowd sourcing the data gathering process. While the tactic is old, the tools are new."

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Heather Havenstein

Computerworld

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