Obama transforms Web-based politics

US President-elect Barack Obama showed other politicians how to harness the power of the Web in 2008.

US President-elect Barack Obama showed other politicians how to harness the power of the Web in 2008, bringing political campaigns kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

Obama went beyond the somewhat static Web pages of most past campaigns, by tapping the power of Web 2.0 tools including Facebook, YouTube, blogs and discussion boards, to create a conversation with potential voters. Republican opponent John McCain used some of the same strategies, but many Internet experts saw the Obama campaign as the ultimate example of a politician embracing the Web.

"Obama's campaign created the textbook of how to do online campaigning," said Alexis Rice, creator of CampaignsOnline.org and a fellow at the Center for the Study of American Government at Johns Hopkins University. "Every campaign, from now on -- Republican, Democrat, independent, local level, national level, state level, will look to the Obama campaign as a model of how to do it right."

Some dissenters say that McCain and fellow Republicans made use of many of the same social-networking tools, but Obama may have gotten more credit because young voters attracted to him were predisposed to using Web 2.0 applications.

Others suggested that Obama's use of Web tools during the campaign may have been groundbreaking for politics, but his campaign made use of Internet tools that have largely been around for years.

"I am actually rather annoyed with the rosy press that the Obama campaign's technology use has gotten so far, because it is vastly underselling the full potential of Web technology for the federal government," Chris Townsend, an innovation management analyst at Forrester Research, said in an e-mail.

"Thus far, Obama's superb use of social technologies has been limited to marketing uses. But to really make an impact as a leader (rather than a campaigner), it is absolutely critical that Obama extends his use of the Web into operations."

Obama has talked more about innovation policy than creating an innovative government, Townsend added.

Still, the Obama campaign used a variety of Web tools to interact with potential voters. The campaign sent out announcements and alerts through Twitter and text messages. Blogs on the campaign's Web site encouraged debate. Obama's people posted dozens of videos on YouTube, with viewers able to comment on them.

Then there was the online fundraising. Obama raised close to US$750 million during his campaign, with more than $500 million raised online. Obama's campaign sent e-mail messages asking for donations as small as $5, and the average online donation was around $80, according to news reports.

The next step, as Townsend and others said, is for Obama to use Web 2.0 tools to transform government, not just campaigns. That's a more difficult proposition, several Web experts said.

Many US agencies don't have the resources or the ambition to open up a two-way conversation with constituents, said Maura Corbett, a partner in Qorvis Communications, a Washington, DC, public relations agency with several tech clients. The Obama administration "can't empower citizens to participate if their own agencies don't," she said. "That's the harder job. You can have the best plan for open government and communication, but most federal agencies don't have the tools to do it."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?