Aug 20, 2010

Aussie election goes social - but still isn't interesting

Australians are getting ready to go to the polls to decide who gets to call the shots for the next few years.

In the past few weeks we've been bombarded with political ads and the requisite debates by what has to be the dryest, stiffest and most boring set of politicians I've ever heard.  (I thank the powers that be that Gruen Nation keeps us awake throughout the process).

This time around, both major parties have taken a leaf out of the Obama campaign book and embraced social networking as part of the campaign strategy, so I thought I'd take a quick look at what they've done.

The incumbent ALP has integrated a custom built platform into its website that provides a range of tools to help visitors rank, comment and share information throughout the site.  However, there is a lack of ability to be able to share any content directly from the home page as we'd normally expect.

The Labor Connect feature is a walled community (built by a social networking software provider, Community Engine) where you can form groups, connect with local representatives and chat to other community members.  It doesn't seem to enable connectivity to other networks such as Facebook.  The things that I don't like about this feature is that it firstly keeps the community locked away and in doing so, puts up a barrier to participation - why do users have to register and provide so much information just to collaborate?  Annoying.

The Liberal Party site has a very similar approach minus the 'Connect' type tool.  In what I think is a  slightly more subtle implementation of social tools, their site keeps all the collaboration on the top layer and not hidden away in a private network.  They connect with Facebook well and unlike their opponents, have the ubiquitous 'Like' button.  It also has a cleaner feel and appears a little less cluttered.  A reflection of their policies perhaps?  Who am I to say?

I think at the end of the day, even though the ALP has put in place what is probably a first in Australian politics with their custom community feature - my vote goes to the Liberals and their softer, more familiar and more accessible implementation.

Remember kids, there's nothing social in a walled community.