A little over a year ago I wrote a post that guessed which emerging technologies would have an impact on the 2008 election cycle. I figured I’d take a quick look back and grade my predictions, as well as list a few new technologies that have emerged since I last covered this ground.

Here are the grades I would give my predictions (original post is here for background):

(1) Ning (Niche Social Networks)

I’d give myself a C on this one. Many of the major Presidential candidates launched niche social networks on their campaign sites, hoping to encourage connections among volunteers. However, none of these niche networks really got that much traction except for Barack Obama’s. And no campaign used the specific service I recommended, Ning (which I think is still worth trying). Ron Paul supporters took the novel approach of trying to turn the entire Internet into a niche social network about Ron Paul, which is another thing entirely. I think there is still something to the idea of niche social networks around campaigns, but most of the action has been taking place on the more established networks (Facebook, MySpace, etc.).

obama (2) Mozes (Broadcast Text Messaging)

I’d go with a B for this one. The Obama campaign launched a quite aggressive text messaging effort where users are encouraged to text the message “Hope” to 62262 to subscribe to text alerts alerts. Other campaigns have experimented with similar programs. The Obama campaign program works pretty much the exact same way as I described in my post, but no one is using Mozes specifically. It is also really hard to measure the impact of these programs without getting access to subscriber figures.

(3) Twitter

I’ll go with an A- for this one. I think Twitter is significant not because campaign’s are using it effectively (they are), but because regular citizens are using it as a platform for real time conversations and back channel communication (to urge action, arrange to meet up, alert others about breaking news, etc.). The service went down due to the volume of usage during the 2008 State of the Union. The Sarah Lacy/Mark Zuckerberg fiasco showed how Twitter can turn an audience into active participants in a conference/event. I think Twitter could have a huge impact during the conventions and on election day (hat tip to Steve Gillmor for the convention thought), as people use it to report in real time on what they see. Twitter is changing a lot of things for a lot of people, and I think that change in behavior will somehow have an impact in November.

(4) NowPublic (Networked Journalism Websites)

I’ll go with a C on this one. Sites like NowPublic and the Huffington Posts’s Off the Bus (one might put TechPresident in this category as well) are providing interesting coverage of the 2008 elections, but to my knowledge these networked journalism sites haven’t really broken any huge news or changed the game. We’ll see what happens in the next few months.

(5) MyBlogLog (Social Networking Around Blogs)

I get a clear F here. No campaigns are using MyBlogLog to my knowledge and I haven’t heard of it being used for political purposes really at all. At this point, I think MyBlogLog is a vaguely interesting but ultimately shallow service that will have absolutely no impact on the 2008 cycle.

In terms of additional technologies to look at that I didn’t mention in the original post, I’d list the following:

(1) Online Organizing Tools (Wikis, Central Desktop, etc.)

Check out what Obama supporters did in Texas using Central Desktop. Very impressive. I think we’ll see more instances of volunteers using these readily available collaboration tools to organize and take action.

(2) Live Video Broadcasting (Yahoo Live!, Ustream, Qik, etc.)

These services allow users to stream live video (with audio/video) onto the Internet easily from a cell phone and/or computer. These new services now also include built in chat software that allows viewers to interact with the broadcaster. They are sort of mobile versions of the old webcams. I could see campaigns using these services to broadcast events (as has been done already) and citizens using these tools to break news.

What technologies did I miss? How would you grade differently?

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.