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Electoral College

Nonprofit tech is great, but something about elections -- prodigious treasuries, definite deadlines, winner-take-all stakes, tens of thousands of contests (with seemingly limitless external meddlers) to serve as laboratories -- concentrates inklings into forward lurches.

With the last week of desperate ad-buying, get-out-the-voting, suppress-the-voting, October-surprising, poll-circulating, bobblehead-gabbing, white-knuckle-clenching, Internet-flaming upon us, herewith a Cliff's notes of the cycle's noteworthy tech trends.

(I'm going to elide fundraising here, as it's been pretty well established that netizens can ring the register.)

Social networking made the banner headlines. Many a pol's MySpace page was, like Weird Al's, all totally pimped out, and the Murdoch-owned site turned to voter registration. Facebook made waves inviting candidates into its social networking universe, and studies of the consequent adoption strategies are just beginning to roll in. The big parties caught the drift and rolled out social networking on their own sites around electoral organizing.

Meanwhile, more familiar tools met more establishment adoption. The Minnesota governor's race held a 10-day-long online debate. YouTube became downright conventional wisdom, propagating macaca gaffes and smear ads far and wide.  Blogs joined the power structure, showing a special aptitude for bad news about friend and foe alike, and consequent suitability for the eternally popular role of bogeyman. Progressive blogs claimed their most noteworthy scalp to date in the Connecticut primary -- though the triumph seems likely to wind up a Pyrrhic one.  They shamed safe seaters into cracking open their war chests and gleefully google-bombed

That hive of insufferable buzzwords that is campaign season quite naturally attracted Web 2.0, though the moves were a bit more tentative.  Google crossed its Google Earth application with congressional races.  The proliferation of open APIs and public databases implied the coming evolution of exotic hybrids that could recast future campaigns.

The technologies, of course, are global, so small wonder that the North American provinces are far from the only ones experimenting. Indeed, everyone's just waiting for text messaging, which has helped bring down governments overseas, to bust out in American politics.

Inevitably, with so many candidates for so many offices, not everyone connects the dots ... and someone has to be at the bottom of the curve. And in all events, keep an eye on the rugrats.

(Of course, for election-day punch, Diebold mashups trump Google mashups any day of the week and twice on Tuesdays.  New in 2006:  video replay!)

Well -- that's all that happened in politics and technology in 2006. Nothing else.


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