Political video “mashups” and open politics
Would you be interested in gathering election information with online videos? I think it would be pretty cool to see what the candidates have to say about each other, plus some choice video highlights of media coverage, citizen comments, etc. especially for the other races besides president. (Although especially issue-oriented rather than horse-race video coverage of presidential candidates might be welcome to me as well.) One possible way to get this kind of video in 2008 will be via “mashups.” What we need to make this happen is an open and canonical database of candidates and races, so everyone can share and be discovered.
A mashup is “a web application that combines data from more than one source into an integrated experience.” For example, weiksner.com has several mashup features: I feature videos from youtube, you can listen to my favorite music on last.fm and you can see my links from del.icio.us.
The beauty of mashups is that sharing is built right into my normal workflow. I listen to music most of the day through last.fm anyway, so why not share it for everyone else’s benefit? When I am researching various topics, why not share the interesting resources I find since I use del.icio.us to manage my bookmarks anyway?
In 2008, many candidates running for president to dogcatcher will be distributing videos on the Internet through youtube and other sites. Perhaps even more interestingly, supporters, opponents, and average citizens will also be making videos about candidates. Wouldn’t it be interesting and useful to watch a few of them about the candidates in your races?
But how will you find them? Right now, perhaps a friend will forward a video to you about a presidential candidate. If you are so motivated and know the name of a candidate, and that candidate has a unique name, perhaps you can search on google or youtube for videos. You are unlikely to find anything about your local candidates at the moment, and you’ll likely be overwhelmed with the number of videos about Presidential candidates. Youtube and google and others are working on the filtering problem for too many videos, but what about the local candidates?
As many readers of this blog know, I help run a project called Voter Guide Toolkit. It helps solve part of this problem: who are the candidates in my races? But it doesn’t yet solve the second part of the problem: are there any videos about him or her?
As you can see here on this part of Fred Thompson’s youtube page, youtube has granted him his real name as the author and has somehow has a gray bar with “candidate” on it. This is a heavy-handed and expensive way to handle candidates, which is ok for important things like presidential campaigns. You can also see that viewers have add some tags, like “fdt” and “president,” are added by any registered user of youtube. If enough people tagged him as “cool” or “loser” that would appear too.Using the user tags, how we would distinguish between the John Smith, a candidate for dogcatcher in a local race from just some kid who learning to walk with the same name? I think it would be hard in many cases. Maybe posts with tagged with “politics” and “johnson” would be pretty good. Add in my town, “menlo park” and perhaps that nails it.
Another solution is try to get video producers and other users to adopt a standard. In this example, I can find out the code (“lastfm:event=97947”) for this event on last.fm. I attend the event in question, upload my pictures to flickr and tag it. Then, viola! everyone else can see what The Low Lows look like in concert. For politics, we’d create a database of canonical codes for sharing information about candidates that people could use for sharing media (blogs entries, videos, pictures, etc.) about candidates.
Having some kind of standard way to identify something as about a candidate is a cornerstone function of “open politics.” And yet another cause for me to fight for…