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Google + elections = ???

September 14th, 2007

Google has just launched an Australian election project, and I think it demonstrates some of the power that I mentioned in my post last week on political video mashups and open politics. It exposes both the strengths and weaknesses of google’s generic approach to information discovery. Here is a screenshot of a portion of the page:

The strength is that they integrate many of the services housed within google: search, news, blogs, satellite images, youtube and more. Within a few clicks, you can search your MPs web site for policy positions, see videos about them and examine interactive electoral maps.

The weakness is that they’ve implemented this site with the minimum amount of political knowledge necessary. The main content is just searches of politician’s names within local newspapers; for anyone living in Australia you probably won’t get anything that you wouldn’t normally get from your local paper. You have to pick your political jurisdiction from a list because it doesn’t have a look up by address feature. And it doesn’t have much customization in the way that it presents the information (e.g., comparing candidates side-by-side.)

The biggest weakeness is that there is very little actual unique content at the local level, like videos about candidates. But the very existence of google’s portal may help promote interest in creating that very content. Whenever google tries something, you’ve got to think it has a chance to work!

Well, I think there’s still a good chance that this will not transform Australian politics. However, I do believe that it is a nice way to experiment before the ’08 elections here in the US with less downside exposure.

I plan to follow these developments closely, and I’ll keep abreast of anything interesting that I find or think of!

1. technology, 2. politics

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