How the Internet Has Changed This Election

Out walking the dog this morning at 5:45am, I had my nose pressed against the glass of my iPhone as I read the New York Times and this article about how the fundamentals of running for president have changed dramatically:

“I think we’ll be analyzing this election for years as a seminal, transformative race,” said Mark McKinnon, a senior adviser to President Bush’s campaigns in 2000 and 2004.”The year campaigns leveraged the Internet in ways never imagined. The year we went to warp speed. The year the paradigm got turned upside down and truly became bottom up instead of top down.”

To a considerable extent, Republicans and Democrats say, this is a result of the way that the Obama campaign sought to understand and harness the Internet (and other forms of so-called new media) to organize supporters and to reach voters who no longer rely primarily on information from newspapers and television. The platforms included YouTube, which did not exist in 2004, and the cellphone text messages that the campaign was sending out to supporters on Monday to remind them to vote.

This morning’s voting experience was seamless, easy and fun. Not only was it my 20 year old daughter’s first presidential election, even she found the stakes to be so high that she did everything she could to rearrange her schedule to be with her mom and I at our polling place this morning.

Seeing the line outside in 50+ degree weather, election officials even walked down the line with a tray of cookies and rolls and mentioned there was hot coffee inside. People were orderly, subdued, clearly excited, and the line moved without a hitch. We arrived at 7:15am and walked out at 7:58am, and the line was already down to 25 people or so as we departed.

I immediately got on the Twitter Vote Report iPhone application (more about the app here) and reported my results, and then did so with the MNVotes Twitter hash tag (#mnvotes).

Now in my office at my computer, I am absolutely stunned with something I just came across at this post, “The Ultimate Guide to Live Election Coverage” by Liz Gannes at NewTeeVee, and thought I’d add it to my post so you can have these resources at your fingertips today. While I knew about Twitter Vote Report and our own Minnesota site The UpTake, most of the others Ms. Gannes lists I was not aware of and encourage you to go read the post.

For my wife and I, much of our constant overview information came from cable and network television, newspapers and discussions with friends and family (and the sound-bite back-n-forth via Twitter with folks). Most of my study of the issues could only occur via the internet, since I took the opportunity to drill-down on information when I didn’t understand something, action not possible with filtered snippets on television, goofy commercials or even in most magazine or newspaper articles. What an amazing time, an incredible election, and I expect today is a tipping point we’ll never forget.


  1. Marilyn Pratt on November 4, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    Great compendium of ways to check the pulse of the nation. I think it remarkable that we harness technology to make us more active participants in the democratic process. This socialization of the importance of voting and participation is thrilling and heartening. Thanks for surfacing additional ways to engage in the conversation.

  2. Jamie Thingelstad on November 6, 2008 at 11:21 am

    Much has been made about the Obama campaigns use of social media but I wonder if we aren’t really missing the two most fundamental and important things that the campaign did with technology. Social media is great, but you could argue that all it did was apply a bigger leverage factor to communication. In the past youd dial a million phone numbers, now you send a Twitter. The message is similar. Perhaps there is a more personal flavor to it, but it’s not that different. There was a really good piece on NPR about this looking at the data which really pointed to Obama winning “the old fashioned way”. Getting out the vote. (I just tried to find a link on but couldn’t).

    The two things that I think are fundamental are.

    Fundraising: Clearly Obama’s approach to fund raising needs to be a permanent change. I don’t see why we shouldn’t reform political spending and push this all into the private sector and just remove federal funding of campaigns.

    Extranet: I think this is being overlooked a lot. The Obama campaign had an incredible information system leveraging the web. They had a 2-way channel with volunteers and were giving volunteers access to information that was superior to anything they had before. This “information rich” approach allowed the volunteers to be more effective as well as more motivated.

    I hope that we see the Extranet approach continued into governing.

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