And I Approve This Application

By Chris Josephes
October 3, 2008

If I had to describe my political leanings to a stranger, I'd say I'm a middle of the road guy. There may be one or two issues out there where I take a firm stance, but it's nothing earth shattering. In the end, I like to think that whoever becomes President does not have a huge impact on my own personal future. I do, however, keep track of political trends and campaigns, because I work in a media company. Every two years, the office turns into an election monitoring powerhouse. Whether I like it or not, I always learn something new about elections, how candidates work, and how to gauge the people.

Now with those disclaimers out of the way, I'm going to say that the Obama for America iPhone application is probably the coolest campaign tool I have seen... EVER! Whoever thought this thing up is a genius.

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If you have followed this election cycle, you'll know that pollsters have been lamenting the problem that research polls may be losing accuracy due to the growing number of cell phones in use as the primary phone for individuals and families. Ancient lists of land line phone numbers are loosing relevancy, especially in large metropolitan cities, due to the growth of wireless communications. The Obama campaign has found a way to directly interact with 1% of all cell phone users.

The Obama app is a tool that informs the end user on Barack Obama's campaign. It provides news, video clips, and the talking points on major issues. It uses the GPS to inform you about the local campaign office, or any upcoming events you might want to attend. And it wouldn't be a campaign tool if it didn't provide a handy function allowing you to donate. Just press one button, and it dials the main campaign hotline.

But the coolest feature is that it turns the end user into an unofficial volunteer. It will organize all of the user's contacts by state, in order of importance to the campaign. Every contact starts out with the status of Have not called. The user can then go through his or her contacts, make a pitch for the candidate, and then mark the contact as either Not Interested, Considering Obama, or Voting for Obama.

If you're a friend of mine, don't freak out. I don't intend to call anyone just to discuss a campaign or a politician.

I admire this application because it's a resource that encourages voter participation, and it inspires people to take an election seriously. On a psychological level, a program like this can give a voter a more positive outlook on their candidate of choice, and motivates them to get to the polls on November 4th. If more mobile applications can inform voters on the issues, and improve turnout (on either side of the fence) at an election, then I consider that to be a good thing.

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