Get My Vote: NPR’s User-Generated Political Commentary Initiative

From Andy Carvin’s Waste of Bandwidth by acarvin on 3/12/08

Eighteen months ago this week, I [Andy] started working at NPR as senior
product manager for online communities. [Andy] spent a lot of that time
working with shows on social media experiments and educating NPR staff
about the role Web 2.0 can play in journalism. But [Andy] also spent much
of the last year working on a big project – one that would have NPR
dive head-first into user-generated content. The project is called Get My Vote, an [they have] just launched a public beta of the website.

As the name suggests, the project is based around a basic premise:
what will it take for political candidates to get my vote? Every person
has their own reasons for selecting a particular candidate, their own
litmus tests, and we’re asking the public to articulate this in the
form of open letters to the candidates. Using Get My Vote, you can
upload your own commentary – audio, video or text – and talk about what
issues or concerns will drive you to the ballot box. NPR is then
planning to incorporate these commentaries into our shows throughout
the rest of the election cycle.

[They have] also designed the project in such a way that local stations –
both NPR and PBS stations – can create their own Get My Vote
initiatives on their websites by embedding Get My Vote widgets. That
way, a station can localize the project. A station in Arizona, for
example, might create a local version of Get My Vote focusing on
immigration perspectives, while a station in Massachusetts might
challenge users talk about what it would take for local mayoral
candidates to get their vote. So while most users might end up talking
about the presidential candidates, I’m hoping it’s used for state and
local races as well.

On the Get My Vote homepage,
you’ll see that we’re using a tag cloud prominently. These tags are
submitted by users when they upload their commentaries. For example, a
commentary from an Iraq war vet about healthcare for vets might include
tags like “Iraq,” “healthcare” and “Walter Reed.” The more often a
particular tag is used by commentators, the larger it appears in the
tag cloud. That way, you can get a sense of what topics and ideas are
being referenced most often by commentators. Clicking any tag also will
show you all commentaries associated with that word or phrase.

The site is now in public beta. This means that anyone can now
access the site, upload their own commentaries and explore the site in
general, but we’re still working out a few bugs and other minor fixes.
[They’re] hoping that if you have any problems with the site you’ll alert
[them] through the contact form.
Over the next few weeks [they’ll] continue to tweak the site, and soon
after that, we expect some of our shows to begin using it on air.

So when you get a chance, please visit npr.org/getmyvote, upload your own commentary and please let [them] know what you think. [Their] team is really eager to hear what you have to say. -andy

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