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Democrats Launch McCainpedia, An Attack Site Masquerading As A Wiki
The DNC's McCainpedia site centralizes its opposition research on John McCain, but rank and file are not allowed to contribute.
Picture courtesy of the DNC
The DNC's dubbed the new site "McCainpedia," because it uses the same software that powers the phenomenally successful people-powered encyclopedia Wikipedia.
McCainpedia provides a centralized source of hyperlinked opposition research and DNC talking points. The subject matters, for now, cover McCain's statements on his prospective Supreme Court justice picks, positions on the economy, security, ethics, and social issues, among other things.
The DNC hopes that its new tool will operate as a centralized source of opposition research that its gigantic cadre of online party faithful will virally market both on and off-line.
But technologists criticized the effort because it violates the ethos and spirit that drives wikis.
Wikis are by their nature collaborative projects that enable a large group of people to contribute their efforts, to peer-review, finesse and openly dispute the information that's presented.
McCainpedia, however, is closed to the public. Only the DNC research department gets to enter information about the senator from Arizona, his policy positions and his presidential campaign.
"We want to make sure that the information that we put out there is as accurate and high-quality as possible," says DNC spokesman Luis Miranda.
"I think the idea of a closed wiki" is a bit of an oxymoron, says Isaac Garcia, the CEO of Central Desktop, which worked with Barack Obama's campaign to enable volunteers in the field to co-ordinate and turn-out the vote during key primaries. "This perpetuates that silo approach to communication, and Web 2.0 is about enabling the voice of the people and their opinions. It's only through these types of tools that they're able to do that."
Garcia says that for his part, he enjoys McCainpedia, and he thinks it's a good idea for the DNC to provide a centralized location for opposition research on the candidate. Yet at the same time, the site lacks the fundamental dynamic that distinguishes wikis from any other kind of source of information.
"Let's say I'm a middle-of-the-road voter. If I'm looking for information about McCain, and I realize that it's all coming from the Democratic party, I'm not really getting peer-review. It just feels so one-sided. It doesn't really serves the voters' purpose so much," he says.
The DNC's approach to McCainpedia is a typical case of old-school Washington politicking awkwardly adapted to the interactive culture of the web, says Ravi Singh, CEO of Electionmall.com
"Everytime the RNC (Republican National Committe) and the DNC try new technologies, they're really scared," he says. "The problem is that the Democratic party is the same as any other party -- they want to control the message."
"The whole point of this is to centralize opposition research, and they're looking to the communities to feed into it, but they can't feed it, so it defeats the whole purpose of the use if the technology," he says.
Central Desktop's Garcia says that the DNC could have gone at least halfway and implemented an invitation-only system that would allow people who are known quantities to contribute to the wiki.
That's the way the Obama precinct captain training wiki (provided by Central Desktop) worked for the Obama campaign in California and Texas.
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