Obama Expands GOTV Effort with iPhone App

Jon Perr

Over the course of the 2008 election, Barack Obama's campaign has leap-frogged John McCain online. As CBS, ABC and Politico (among others) have documented, Team Obama has far out-paced McCain in deploying web technology to fundraise, establish social networks, advertise to targeted audiences, build email lists and otherwise facilitate grassroots organizing. Now, with the release this week of its new application for the iPhone, the Obama campaign has added a powerful new tool to help its supporters get out the vote, literally wherever they are.

Created in part by Portland-based developers led by project director Raven Zachary, the Obama '08 iPhone application (available for free) brings much of the content and functionality of the Obama web site to the Apple mobile device now used by millions of Americans. Users can access positions on the issues, receive breaking campaign updates, get national and local campaign news, find nearby Obama events and browse video and photos. And as the Los Angeles Times noted, "with the device's global positioning system technology, it will give you directions to the nearest campaign office."

But the real breakthrough for political organizing at the grassroots level is the "Call Friends" feature. In a nutshell, Call Friends turns the iPhone into your own mobile, personal phone bank, letting you call and track the support of the people you know in the states that matter most.

As Stephen Shankland of CNET reported:

The most notable feature "organizes and prioritizes your contacts by key battleground states, making it easy to reach out and make an impact quickly," according to the software.

On my phone, the application ranked contacts in Colorado, Michigan, and New Mexico at the top; at the bottom was a friend whose cell phone has a Texas number, though she actually lives in California.

The Obama '08 iPhone application also automatically calculates Call Stats, tracking not only the status of your personal outreach to each of your own contacts, but showing the totals and leaders nationwide. Importantly, users' privacy and anonymity is protected. Only the total number of calls made is uploaded; no personal data or contacts are uploaded to or stored by the Obama campaign.

The new iPhone application provides another stark contrast between the online approaches of the Obama and McCain campaigns. While Team Obama has offered another innovative new tool to empower bottoms-up organizing, the McCain campaign instead pioneered with gimmickry - and bribery. As the Washington Post mockingly reported in August, the McCain campaign offers its devotees points and prizes for "Astro Turfing," that is, cutting and pasting McCain propaganda into blogs and web sites:

"Spread John McCain's official talking points around the Web -- and you could win valuable prizes!"

While the McCain campaign's sole online achievement has been to drive views of its endless stream of attack ads, the Obama camp has one-upped its rival once again in putting cutting-edge technology to use at the grassroots. As Politico's Ben Smith recently concluded:

"Obama's then goes on to do what McCain's doesn't, which is to provide his supporters this whole infrastructure to organize themselves to do things that are going to help get Obama elected, and McCain's just doesn't do that."

For information and download instructions for the Obama '08 iPhone app, visit here.

(The team behind the Obama '08 iPhone application is holding a combination launch party and presidential debate watching event this Tuesday night October 7th from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM at the Mission Theater & Pub in Portland.  Special guest Rep. Earl Blumenauer is scheduled to attend the festivities. Visit here for details.)

  • genop (unverified)

    Well, I guess we know where all those pithy tollisms come from. "Spread John McCain's official talking points around the Web -- and you could win valuable prizes!" Paid trolls to spam weblogs with McCain's talking points? Great. Originality is not a characteristic engendered by the right but free market activity is highly valued. Thus, they pay pawns to plaster their message all over the internet. Querry: How does one not feel used when manipulated by money to reprint a script into blogs? Saps.

  • (Show?)

    To clarify, the app was released last week. It's getting a rollout event in Portland tomorrow, however.

    It is a pretty little nifty deal, for sure.

  • genop (unverified)

    Hey, Blue O, why don't you offer a contest to win a turkey for all readers who post "Keating Five" in all conservative blogs.

  • Ted Williams (unverified)

    I downloaded and installed the app. All get I though is messages like "Higher taxes are Patriotic" and

    "Issues are never simple. One thing I'm proud of is that very rarely will you hear me simplify the issues. "

    I think some cracker might have hacked the thing.

  • Meryl (unverified)

    Kudos to Team Obama for using the latest technology to entice young hip, creative class voters and for standing behind his campaign promise to support and promote new technology.

    It is going to be imperative for the next president to understand and forward a technological (and scientific) agenda that will bolster US competitiveness in global markets. Back in 2004 Howard Dean showed that he understood this by using the internet to launch his grassroots campaign. And Obama has continued this trend, using technology not as a demonstration of how cool he is, but as a demonstration of his understanding of its role in our future and the style of communication many people have come to prefer. As someone who has volunteered with the Obama campaign, I have been happy to see the newest technologies put to use on the trail. Even though I'm an almost 40 yr old fossil who uses a 7yr old cel phone and has never sent a text message, I'm exceedingly happy my candidate is savvy and can connect with 18 yr olds as well as 80 yr olds.

connect with blueoregon