Social networking in politics across the pond

Just surfing the blogosphere – and caught two posts: one at Simon Says discussing a new article talking about the Tories (the Conservatives) getting ready to launch a Social Networking Site to
“allow users to engage with – and help develop -Tory policies on issues such as poverty, climate change and volunteering.”. The second, by David Wilcox, talks about the
potential for another “digital divide“:

This does, of course, raise yet another form of the digital divide. If social networking is a sphere of influence those with networking skills may become disproportionately influential. Of course, it was always thus … just the nature of the clubs is changing.

David brings up the need for the connection between offline and online – which is always the challenge about any networking or organizational development. Sticking in one medium will limit the pool of involvement – better to extend across the space and find involvement tactics that involve and incorporate in multiple ways.

Back when BBSes were the vogue thing – there was the Rising Sun where I used to socialize on a very small Apple II+ whih had an Apple Cat modem. The best thing about the community was not the 300 baud speed printing of the content on the screen, but the monthly breakfasts with other members of the BBS cemented the relationships between us. It is the reinforcement of the interactions that will help politics develop the online outreach beyond the assumed myopic view of online community members.

Funny thing, 100M+ MySpace members, close to 1M SecondLifers and the explosion of social networking sites is a ripe space to grow involvement. I think that the Tories action, while interesting, is again trying to create another space that they control. Better to go where the voters are (like, say, SoFlow or A Small World) and build from within, rather than from the outside. Use the community within and develop the community – and then grow the space for the community to be involved in. Do you need features that are not already available in the sites today? And if they are not there, could you find ways of meeting the needs without software development (like a forum or a mailing list)? Give it some thought and see what can happen.

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