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Political Social Networking

came across a political "social networking website" - www.essembly.com. It is akin to myspace and facebook, but all about politics. Unfortunately, you have to register at this website, but if you are interested at all in politics, you may want to (I did). We have been talking in class about using social networking beyond simply for bands and dates, and this may be an example. It doesn't look like this website actually goes much further than political banter, but gives an idea how social networking could possibly be used in new and different ways.

The following excerpts from Sifry's blog on the Personal Democracy Forum descrbes essembly.com pretty well without you having to logon. I think the entire post is interesting - check it out Essembly.com: Finally, a Friendster for Politics.

Online social networks have taken off all over the United States, and indeed much of the wired world. Friendster, the granddaddy of the breed, says it has more than 24 million members, while its newer rival MySpace.com claims more than 50 million accounts. Eighty-five percent of the college students in America use Facebook.com. Tagged.com, which focuses on teens, has 2 million users. Bebo.com has tallied more than 21 million registered users worldwide in its first year, 4 million alone in England. In India, the web portal Rediff.com has more than 2 million users of its social network service. And in South Korea, a whopping 15 million people—one-third of the country’s population—belong to Cyworld (which literally means "relationship world").

While all these platforms differ in some significant ways, it’s fair to say that they’re all mostly about socializing. Participants join for free, create their own personal profile page with photographs and other bits of playful identifying information, and use a wide variety of tools to reach out and connect with each other.

To date, no one has figured out how to build an online social network around politics. But Joe Green, the CEO of Essembly.com, believes he and his team have found a way. In the summer of 2003, Green, a social studies major at Harvard, was doing an internship on the Kerry presidential campaign, when he had an epiphany. As he told me in a recent interview, “I saw Friendster, and it clicked immediately that this social networking thing should be done for politics.? He added, “Whether you’re raising money or doing petitions, the basis is social networking.?

Green, who roomed at Harvard with Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook.com, and helped a bit with that site's launch in 2004, was hardly the first person who wanted to create a Friendster for politics. During the presidential primaries, technologist-organizers involved in the Dean, Clark and Kucinich campaigns worked hard to build vibrant online communities by enabling their supporters to connect to each other around common interests, geography and social ties.


Like other online social networks, Essembly encourages members to create their own profile page, to build up a visible array of friends on their page, and to find people through common social connections or geography. But where the site departs from the standard text is in how it centers membership on user-generated political conversation rather than a more typical engine like a particular candidate or cause.

The site does that by inviting all members to post “resolves?—short statements of opinion—and to vote and comment on those of other site members. When you log in, the first thing you see is the “Resolve of the day,? which is one of the three most popular resolves from the previous day. New members are also asked to give their opinions on an initial set of resolves. From all that information, Essembly develops an ideological profile of each member that is completely relational—that is, based on how your composite set of answers matches someone else’s—and far more nuanced than simple self-descriptions like “liberal? or “conservative.?