Maman Poulet | Clucking away crookedly through media, politics and life cranks up pressure on candidates

March 12th, 2009 · 19 Comments · Elections, Irish Politics is a database of candidates being rolled out across 27 countries and launching next month – according to Micandidate it  ‘will be the largest ever candidate verified database of candidates standing for election in Europe.’

Last weekend Micandidate announced that the Green Party were the first party in Ireland to sign up to the new service. Green Party candidates will get access to Micandidate’s enhanced services for a reduced rates. The enhanced service is from what I’ve been told a enhanced profile, blogging tools and twitter.  The basic register of details is free for all candidates and the site’s infrastructure is being touted around various media operations at the moment so that they can use it (for a licensing fee.)

Some of those behind the company (a for profit private company registered with the Companies Registration Office in February) were also the folk who brought us Rock the Vote.

Word from the Green’s conference last weekend is that there will be a briefing for bloggers held before the launch and I look forward to the invite!  As it is I’m hearing from people from a number of parties expressing their concern at the recruitment of candidates both to the basic database and the messages being given to them and their parties about what Micandidate will offer for a fee per candidate – the tools for which are freely available elsewhere and resulting content would remain in control of the candidate and not be sold to media organisations. staff refer to these enhancements as Obama tools.  (I am going to leave the Obamification of Irish political campaigning/expenditure to another post or indeed another blogger but it’s an issue which many of us have opinions on!)

I spoke to candidates  from 3 different parties yesterday on the matter – and I received a copy of a slightly threatening email being sent to the buachaillí agus cailiní dana (bold boys and girls) who have not yet signed up – in fact that’s a theme of MiCandidate and their sales pitches – they spend a lot of time buzzing things up so much and trying to indicate if you are not in you can’t win. registered yet?

The email from a MiCandidate staff member reads…

We are very concerned that you are one of only a few remaining candidates who has not completed the information form that we sent you. Your profile will appear across dozens of Ireland’s busiest websites from RTE to the Irish Times. Failing to return this form to us in the next 48 hours may result in your profile being entirely empty. Given that candidates profiles were viewed nearly 4 million times in 2007 on RTE and the Irish Times you are giving your competitors in your constituency a huge advantage over you.

This is a free service, but we cannot stress the urgency that we need you to fill out your details. Seats are won and lost by a handful of votes, your competitors profiles will be viewed tens of thousands of times. Your profile will be empty. [My emphasis]

The emptier the site the less licenceable it is. So candidates if you do provide your details you’ll be helping Micandidate make a bit of cash and supposedly getting a lot of clicks. I’ve been told the site looks beautiful!

But for those of us experienced in observing and engaging with politicians online a candidate might ask if anyone will actually read what you are saying about your campaign/candidacy!  If you had your own blog or twitter account (FREE but a bit of work!) and spread the word or even paid your €250 for a few thousand leaflets (old media I know!) and put your blog address on it would you not get better quality engagement with the people who are entitled to vote for you?  In fact it sounds a bit like those business directories you hear about on Liveline where companies are promised loads for money or basic info for free.  But is it more about being in it than actually politically communicating or campaigning?

Could county councils not just publish the candidate’s lists on their websites following the close of nominations with links to social media sites held by those candidates who have them?

The first of many questions to be asked about Micandidate over the next few weeks, more no doubt after the briefing to bloggers and others experienced in engaging online.

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