Obama launches iPhone app; US election good for Twitter

Obama Campaign launches iPhone app

Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign launched an iPhone application on Thursday that turns the vaunted device into a political recruiting tool. You can learn more about this app at the Obama iPhone app Web site.

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 application anonymously reports back the number of calls made this way: "Your privacy is important: no personal data or contacts will be uploaded or stored. Only the total number of calls you make is uploaded anonymously."

The software is the latest effort by politicians to capitalize on technology, joining other examples such as ads distributed through YouTube, Web-based fund-raising, Facebook pages and fan groups, and e-mail recruitment drives.

The Obama for America iPhone application is available for download through Apple's iTunes store, said Raven Zachary, an iPhone consultant who's directing the launch effort.

A "get involved" feature uses the phone's GPS-based location sensing to find the nearest Obama campaign headquarters, and "local events" likewise pulls up a list of activities sorted by proximity.

A "media" section provides links to video and photos, but beware: YouTube showed errors following some of the links. Perhaps the newer videos hadn't been prepared for iPhone display yet.

The application also shows Obama statements to the news media and a guide to Obama's positions on various issues.

Additionally, the application shows how many calls have been made nationwide and how many you made. Those statistics are the kind that can motivate people--they can feel like they're part of something bigger. That may sound a bit silly as a motivational tool, but consider that Smule's Sonic Lighter application for the iPhone is popular, despite the fact that it costs 99 cents more than its free competition, likely because people can see where else on the globe people are using it and because the longer you run the application, the bigger your own spot on the map becomes. It's a kind of competition.

Twitter benefiting from US presidential election debates:

Twitter usage and sign-ups received a healthy boost during last Friday’s first presidential debate for the 08 campaign. The official Twitter blog reports that, despite Friday traditionally being a slow traffic day:

  • Friday updates jumped 18.5% from previous Friday.

  • Updates during the debate increased 160% compared to same time last week.

  • Signups on Friday were up 23%.

  • Signups during the debate were up 135% compared to same time last week.

Although, as Wired notes, the shot in arm for Twitter also co-incided with the company’s launch of a dedicated politics tracker - Twitter’s new Election 2008 site - and the blog/mainstream media attention that followed. Of course the fact that this has translated into increased sign-ups and use suggests that chicken or egg, the strategy is paying off.