During the 2008 campaign (probably the first election where social media played a significant role in getting a president into office) Lee Brenner handled political programming at Myspace. This time around, he’s part of team launching a new a site of its own, called WeForPresident — aiming, in his words, to “build a platform that can democratize the debate.”
The site was created by HyperVocal (the online media company co-founded by Brenner and Slade Sohmer) and BlocRally. It’s hardly the first website for political debate — over the past few years, I’ve talked to several companies trying to launch debate platforms, most recently Politix, the politics-focused service from forum company Topix. Brenner, however, argues that WeForPresident is the first site to integrate this deeply with Facebook and other social networking services.
When you go to the WeForPresident site, you sign in via Facebook, then start browsing different discussions, where users answer questions like “How do YOU Create Jobs?” and “Corporations: Good Or Evil?” You can jump in and participate in the discussions yourself (your comments can be automatically posted to Facebook), or just upvote the comments that you like. There are also opportunities to get more informed on the topics that you’re arguing about — there’s a sidebar with news stories from the Associated Press, and whenever you include a hashtag in your comments, the term will link to the appropriate entry in Wikipedia.
As you participate, you earn different badges on the site, working your way up from “intern” to “chief of staff”. There’s also a political word association game, where you can look at a photo (say, of Stephen Colbert) and enter whatever word comes to mind.
Upcoming features include a mobile version, as well as integration with other services like Tumblr. Eventually, Brenner says the same platform could be applied to other topics, too.
The biggest challenge for a site like this is getting people to participate. To that end, it sounds like Brenner has recruited some powerful allies, namely the College Republican National Committee, the Young Democrats of America, and Rock the Vote. The first two, in particular, will have a presence on the site, and will be encouraging their members to participate.