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7/12/2006
05:09 PM
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Wikipedians Take On Elections

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is behind a new wiki designed to provide election information.

Voters have a new place to turn for information on candidates this year.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales is behind a new site called Campaigns Wikia. The site is one of many ground-up efforts to empower ordinary people to weigh in on political discussions.

In a Fourth of July Web site launch announcement, Wales said people of all political stripes are welcome. He also said he believes new online media will spur a new era of politics.

"One hallmark of the blog and wiki world is that we do not wait for permission before making things happen," he wrote. "If something needs to be done, we do it The candidates who will win elections in the future will be the candidates who build genuinely participative campaigns by generating and expanding genuine communities of engaged citizens."

Wales said broadcast politics frame debates in terms of left and right, or liberal and conservative. He characterized the practice as "dumb" and said that Campaigns Wikia would encourage campaigns to engage with people in an intelligent and constructive way, emphasizing "substance and thought" over "style and image."

"Campaigns have been more about getting the television messaging right, the image, the sound bite, than about engaging ordinary people in understanding and caring how political issues really affect their lives," he wrote. "If broadcast media brought us broadcast politics, then participatory media will bring us participatory politics."

Wales said he believes the site will force campaigns to use wikis and blogs to organize, discuss, manage, lead and be led by volunteers. Participants will determine how it works.

"I was not and I still am not smart enough to figure out how to make Wikipedia work," he said. "The Wikipedians figured that out. My role has only been to listen and watch, and to guide us forward in a spirit of sincerity and love to do something useful. So, I will frankly admit right up front: I don't know how to make politics healthier. But, I believe that you do."

Already, the site has set up a page to list political campaigns that use wikis. The page, however, is still blank. It also pages on issues like terrorism with viewpoints on whether it is over emphasized or played down. Beneath the written arguments, readers have added their personal.

A section on ongoing campaigns contains information about ten U.S. congressional races, as well as entries on Germany, Australia and Poland. Pages on the two major political parties offer general philosophies and a list of candidates running within those parties. The Democrats' page has information about stances on specific issues, but contributors have yet to provide similar information on the Republican page.

A discussion board has become a forum for participants to figure out what they want to focus on " like specific campaigns or campaign issues " and how to categorize entries in a logical way.

Borrowing from one traditional and indispensable campaign tool, the site urges interested people to sign up for its mailing list.

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