Microsoft Townhall Driving Congress Crowdsourcing Site

House Republicans are the second users of Microsoft's services-based software aimed at political candidates and government customers.

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Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives have become early adopters of Microsoft crowdsourcing software with a website to solicit ideas from their constituents about a variety of political issues.

America Speaking Out, a site recently launched by House Republicans, was built on Microsoft Townhall. The site allows people to submit an idea about several topics that matter to the American people, and engage in an online discussion about them.

The specific topics on the site are: American prosperity, fiscal accountability, American values, and national security. There is also a miscellaneous category for general ideas.

People can choose a category and submit an idea or suggestion about it to the site. People also can vote on whether they like or dislike an idea, or post a response to generate an open dialogue about the topics.

Microsoft unveiled Townhall in April. Based on its Windows Azure services platform, the software tries to emulate the experience of being in an actual town hall meeting in a virtual environment.

The software is part of a package of services-based software called Campaign Ready aimed at political candidates and government customers.

NASA was the first government entity to use TownHall; the space agency used it for the crowdsourcing aspect of its Be a Martian website.

TownHall itself is available for free, and people can download the source code from the Microsoft Developer Network website. However, to host a solution built on TownHall on the Windows Azure cloud platform, customers pay a fee based on the platform's per-usage pricing model.

A spokeswoman from Microsoft's public relations agency said the company is in talks with other potential TownHall/Azure customers but that NASA and House Republicans are the first to deploy the software publicly.

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