The Town Hall Online

If you saw the previous post detailing the features of our latest release you might find it moderately interesting, but are probably thinking so what? What is an application for all this new stuff? Well there are many, but one I find most interesting given the current political climate is the town hall.

The town hall has been a fixture of politics longer than we’ve been a country. It was the way things were discussed in the original Massachusetts Bay Colony. Since then technology has evolved a bit and the country has become somewhat larger, but the town hall has changed very little.

Occasionally there’s a new spin, like featuring YouTube questions, or the very popular BlogTalkRadio. As much as these are interesting, they are not designed to handle the biggest problems with the town hall today. Problem like managing much larger groups or engaging people who are unwilling or unable to show up at the venue and don’t find a conference call the ideal way to participate.

What we really need is a way to have thousands of people ask their questions online and let them get answered by the politicians hosting the event. But that will attract all kinds of loonies you say? Well, sure, but their voices would be drowned out by the more sane amongst us. Based on the recent Health Care Town Halls, it seems like live participation caters more to the extremists then even a poorly designed forum might. At least no one will be showing up with guns.

A recent town hall in Everett had to be moved to a stadium to accomodate the crowd. Nice that people showed up, but having a live conversation with a couple of thousand people is tricky to say the least. And perhaps worst of all, the questions that get asked and answered are essentially random. The rest of the crowd can’t voice their opinion on whether the question is of interest to them and obviously can’t ask their own.

We’re still evolving the ideas, but in essence you can now host a town hall online. You feature the main guest(s) be they politicians or experts in some field. The community can ask questions and vote on their favorites. The featured guest can answer them at a specific time or at his/her won convenience. It can be a short event or an ongoing forum.

It’s no problem to host an event for thousands of people who don’t have the time or inclination to get off their chair. People can subscribe to the event in a feed reader or Twitter and just listen in on the stream of answers.

We hope it will be a medium more suitable to the size of our communities and the technology available to them.

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