Microsoft news: At the Politics Online Conference Monday, Microsoft announced two new offerings, TownHall, a new “online engagement program” that politicians and others can use to “drive rich discussion around top interests and concerns”, and Campaign Ready, “a collection of Microsoft products and services that can be configured to meet many of the day-to-day needs for running a political or special interest campaign”.
TownHall provides a Microsoft Azure cloud-hosted solution in a low-cost, low-friction fashion. TownHall, with its multitude of existing and planned clients, allows organizations to engage individuals on whatever device they may be using at a given moment.
TownHall also delivers valuable insight. Recognizing the value of collecting data at the level of the individual, TownHall is delivered with a reputation system that incents users to create profiles. Every engagement an individual has with the site results in the collection of data that is associated with a profile and which can be used for analytics. To drive continued engagement within the community, TownHall’s reputation system awards points and badges for every contribution to the community (asking questions, answering questions, or voting). In our first beta customer, NASA, we’ve seen this reputation system prove itself to be very effective, with some individuals earning just under 2 million points in just under 6 months.
With TownHall, you own the data and we’ve made it very easy to access it. The data collected in TownHall is stored in Microsoft’s SQL Azure, which provides you the opportunity to retrieve and/or interact with data into a number of existing and familiar tools like Microsoft Excel.
CampaignReady is a collection of services, including advertising from Bing, TownHall, free Microsoft Office Templates, and online fee based services to help campaigns (political or otherwise) “identify and engage citizens on the Web as part of their campaign efforts”, according to a post on Microsoft on the Issues.
For background, just as a traditional town hall brings communities together in the physical world, Microsoft TownHall replicates that experience online. TownHall is cloud-based and hosted on Windows Azure, and it provides an easy way for folks to ask and answer questions, provide input, and participate in community discussions while on a PC, a phone or a tablet. Specialized applications for BlackBerry, iPhone, iPad and soon Windows Phone 7 devices will be made available over the coming months.
TownHall will be available later today via a free download on MSDN, and will be accessible via a number of platforms