Civis Online launches soundbite polls for the soundbite culture

Or, if we want to get highbrow about it: Widgetized political discourse

Amid the sea of online opinion, polls and analysis, maybe less is more. That could be a selling point for a pair of new political widgets launched by Civis Online.

The Election Cafe is aimed at a broad audience interested in the U.S. presidential election. Politics Uncensored is similar, but it’s supposed to be aimed at a younger audience. Hence, whereas The Election Cafe asks, “Will Hillary’s speech bring her supporters to Obama?” the younger Politics Uncenored asks, “Do politicians look anything but stupid trying to grab some cool?” Both feature short video clips and polls based on them. They don’t suck up much time, don’t offer much in return – and that might be just right for someone who doesn’t have a lot of spare time to begin with.

Maybe the real target market is people who DON’T care about politics – and reaching them could be a worthy contribution to informing the connected society. It could also be hugely valuable to political candidates desperate to reach undecided voters and eligible non-voters.

Civis is a subsidiary of PoliticsOnline, a political consultancy and polling firm headed by an old friend and collaborator here – globe-trotting Internet politics guru Phil Noble. The company conducts online polling for The BBC, and Phil participated and helped with an online survey on trust we conducted with The BBC and Reuters for We Media 06 in London. He also came to We Media Miami earlier this year, where he presented Civis in our social venture Pitch It competition. Civis didn’t win the competition, but Phil and his team have put a lot of time and thought into gathering opinion in multiple languages worldwide and we’ve chatted many times about his dream of organizing a true global conversation. The widgets are imagined as a small step toward that goal, and the Civis web site promises multilingual options coming soon.

By the way, if you’re just catching up, don’t speak Geek and don’t have a MySpace page decked out with endless visual crap, widgets are little web do-dads that can be embedded on web sites, blogs, Facebook and MySpace pages, on personalized home pages like those from Netvibes, WindowsLive and iGoogle, and on Mac desktops. The Civis widgets are managed with technology from Clearspring, a major widget builder-distributor based in McLean, Virginia.

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