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Getting in Google's Face.

A handful of new websites are hoping to wean political junkies from Google. They're all vying to become the next go-to spot for people searching for campaign coverage.

Although each site takes its own approach, they all incorporate social networking and aim to inject a human element into online searching.

Loud3r, launched in June, combines human editors with computer algorithms. The site offers more than two dozen search pages, each dedicated to a single topic. The political page is dubbedVot3r. Other topical pages include wine, baseball, music and motorcycles.

The advantage is the ability to distinguish relevant results, according to Lowell Goss, Loud3r's founder and chief executive officer. A search for "Bob Smith" on Vot3r, for instance, should include hits only for the former senator from New Hampshire, not the musician, comedian or car dealer.

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"It's not a huge technical secret, but it's something we believe is unique," Goss says. The firm is also planning sites covering regional and state politics.

Another great site for political types, YouBundle, is expected to launch in September. Users will be able to create bundles of links, photos and videos on search terms of their choice.

Campaigns and their supporters could create bundles around their candidates and causes, while opponents could make bundles full of damaging information, says Neyma Jahansooz, one of the site's co-founders.

Jahansooz doesn't expect to displace Google. Rather, he said, "What you're doing is hand-selecting the best search results that are already coming up in Google orYouTube."

Rafiki Cai, an Internet consultant who has advised the Congressional Black Caucus, plans to use the site to promote Barack Obama's presidential campaign. For Cai, the question isn't how big YouBundle or any other site becomes. He sees value in giving people another outler for finding and sharing information.

"In what promies to be a tight race, and with Obama facing mountains of misinformation and outright distortion, getting wholesome information to any voter is a plus," Cai said in an e-mail message.

Vot3r. and YouBundle are just two of a new breed of promising search engines for those in the campaign world. Other up-and-comers include Friendfeed, Topicle and Twine. One of the biggest is Wikia, launched in January by Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia. Wikia, which isn't related to Wikipedia, allows users to collaborate on building and regularly tweaking their own search engine.

A similarly people-centered approach holds sway at Mahalo, a site founded by entrepreneur Jason Calcanis. Users write their own pages for search terms, weeding out sparm and irrelevant results.

Mahalo also organizes the information by category. A search for "John McCain" splits the results into sections for, among other things, videos, recent news and a list of the top seven sites, which include the candidate's official campaign site and a side-by-side comparison of McCain and President Bush drawn up by The New York Times.

The concept behind Mahalo appeals to Mary Song, president of Propel Media, an Internet consulting firm in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., that works primarily for Republicans.

"But my concern," she says, "is that the spammers will outpace Mahalo's editors and the quality will be suspect."

For a new site to peel away Google's vast audience, it may have to find a niche, says Alan Rosenblatt, associate director of online advocacy at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, a progressive think tank in Washington, D.C.

Technorati has made headway as the main site for trolling blogs, Rosenblatt says. An-other search engine could succeed by digging through social-networking sites. He was skeptical about Vot3r's approach.

"It's tough because political content turns up everywhere," he said. "So how do you know how to design a site that looks only at political content?"--J.B.

RELATED ARTICLE: Dial In Your Data

When Rob Willington hears something he'd like to share, he turns his cell phone into his P.A. system.

Willington, executive director of the Massachusetts Republican Party, calls Drop.io, a website where users post and share data in range of formats. As soon as Willington, hangs up, the call is converted to an audio file that anyone can hear online.

"Any way that I can enhance or empower my cell phone--because a lot of times you don't have a video camera on you--is great," says Willington

He uses the site to record interviews with GOP activists, but says it could also be useful for opposition research. Willington adds that the site is also great for interns you may not want to entrust with an expensive video camera or MP3 recorder. They can dial Drop.io. turn on their phone's speaker and upload audio from an opponent's speech.

Launched last year. Drop io allows users to save up to 100 megabytes of information at no cost. Users can set passwords to protect access and control who can make a drop. Data can be posted via fax, e-mail, phone or web. Box net and GetDropbox. com are similar services.

Drop's io's founders didn't anticipate a political use for the site,. says Sam Lessin, one of the co-founders But, he says, "It makes total sense. You need to collect the information and you need to share it with your party."--J.B.
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Title Annotation:TechBytes
Author:Berg, Joel
Publication:Campaigns & Elections
Article Type:Website list
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2008
Words:866
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