- The Washington Times - Monday, August 27, 2012

TAMPA, Fla. — Not going to the Republican or Democratic party conventions but want to stay on top of the latest happenings from Tampa and Charlotte?

There’s an app — rather many apps — for that.

With the Republican National Convention finally under way Tuesday and the Democratic National Convention kicking off next week, media outlets, political groups and social networking giants like Twitter and Facebook are using online tools and smartphone applications to create “virtual conventions” for those unable to attend.

“What you’ll be seeing over the next few days is innovative work by the Republican convention to incorporate these social channels, Twitter and other platforms, into the actual proceedings,” said Adam Sharp, head of government, news and social innovation for Twitter. “They are working to prompt attendees to share the experience.”

The Republican Party has branded their event “the convention without walls,” with the Twitter symbol #GOP2012 plastered everywhere inside the convention areas — including at the top of the iconic delegate state pillars on the convention floor. The ubiquitous “hashtag” — which allows Twitter users to categorize messages relating to a particular topic — is meant to encourage delegates to tweet right from the convention floor via smartphones or iPads.

“It isn’t just [the delegates’] experience. You should share this experience with the members of your community, with your constituents,” Mr. Sharp said. “For the first time, their neighbors, co-workers and friends can actually experience [the conventions] in real time through their eyes and not have to wait for the stories when they come home.”

The official Republican National Convention smartphone app includes live streaming video and audio links of floor proceedings. The tool also includes complete schedules of events, as well as news, photos, transportation information and maps for attendees.

The DNC’s official app similarly will include live streams of the Charlotte, N.C., convention, as well as access to the committee’s convention blog, a stream of Twitter tweets from the DNC and the host committee, behind-the-scenes photos, and an interactive map.

The app also will include a “digital scrapbook” that will allow users to save photos, videos and blog posts.

Major media outlets also have unveiled online and smartphone applications to connect the public with the conventions.

CNN has launched its free “Convention Floor Pass” app designed to give users access with breaking news updates and alerts, daily analysis and commentary and early access to CNN-Times polls, photos and video.

The cable network and Facebook on Monday also unveiled their “Election Insights” Web page that displays — in real time — the volume of Facebook activity for the Obama and Romney tickets.

Bloomberg news has two free apps — my2012Tampa and my2012Charlotte — that offer convention coverage. The apps feature a platform that allows those attending the conventions to electronically sign up for tickets to events and to electronically transfer extras with the click of button.

Protesters at the Tampa convention also can stay coordinated via March Hare Solutions, a free, map-based, crowd-sourcing application that allows users to receive and share information about what’s happening on the streets. By signing in at https://ushahidi.march-hare.org/messaging, users can receive text and email alerts that allow them to keep tabs on the location of police, road closures, arrests, injuries, marches and more.

The protester-friendly tool is available as an app — “RNC 2012” — on Android smartphones, while an iPhone version is pending, March Hare Solutions says.

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