John McCain's nomination as the Republican candidate for\n president has been locked up for more than two months now. An\n estimated 45,000 people, including Republican delegates, are\n making plans to gather in St. Paul, Minn., around Labor Day for\n the party's convention. But the technology behind the\n website for the GOP's national\n convention is still taking shape.\n MORE ON 2008 Campaign\n \n The Web 2.0 Campaign for the White House\n \n Election 2008: Technology Issues Will Play a Key Role\n Engineering this technology is a man named Max Everett.\n Everett is CIO for the Committee on Arrangements, a subset of\n the Republican National Committee that is activated every four\n years to plan the convention. His goal for this year's shindig\n from Sept. 1-4 at the Xcel Energy Center arena: to use\n technology to make more of the convention appeal to the\n general voting public.This objective is something both Republicans and Democrats\n pursue every four years. While 2004 saw its share of\n Internet-based advances in fundraising, online community\n building and e-mail campaigns (see IT on the Campaign Trail\n and Howard Dean Profits from Web Campaign), this year the parties hope to\n take things a step further\u2014both to broadcast their\n messages and make up for the dwindling network television\n coverage of the events. (Also see The Web 2.0 Campaign for the White House and Election 2008: Technology Issues Will Play a Key Role.)Live from the Convention FloorEverett's plans include tons of Web-based video from the\n convention floor and other venues, provided by a variety of vendors. The\n Web strategy also calls for submissions from outside the\n convention by members of the public, and real-time\n question-and-answer chat sessions with convention\n delegates."We'll be using video to provide behind-the-scenes looks at\n a lot of the things you wouldn't necessarily hear about in\n traditional media outlets," says Everett, who runs an IT staff\n of roughly 20. "The ideas here are for everyone to see the\n message of our nominee and for people to become interested and\n more involved."These interactive programs will begin this summer with a\n number of contests on YouTube, one of the convention partners.\n Everett says certain details are still sketchy, but that the\n contests will require participants to submit homemade videos\n electronically. Everett declined to say what the GOP is\n spending on its convention website project.Another effort designed to increase user participation:\n streaming video during the big event. This technology, hosted\n by convention partner Ustream.tv, will operate from a studio\n alongside "radio row," the spot where dozens of radio\n stations line up to interview delegates during the big\n show.Everett says the technology will enable Web viewers at home\n to ask questions of certain delegates via chat box, and watch\n the delegates respond to the questions in real-time video.These plans to use Web-based technologies to engage\n interested people in a two-way conversation are a step in the\n right direction, says Stu Trevelyon, president of NGP Software,\n a Washington, D.C.-based company that produces fundraising\n software for political candidates. Trevelyon says that\n surprisingly, many political organizations have been slow to\n adopt these technologies, even though the groups claim to seek\n grassroots support."These types of interactive technologies are markers of the\n way user-generated content and voters have found their way into\n more mass-media outlets over the last few years," says\n Trevelyon, who generally works with Democrats and their allies.\n "It's nice to see the political world embracing them after all\n this time."However all of this streaming content ends up being used,\n it's sure to require some serious bandwidth to broadcast, and\n Everett says telecommunication vendor (and GOP convention\n partner) Qwest has promised up to a gigabyte of\n bandwidth to all points inside the Xcel Energy Center. He\n adds that the GOP also is working with national wireless\n providers to bolster cellular service inside the arena.Big Tent Approach to Platform, Security ConcernsAnother issue to consider when pulling all of this\n technology together: platform. Everett and his Republican\n colleagues are taking a middle-of-the-road approach, opting for\n a mix of open source and other platforms.For Everett, the justification behind this decision is\n simple: Too much of a good thing probably isn't as good as one\n thinks."Our focus is really on finding the technology that best\n fits our need," he says, noting that Microsoft is another\n convention partner, so the GOP will be using at least some\n tools from that vendor. "We've found that a blended solution\n usually is best."Another benefit of hybrid platform: security. Security has\n been one of the biggest challenges for Everett in designing IT\n for the Republican convention, largely because it's such a\n high-profile issue.On one hand, he says, the party wants to make sure all of\n the information on the site is secure, and that the site is\n always online so people can find and use the information\n therein. On the other hand, the GOP has been very careful about\n not overdoing it with security\u2014not just locking things up\n to say the site is safe.To this point, one solution will be ethical hackers. Everett\n says he plans to hire a penetration testing team to come in a\n few weeks before the convention and try to break into the site\n as an evildoer might. The thinking here is that if the ethical\n hackers can find vulnerabilities and fix them before hackers\n find them at all, security breaches can be avoided from the\n very beginning. "Any time you're collecting user information,\n you need to be extra-specially careful with it," says\n Everett.