Digital Election 2010 - following the UK General Election online
The UK General Election 2010 has been called. It's 5 years since the last time the whole nation hit the ballot boxes en masse and by our books that makes this time the first truly digital affair. When Blair bowled home to a second term in 2005, Facebook was barely a year old and had far from caught on, YouTube was a whipper-snapper having started just 2 months earlier and Twitter wasn't even a twinkle in Jack Dorsey's eye.
This time, though, the connected world is going to be a major battleground to decide who gets the keys to Number 10. So, here's a closer look at how the parties and candidates have leveraged their digital tools and how we can follow the news as the excitement hots up to the big 6 May showdown.
140 characters are not going to be enough on any one tweet to give you the whole slant of a party's politics, but it's going to be a useful tool for the candidate charm offensive as well following the news and the campaign trail on a daily basis. What's more, it's quick. Very quick, and the discussions going on might be just as important in influencing other parts of the crowd.
Some people to follow
Nick Clegg - Liberal Democrats Leader
Vince Cable - Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor and Deputy Leader
BBC Election 2010 - Dedicated BBC Election coverage channel
Laura Kuenssberg - Chief political correspondent for the BBC
Rory Cellan-Jones - BBC Technology and Digital Election correspondent
Ruth Barnett - Sky News Twitter Correspondent
Jon Snow - Channel 4 newscaster
Krishnan Guru-Murthy - Channel 4 anchor
Tweetminster - a media utility that helps you follow the lot of them
And finally, if it is him and if he ever gets round to tweeting any more...
David Cameron - David Cameroon joke account only; amusing nonetheless
Gordon Brown - Has relied on Number 10 Twitter stream until now but that must stop according to election rules. Will he start a new one of his own?
Whether you're wanting too look up party policies, download manifestos or just work out who your local MP candidates are, then you'll find plenty of literature floating round the Internet. Here's a list of a few places to start your reading.
Times Online 2010 Predictor - Interesting and smooth graphic page showing who's likely to win and where
BBC Election 2010 homepage - superb hub of election information for all levels and interests
Sky News Election Map - well put together graphics of the political shape of the nation
Tweetminster - Election statistics according to Twitter: polls, maps and analysis
TheyWorkForYou.com - Huge database of events, debates, questions and answers of Parliament and Who's Who of MPs; excellent for seeing just who is supposed to be representing you.
Slapometer - Stress relief and humour Flash animation page where you get to give the three big party leaders a taste of your knuckles. Hours of fun.
Snippets on YouTube may not be the best ways to get policy across but in times where the political personalty game counts for a lot, the world of internet video becomes interesting territory. For the first time, there seems to be a good blend of heavily produced party political videos, recorded speeches and debates and some more candid looks at the men who might be in charge come this summer.
Webcameron - Conservative Party YouTube channel renamed along with the addition of some video blog elements of David Cameron's home life.
LibDem - More standard approach to party line video library
Nick Clegg on 12seconds - Largely inactive but alternative approach to online video casting. Still gives an interesting and brief impression of who he is.
Labour Party YouTube - Lots and lots and lots of footage - interviews, speeches, vox pops and party broadcasts
The 2010 elections are the first time we'll see live TV debates from three main party leaders. The first of the 90-minute sessions will be on domestic UK issues, televised on ITV on 15 April; the second is on international affairs live on Sky on 22 April and the final round will be on the economy and on the BBC on the 29 April.
Of course, if you'd rather go straight to the horse's mouth, there is always a chance that one of the candidates might answer your direct and specific query. If you have a burning question than try one of these:
David Cameron - e-mail
Nick Clegg - contacts form and Whitehall phone number
Gordon Brown - contacts form only
It may have once seemed like an attempt at being cool for the kids, but the beauty of a Facebook page is that you can get a lot more information up there than you can in quick snippets on Twitter and without quite the same level of propaganda as on an official part website.
Likewise, from the voter's point of view, it's an excellent place to get a good look at each candidate and party's political media all in one place, as well as somewhere to connect with other interested users. Here's a few pages to take a look at:
Sky News Leaders Debate - feedback, suggestions and community set up around 22 April live TV debate
Democracy UK - Group page to bring politics and people back together
Sadly, Android, webOS, BlackBerry, WinMob and Symbian have been overlooked by the main parties in the mobile app department, with only the Apple handset in so far. Doubtless, expect that to change in the coming weeks but, for now, here's a few ways to get the information to come to you.
iElect UK - iPhone app list telling you who the candidates are for each constituency gives contact details where it has them
MyPolitics UK - iPhone app that pulls in tweets, news, events and media from the forthcoming election run-up and allows you to share them on Facebook and Twitter