Yes, we’re still less than 100 hours into 2008, but the first caucuses are today and the general election is but ten short months away. Have you picked your candidates?
Like the Political Compass site I wrote about last year, there is now a nifty Electoral Compass website (which, tellingly, is Dutch, not American) with Flash-y goodness, that asks your opinion on a variety of political issues, then plots your position on a similar coordinate grid (though I’m pleased they’ve reversed the Y axis), along with the relative positions of the major presidential candidates. What’s really cool is that it has checkboxes that you can tick off to filter the results based on a variety of broad issues, allowing you to decide which factors are most important to you in finding a candidate who best represents your views. The final results page also lets you see how your answers to the specific questions compare to each of the candidates’ views on the same topics, based on their statements from past debates and positions outlined on their campaign websites. You can even see a breakdown of your relative proximity to each of the candidates, sorted from most- to least-similar.
Me, I’m not terribly surprised to see that I have more in common with Barack Obama than Mike Huckabee. But it’s still reassuring to get objective verification. It’s also not surprising that among the Republicans, I’m most closely aligned with Ron Paul, although I still (thankfully) only agree with him 50%. One thing that does surprise me is that on the economic scale (the X axis), I’m actually to the right (slightly) of someone (Hillary Clinton). But I’m more progressive (ranging from 11% for Obama to 91% for Thompson) than all of the candidates. Here’s to progress.
It’s been around for years, but frankly I’ve never given Ask.com much serious attention. There never really seemed to be anything wrong with it; it just wasn’t anything special. So I used Yahoo!… then Hotbot (remember that one?)… then AltaVista (known today only for its notorious offshoot, Babelfish)… then Google. Ah yes, Google… the end all be all of search engines.
Check out Ask.com. Not only is it glossed up with Web 2.0 goodness, it actually has some really cool features. Of course the search box has AJAX-based auto-complete. But it’s the results page that’s really impressive. I did a search on John Coltrane (of course… but not solely out of narcissism) and here are the results.
Everything fades in nicely as the results come back. The main column is your typical search results list. The left column gives a bunch of suggestions for narrowing or expanding your search, as well as searching on similar or related topics. The right column is what’s really cool though: different sections feature images, audio, an encyclopedia (well, Wikipedia) entry, and YouTube videos.
Sure, all of that stuff on the right side reeks of “synergistic” partnerships between Ask.com and the source sites. But whether they’re all throwing money at each other or not, the sources are well-chosen, and the overall effect is very cool.
Big thumbs up to Ask.com for their efforts on this. The big question, of course, is how good are the results? I am going to make this my primary search engine for a while, and put it through its paces.