October 9, 2007 5:02 AM PDT

Wikipedia for politics? A new site gives it a try

A political Web site set to launch on Tuesday plans to become a kind of Wikipedia-like destination specializing in elections, governments, and political candidates.

The idea behind PoliticalBase.com is to provide a neutral, one-stop source of information about politics (and politicians) to which anyone can contribute. Changes must be approved by a staff editor before they take effect.

Shelby Bonnie, who served as chief executive of CNET Networks from March 2000 to October 2006, is funding PoliticalBase.com and has moved it into offices in Sausalito, Calif. Four former CNET employees, including Mike Tatum of Chow.com, have joined him.

Bonnie says his new advertising-supported venture benefitted from his experience with technology reviews built atop a database of product names, specifications and user opinions. "We've made a database of people. We've made a database of issues. We've made a database of advocacy groups. We've used the (Federal Election Commission) data," he said.

Most wikis and wiki platforms--including the general-interest Wikipedia; EmacsWiki, a text-editor resource popular among computer programmers; and PBWiki, for business collaboration--tend to be free-form and allow users to veer in any direction. Even Campaigns Wikia, which Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales launched last year, takes that approach.

Like Wikinvest, which recently raised $2.5 million in funding, PoliticalBase.com is more structured. It has entries for hundreds of politicians and government entities ranging from Chippewa County, Minn. to Sen. Hillary Clinton. (If the entry is blank, as Chippewa County's is, visitors are asked to fill in the details.)

In addition, bloggers can embed live PoliticalBase.com charts showing political candidates' fund-raising on their own blog sites by copying and pasting a small chunk of Flash code into their Web page.

"This is a category where people tend to be passionate," said Bonnie, who hopes to tap into political candidates' 2008 advertising budgets.

Bonnie said that some upcoming features--such as pages listing politicians' votes on the No Child Left Behind Act or the federal Assault Weapons Ban--would be added in the next six months.

The PoliticalBase.com domain name was purchased for $10,220 in August, according to a report in DN Journal.

Editor's note: Bonnie, a CNET Networks co-founder, resigned as chief executive officer last year as part of an internal investigation into stock options backdating. News.com is published by CNET Networks.

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Never going to happen
"The idea behind PoliticalBase.com is to provide a **neutral**, one-stop source of information about politics (and politicians) to which anyone can contribute. "

Not going to happen. 'Neutral' is purely in the eye of the beholder. Even if the writer thinks they're being 'Neutral', subtle word usage and other keys show bias. Or, if they think they are being neutral between both sides - what if there's a 3rd side of the argument that gets ignored? Just look at wikipedia. They've made *great* strides over the years, but bias is still clearly evident in topics that have current political implications. Even if the tone is neutral, the inclusion and exclusion of events/scandals/criticisms/references will show bias.

A more honest approach is full disclosure. That is, say 'we're a commie/wingnut wiki - thats our approach so you know where we're coming from'.
Posted by LuvThatCO2 (187 comments )
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I can be neutral...
It can be neutral in the sense that all different perspectives can be represented and all sides debated (unlike our current system). This is hopefully the new face of democracy where the people really do have a voice. I have not visited the site yet, but have been wondering why we have not headed in this direction years ago. A single individual is almost always biased, but by having sveral different biased views together you can really find out where disagreements are at. Better yet is when you realize that an opposing view is not really that opposite of yours, but rather a misunderstanding of symantics and syntax. Best of all is the colaboration of countless minds to analize the pitfalls of any issue or proposal, that collective intelligence that the Internet provides is greater than any body of politicians, judges or lawyers.
Posted by chash360 (394 comments )
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This obviously should be the primary subject of the new site.
Posted by eaotan (1 comment )
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I tried to have a look at the website today and was unable to connect, I assume that it has gone down.

I've started a similar site called http://www.politicswiki.ie however it is limited to Ireland.

What we do is like wikipedia in that while not all the information is neutral, it is still backed up by citations from other sources.

We are also non profit, so we are not going to fall apart due to a lack of advertising revenue.

The problem is, that we're also tiny, we have very few contributors and there is a lot of work involved in getting enough information to be really useful.
Posted by StephenLacy (1 comment )
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