The digital election: Prepare to be spammed?
So have we decided yet - is it going to be a digital election? A couple of days into my new, temporary role covering the digital side of politics, I am of course convinced that new media tools will play a vital role in the campaign.
Why? Because everybody is telling me so, from Joe Rospars who ran the Obama digital campaign, to a host of PR firms which have been sending me details of their clients' plans to scrape data off social networking sites and predict which way the political debate is heading. You can hear a quick interview with Joe Rospars here - and see the short film I made for the Daily Politics programme below.
But here's a question - will the voters be impressed when they find politicians coming at them brandishing their new digital methods? At one of the innumerable debates about this issue, the Evening Standard's political blogger Paul Waugh, Labour's Tom Watson and Jeremy Hunt of the Conservatives all had some very sensible and measured things to say about how significant new media tools would be.
They all agreed they would play a role, but thought good old-fashioned television would be more important, with the prime ministerial debates a particular focus. But I was struck by how taken they were with one particular tool for communicating with voters - e-mail. One of the speakers made the point that 2005 had been the direct mail election, with the parties learning how to send tailored messages through the post.
This time, those messages will arrive via e-mail too - and there was much praise for the Conservative MP Grant Shapps, who has apparently managed to build a huge e-mail database. I checked with his office and apparently they now have the e-mail addresses of more than 10,000 constituents.
Then I went home - and spotted this message on Twitter:
"Just received the first direct mail spam from a political party. Warning spammers - I will not vote for anyone who sends me some"
So the politicians are finding new ways of talking to voters - but if all the tweets, Facebook groups and electronic missives are just regarded as spam, will much of that digital effort be wasted?
Grant Shapps has been in touch to stress that his email database is set up on an opt-in or opt-out basis. As he points out, spamming constituents would not only be counter-productive, it could also potentially be illegal.