Apptitude: More apps for the campaign season

Posted: September 06, 2012

As the political conventions wind down, and the campaigns crank into overdrive, there are plenty of smartphone applications to add to the arsenal for following the presidential election.

Each of this week's offerings is free, and all but one are available for both Android and Apple devices.

Ad Hawk by the Sunlight Foundation, available from Google Play and the App Store, tells which groups are behind political advertisements. The Sunlight Foundation is a nonpartisan group that advocates for government transparency.

While a political ad is playing on the radio or TV, Ad Hawk listens and identifies the ad, then displays information about who is behind it from data on file at the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Elections Commission, press releases, and other sources. You can tweet your results.

The technology for digital audio "fingerprinting" has appeared widely in apps that identify music. Promotional material says the idea for Ad Hawk came out of a hackers' meet-up in Philadelphia.

A similar but Apple-only app, Super PAC App from Glassy Media, also identifies political advertisements and lets you rate them on a "love, fair, fishy or fail" scale, with sharing options among Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, and text friends.

Fluent News from Fluent Mobile does what it calls "intelligent grouping" of news articles - from sources that include the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, the BBC, Fox News, and Time - to deliver subject-specific coverage.

The free, advertising-supported version allows users to set up three custom searches. For $1.99 per month ($2.99 for three months), you can do away with the ads and set up an unlimited number of searches.

I created a "section" with the keywords "election campaign Obama Romney" and had an instant lineup of stories out of the Democratic National Convention from Bloomberg News, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and other outlets.

A dozen preset searches include roundups of world news, entertainment, sports, and localized weather. So that you can read off-line, the app begins to update articles when it is activated.

The campaigns have their own apps, as well. Obama for America and Romney-Ryan provide ways to get involved in the campaigns - not least by making in-app financial contributions - as well as being partisan information sources.

Both apps list nearby campaign events (you can sign up to attend them) and explain the candidates' positions on issues. On the Romney app you can get a MyMitt e-mail address. The Obama app has an "Action" tab for becoming a campaign volunteer.


Contact Reid Kanaley at 215-854-5114, rkanaley@phillynews.com or @ReidKan on Twitter.

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