Microsoft TownHall is a cloud-based application that can be used to build Web sites for social computing. Similar to a traditional town hall, Microsoft TownHall allows users to build sites where communities can discuss shared topics of interest. TownHall has a data mining feature that allows the site's owner to search the discussion forums and run reports.
Microsoft’s target user base for TownHall is politicians who want to attract supporters, solicit their opinions and make them feel as if they are an important part of the campaign. The platform features discussion forums and polling capabilities that are designed so that visitors can vote which topics are most important and move them to the top of the list. To encourage interaction and facilitate information gathering, registered visitors are rewarded badges for their participation. TownHall is part of Microsoft’s Campaign Ready suite of software tools.
TownHall is hosted on Windows Azure, and is promoted as being plug and play. Because it is cloud-based, TownHall is intended to make it easy for users to engage their communities across a number of different computing devices. For example, Microsoft has TownHall clients in the works for the iPhone, the iPad, Google Android, and Windows Phone 7 devices. TownHall also supports login with Facebook Connect. All of the data collected on the TownHall sites is owned by the user and stored in SQL Azure, where it can be integrated into the user's existing systems or applications.
Although Microsoft TownHall is targeted at government officials and politicians, businesses may also find it useful. Licensing of TownHall is free; however, users pay to host TownHall on Azure. For this reason, some critics have claimed that TownHall is simply a way for Microsoft to promote the Azure platform.
Learn more about Microsoft TownHall:
Campaign Ready is a set of Microsoft products and services positioned to meet many business, political, technical and infrastructure needs for running a political or advocacy campaign.
NASA’s Be a Martian! is built on Microsoft TownHall.