New Signature attended an interesting briefing on Microsoft TownHall at Microsoft’s office earlier today.  Microsoft TownHall is a cloud-based out-of-the-box engagement tool for use by political candidates, nonprofit organizations, and corporations.  With TownHall you can quickly turn up a website to engage citizens, constituents, or consumers and gain valuable insights.  TownHall does this by being true to its name.  It is a pre-packaged application that allows visitors to the website to ask questions, vote on questions, post responses and build their reputation within the community.   In Microsoft’s first beta customer, NASA, the built-in reputation system proved itself to be very effective, with some individuals earning just under 2 million points in just under 6 months.

A few key points on TownHall:

  1. free to use;
  2. open source so it can be customized and extended; and
  3. must run on the Windows Azure Platform. 

The benefit of using the Azure platform is that you only pay for the compute and bandwidth resources you actually consume.  Additionally,  the Azure platform can auto-scale to handle heavy website load.  Microsoft expects that on average the cost to run a single TownHall instance on the Azure platform will be between $500-$1,500 per month for the average organization.  This is dependent on usage of course, the more usage the higher the cost.

Data collected by the TownHall system is stored in Microsoft’s SQL Azure.  This data is completely owned by the customer and TownHall provides a number of mechanisms/tools to retrieve and/or interact with data.

If you are interested in learning more about TownHall, you can check out Microsoft’s demo site, download the source code, or call New Signature.  We would be more than happy to help implement TownHall for you!  New Signature is a Microsoft Gold Partner and works closely with our clients to take full advantage of the many solutions and services that Microsoft has to offer.