A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

PdF: Let's Talk About Text

In the world of news, Markos Moulitsas feels that his website The Daily Kos is ancient, claiming that the website is "Eight years old, or 56 in dog years, which makes it 2,000 in internet years."

Day two of PdF brought us "Rethinking Media," where the founder and publisher highlighted the buildup to war in 2002, which he called "a difficult, trying time for progressives, akin to treason" for dissent. Moulitsas said that at the time his frame of mind was steeped in frustration. His childhood included a love of news and politics, including pricey subscriptions to local Chicago newspapers at a cost to his hard-working parents.

Moulitsas detailed what he felt was a vacuum of truth and objectivity in traditional news media in the face of declining ratings and advertising shares. He felt empowered paying  $8.95 for a domain name and launching The Daily Kos, a progressive blog. He explained that having the website as an outlet made him and other future bloggers change from passive sideliners to content creators, and much of it was facilitated by low-startup costs.He feels that blogging brings in people from all walks of life, creating new voices, and encouraging a new, collaborative form of media.

Moulitsas cited how even a year ago, the idea of having bloggers ask the President a question was considered unheard of, yet now is a regular occurrence. In his opinion, blogging has changed the landscape of news, where there is no difference between television, newspapers, or blogs. He noted that comments, reporting, and the delivery of video and print are now the same across the board, an amalgamation of content.

In this new era, he sees an emergence of platforms and purpose, as opposed to layout and presentation.

He prides the Daily Kos for committing themselves to polling, commissioning more than any other news organization. He wants to create a culture that doesn't assume to know what the opinion of the American public is, saying the website is moderated by the community itself, who by establishing the culture of the website give the readers ownership of the content.

One interesting fact Moulitsas mentioned: Users of his website stay for 48 minutes on average, versus 1 hour spent on the Drudge Report. He mentioned that those numbers are almost double the average for the traditional media sites.

Video from PDF is streaming live at http://personaldemocracy.com/live .

You can also keep up with the latest Tweets. Check out the PdF Twitterslurp at http://personaldemocracy.com/twitter , powered by The Bivings Group.

Event hashtag is #pdf10.

Attack of the Obama Clones Part 2: The Screenshots

Last week I wrote a post detailing ways in which the Barack Obama website design has been appropriated by other other political candidates. The post focused on specific elements of the design and how it had influenced others.   For the sake of posterity, I also put together a Flickr set of the most blatant rip offs that I’ll update over time.  The set is embedded below. 

View full screen and click on the Show Info option to view my notes on each design.

Do you really digg your town?

Some people really dig their town, and Manor, TX is trying to tap into this passion through its crowdscouring site Manor Labs.  The site has many social media features from sites like Digg.  It seems fitting that its CIO Dustin Haisler, who is 23, spearheads this effort; perhaps this is what you get when you give a millennial authority.  He is doing something bold.  Check out the May 2010 Government Technology profile of his efforts titled "City 2.0."

Like Digg, Manor Labs enables people to vote up or down each idea, and the more popular an idea is, the more likely that the town will take action on it if it is reasonable and feasible to do so.  Participants are also given "Innobucks" that they earn by contributing to the site.  They can cash them in at the site’s store for privileges like the opportunity to serve as a honorary mayor for the day (complete with lunch and dinner with the mayor and city manager), a ride with the police chief in his car for an entire shift, and — my favorite — the opportunity for the town to officially name a week after the person through proclamation. It is important to give participants incentives — even if it is an ego boost like getting a week named after you, which comes at very little cost to the town.  Further, I wonder how many boys between between the ages of 3 and 10 years old who are begging their parents for a ride in a police car…  Very clever.

There’s little need to touch upon peddling and purchasing influence since the spirit of the effort is to encourage improving the town for everyone. ;)  Another advantage to this type of crowdsourcing is that it is done in a venue that promotes transparency.

As I have noted before, there are participation inequality issues.  Not everyone has the ability (whether access or competency) nor the desire to participate in such an effort. What happens when the digitally savvy and excited over represent themselves?  That was the case when the Utah State Legislature passed a school voucher bill back in 2007; many pundits attributed some of the success to a discussion about the bill on the Politicopia wiki set up specifically discuss political issues in Utah.  After the bill’s passage, the bill was killed by a voter referendum.  Thus, even though people get excited about an idea online, it does not mean that most of the other affected people agree with the direction of the discussion.

However, it is important not to throw out the baby with the bath water.  Organizations that use social media to gather opinions and feedback from their constituents must acknowledge that their entire constituency likely does not use one channel of communication and participation.  Thus, they must take such feedback and participation in context and solicit feedback through other means to involve a more diverse group of stakeholders.  If Manor, TX does this, it likely will avoid what happened to the Utah State Legislature. 

Attack of the Obama Clones

The 2008 Barack Obama web program was the most successful online campaign in history.  And its not really close.  Given its impact, it is no surprise that www.barackobama.com has quickly become the most borrowed from design in the history of politics.  If you pay attention, you’ll see echoes of it everywhere.

Most designers take inspiration from great designs like the Obama site, using it as a jumping off point for their own work.  Others simply steal aspects of the design whole, either out of laziness and lack of inspiration, or in a concerted effort to associate their candidate with the Obama brand.  Following are examples of elements of the Obama design that, to varying degrees, have been appropriated by other candidates.  Note the examples mentioned range from some pretty blatant copy jobs to more subtle use of similar colors, fonts and drawing styles.   Thanks to my colleague Kodi Seaton for the accompanying graphics.

(1) Complete Rip Off

Current Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu website is the most blatant Obama rip off I’ve seen.  His site steals the Obama design lock, stock and barrel.



2010 Candidates Focus on Branding

When you get down to it, campaign websites typically have two main audiences: (1) people looking to learn about a candidate and (2) supporters looking for ways to help the campaign out.  Most campaign website designs focus on the supporter audience, taking on a look that is somewhere between a news site and an action center.  This approach probably makes sense for well known candidates with established brands.  But I’ve always thought that less well known candidates should focus their sites more on introducing themselves than on updating folks on the minutiae of their campaign.  They should use their website to tell folks who they are.

In the last few months, I’ve noticed some campaigns creatively using photography and video to really brand the candidate, instead of taking on the look and feel of a normal campaign website.  Below are some examples of this trend (click on images to go to full site).  While I think some of these sites are better done than others, I applaud all of them for trying something different.

Nathan Deal (R-GA)