Tuesday, 29 July 2008

I don't wish to sound critical...

but Ross Finnie, do you really think that having a long and rambling interview in the leadership election section of your MSP website is the best way to convince people that you have the vision and the skills needed to put the Scottish Lib Dem case across clearly and concisely?

Don't get me wrong, much of what you're saying in it is quite sensible, but I doubt very much that too many people will read right the way through to the end of it.

I suppose I shouldn't really be critical of Ross on this, as at least he has a website listed on the Scottish Lib Dem site, unlike fellow leadership contender Mike Rumbles. And you only discover that Mike does actually have a website if you do a Google search and go as far as the third page of results.

Incidentally, when I did a Google search a few weeks ago on all three candidates, I didn't find anything for either Ross or Mike, and I didn't see Ross's site listed on the Scottish Lib Dem website, so I don't know how long they've actually been in existence (in Mike's case it seems only in the last few weeks, while Ross's has stories dating back to last year.)

In contrast, Tavish Scott has at least had a website for a while, even if it is filled mainly with biographical information and the links are almost wholly Shetland-based (not even a link to the Scottish Lib Dem website, Tavish? Tut, tut).

But a rather more surprising omission is that his site doesn't yet link to his new leadership campaign website. This is important, as Tavish's own site is listed on the Scottish Lib Dem site and comes up as number one if you do a Google search on his name. But the leadership campaign site doesn't yet feature anywhere on the first 100 Google results, so people looking for info about him as a candidate aren't going to find it unless they already know where to look (I only knew the leadership site existed because I got a leaflet on behalf of Tavish's campaign today).

However, I would say that both his personal site and the leadership campaign site are dull both in look and content, a criticism I would also level at Mike Rumbles.

I must say that I find all this rather disappointing so far. This is a perfect opportunity for all three leadership candidates to demonstrate that they understand the importance of web campaigning, but so far their efforts are rather dismal. Where are the Youtube videos, the campaign buttons, the candidate's personal blogs? Why is there such a poor level of web design, which I hope wouldn't be tolerated if it appeared on a Focus leaflet? Where is there any sign so far that any of the candidates really has any idea about how to use the web to advance their campaigns?

Come on guys, I'm sure you can all do much better than this.


Stephen B said...


Firstly, I suspect that Tavish's site is paid for by the public purse and so is deliberately non-political. If it is his 'proper' site then that's not a good sign for the Lib Dems - presentation matters!

Second point is have a peer at a post I did yesterday on some US online political campaigning. It's probably more geeky than you might want (as well as being biased towards a different sector - but that's what the blog is about) but I think it shows where real effective online campaigning is going.

Stephen Glenn said...

And not's NOT wanting to sound critical? ;)

Mind you quite right all a bit slow on the old information highway this time around.

Bernard Salmon said...

Stephen B - I think Ross Finnie's website would also be paid for out of public funds, so I'm not sure that argument holds water.
An interesting posting on your site, even if I didn't quite follow every bit of jargon.
Stephen G - I was trying to be constructive as well as critical.

Stephen B said...

Bernard, I was always under the impression that anything overtly party political was a party expense and anything that was a constituency facing site (eg http://www.dannyalexander.org.uk/) was a tax payer expense as it was legitimate constituency communications. All of the sites you mention (with the exception of Tavish's woeful effort) look like party sites to me. Party Logos are usually the easiest way to distinguish party from constituency I think.

They fact that DA's site in the example above just happens to look like a Lib Dem site without the logos is, of course, intentional but doesn't break rules.

Not sure if these rules hold at Holyrood but I would expect them to.

OK, quick summary of my post: lots of politicians who have websites are the equivalent of people who advertise in a local paper (ahem!)...because they always have. Being really web smart means a) having a justification for a site with concrete outcomes and the ability to measure that this is being done. Obama does it. British politicians, however, tend to waste their money on the equivalent of vanity advertising in local papers instead.

'Flock Together' is probably the closest UK equivalent but I suspect it could be seriously supercharged. But as an evil right-winger, I hope it isn't.

Bernard Salmon said...

I must say that the rules about what is and isn't allowed on publicly-funded politician wevsites aren't entirely clear. Wendy Alexander's website, for instance, http://www.wendyalexandermsp.org.uk/ contains a link to join the Labour Party and the Labour Party logo. Of course, it may also be a party funded site, but it doesn't really look like one to me. I think MSPs are allowed to have party links, but overt party political campaigning is a no-no.

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