The Federal Party Websites: Not at the Leading Edge

My conclusion after a visit to all the federal party websites is that they do not come near the leading edge political sites. Two leaders I’ve posted about previously are Barack Obama’s and the 2007 Ontario Liberal party’s. While there are occasional exceptions, most of the federal party sites show the following deficiencies.

Top-Down, not Bottom-Up

Unlike Obama’s site, they provide little opportunity for real engagement. “Action” usually is limited to donating, getting a sign, or working in the constituency. The Conservatives’ “my campaign” page goes a bit further to include sending a form letter to a newspaper or using a prepared script to call talk radio. The Greens and the Bloc are the only parties that take blogging seriously: Elizabeth May posts herself and encourages voters to post.

Policy-Lite

The Bloc and the Greens appear to have the most comprehensive policy papers, though the former focuses on one policy area and the latter on one region. The Conservatives, Liberals, and NDP don’t match the Liberal red books of the past. One of the virtues of a fixed election date, in contrast to this year’s sudden call, is it provides more time to develop a comprehensive manifesto.

Not Much Diversity

The Ontario Liberals have shown diversity in making at least parts of their site available in a variety of languages; the federal sites don’t go beyond the two official ones. Barack Obama’s site has pages for many interest groups (women, veterans, blacks, Hispanics), but there is nothing comparable on any of the federal sites.

Narrowcasts or Portals

The Liberals have four sites (the Liberal site, Green shift, this is Dion, and scandalpedia) while the Conservatives have two (the Conservative site, not a leader). The argument for multiple sites is that each is narrowcasting a particular message in a particular style. The problem with multiple sites is that each takes on a life of its own, potentially departing from the key messages and overall tone of the campaign. This was demonstrated by not-a-leader’s pooping puffin, which was likely the creation of a web developer working with too little sleep, too much caffeine, and without the benefit of adult supervision.
In the voters’ eyes, parties will ultimately own all their messaging, both positive and negative, and I favour putting it all out there on one portal.

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