Politico Web 1.0 Fail

Saturday, February 7, 2009 9:39 | Filed in Politics, Technology

I have had occassion to visit to political websites this week, because there was something I was going to say to two different politicians, with differeng political beliefs and differing profiles. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up saying anything to either of them, because both were making the same basic mistake.

First was Jim Knight MP, who had been in the news because he is Schools minister and — shock, horror, sack the bastard now — typos and/or spelling errors had been found in his blog, and this has caused something of a media circus.

While it is not mandatory that blogs should have spelling errors, I had always understood that the purpose of a blog should be personal communication. This is what I think; this is what I feel. It is not therefore expected to be a highly polishhed document such as an essay, which would be checked and re-checked. Mistakes will creep in now and again, but so long as they don’t distort the message or make it difficult to understand, there shouldn’t be a problem.

And I was going to tell Jim this, tell him that these media types will kick up a fuss about spelling or suchlike because so many of them seem to have a fear of blogs, twittering and the like (presumably because so much ‘citizen journalism’ is eroding the need for, and questioning the capability of, ‘journalism journalism).

Only when I went to Jim’s site to leave a comment on the blog entry where he mentions this (he says it’s his own fault because he updates his site himself — which is preciely what I’d prefer to be the case, although he must try harder), I discovered that I wasn’t allowed to comment unless I was a member of Labour MembersNet. Nor was there a comment form on his site for me to send him the comment direct.

As my old blogging chum Paul has alluded, this is evidence that Labour just don’t get the web. The implication that I can have nothing useful to say on Jim’s site unless I am a member of Labour MembersNet is nonsense. I am not in Jim’s constituency, but surely he has been elected to represent all of those people in that constituency, not just the subset who voted for him, or the even smaller subset who are on Labour MembersNet?

Are the conservative-supporting members of Jim’s constituency likely to join Labour MembersNet? Would they feel disenfranchised — “if I’m not prepared to join that, Jim’s not prepared to listen to me”? For that matter, what about people like myself who have political beliefs but do not wish to formally affiliate myself with any party? (I’d rather vote for the specific person I believe is most likely to effectively represent me than vote for a party ticket)

Fair enough, if you don’t trust people not to put in a lot of abusive comments to MPs, moderate the ones who aren’t from Labour MembersNet before they go live, but at least allow these people to have a voice. I probably shouldn’t pick on Jim specifically for this, as I suspect quite a few other Labour MPs will be in the same boat.

If I was going to grade it, I’d give it an E.

Which shoehorned-in comment beautifully leads me into my next politico fail. Apparently, David Cameron has pledged to send his kids to state schools, if he can find one offering a good education. Well, I suspect that there an awful lot of state schools which would offer a good education: in my local authority area, I believe we’ve outperformed the national average for some time at GCSE, and some of the schools are way ahead.

If David Cameron would care to send his children to school in Gateshead then, he’d find plenty of schools at which they could get a good education — a fact of which I am rightly proud, as a resident. I do resent the seeming implication that state schools are floundering. Maybe it’s just the ones near David Cameron which are, if people like him are choosing to send their children to fee-paying schools instead…?

Or is it just the standard Southern bias — schools in the North don’t really count? Or is it political bias — successful schools with a Labour council in a Labour heartland certainly don’t count?

And again, I was contemplating leaving a comment of this nature on David Cameron’s well publicised ‘webcameron’ blog. Only ‘webcameron’ isn’t actually there any more, redirecting me to the conservatives.com (which is fair enough really, as that’s cameron’s political party). However, I did object to being taken to the home page of that site and then having to navigate around to find David Cameron.

Surely if I’ve tried to get to webcameron, the chances are that I’m interested in that “David Cameron” bit, particularly the David Cameron vlog bit? This is again typical politico web fail: “we’ll send you to the bit we want you to be interested in, irrespective of the bit you want”. Anyway, once I’ve found that, I’ve discovered that obviously there is no opportunity to leave comments here either.

When you consider the rapidity with which the UK’s politicians seem to want to seize the opportunities offered by new technologies, it’s a shame that they are so traditionally reluctant to allow for any debate or discussion — even when they have control over the medium.

I would love politicians to finally learn that what the public want is reasoned debate, and the opportunity to engage in such. Unfortunately, what we get is soundbites, spin and point-scoring, with all opportunity for debate ruthlessly quashed. And they wonder why people are becoming disillusioned with politics and politicians…

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3 Comments to Politico Web 1.0 Fail

  1. paul canning says:

    February 7th, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    There are some UK politicians who get it – Tom Watson or Lynne Featherstone are good examples. But you’re right that Labour as a party don’t and the Tories as a party don’t, though they have successful online supporters, exemplified by your experience.

    The problem with blogs like the one you pick up on is that they create the exact opposite experience to the one they’re presumably intending to create. They just look partisan and, to a big degree, arrogant.

  2. Gill says:

    February 15th, 2009 at 11:02 pm

    I’ve had a similar experience in the last few days whilst trying to make a comment on John Prescott’s petition against Bankers getting bonuses. That too runs through a Labour party organised site.

    Having spent ages working out a well reasoned rant and typing it neatly, with no spelling mistakes, I hit the submit button only to find that if you’re on a Mac it posts your name and ignores everything else.

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