My intention throughout the site design has been to establish a base infrastructure that can be used to power grassroots politics. For those of you who have worked on campaigns, you know that computer resources play a large role in their success. I hope this site will make a substantive addition to the various resources that people like Al Klein and Kevin Sandefur have built for the party over the years. I know the party also appreciates the web-based efforts of Brendan McGinty over the last several years.
Why Include a Blog?
One of the first things you’ve probably noticed is that our front page is a blog. After introducing the site at a recent Central Committee meeting, I found that this aspect was the most controversial. Some think it makes sense, while others think blog comments in particular will open up the party website to defacement and slander. I understand these concerns, and cannot honestly suggest that they have no merit. Anytime you open up a space to public discussion, you’re bound to hear things you don’t like. And in a space that allows unverified anonymous commenting, you’re practically guaranteed to attract some words you’d prefer not be here at all.
So given this potential, why have a blog? Quite simply, blogs are the new media of the 21st century. Gone are the days when the establishment media hold sole control over the information landscape. Blog posts, and web publishing in general, have rapidly become primary source material on a number of important issues of the day. Many in my generation and older are regularly using blogs as essential news sources. For those who are younger than myself, I doubt they bother to make a distinction between blogs and establishment media anymore.
Most importantly, I believe that the Champaign County Democrats should have a voice within this new media landscape, and a blog right here on the front page is a medium for it. Could we disallow comments and avoid the potential problems altogether? Sure. But one of the most important tools for creating new ideas is rigorous debate. This is an element that is sadly too often missing from our legislative processes these days, and look at how well they work. If there’s anything that I think Democrats stand for it’s a diversity of opinion and thought, and I think this core value should be embodied here.
As such, the blog will provide a forum for a large group of authors to share their thought-provoking opinions about local, state, and national issues. This group will include both elected officials and party activists. I’m still trying to round up interested individuals for this, so if you want to talk about it, let me know.
Joining the Discussion
For those interested in participating in the discussion, we have decided to require
Other Site Features
As for other site features, I’ve made a point of tying into a number of “Web 2.0″ services in the hopes of improving usability. The site is built on WordPress, a great blogging and overall content management platform. It supports a number of features, including RSS feeds, comments, etc. Calendaring is run through Google Calendar, enabling anyone to subscribe to our events with any iCal-compatible calendar. Photos are handled with Flickr, which means volunteers can upload albums from events, and every photo used on the blog can be commented on. Secure monetary donations are supported via PayPal (w/o registration) and spreadsheets are automatically generated for our treasurer.
But even more than these gee-whiz features, I’ve put the bulk of my effort into crafting the site so that it can be managed and updated by people with a variety of technical backgrounds. Any page on the site can be edited without HTML experience, and new pages can be just as easily created. My hope is that the site will be an enabling resource for the Democrats, and that it will outlast my own direct participation.
Despite all of these great things, however, there is still a lot to do. I’ll be continuing to add new content over the next few months, and will be training others to do the same. I also know that there will be a number of bumps along the way, as I figure out how things work under load and tune the site accordingly. I ask you to be patient in the first few months while these kinks are worked out.
Finally, while the overall look and feel is largely worked out for now (until it’s time for a fresh look), I am very interested in hearing about the features and content you’d like to see here. There are number of different constituencies for this site, and your needs are all unique. As I hear and learn more, I’ll be discussing various site features in detail in future posts. Feel free to comment on this post, wait for those, or you can send me mail directly anytime.