15 September 2009

Pushing buttons: technology and campaigns

While most candidates in the St. John’s municipal election have embraced some form of technology to support their campaign, the level of usage and the sophistication varies widely.

On one end of the spectrum you’ve got Ward Three candidate Bruce Tilley and his Web 0.5 beta site that looks like it was left over from the days when the Internet ran on vacuum tubes.

There’s no one who has fully embraced Web Campaign 2.0, but some are pretty close.

Like Shannie Duff and Simon Lono. Both have the social media add-ons like Twitter and they update them frequently. Both are also using videos through youtube to help spread their views. 

Those are just two;  their are others like Sheilagh O’Leary or Debbie Hanlon who are making maximum use of the facebook space to keep their network of dedicated supporters informed an up-to-date.

Others have got the look down, but the content is lacking, like any of the mayoral contenders or Keith Coombs.

Doc O’Keefe has a really expensive electronic brochure but then again that’s what you get when you hire an advertising agency. It’s all non-threatening designer beige and even the photos of the candidate are retouched packages of pure crud. 

Human beings simply do not look like this.  Borg have healthier skin tones.   There’s a calculated effort here to be inoffensive but the effect is so calculated and so miserably executed that it comes off being offensive and obnoxious.

 Ron Ellsworth’s site looks good, but there are some inconsistencies in the content that mar the overall package.  He has a section called “My approach” and the sub-headings are about “Our” this and that.  There are plenty of these jarring internal contradictions in Ellsworth’s campaign.  Think a plan where the first action item is to develop a plan. Altogether, these suggest Ellsworth hasn’t got his political shit together or his campaign team is so inexperienced or otherwise incapable that they can’t get a bit of focus to the message.

Take Twitter as another example. Ron’s got it, but one suspects he’s got it because someone told him that’s what campaigns need to look good.   But Twitter is the sort of thing that hyper-caffeinated hamster people with crackberries use to keep people notified of the bathroom habits or random firings of the few synapses left in their brains.  Some of them are so wired they are proof  a monkey can sometimes luck out and type a coherent sentence with just their thumbs.

Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration.

But when a guy uses Twitter like a stone tablet in cuneiform – google it, people on your iPhone -  you know that  Ellsworth can talk about engaging people but he has no idea how to actually do it. 

But if you want to get a taste for raw energy and the sort of straight-up presentation the Web 2.0 technology can deliver, check out Lono’s virtual door-to-doors. 

Specifically have a look at the one on community, taxes and services.  It should raise a few hackles but it speaks very loudly and very deliberately to a raft of voters in the west end of St. John’s.  Curb-side recycling is funny but the humour is an entree to a simple message about the need to just get on with better waste management.

The two that are getting the most attention are two you might expect to, though.  Bally Hally speaks directly to an election issue and one that will face the next council.  Lono makes his position clear. Lono’s call for a municipal auditor general seems to have struck a nerve with people too, if the number of visitors is any indication.

There are plenty of ways to use technology in political campaigns. You can see the full spectrum in the St. John’s municipal race.