1.29.2009

Parsing the DPI candidates' websites

Somewhat apropos of Joy Cardin's interviews with each of the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction candidates, let's look at their websites. The way the candidates handle the Internet could say something real about how they relate not only to technology, but also to their constituents, so I think it's something worth talking about.

Tony Evers
Tony's pretty much the base line here. His site isn't bad -- layout is nice and crisp; there are some good, education-y photos; his Issues section is one of my favorites as far as layout goes. The big gold button commanding my contribution, coming as it does before any reason why I should contribute, seems a bit overbearing, but he also urges me to follow him on Facebook, which is a good move. (He's up to 42 supporters.) Overall, completely decent.

Dr Lowell Holtz
The good doctor is the next step down. The cheesy pixelation (Blogger doesn't recognize this word, so I'm forced to stop and Google to find out -- one "l" or two? Wikipedia has a handy answer) isn't even ironic, just bad. Obviously, it distracted me enough to worry more about how to spell pixelation than to think about Dr Lowell! At any rate, he's got his name up in a very large, bold font, so that we're sure it's really him, and a picture of him in a baseball cap and some other guy; they appear to be at a racetrack or something, and I guess this is his way of saying to us it's okay -- I'm a doctor, but also a regular guy who just cares about the good blue-collar folks of Wisconsin! I'm not sure I buy it, and I'm a bit confused as to why he doesn't play up his education more.

There's no Facebook link here, his contact information page claims there's "More to come.....," there are no events on his events page, and his only news on the news page comes from December 3, 2008. Which all just says to me that he's being lackadaisical and not really pushing anything here, that there's no real drive (despite the cars on the front page!), and no real group behind him.

Van Mobley
But the lamest of the lame is Van Mobley. Granted, his banner graphic isn't unfortunately pixelated, but that's about all the site has going for it. The front page is one big block of text. It's a square of text, which makes me think, "this guy's a square." Also, for some reason, all the dates on this front page come up as Skype phone numbers, but the one actual phone number doesn't have a Skype link. Guess I won't be making an Internet phone call to the Mobley campaign!

We don't even get the plethora of sections to click on here -- Van seems to be content with a Spartan two, besides the front page: a "meet Van" section that has a single picture of him alone, no hard-at-work kids or concerned parents or dedicated teachers or anything, just Van alone with a small waterfall behind him, giving us a "vote for me" smile; and a "Press" section that seems equally thin. We do have more dates that show up as Skype phone numbers though, for what it's worth.

Todd Price
Professor Price has, I'd say, the second best site of the bunch. Nice chalkboard header, and a good concise quote about his intentions in the race; the layout is clean. I like his sidebar layout: "Ask Todd" is a link to a page with actual questions people have sent him, and his responses (well, that should be singular: there's only one question up now, though that may change); Contact (which takes us to a page where the phone number is Skype-friendly!); and Facebook (he has 209 friends). Only the last bit falls short -- he has no links up in his Links section; he does have a number of good endorsements in the relevant section, though.

One of the things, aside from the Facebook link, that I really like about Todd's site is the fact that the front page is a blog that seems to be updated fairly frequently. I don't usually like candidates' blogs -- they're really little more than press releases posted to the site as they go out to media outlets usually -- but I think there's a real and clear effort here. It doesn't have a lot of personality -- I wish Todd would really let his own voice come through here, and tell us what he thinks of the things he's linking to -- but it's a step in the right direction, and he should get recognition for the effort.

Rose Fernandez
Rose has, hands down, the best site going. In fact, she did a very clever thing -- rather than have the title of the page come up as just her name, as the rest do, it comes up with a slogan: "Let's Change DPI." If Price's campaign has the best slogan, Fernandez has the cleverest, linking itself as it does to Obama. Her blog, a separate section, is pretty weak -- three links with no commentary (one of which is a "welcome to my blog" post). But she's clearly still the most linked-in: not only is she the only one rocking embedded YouTube clips on her front page, she's also rocking the social networking. She has both a Facebook link (that cleverly opens in a second window, so people can still stay poking around her site as well; she has 83 supporters) and a Twitter feed (which she uses extensively and, at times, hilariously).

Facebook race aside
Three of the candidates have Facebook pages, and I think this deserves a comment of its own. Fernandez and Evers are doing it the right way, I think, in creating a political profile of which one can become a supporter; in having a basic profile page, Price muddies the waters -- some, at least, of his listed friends are out-of-staters who won't have an impact on the DPI race. I'm at least able to gauge the actual level of support Fernandez and Evers have -- much less so with Price. I'd like to see him change that.

Update: Kudos are in order for Mr Mobley, who I now see has heavily revamped the site, adding some pictures (I think they should be more education-y, though) and audio, which is pretty good. And the dropdown menus are nice!