Revamping BlueBroward.org

I will probably announce this in a bigger way later in the week, after a little more shakedown testing, but BlueBroward.org has just gotten a technical overhaul. It now runs on the WordPress blogging platform, but with my customizations layered on top.

As I said, I’m still testing it out, so let me know if you run into something that doesn’t work properly.

I’m hoping this will prove better in many ways, particularly in terms of being easier to use for people who post events frequently, such as Democratic club officers. Also, by having one common “dashboard” or control panel for both blogging and event management, I’m hoping to encourage more people to share their thoughts on the ┬ácommunity blog. There was a flurry of activity here around healthcare reform a few months ago, but the integration I had at that point between the blog and the rest of the website was kind of clumsy. I don’t think most people even knew it was there. Continue reading “Revamping BlueBroward.org”

Invitation to Candidates

Update June 6, 2010: New instructions available here.

BlueBroward.org essentially offers free advertising to candidates to help them promote themselves and their events, and recruit volunteers. So I’m puzzled that more candidates don’t take advantage of it. Part of it may be that some candidates don’t know about it, or their campaign staffs don’t. Maybe some are leery of aligning themselves with some political faction represented on this website. But really the only institutional bias here is toward greater grassroots involvement and energy in Democratic politics.

Frankly, although I would like to have more campaigns represented here, I don’t have time to go chasing them down for the sake of this volunteer venture. But I encourage you to talk to your favorite candidates about BlueBroward as a resource.

Any BlueBroward.org member can register a campaign on the website. I just ask that you do it with the permission and knowledge of the campaign. If you get my emails but don’t remember your password, there is an “Email My Password” function on the login page to let you recover it.

Campaigns and their supporters are also entitled to post any and all events to the BlueBroward Calendar and to post entries in the community blog. I reserve editorial control, but I have rarely even been tempted to delete something a member has posted.

Just today, I made a couple of changes to the campaign registration form to try to make it easier for members to complete. Essentially, I’m looking for the name of the campaign, the office you’re seeking, a brief blurb about the campaign, a link to your own website if you have one, and contact info so volunteers know how to reach you.

The link to the campaign registration form is at the top of the campaign listings page.

The register campaign form itself looks like this:

register_campaign2

Once you have created an event, you can return to this page at any time to update the listing.

Also, at the very bottom of the page, there is an option to “Delegate/Share Responsibility” that you can use to allow another campaign representative to edit the campaign profile or post events on behalf of the campaign.

If you try it, and it’s not as easy as I say it is, feel free to contact me with questions or complaints.

– David F. Carr, david@bluebroward.org, 954-757-5827

Campaign Webmaster for Hire

While my initial motivation for starting BlueBroward.org was simply to help promote better grassroots organization of Broward Democrats, these days I do also have a crass commercial motivation. I’ve built up a business as a webmaster for hire, not only for campaigns but for small businesses and community organizations.

Actually, while it may be crass, this gambit hasn’t been as commercially successful as I’d like it to be. I need to work on my shameless self-promotion skills! So here I am asking for introductions to candidates you know who may need a website, or may need a better website. More details here: Campaign Website Package.

I’m also looking for small business clients, and there’s more detail about my services in general at carrcommunications.com.

Thanks for your help.

New Meeting / Events Editor, RSVP Function

I have just updated the form for posting events to the BlueBroward Calendar to feature a more user friendly “rich text editor,” which means it should be easier for folks to add links, as well as bold and italic text and other effects to their calendar entries. Like anything technical that’s new, it may have some bugs to be worked out, so just yell if you run into problems. (I did test it first, honest, but it may turn out I’ve missed something).

The main thing that’s new is this rich text editor, which is courtesy of a user interface library developed by Yahoo. The button you use to add a link looks like a link in a chain, and most of the other buttons should be fairly self-explanatory.

The new editor provides rich text editing options
The new editor provides rich text editing options

If you are going to be posting meetings regularly for a Democratic Club or campaign, I ask you to set up an event template for that organization and associate all events for that club or campaign with that template. For a club, the template is the boilerplate information about your club, where it meets, and what its regular schedule is. When you post a new event, that information will be filled in by default. You can add other details, and you can always post an event for a different date or location, but associating all events with the record for your organization in the database helps keep things organized. Your organization can also designate multiple people with rights to post and edit events, so that you can back each other up.

The function for editing the club/organization template used to be down at the bottom of the screen. Now, you click on the button on the right hand sign of the screen that says “Switch to Template Editor” and the options will change from asking you to pick a specific date to picking a schedule such as “First Tuesday” (can also be “Varies Month to Month” if you don’t have a regular schedule).

For campaigns, the campaign profile functions as the event template. Again, multiple people can be designated with rights to edit the campaign profile and post / edit events on behalf of the campaign.

If you want to collect RSVPs through BlueBroward, you can now do so. Note that this is an option: if you use some other service such as Meetup to help you organize events, I’m not going to force you to use my RSVP setup. Instead, you can just link to the page for your event on Meetup.

On the other hand, I know some of you have gotten away from using Meetup because of the fees they charge, and for some of you it may be simpler to handle RSVPs for a Democratic event through BlueBroward. To turn on that feature, you must supply an email address where notifications can be sent as RSVPs come in.

You can also add some instructions for how you want the form filled out by attendees. By default, the RSVP form asks for name, phone number, and email address, but there’s also a space for people to provide other information. For example, you might want to ask people to tell you what they will be bringing for a pot luck dinner. Or you might have specific information you have to supply for the security detail at a presidential visit.

Along with the instructions, you can add a confirmation message to be displayed after the RSVP is entered. This information will also be included in an email confirmation that goes to the attendee. For example, if there is a charge for event, you might want to include reminders about the pricing and where checks should be mailed.

The RSVP fields aren’t displayed when you first open the web page that includes the form. They will appear when you click the link “Click to Set RSVP options”

How to display the RSVP options
How to display the RSVP options

I wouldn’t suggest asking for RSVPs for every monthly meeting of a Democratic Club, but rather for special events for which it would be helpful to get a good headcount.

When you set a request for RSVPs, a link to the RSVP page for your event will be displayed as part of your event listing on the BlueBroward Calendar. Users who click on that link will be taken to a page like the one below.

Entering an RSVP
Entering an RSVP

When someone completes the form, an email will be sent to the email address you supplied (by default, the one associated with your account, although you can provide a different email if you prefer). A list of the people who have responded will also be displayed on your MyPage Menu page.

None of this is carved in stone, so let me know if you run into something that doesn’t work the way it ought to.

Share and Share Widely

The row of icons for Facebook, Twitter, Digg, and other such sites under each blog posting are there so that you can share these entries with others on the web. In many cases, you can share a little commentary of your own (sometimes it might be “this is so stupid!” – nothing says you have to agree with me on anything – but to my mind it’s even better if you can promote something you think is worthwhile).

I’ve added a similar row of icons on the BlueBroward Calendar and plan to do the same with the campaign listings here, so that you can help promote events and campaigns. On the blog, I’m using a freely available WordPress plug-in called Sociable, and I’m mimicking techniques drawn from that tool to add the same sort of functionality elsewhere on the website. That’s in addition to the Facebook-specific integration I added recently.

All this is so that campaigns, causes, events, and ideas posted here (by myself or others) can be shared more widely.

P.S. Help me out here. This blog is open to postings by any member with a BlueBroward password. I tend to post about the techie aspects of running this website and Internet strategies you can apply to your own online political efforts. I’d like to see others who are more knowledgeable than I about issues such as healthcare and the economy adding their voices here.

Best of the Old Posts

Because some of the old posts are fairly outdated now, I thought I should highlight a few that I believe are still relevant in terms of strategy for exploiting the Internet.

Political Email

Email – please identify yourself

Campaigns and other political organizations, like most organizations of every type these days, have made use of the Internet integral to their operations. But they don’t always do a good job of it. I’ve been known to make some mistakes of my own, of course, but there are certain principles …

Even Big Campaigns Screw Up Email

This is a perfect example of how even big campaigns sometimes miss on the basics of email communication. So I’m scanning through my email on a busy day, and it contains a mix of spam and commercial promotions. I make my living as a tech magazine writer, so some of …

Hazards of Email

Interesting Christian Science Monitor piece on the hazards of email miscommunication. Not specific to politics, but something to keep in mind for every kind of email interaction.

Web Strategy

The Worst Thing a Campaign Web Site Can Be Is …

…outdated. The same could be said for most Websites, political or not. But when I do a campaign Web site, I want people to come away with the impression that there’s a lot going on with the campaign, momentum is building, this is a campaign worth getting involved with or …

The Broward DEC Web site is dead again

This really annoys me. One month to the election, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at the Broward County Democratic Executive Committee website. Until recently, it hadn’t been updated since July. Then somebody posted a tiny item with a link to the AM 940 website — I guess because chairman …

Compare and Contrast – Broward Republican Executive Committee

Out of morbid curiousity, I took a look at the Republican website for the county. See the comparison: http://www.bluebroward.org/img/compare.htm