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Geoff Daily

App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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July 15, 2008 10:19 AM

Republican Platform Committee Goes Online...For Better or Worse

One of the more profound potential impacts of broadband in America is its use to strengthen public involvement in our democratic system.

Obama's made a point of promising that if elected his administration would be one of the most transparent in history, enabling the public to review legislation and submit comments before he signs anything into law.

Now the Republican side of the aisle is stepping up its efforts to engage the public online through a new website from the Republican Platform Committee.

On this site you're encouraged to register and then submit either text or video entries containing suggestions for how to build the Republican platform heading in to this year's elections.

I applaud this effort to open up new avenues for average folk to have their voices heard, but at the same time after a brief perusal of the site I'm a bit underwhelmed.

The text entries aren't easy to read, they only show a few on each page, and there's no way to comment on specific submissions other than to add another of your own, which leads to a rather disjointed attempt at creating a dialog between differing opinions.

To submit a video you can't do so on their site but instead have to upload the clip to YouTube and then submit the link to this site. Then in the interface to watch the videos, they've made the video player tiny.

Navigating the site is a bear as often you end up on pages that don't allow you to get to where you want to go without backtracking to a previous page. And there doesn't appear to be a way to add in any additional categories other than the 7 that are listed as part of the navigational menu on the right. It seems like they've already established what the platform is going to be, so why are they soliciting feedback?

Then there's the fact that the site has a widget you can add to your site or an app you can add to your Facebook.

It really gets my goat that they put time into trendy things like this.

First off, neither the widget nor the Facebook app seem to have any great utility. Not that widgets always do, but these really don't seem to add much of anything to the equation.

But making matters worse is that they made the effort to build in these add-ons without first addressing the severe limitations of the site itself.

Where are the comments?

Why not use a wiki?

What about having a basic social network where submitters can network and share ideas?

Why can't I upload videos straight to this site?

While I'll give the Republicans credit for at least trying to use the Internet to improve their ability to create a public dialog, I'll also encourage all of you to go check out this site to learn what not to do when creating your own.

It doesn't matter how pretty a site is (and admittedly this site is decent looking on the surface), or how many Web 2.0 widgets you throw in there, you can't lose sight of the fact that a site's functionality is much more important than its form.

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