Archive for February, 2008

Review and Analysis – Candidate Websites

I present to you, dear reader, my take on the leading presidential candidates’s websites. Although I’ve been scoffed by one for this idea, I think we will discover some interesting insight into these people who may lead the free world for the next four years.

Please note that I viewed all sites with Firefox on my Mac, and with IE7 on my XP machine.

John McCain

Home/splash page: Sometimes I get a splash screen displaying a jovial image of Johny with a request for you to join the site, and of course donate. The deep red for the Donate Now and Submit buttons stands out nicely against the black background. The only way to get past the splash page is a text link under the large image. Fair enough, but ugly. The home page itself is nicely organized, if somewhat repetitive. For example, there’s two identical (but for color) buttons to join and donate within 200 pixels of each other.

Color: McCain’s site is dramatically different from those of any other candidate mainly because of the primary color chosen: black. Now, if you’re trying to convey that a 71-year old can run the United States, black is not the best color to use. The banner across all pages is the stars of the American flag in black coloring. Seriously — are you trying to convey death, Mr. McCain?

Overall mood: Like Tales from the Crypt needs money for a new coffin.

Web 2.0 features:

  • Blog — Tags, blog roll, comments…the works.
  • “McCainSpace” Yes, it’s even spelled like that. Users can “create your own Website”. I’m not about to give him my name and try it out. Here the black motif gets serious for some reason. Every image is tinted in grays and blacks.
  • RSS feeds

Favicon/logo: It looks like a general’s star. I suppose it’s just meant to signify the armed forces, which is an incredibly stupid thing to do in the general election.

Usability: The fonts and layout look pretty fresh, despite the dismal colors. I really dig the animation in the “Supporter Spotlight” section of the home page. His navigation style follows that of the other major candidates.
Desperation rating: 4 out of 10. McCain doesn’t come off as desperate here, he comes off as a man who knows his audience.

Although not related directly to his website, I want to share this story. Last week, my mom received two pre-recorded calls. The voice was female, stating she was calling from the Republican party. The message asked my mom to press the number of the Republican candidate she was going to vote for at her primary on Tuesday: 1 for Ron Paul, 2 for John McCain, and 3 for Mike Huckabee. Even though she’s never voted Republican and isn’t about to start, she entered 3 for Mike Huckabee. Then the voice thanked her and mentioned this call was paid for by John McCain. She got the very same call the following night. We joked that they’ll keep calling until she “gets it right”. How is cold calling like that effective, especially if you’re calling people who aren’t even going to vote Republican?

Hillary Clinton

Home/splash page: I get a splash screen every time I visit Hillary’s site. Instead of the minimal email addressed asked for on McCain’s site, Hillary wants to know my name, zip code and email address. The home page itself displays a huge graphic/animation at the top, which I’m sure changes all the time. The “5 Things You Can Do” pod is super nice — the icons are very modern, even if they were likely taken from stock icons. The little show/hide bits in the other pods make the site feel more interactive.

Color: Light blue is always a crowd-pleaser. Everyone but McCain got that memo. Hillary’s definitely going for the red white and blue patriotic thing here, trumping McCain.

Web 2.0 features:

  • Blog
  • Video section
  • “Share Your Thoughts” forms on the Issue pages. This is a nice feature so you can respond to Hillary’s take on the world.

McCain’s team seems to be more in touch with the kids than Hillary in terms of community stuff. Sure, there’s tons of ways to “join team Hillary” and there are links to sponsoring or visiting Hillary parties, but there’s no “McCainSpace” or any other sort of faux Facebook type thing built in. Granted, she does include the logos of all the biggies — MySpace, Facebook, even Flickr. And yes, it points to Hillary Clinton’s photos. She’s got a pro account!
Favicon/logo: I guess the favicon is a mishmash of the flowy flag-like thing under her name in the proper logo, but it looks really weird. Like a bunch of random right angles. The proper logo itself is probably the ugliest of all candidates. It’s an ugly font and decidedly not modern looking.

Usability: The layout is nice because it uses a very simple grid (like everyone else’s), but all the huge logos and graphics near the bottom of the home page make it look a little trashy.

Overall mood: Very hopeful. It’s interesting to note how few pictures of Hillary there are around the site. Do they want us to forget she’s a woman? Do they know how easy it is for her to take a bad picture and they don’t want to risk it?

Desperation rating: 6 out of 10. The “Help make history” motto makes her sound like she’s the only one who would “make history” if nominated.

Barack Obama

Home/splash page: The splash page contains a soft pic of the Obama family, huddled together with much love. His fabulously Web 2.0 logo and motto sits above the family in a simple display with plenty of breathing room. There’s no immediate request to give him money on the splash page, just a short form (email and zip code) to “join the movement”. Skipping sign up is accessed by a pretty blue button.

Color: In fact, everything is pretty and blue on Obama’s site. Everything has a soft touch to it, almost feminine. Nicely played, Barack’s web team.

Web 2.0 features: Barack’s web team knows where it’s audience is. More obviously fun than McCain’s “McCainSpace”, is like Facebook lite, even in terms of it’s look and feel. Members get a dashboard, can see who from their area is already a member, a place to blog for Obama, and other fun things to keep you glued to the site. This is brilliant marketing to the 35 and younger crowd (and other internet-savvy types). Additionally, there’s the regular Obama blog and the Clinton-esque list with fancy icons on the home page.

Favicon/logo: As I’ve already stated, Obama’s logo is pure genius. It’s a red white and blue horizon, looking as hopeful as ever. It’s all shiny and beveled, looking a thousand times more modern than Hillary’s.

Usability: Obama’s is by far the most usable site. It’s the least crammed, the least messy of all the candidate’s sites.

Overall mood: The banner on every page features Barack looking out into the horizon, symbolized in his fun little logo. He appears tall and strong in the banner image — like a leader.

Desperation rating: 4 out of 10. Obama only comes off as classy on his website, not desperate in the least bit.

One thing worth noting is the lack of a search function on all of them except McCain’s. I’m not sure what this says about Obama and Clinton. Surely it’s an intentional decision that was made by some committee, but how does not including a search function help? What are they hiding?

Another item I’ll briefly note here is the fact that neither Obama nor Clintion include gay rights in their list of “issues.”

I could go on, but this report already took a lot of time. Hopefully more analysis will come later. Let me know what you think about our favorite candidate’s web site!

My big caucus

I had an AMAZING experience at my caucus! I absolutely loved it. I’m still on a high from it.

When I came up to the intersection where I needed to turn left to get to my caucus place, I saw a long line of tail lights. I thought maybe a school event was going on because the polling place was a Junior High school, but much to my surprise, they were all going to caucus! And they were all going to the Democratictic caucus, which surprised me even more because I technically live in a very affluent district. The place was a madhouse.

I expected 20-40 people total. I didn’t realize we’d be separated by precinct. Nobody knew that they needed their pricint number so they were mobbed around a map. Finally I found my room where there were already people sitting on the floor and leaning against walls. They’d run out of ballots (I got there a little before 7:00), so I voted for prez on a folded post-it note. The ballots went into a modified shoe box. We proceeded with party business, picking delegates and leaders for our state contests. There were lots of eagar volunteers.

There were even some testy spots (who the delegates vote for was one), but it was great. People were really passionate. While they counted ballots, two people proposed resolutions for the DFL to endorse. Both failed. One was to institute a vote-by-mail system (I spoke against that one heartily) and someone wanted the education budget to come 70% from the federal goverment.

Then we got the results. There was a total of 147 votes (plus one late comer we allowed, but I don’t know how she voted). 47 for Clinton, 95 Obama and 5 Uncommitted. People cheered.

It was so much fun. I can’t wait for the next one. :)

Will we let him get away with this?

Hopefully Bush’s budget will be the last prank he pulls on the United States of America.

I know everyone says Congress will “ignore” it but why would he bother if he didn’t know that some, if not many, elements will become our national budget. I welcome conservatives to explain to me how taking money from programs like Medicare, Medacaide and veteran programs helps anything. This budget proposal makes even less sense than many of his other totally retarded ideas. Proof below:

“Our formula for achieving a balanced budget is simple: create the conditions for economic growth, keep taxes low and spend taxpayer dollars wisely or not at all,” Bush said in his budget message.

Or not at all????? So let’s have more bridge collapses and fewer cops and firefighters. That’s just brilliant! Bill Clinton was able to give us a surplus without cutting spending that much. We all pay for it all somehow eventually, and it costs more (with the massive inflation we face) later, so let’s deal with it NOW.

If we spend more on war (nobody can honestly claim this is “defense” spending anymore) than we invetst in our own people, our country will go down the drain even faster than it is already. That’s simple, modern economics. America is not a corporation where spending as little as possible on a nice office or the fancy printer eats into our profits, turning our shareholders away. This is a nation where taxpayers (the investors) want a return. And that return is in public services that help them directly. Like roads, schools and safety. Yeah, those things seem to be important to most other industrialized nations…but not to King George II.

And newsflash: increasing abstinence education does not improve our schools. Fucking hell, welcome to the 21st century! It’s so unbelievable, cursing back is the only thing that seems to make sense.

Short-sightedness + misinformation = stupid Republicans.

Of course the weird part is that nobody (save Bill Moyers, Keith Olbermann and Bill Maher) will make a big deal out of it. Hillary, Barack, the “liberal” media…nobody. That’s why he can get away with it. It’ll be a headline and that’s it. No discussion.

Crispin Hellion Glover

Last night I witnessed the artistic meanderings of Crispin Glover, aka McFly. A friend told me about his upcoming visit quite a while ago. I didn’t know anything about his Letterman prank or his other conceptual art offerings. He’s directed two films, part of the “It” trilogy. The first, which he presented to us (for the second of a three-night run at the Oak Street Cinema) the first entitled “What Is It?“.

We heard that he began the evening with an introduction. Well, he certainly came out and talked, but he did not introduce the movie. There were a few connections I caught between him reading from slides of some books he’s “written.” I use the word “written” loosely  here because what he’s done is actually more clever than that. He took old books (like from the early 20th century), pasted in his own pages but still left in some of the original text. He then added his own handwritten words and images, with marvelous calligraphy. I enjoyed the books more than I thought it would. It was random and Artsy, and listening to his odd voice made it even more interesting. Still, it went on for way too long. I love stretching the limits of books, as House of Leaves does.

We continued straight into”What Is It?”, a 72-minute feast of Downs Syndrome actors, naked women wearing animal masks, a man with cerebral palsy getting jerked off in a giant oyster, and dying snails. Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t realize that all of the actors were different versions of Crispin himself. I only learned this by reading the end credits. I won’t bother with any more criticism or details here because it won’t make any sense to anyone who hasn’t seen the film.

A Q&A followed, monopolized by a duchebag a few rows up from us. He began by asking if Crispin remembered that he saw Crispin in LA once and continued with stupid questions at nearly every pause. WTF? Just shutup.  We left early because Crispin is far from concise on any matter. And, much of what he was saying was old news because I watched quite a few YouTube vids ahead of the show. Oddly enough, there seemed to be a lot of “Crispinheads”, I’ll call them. A few people had seen the latest “It” movie in Chicago even. I can’t imagine being friends with someone who seriously thought Crispin Glover was a genius.

All in all, I’m glad I paid the otherwise outrageous $20 to witness this character. I’m still not sure if he’s pulling one over on all of us, but learning that the second film in the “It” trilogy (“It is Fine. Everything is Fine”) is based on a screenplay by the cerebral palsy man makes me more confident in his authenticity. Crispin does seem honest when talking about his work, but I’m also convinced that he’s a brilliant actor, so who knows. He “let us in on” the prank behind his Letterman experience, something he says he only shares with audiences at these types of events. But why? Why be such an artsy fartys ass about it? Why make these far-out movies nobody will understand and then turn around and complain about corporate America (an issue he says is the theme behind “What Is It?”). Or maybe it’s cool that he’s got his feet planted firmly in Hollywood and high Art. I’m not sure.

P.S. I need to know what skin cremes Crispin uses because he looks like he hasn’t aged a day since “Back to the Future” 20 years ago.