On candidate blogs.

In today’s Charlottesville Daily Progress, political columnist Bob Gibson considers the state of blogs in the 57th District House of Delegates race. It’s not a particularly fair match, since Democrat David Toscano doesn’t have a blog. From the article, it’s not altogether clear whether David’s “Send a Message” section of his website is being thought of as a blog, or whether he intends to add a proper blog down the line. His Republican opponent, Tom McCrystal, announced his blog today (obnoxiously named “Virginia’s Future”) and, frankly, it’s pretty damned sharp. Tom’s running WordPress with a nice theme on it. He’s only got three posts so far, so I can’t say how it will shape up, but he’s a natural blogger. David, on the other hand, has a nicely designed website. It may not be even in the neighborhood of validating, but it’s great-looking.

Though I said in the Progress that “of actual blogs maintained by candidates, I can’t think of one that’s worth mentioning,” I think I’d have to mention Tom’s now. We might disagree on most political matters, but it’s shaping up to be a nice website.

With this in mind, here are a few tips for would-be candidate bloggers. I’ve been blogging since 1996, so listen up, kids.

  1. This is not a blog. Neither is this. It is a series of things written periodically in HTML format. If you do not have trackbacks, comments, RSS/Atom feeds, or an XML-RPC interface, you are not running a blog. You are not a part of the blogosphere. You are wasting your time. WordPress, Movable Type, Bloxom, Blogger, Typepad, and so on — these are all programs that, if you use them, you are probably a blogger. If you don’t, odds are overwhelming that you are not.
  2. This is not a candidate blog. It’s probably the best blog for a House of Delegates candidate in Virginia, but it’s run by campaign staff, and not the candidate. For some candidates, that’s better. For others, it’s less helpful. Ditto on this blog — certainly the best blog for a statewide candidate, but it’s not a candidate blog (and probably shouldn’t be — the candidate has better things to be doing).
  3. Even lamer than a non-blogging campaign is a campaign that claims that the candidate is blogging, but it’s plainly the campaign’s PR person writing everything. Nobody’s being fooled. Stop it.
  4. No solipsistic blogs. There is a blogosphere; if you want to be part of it, you have to link to other blogs, both in your blog entries and your blogroll. In doing so, you will win friends, build advocates, and raise the profile of your campaign blog. Everyone wins.

In short, candidates should only do as much as they can. If the campaign can’t commit to regular blog entries, don’t have a campaign blog. If the candidate can’t commit to regular blog entries, don’t have a candidate blog. If the candidate isn’t blogger material, and can’t write interesting, personal, timely blog entries, the candidate shouldn’t blog. If the campaign can’t have an actual blog (trackback, comments, feeds), the campaign shouldn’t have a blog at all. If the campaign has a fake blog, fire whomever said it was a good idea, take down the blog, and set up a real one.

This one’s a freebie. The next time, it’ll cost you.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »