Pollies’ sites for sore eyes

In a world where constituents increasingly gather information about candidates online, websites and social networking tools provide a powerful tool for conveying messages and garnering votes… how are the members of the ACT Legislative Assembly […]

It is perhaps valuable in a Federal election year to note how many politicians lose interest in their online presence once the race is done and dusted, abandoning pages of ancient policy promises, dead links and irrelevant campaign advertisements.

But given how sad it is when you Google a person who is supposedly representing thousands of people in your community and learn nothing about them, is out-of-date content better than none at all?

With two years till the next election, the members of the ACT Legislative Assembly cover a broad spectrum in online presence, here’s a brief summary of how they’re holding up.

Top is Liberal Alistair Coe. Okay, so he’s 25 years old, of course he’s going to be on top of the whole technology thing, but credit where credit is due. Coe has a user-friendly site, active since his campaign in 2008, using his own domain name providing up-to-date information, some appropriate links to Government material related to his shadow portfolios and a clear bio outlining his beliefs etc.

Importantly, Coe until recently had the only site with integrated social networking links to his Facebook and Twitter accounts. Coe utilises Twitter with reasonably regular updates and an open account. My only complaint is that he went overseas and didn’t tweet from a young conservatives conference in Taiwan.

Opposition MLA Jeremy Hanson has revamped his outdated site in the last couple of months, integrating social networking and starting a Twitter account in February, which he updates regularly with a solid mix of political and personal commentary. The new site has done away with most of his old content, although Hanson continues to link media and policies to Leader Zed Seselja’s official page – clearly denoting the power relationship between the two.

Next up is Minister Andrew Barr, who uses his own domain name and has a site packed full of current information in a respectable red and blue Labor design. Barr’s Facebook account is used to highlight his personality as well as his party’s policies, with links to newspaper articles and videos of issues that are important to him – excellent self promotion. His tweets are generally linked to his Facebook page, creating a certain level of uniform information cohesion.

However, Barr’s Twitter account is locked and you have to request to follow him – this is highly unusual with public figures on Twitter and a bit of a turn off. If he does allow you to follow him, Barr’s tweets are sporadic – for the entire month of March he was silent.

Labor’s Mary Porter also uses her own domain name and has a lot of content for a member without a portfolio. Porter is one of the only MLAs with a blog, although it’s irregular with few posts, not dated, highly impersonal and appears to be untouched since Christmas.

Minister Joy Burch did have a somewhat clunky site with her own domain name until early 2010, but it has recently been suspended. Her Facebook profile contains no status updates and next to no information.

Liberal Steve Doszpot’s site “Doszpot for Topspot” has a lot of old content, including a family history video from 1999, campaign letter to the community from 2008 and his inaugural speech. With no newsfeed or recent additions Doszpot is clearly suffering from election syndrome.

A solid and more visually appealing effort comes from Deputy Chief Minister Katy Gallagher. While Gallagher’s online newsroom is up to date and she includes a “Ask Katy” section for direct interaction with consituents, the images of her used are clearly years old and her blog, like Porter’s, hasn’t been touched since Christmas.

Whip John Hargreaves‘ site is little more than a bio and contact page, with a dead link to press releases on Chief Minister Stanhope’s official government page.

Attorney General Simon Corbell no longer has his own site – which is okay because his .com, online till recently, had no reason for existing, providing little more than a link to the Chief Minister’s page -which is what his Facebook status updates do now far more efficiently. Corbell also has a Twitter account, but it has been updated just once since November last year.

Canberra Liberal’s Brendan Smyth, Vicki Dunne and leader Zed Seselja all have a standard party profile with no public social networking presence.

Chief Minister Jon Stanhope has a very carefully cultivated online presence with no unofficial content. Clearly his fake Facebooks scandal the other day was a demonstration of the Chief Minister’s aversion to personal stuff on the internets.

Greens MLAs Meredith Hunter, Amanda Bresnan, Caroline Le Couteur and Shane Rattenbury all have standard profiles on the party site and use none of their own domain names. For the Greens MLAs Facebook is clearly for personal use and Hunter and Le Couteur have dead Twitter accounts.

It is worth mentioning that there is a Wikipedia entry for every member of the Assembly, although they vary in length and types of content. Some, like Dunne and Burch’s are just stubs.

Maybe a revisit closer to 2012 is in order?

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