Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Ottawa-Centre: Summing Up the Candidate Blogs

Well, after 3 weeks, the candidates in Ottawa-Centre have all hit the groove for serious campaigning, including their blogs. I've always maintained that you can tell a lot about a candidate's campaign by their blogs, and the 3 major candidates (the Greens don't count, sorry) have done enough blogging that people can draw conclusions about them:

Keith Fountain-- His is the oldest, and the most traditionally formatted of the candidate blogs. This isn't a surprise, since it's based on a Blogger/Blogspot-driven template; compared with the other candidates, Keith's is a low-budget blog. He updates about every four days, and he keeps his text general-purpose but strictly business. He does have a talent for writing about local issues without sounding like he's copying Tory talking points, which keeps him from coming across like the TCFlogger. He has the Blogging Tories blogroll listed, so he's willing to network with the online Tory community. His blog allows moderated commentary for each entry, and he also lists an e-mail address.

Paul Dewar-- his blog went online about a week after the election was called, as a component of his website. It's a group blog, with entries written by individual staffers as well as by Paul himself. With that many people you'd think there'd be more entries, but the blog itself is updated about every 5 days. As to be expected with group blogs, writing quality and subject matter is uneven, ranging from the bland but serviceable (Dewar himself) to the ridiculous (a campaign toque?). Individual entries do not have their own links, and there is no archiving. There is no public commentary, but clicking on each blog author's name will enable you to leave e-mail to the site. In short, this blog is pretty weak, but it may still have value: because local campaigns are group efforts, this blog has the potential to give the most accurate portrayal of the efforts of staffers involved, and not just the candidate.

Richard Mahoney -- he started keeping an online walker's diary about 10 days after the election was called. The diary is documentation of his "Steps Count" campaign to raise money for the Ottawa Food Bank, but for the most part it does follow the format for a blog, since the latest entries are featured prominently on the English-language index page of his site. His diary is updated daily, including distance walked and doors knocked on. Entries tend to focus on personal experiences during the campaign, such as meeting with constituents or attempting to recover from the cold. Entries are also accompanied by photos. Apart from the e-mail address on his "Contact Us" page, there is no provision for feedback.

Now, I know that when it comes to campaigns, pavement-pounding has a better impact on the electorate than blogging or other online presence. Nonetheless we can still come to a few conclusions. When it comes to blogging, Keith has the edge in experience and in utilization of blogging resources, but those resources are limited. Richard has learned quickly about the blogging format, including portraying the travails of a candidate on the trail with sincerity, but his lack of a feedback mechanism shows he has a way to go. Paul is probably the least effective blogger due to the group nature of his blog.

I'm actually starting to look forward to the all-candidates' meeting in January ...