An Empty Box

See bottom of post for important updates.

Two men are planning a camping trip and decide to go shopping for new knives.

Matt cracks open the box for his new Swiss Army knife and says “This is so versatile, I don’t need another tool for this camping expedition”.

Roger then presents his knife box and says “Look! It was designed in London”.

Matt says “Very nice! Show me all the cool stuff that your knife can do.”

Roger looks blankly and Matt and blushes a little “Well I just bought the box. Did I mention that they made it locally?”

And so goes the campaign. In today’s Metro London mayoral hopeful Roger Caranci took aim at Matt Brown’s campaign website. I’ve been in the website business for 13 years now and there are a number of HUGE issues with Roger’s take on this issue so let’s break it down:

  1. Roger has a website and Matt has a campaign platform and that is an important distinction. Roger’s site is basically a brochure for his campaign: a very nicely designed and executed website, but that’s all it is. Matt’s campaign uses a platform called NationBuilder which does newsletters, canvassing maps, volunteer management, signage management, donation management, social media management, etc, etc. Roger’s site is a marketing person and Matt’s site is a campaign team. Roger’s site likely cost less than $10,000 and Matt’s cost in the hundreds of thousands (if not millions). Roger bought his and Matt is leasing a service. Aside from the very surface they bear no resemblance to one another at all. So the very basis of the attack is judging a book by its cover.
  2. Roger either:
    1. knew about NationBuilder and attacked anyway – so much for a different kind of politics.
    2. didn’t know about NationBuilder and attacked out of ignorance – his office is in the middle of tech alley and he did hire a top-notch web consultant so this would be inexcusable.
    3. didn’t think that the average voter would know any better so why not attack? Which is beyond insulting.
    4. lacks the willingness to figure out the difference between NationBuilder and a website before taking cheap shots in the media.
    5. lacks a competent campaign team to advise him on such matters (or, in the worst case, has a campaign team that goes for the cheap shots).
  3. Roger’s website is actually built on top of the WordPress which was made by Automattic based out of San Francisco. The “skin” of the website was Made in London (by the excellent team at Inspiratica) but the guts are open source and made (primarily) in the USA.
  4. Roger’s site is hosted in the USA (there are London options available but he opted to host elsewhere). So he’s being a bit of a hypocrite here.
  5. When you compare functionality and look at getting the most out of your team (which I would hope would be the NUMBER 1 job of a leader) NationBuilder is a far more cost effective solution than a stand-alone WordPress site.
  6. Roger has openly pondered the idea of outsourcing the City of London IT Department. With such a basic lack of knowledge or an unwillingness to understand technology why is he even floating this idea?
  7. Roger knows that, should he be successful in his mayoral bid, the city is obligated to go with the best bid on the best solution and often that will come from another city. The internet knows no borders and that has made the digital media pace in London successful. The time for mayors who think about borders before opportunities is long past.

I was never a huge fan of Roger. His record on council speaks for itself mostly and, in spite of his “new leaf” public relations push, he’s still the same old Roger and will take us down the same old path.

Let’s vote for the person that brings the right tools for the job and throw away the empty box.

UPDATE: It has been pointed out that Matt’s site design was done in the US as well. There are no NationBuilder designers or freelancers in London. I speak from 13 years in the industry and you just can’t get any designer to design for any platform. It’s a lot more complicated than that and anyone telling you differently really has no grasp of the industry.

UPDATE 2: I’ve since been told that the template for the site was a stock template (basically an empty container) purchased some time ago and only slightly adapted for the VMB campaign. All content and graphic design work – all of the strategy, imagery and copywriting that make the website meaningful – was put together by volunteers here in London. Not only isn’t there any fire here, there’s not even that much smoke.

UPDATE 3: I had it mostly correct. Here’s an update from Ian Patrick Hines, the theme developer:

UPDATE 4: And to lay this whole stinking mess to rest, it turns out that Roger Caranci’s website was built on a theme built by based out of Queensland, Australia (see below). So while the surface design may have been done locally by Inspiratica, all of the guts of the site was developed by foreign companies (not that there’s anything wrong with that … Roger made a stink out of this after all).

To restate; as much of Roger Caranci’s site was done here in London, Ontario as was Matt Brown’s site. There’s no story.