Technology with attitude

Sponsored Review: ActualPolitics.com

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I belong to this site called ReviewMe.com and from time to time somebody pays me to review their website and post it. The site this time is ActualPolitics.com, which bills itself as a political forum that gives users the ability to post stories about politics and have other users rate them with sliders that determine their “Spin Rating”, “Quality Rating” and “Do You Agree?” levels.

Each slider has 5 settings, and as anybody who has ever taken a survey knows, this is a very standard number because it gives you a neutral option, two normal options and two extreme options.

Take the Spin Rating for example. The options range from Radical Liberal, Liberal, Moderate, Conservative, and finally to Arch Conservative. So when users click through and read somebody’s article, they can judge it accordingly.

Given this set up, Actual Politics is really banking on its users to determine what should fall in a specific category. I like that idea a lot, and having used these sliders a few times, it’s very easy to submit your opinions.

Let me take you through the site briefly, grade each different piece I encountered and share my overall grade at the end.

Signing Up: A
Yes, you do have to sign up in order to rate anything, and that’s to be expected. This is quick, easy and you’re up and running within a couple minutes.

Site Design: B
The layout is clean, the text is a nice, readable size, but the design is a bit uninspired. Honestly, I was hoping for something a bit more fun and bubbly. However, design is such a personal thing that I don’t think it’s fair to score somebody low on this.

Rating System: A
As mentioned above, the sliders are intuitive enough for anybody to master upon first encountering them. They did a nice job with these, and they’re probably the best things about the site.

Submitting Content: D
This was probably the most confusing part of my experience at Actual Politics, and that’s not a good thing.

Now, actually writing content isn’t confusing, but they have a bunch of fields which remain unexplained and don’t have any of those helpful question mark links you can click on that tell you what stuff is. For instance, they have a field that says “Access Level” with three options: Public, Registered, Special. I have no idea what to pick here, or why it matters. Right before that there are two fields where I’m supposed to set dates to “Start Publishing” and “Finish Publishing.” Now, I’m not exactly sure why I’d want to “Finish Publishing” a certain piece of content, but if somebody can explain that to me, I’m all ears.

But the worst of all? When I hit “Save”…nothing happened. I reloaded the page and nothing happened again. No error messages. It just didn’t work. I even tried different Access Levels and Start and Finish Publishing dates, but to no avail.

I come to find out that it’s because I’m using Safari…which has about 6% market share…a very sizable amount. At least enough to warrant being supported.

So then I tried Firefox. But the text editor they had wouldn’t stop loading. It just kept spinning and spinning…well, let me show you…

Needless to say, this really disappointed me since I wasn’t able to actually submit any content and interact with the community as an author. That’s why this gets such a low grade.

Accuracy Of Content Graded: A
Generally, I did find that the users graded content fairly accurately, and as this is one of the biggest features of the site, it succeeds. So, if nothing else, you can go to Actual Politics to find content that’s accurately scored by its users.

Video Bloggers: D
Now, I like the idea that there’s a liberal, moderate and conservative video blogger, but the production is poor and the views are pretty thin.

Also, the “moderate” guy is smoking a cigarette throughout his video, which just makes him look tacky and foolish.

In the end, these videos actually diminished my view of Actual Politics and where it could go. If I had to give them any advice it’d be to take them down IMMEDIATELY. They only detract.

Forums: C
One of the more confusing parts of Actual Politics is if you click on your “Community Profile” under the “User” drop down, you’re automatically sent to a User Control panel for their Forums section. What I would expect instead is to see all of the content you’ve submitted, what the scores were, etc.

However, since I wasn’t able to actually submit any content, I dug through the forums and discovered that they seem to correspond to the posts at Actual Politics. Too bad the posts on the main site don’t really allow for comments, only grading. My opinion is that the two should be integrated in order to foster conversations.

One good thing about the forums is they’re already seeded with a bunch of conversations, and there’s plenty to choose from. However, there’s nothing really new about any of this, and so I can’t give “me too” technology anything over a C.

Overall: C-
I’d give the site a C- right now. I know that’s harsh, but there’s little incentive for me to really get engaged in this community, and it gets an especially low grade since I can’t even submit any content.

However, if they were able to fix the Mac issues, I’d give them a C+. And if they got rid of the video bloggers, including the link on the front page that takes you directly to them, I’d give them a B-.

But in order to make this into a site I’d visit daily, there has to be some sort of “ah ha” idea I’m just not seeing currently. My only suggestion would be to take a look at social technologies like Digg and Reddit and try to figure out how people who submit content can move traffic to their own sites, not just yours. If they were able to do that, then I’d be A LOT more interested in using their sliders.

In any event, check out ActualPolitics.com for yourself and tell me what you think.