Technology with attitude

Sponsored Review: PoliWatch.org

3

Hey all, this is another review I’m doing via the site ReviewMe.com.

As mentioned in the title, the site I’ll be taking a look at today is PoliWatch.org. It bills itself as being a site that features “Political Watch Blogs” with the goal of “Political Views and Solutions. Our Common Goal: Good Gov’t.”

However, the thing that’s not immediately apparent about the site is it’s built by a group called VOID, which is short for Vote Out Incumbents for Democracy. Their goal is to get people to read PoliWatch.org, become informed about the issues and then become bloggers so they can inform others about how good government should work.

While this is a noble task, I wish the “VOID” part of PoliWatch.org were more transparent on the front page of the site. Keeping this behind a very tiny link on the far right hand side just doesn’t cut it.

In any event, I’m going to go cover some basic features of the site, score each and then provide an overall score at the end.

DESIGN: Idea – B, Execution – D
When you visit the front page you’re greeted by a very non-traditional 4 column structure. One is for Repubs blogs, one for Indies, one for Dems and the last being the Menu.

Here, take a look…

As you can see right off the bat, the design idea is interesting, but not well executed. That was my first gut reaction to the site, and I think it’ll probably be a lot of people’s. And since you don’t really want to look at an unattractive site, I think this could really hurt them in the long run.

So what does it look when you click on one of the posts?

Something like this…

I hope the picture isn’t too small, but the format switches from 4 columns to 3 columns, with the actual post being on the left, the comments in the middle and the rest on the right.

Again, I think this could be an interesting layout, and the comments do have some basic threading (a reply to another comment is indented), but the design just isn’t there yet. I hate to harp on that, but it’s a biggie for me so that’s why it ultimately gets a lower grade.

SUBMITTING CONTENT: C
There are a couple ways to go about this.

The first way is by submitting a “Guest Article.” You have to register first in order to submit anything, but that’s pretty standard nowadays given how devious automated spamming has become.

After you’ve registered and then submitted an article, you have to wait until somebody approves it for it to publish. Then, after a few of your articles have been published, you may become a “Trusted Writer” with your own profile page, etc. The reason I say may is this distinction is seemingly solely determined by a couple top editors of the site.

Then, after you’re a Trusted Writer for a while, you can become a PW Main Page author, which it seems to me is really the only way to have any of your content read. And that’s a big problem, but that’s just how the site is set up currently.

Another way to go about submitting content is to simply apply to become a PW Author. But the site states that have to have a blog of your own with traffic in order to gain this status immediately. If not, you can submit Forum Page articles and the Guest Articles. And then you work your way up the ladder as mentioned.

All in all, this seems like a fair system, but it’s not very social and it leans much too heavily on a few meta-editors determining what’s good and what isn’t. If they instead had some sort of mechanism for readers to score and judge it, I think that would probably be more effective and would help make the community feel as if these were their authors, instead of PoliWatch’s hand selected authors.

USER GENERATED CONTENT: C
Generally I found the content I read to be informed, but not terribly insightful. And this is actually a big problem. Because if the site is supposed to give people access to information so they can vote bad politicians out of office, it seems to me they should be focusing more on specific politicians and the policy proposals they take. Instead we’re treated to a bit of a mish-mash of content that doesn’t really reinforce the purpose of the site. And this isn’t the authors’ fault, it’s the creators’.

In any event, this certainly wasn’t a FactCheck.org, and I kind of think for the site to be successful, it needs to have extremely factual content, not just partisan buckets people can pour content into. However, given the current structure of the site, I doubt that’ll happen.

AUTO GENERATED CONTENT: C
“Auto Generated Content” may sound odd at first, but if you visit their Daily Political News page, you’ll see what I mean. It’s just a page full of links from news sources around the internets. I really like stuff like this because I can pick and choose what I like.

However, I was surprised to find that a similar design didn’t exist for the Repubs, Indies or Dems. Instead it was just a list, and looked much more like a traditional blog format. This is fine, but I wasn’t expecting these aggregation pages to look so conventional. Not awful, but not really keeping with the structure of the rest of the site.

OVERALL: C
I wanted to like this site, but from my first impression of the design to the notion that you can only rise through the ranks based on a couple people’s opinions, it just doesn’t seem like it’ll take off.

Personally, if the ultimate goal of the site is to elect new politicians who will better serve the country, I think the site needs a reboot with much more focus on individual candidates who aren’t doing a good job in Congress.

But check out PoliWatch.org for yourself and tell me what you think in the comments section below. I’m sure the creators will appreciate your reviews as well.