The Blogosphere

Does your campaign site know it’s audience? Thursday September 12, 2013

A couple of weeks ago I was granted access to post on twitter’s new micro-blogging network “Medium“http://www.medium.com. In true ctoverdrive fashion I wrote about municipal web sites and because I’m still partial to my own little site, I’m reposting it here for safe keeping. Please enjoy.

Better yet, are you designing for voters or your candidate?

I’ve said this numerous times, but the world of political campaign web site design is a niche market that seems to be years behind current trends. And while I’ve raged on the issues in other “personal posts”: personal posts, one of the biggest underlying issues with political web design is that there tends to be an incredible lack of focus on who the audience of these sites really are. And even though it’s an off year in most political circles, there are still a handful of newly minted municipal campaign web sites that are missing the mark.


In general, there are two ways of approaching a campaign site design, either build and design for your candidate or build and design for the voters. In an altruistic world, every campaign web site would be built with only the voters in mind, but if we’re being honest most campaign sites are built to appease the candidate (or campaign manager) and voters second. It’s a difficult situation for any designer to straddle, but it’s a key failing of many campaigns. On the one hand every candidate knows that they need voters to win and they need a web site to get their message out, but on the other hand for those running for political office, even if it is from a position of public service, it is an ego boost. For many candidates this may be the first time they have ever had an online presence or their very own web site, so it becomes difficult for the candidate to simply let someone else control their online image. And in a profession where appeasing the client is always the first goal, it becomes incredibly easy to succumb to a candidate’s personal tastes or opinions, rather than crafting a web site geared to voters.

So how do you know if your campaign site is tailored toward a candidate rather than voters? Here are a couple of obvious tell-tale signs.

  • Are there more professional head shots of your candidate on the site than photos of your candidate getting down and dirty in the community?
  • Is the candidates bio longer than all of the other policy content on the site… combined?
  • Are the “media” or photo galleries more predominant than key action items; such as signing up for a newsletter, donating or getting involved with the campaign?
  • Is the site incredibly “glossy” and unrealistic? (for example: is the candidate’s head levitating over a stock photo of skyline? Are there more than three forms of gradients on your site rather than a simple and memorable colour scheme?)

But how do gradients, too many polished photos and links to photo galleries rather than action items indicate that a site isn’t geared towards voters? Well, let me explain.

  • Polished head shots are a good thing to have, because each candidate needs to look the part of politician. But there needs to be a balance between polish and looking like your candidate is actually a key member part of the community. People tend to vote for someone they can relate to or respect, not a real-estate agent.
  • Bios are a key component of any campaign web site, but a site that is all bio and no policy doesn’t provide a voter with an understanding of where the candidate stands on the issues.
  • Here’s a little secret, although your candidate will love having galleries of photos on their site, the average voter won’t click on them. Truth betold, it’s better to save that real-estate for key action items which will allow voters who want to be apart of a campaign an easy way to get involved.
  • A site that looks glossy, or even worse outdated, is going to be distracting for voters. Go with simplicity, a simple three colour palette won’t distract from the site’s key messages like a rainbow of off-shades or gradients will. Keep it simple and easy for the voter to visually digest.

See voters, similar to candidates and political consultants, live incredibly busy lives. But for the most part your average voter isn’t living and breathing the every day activities of a campaign race — they don’t your candidate as intimately as you do. Instead voters, especially during municipal and local campaigns, will tend to rely solely on first impressions and gut instincts to judge potential candidates when they are making a voting decision. Voters want simplicity, clean messaging, and something to relate to and a campaign’s web site is the easiest way to connect with voters on all three levels.


So, if you answered yes to more than one of these issues that I outlined at the very beginning of the article, it’s time to reevaluate your site. My suggestion is to grab an impartial voter (your in-laws are a great resource for this), sit’em down for 10 minutes, ask them to walk through your site and get them to tell you their gut impressions of the candidate based solely on the web site.

Categories: the-political-world, The-Blogosphere,

Thirty Plus Three Wednesday June 5, 2013

Today I turn thirty-three.

In the spectrum of birthdays thirty-three is probably one of the least significant birthdays out there, you’re two years from turning thirty-five and three years into the dirty thirties and trying to figure out how to be a grown-up. Now on previous birthdays I’ve tried to conjuror up sage like advice from my own experience on this little rock in space. And I really thought about compiling a list of thirty tid-bits of advice, but being realistic I’m just not that original anymore. But since my last full rotation around the sun, I’ve had a minor epiphany of sorts about two things that I wish I wouldn’t have ignored in my naive 20s. Elements of life that I’ve rediscovered over the past year or so. So what better way to celebrate my birthday, then to share that same advice.

The first is something I’ve touched upon before, but make sure to do what you love or makes you happy regardless of the cultural stereotypes. Earlier this year I stumbled across two comic book stores a couple of blocks away from our new abode in Ottawa. Now before this year it had been almost 12-15 years since I stumbled into a comic book store, but I made a resolution this year to take more time for myself and change up life a bit. It also helped that my interest in comic books, wait … graphic novels, was revitalized by The Walking Dead TV show . I walked by it at least 20 times before mustering up the courage to walk in … you know, because everyone knows that comic book nerds are frightening and all. But after walking in I was instantly reminded of why I loved reading comic books as a pre-teen and it instantly revitalized my interest in the genre. Now In all honesty, I’m reading much more mature series, like The League of Extraordinary Gentleman (LXG), DMZ, and the surprisingly smart new Hawkeye series, but I started to remember how much I adored the simpleness of a sitting down to flip through a good comic-book… err… graphic novel.

Now I mention this because in my 20s I wouldn’t have been caught dead in comic book store. For no other reason then the idea that comic books aren’t something a grown man reads and frankly girls apparently don’t think comic books are cool. But now that I’ve already lured tricked my wife into a life of blissful marriage, what’s really the harm. I kid of course, but to be honest it got me thinking about how ridiculous it was to ignore and suppress something I really enjoyed for a long period of time, solely because of a perception from my 20s. So my my first piece of sage like advice on my 33rd birthday, really isn’t that special, but if you love something, just embrace it — don’t hide it.

… Well except for magic cards and cheering for the oilers. Nobody plays magic cards or cheers for the oilers in their 30s…

Second, is the benefits of volunteering. Going back to my previous point, I’m no longer ashamed to admit that I was a boy scout for far too long. Up until my early 20s to be exact. But one of the things that being in the boy scouts for that amount of time ingrained in me was the concept of volunteering. Unfortunately, volunteering was something that I neglected for most of my 20s as I was chasing the next pitcher of beer or finding the latest band, or whatever it is you young whipper snappers do in your 20s nowadays… I think it’s duck face selfies… what ever that means.

But over the past two years, some of the most rewarding events, experiences and career milestones have come through volunteering my time with causes I adore. Whether it’s teaching high school kids Junior Achievement in DC, working the tables at WordPress Camp Ottawa, trying to build an iPhone App community through yycApps, helping out with the Green Party in Ottawa or just building a web site for Grow Calgary, Unrest Magazine, and 1CalgaryCentre. I’ve achieved more personal and professional growth and met some amazing people through volunteering my time and experiences than I have through anything else I’ve done in my career. And if you think about it, most of the world’s most successful people are the ones that constantly lend a hand to causes they believe in. For me not only has volunteering helped me grow as an individual, but it’s also allowed me to expand my network circle and experience different situations which have made every day life that much better. So in a nut shell, it’s one thing to do something, but it’s another thing to actually be apart of something.

And with those two tid bits to ponder form this old fossil, I leave you with Taylor Swift’s “Trouble” sung by a goat. Because it’s the world’s greatest thing.

Have a great day everyone.

Categories: The-Personnal, The-Blogosphere,

My New Love of Comedy Thursday April 4, 2013

Two years ago, one of my good friends introduced me to the world of comedy podcasts. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not like this was my first introduction to stand-up comedy, for that you have to thank A&E’s endless reruns of An Evening At The Improv.. you know when the channel was less about addiction and more about actual art.

Anyways, I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, discovering comedy again.

I was first introduced to the The Sklarbro Country sports podcast and then eventually discovered Welsh comic Rhod Gilbert podcast. From there I discovered Patton Oswalt’s full-length albums and then discovered that buried deep within the depths of Rdio is a treasure trove of comedy albums.

And over the past few months, for whatever god foresaken reason, I started listening to the calming sounds of stand-up comedy before falling a sleep. Don’t ask me why, but for a few stressful weeks in January the only thing that would keep my mind off of the toils of life was the sounds of Lewis Black, The Sklars and other hilarious comedians. I may never know why this happened, but it worked like a charm and thus my new found love of comedy was born.

So after a few months of trolling comedy albums, I thought I’d share my favourite comedians with people. Now as a caveat this is by no means a professional top ten list, in honesty these are just the comedians I really dig – so you won’t find Louis C.K. or Daniel Tosh on the list. Frankly I’m just not a fan of their stuff.

But I do hope you enjoy the list and if you’re new to stand-up, like I am, I hope it kick starts an interest in the genre.

Patton Oswalt

Overal the past couple of years Patton Oswalt has been quietly establishing himself as The King of the Nerds. Whether it’s live tweeting Downton Abbe, the GOP Debates or even acting as Dr. Octopus to his kid’s Spider-girl, this man is a nation treasure. And while many people have heard of Patton Oswalt because of his infamous breakdown of the KFC bowls, this skit had me in tears the first time I heard.

If you’re looking for a sole reason for why I got into stand-up comedy, this man is it.

Lewis Black

If you’re a fan of The Daily Show, you’ll know of Lewis Black. He is that grumpy political assoholic uncle we all wish we had. If you thought he was over the top, then check out his stand-up work. He has an impeccable delivery and political observations are dead on.

Oddly enough, the more I think about it, the more I’m probably going end up being Lewis Black in 20 years.

The Sklar Brothers

Goes without saying, but The Sklars are pretty epic. Two identical twin brothers from St. Louis who are all over the pop-culture spectrum, but have still managed to lay the ground work for the perfect fusion between comedy and sports reporting on their legendary podcast Sklarbro Country. Whether it’s their irrational hatred for Saskatoon, their great taste in indie music or anything involving Jessie The Body Ventura or Kris Jenner The Sklarbro Country podcast is a pure comedy-avalanche.

Also… HEEEEENDERSON!

Aziz Ansari

Aziz Ansari is probably best known for a role on NBC’s Parks and Rec, but his stand up is pretty amazing. It takes a while to really get into it, but they guy is classically funny. Anything where he makes fun of his cousin is just pure gold.

Hannibal Burris

Hannibal Buress is probably one of the more popular comics on the circuit at the moment… or that is what the Internt tells me at least. And for that reason alone, I would typically skip over him on a list like this (it’s why Daniel Tosh isn’t on this list), but the man can deliver a punchline. So give him a couple of spins.

Donald Glover

Not only does he rap and star in NBC’s Community, but he’s also a stand-up comic. This guy’s a beast

Now, this list isn’t not nearly as complete as it should be. If you have recommendations, unleash it in the comments.

Categories: The-Pop-Culture, The-Blogosphere,

I Know Smart People... Thursday March 29, 2012

So last year a good friend of mine from the Calgary tech community, Sarah Blue, asked me to help her redesign her site iknowsmartpeople.com. It’s a very cool interview site, where Sarah, a fantastic and very well connected person in the tech community, asks a series of questions to some interesting and influential people. And as always with a project like this, I was more than happy to lend a hand redesigning the site and taking it from it’s Posterous roots to it’s new WordPress home.

Towards the end of the project, Sarah asked if I would like to be interviewed for the site. And of course I was humbled to be asked, especially to appear with some of the great people already on it such as Conrad Whelan and Grant Hutchinson. Anywho, in conjunction with the launch of the redesign Sarah has posted my interview on the site.

It was a lot of fun and I got the chance to wax on about running Armadillo Studios (and finally explain why I called it that), what it’s like to start your own business and some of my personal aspirations for the future. I hope you like the interview. It was a lot of fun to work with Sarah who is a fantastic person.

And while you’re at it, make sure that you check out some of the other interviews on the site, there are some great insights on there.

Categories: The-Blogosphere, The-Personnal,

Random Thoughts For Sh*t Someone Says Tuesday January 31, 2012

Alright, I’m sure everyone has seen the Shit Someone Says meme. If you haven’t well, I’m just sorry for you. It’s been all over the internet.

But unlike many people, who are completely burning out on the meme, I personally love it. And the main reason I enjoy it is, that unlike other image based meme where all you need is MS Paint or Photoshop. To create a really good SPS video, you’ve got to put some real time and energy into it. Film it yourself and then edit it perfectly.

Sorta like my favourite example, the Sh!t DC People Say video below.

BTW, have you heard? That place has got an amazing brunch.

First – Hey! Speaking of memes, how about a little Silicon Valley Ryan Gosling. Girl, I know you want to.

Second – Prometheus essentially looks like Ridley Scott’s Alien 2.0… but it still looks freaking stunning.

Three – One of our favourite spots in DC/VA is Northside Social Coffee House. It’s a quaint little coffeeshop that we frequent quite regularly. One of the things they do is promote local artists, by adorning their walls with art. Over the past few months, they’ve had the paintings of local Arlington artist, Chris Bishop all over their walls.

There’s something about his work that I just adore. The combination of the aesthetic and bright colours, catches my eyes everytime we walk. Anyways, it’s one of my favourite local artists and I’m hoping to pick up a print before we leave the district.

Fourth – If you haven’t heard, Twitter is now going to work with governments to block and censor some select tweets and accounts. While on the face value it’s a some what daunting development, here’s an interesting read on why it’s not that bad of a policy.

Fifth – I’ve been holding on to this for quite sometime, but this article from Eric Francis is just another example of why he’s a hack writer. I understand the hatred for this kid, but it’s clear that Francis knows nothing about Ovi… nothing… nothing.

Sixth – A couple of weeks ago, Kanye West crawled out of his online fortress of solitude to embark on one of the most talked about Twitter rants in recent history. Luckily for everyone, the sports blog Grantland has transcribed the entire rants.

Seventh – Did you know that Dungeons and Dragons is being redone? No, not the horrible Jeremy Irons movie. I mean the actual ten-side dice, playing with little figurines board game. Yeah and it’s being built through crowdsourcing. Please insert ten sided dice joke … here

Eighth – Awesome overload, AT-AT Dog eating a birthday Treat.

Ninth – A full retro-redesign of all 32 NFL logos. (via @Brennancreative)

(Even though I still despise Teebow, I’ve got to say Denver has the best redesign.)

Tenth – An interesting essay on how PRINT design, yes I just said print design, is going to be the future of the internet.

I feel dirty just agreeing with that statement.

Eleventh – Remember my little post on the Calgary food scene? No! Well then, scroll down a bit.

Anyways, it turns out that it got featured in Calgary Open file last month.

Twelfth – Reason #224 why Obama is going to win re-election in 2012, he looks far cooler as the incredible Hulk than Mitt or Newt.

Thirteenth – I’ll say this once and I’ll say this again, Detroit is easily one of the most facinating places on earth at the moment. Delapitated, desolate and depressed… Hell and that’s only the Pistons current record.

Okay, okay. Here is what looks to be a fascinating documentary on the dystopia that is Detroit

Categories: The-Random, The-Blogosphere, The ArtWorld, The Calgary Vibe, The D.C. vibe, The Football, The Humourous, The Inane, The Pop-Culture, The Ravens, The Redskins, The Social Media, The Southern Neighbours

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