Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The website Seattle didn't have (and Thurston County needs)

Additional thoughts from my post below. From Capitol Hill Seattle:
But the weather wasn't really the problem. The problem was information. Seattle was hit with a situation that required systems of communication and information distribution that it did not have. The city's dying newspapers couldn't keep up and City Hall's various departments were too busy trying to dig out from underneath the snow and ice to turn to their antiquated systems of information distribution. They couldn't connect information to the neighborhoods and streets where it was needed.
In emergencies, government agencies need to distribute information quickly. Very, very quickly. Radio stations are still king here and we're lucky around here to have more than a few that can still get out information quickly because they're run by people rather than computers.

But, the web is just as important. And, if you don't have the turn on-a-dime-ability with your current government website, it will hurt you.

The website Thurston County doesn't have

Recently I was part of a group that met twice to discuss redesigning Thurston County's currently horrible website. To put it shortly, the website is a reflection of a lack of technical progress (the pages are still manually built from an html editor) and the disjointed governance of the county.

The website being in the technical backwoods is less troubling to me because the website is actually very informative. The county's technology manager attended our second meeting and said that getting everything possible on the website had been their first concern. To me, that puts them on good footing for where they need to go next.

And, despite the casual framing of the project as "redesigning" the county's website, that is the last thing they need to do. Yes, its ugly right and it should be prettier, but not prettier in terms of a slick design. Drastically simple designs like's or wikipedia's would get the county where they need to go.

So, I wouldn't call it a redesign, but rather a restructuring. The first step should be scrapping their current method of updating the website and implementing a Content Management System. Easier, open source solutions are available, but it sidesteps the concept of a "redesign," which would seem to focus on the aesthetic and drive you toward the usable.

And, just one more thought:

I like RSS feeds a lot. If I could subscribe to a portion or an entire government website, that would be great. I've created some Pag2RSS feeds for some parts of the city of Olympia's website (like city council agendas and planning commission), but an entire government website with RSS tied to it would be great.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Good old R. Scott, still not being able to read and such

R. Scott, chair of the local loyal minor party, is mad at Karen Valenzuela and a copy editor at the Olympian because he can't read. He's mad because he thinks the commissioner's campaign used incorrect language in a fundraising notice to the Olympian.

In the top part of a notice in the Olympian (also in R. Scott's own complaint in pdf here), not paid for or written by Commissioner Valenzuela's campaign, the word "re-elect" is used.

Late in the same notice, the words "Valenzuela, an appointee..." are also used. Can R. Scott read? Does he care?

Sounders vs. Colorado back in June (soccer gameday report #2)

This summer I had a handful of equally unique soccer watching experiences. From Colorado to Bremerton, PDL, U.S. Open Cup and MLS, they made me think about soccer clubs. Like how they succeed, how they promote the sport and how they work as sporting organizations.

The first delibertaly written report (the first is actually here and here) is from our family trip to Colorado which included a nice trip up to Dicks Sporting Goods Stadium.

All of these posts will be organized under this category.

I'm not sure about formatting these posts, so I'll just start with random, numbered observations.

1. Wow, Sounders fans travel. There were at least 20 organized Sounders fans who came to the game. In addition, I ran into at least a half dozen other folks from Washington coming to the game.

2. About sixty percent of the people I saw at the game were wearing some sort of soccer related gear, which seems low. About just less than half were wearing something Rapids related, and a good portion of those were wearing old style Rapids stuff. The rest were split between youth team jersies and jersies of worldwide clubs (Chivas of G, Barca, Manchester United, etc.).

I think it might have been a youth soccer night, so those jersey observations might be thrown of by that. But, it makes me think that Colorado suffers from the typical MLS problem in attracting fans. There are plenty of people that are involved in soccer (youth organizations or by following soccer worldwide), but have a hard time attracting them into following the local pro club.

3. Colorado had a very nice stadium, but it was in the middle of nowhere. There's something to be said for having a soccer stadium near other stuff. Makes walking into the stadium a bit more meaningful. I don't know, its just a feeling I have.

4. I understand there is an actual local connection to the term "Arsenal" for the Rapids, but the use of the UK's Arsenal brand in the stadium, the firing of the cannon and the youth program is just ripping off the authentic British soccer experience, not trying to create your own. Just saying.

Why I haven't been blogging (why I haven't been feeling it)

For at least the last eight years or so, in various forms, I've blogged pretty regularly. There have been times I've closed old blogs, stopped blogging at other people's blogs and consolidated posts on this blog. Anyway, there have also been times I haven't blogged for awhile, but since about January of this year, my blogging here has been stalling (and for the past few weeks) grinding to a halt.

Some reasons for that include the obvious attention suck that Facebook and Twitter have become. But, there has also been the time I've spent thinking about the entire isthmus debate here in Olympia, and the stress I've felt of various groups of people I respect falling on different sides of the issue. While I respect everyone's opinion, it has become a issue I have a hard time getting a hold of the issue, and I have gotten tired of the debate and the sides those got chosen up.

Either way, I'm going to make a concerted effort to keep on blogging. I realize that the above was a horrible reason why I have held off blogging, but here I am.