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Wednesday, May 6

Rainforests and royalty: when 'bottom up' isn't all that

"One of the Internet's strengths is that it can help diverse communities to come together to insure that everybody's views and actions can really be made to count."
Prince of Wales
As you'd expect the Prince of Wales' online rainforest campaign attracted huge media attention. Like undoubtedly thousands of others this prompted me to visit the website Unfortunately that's where the problems start.

Yes, you can sign something, add your email address to the pile, and pass on a message to friends (which does have the facility to load your address book) but apart from that it doesn't appear to be enabled to let you do much else. You can sign up to be "able to record your own frog message with The Prince's Rainforests Project frog" ("and we will be in touch as soon as this section of the site is live!") and the sidebar says you can "grab our widget and place on your social network page or blog so you can count how many people have signed up because of you."

What the latter loads is a really over complicated widget with what appears to be either a slow host or a 'straining-to-cope' host (I suspect the former). As I've noted before, you really don't want a slow host for widgets as they will crash/slow down any web pages who chose to use them.

As it was, the click on 'grab this' did nothing, so I don't know if they were offering what should be the standard armory of virality: various sizes, various levels of complication (and code size) as well as various banners.

Other absent standard stuff are links to youtube, myspace (which was trailed in the PR) etc. There are design issues and navigation issues too.

Some press claimed that Charles' crew had hired Obama's crew to come up with this campaign. Surely not? This is way below par for them if that's truly the case.

And not just because of the website mistakes. The main thrust of the online US election campaigns (not just Obama's, Hillary's too) went beyond 'raising awareness' to connecting people so they could do stuff together, like get people onto electoral roles or to knock on doors.

I suppose it's difficult for the Prince to encourage people to lobby the powers that be but the impression left is 'support me in doing good work on your behalf' - and that's hardly "bottom up".


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