I posted yesterday that I was holding off posting my review of Labour's new LabourList grassroots site until I had worked out where the cunningly titled Labourist site had come from. Well, it turns out the site is a spoiler put together by Tim Ireland so I'm going to post my review. However, I'm going to publish it in a couple of posts to spread out the reading. My aim is to break up the review into the following sections: 1) A bit about the site's background and a review of the site's look and feel 2) a review of the site's approach to digital politics and 4) my conclusions. Here's Part 1:
LabourList: Some Background
First things first. What is LabourList? The answer seems to be provided in the memo I was leaked from the man behiond LabList, Derek Draper, in a memo to Ray Collins, Labours General Secretary. Draper writes that LabList is “an independent site that aims, in time, to be our version of Conservative home”.
“Hang on a minute.” I thought, “Isn’t LabourHome Labour’s equivalent of ConservativeHome?” Not anymore. One of the other people behind LabList tells me: “I've always said Labourhome has the wrong name – Labhome is a community for people to talk to each other – Lablist will be a content engine, offering insight, thoughts, news, [about Labour]."
That makes sense to me but I think it’ll be interesting to see what happens with LabourHome as LabList develops. Will the sites work together and complement each other or compete? I suppose the nearest scenario is that of the relationship between Guido Fawkes and ConHome.
LabourList: Look & Feel
The site looks nice and clean. It is probably fair to say it looks and feels more plain and blog-like than ConHom does – but then again ConHome probably started off quite blog-like before growing into a more content rich traditional feel website. I can only guess this is the direction in which LabList will grow as it develops. If LabList is designed to be more of a “content engine” (which it is according to insiders) then the site’s layout will have to adapt to help make the content easily findable.
I think the layout and functionality of the site could be tidied up. In general, it feels a bit messy, although I think we need to bear in mind that the site is more than likely to evolve organically and so settle down once it gets going. In addition the site has also been launched in Beta so presumably any teething problems can be ironed out before the full launch.
A couple of specific (some might say pedantic) bug-bears is the comment thread and software platform. While the site looks like a blog, the comment threads seem to run like forums. While I’m sure the idea of allowing comments to comments and sub-threads is a good idea in practice I must admit I find it confusing. Equally, one commenter wonders out loud why they didn’t go with an open source platform like WordPress. It’s familiar to bloggers/new media types and there are a number of Government sites (Downing Street’s no less!) already built in WordPress.
Part 2 – coming next… LabourList: It's Approach to Digital Politics