I’ve often written in glowing terms about the Liberal Democrats’ approach to the web; for a good few years now, they’ve been doing some remarkably innovative stuff which, for whatever reason, was always overlooked. So it was a real pleasure recently to meet the party’s wonderfully-titled Head of Innovations, Mark Pack; and it led to a little Puffbox project to pull together some of their disparate material.
The Lib Dems run a number of blogs on very specific policy areas: defence, home affairs, the Al Yamamah arms deal. There’s the main party website, of course. And Nick Clegg’s personal site. Plus sites for the party’s representation in the Lords and the European Parliament. And the stuff they do on YouTube. And Delicious. And Twitter. That’s a lot of different RSS feeds to subscribe to; and no one place to look for an overview of what’s happening today.
So I’ve built them a new WordPress theme to sit at the top level of their blogs’ server, aggregating all this stuff into a single homepage, with a single RSS feed, and a single ‘blogroll’. Well, I say ‘theme’: it really only amounts to managing the blogroll, and a single paragraph of text. The rest is just stand-alone PHP.
It’s deliberately designed to match the main Lib Dems site, with a few tweaks to make it work better cross-platform. But I’ve also done an ‘iPhone version’, using exactly the same HTML, but calling a different set of CSS styles depending on the ‘user agent string’. We abandon the multi-column layout of the ‘normal’ version, to show it in a single column: it just works so much better with the smooth scrolling of the iPhone interface.
It’s our first piece of explicitly ‘party political’ work; and given our Whitehall focus, I had to think hard about (a) taking it on, and (b) talking about it here. But I concluded that it simply shouldn’t be an issue: being brutal, we’re a business, it’s legitimate work, there’s a recession on, and my mortgage won’t pay itself.
And since this isn’t a blog about politics per se, that’s where I’ll leave it.