If it’s Tuesday, it must be Ruby

Some weeks ago I sat in a meeting with an elected official who, having been recently reelected to the office, was nonetheless interested in running for an entirely different office. Now, like many people in this cynical business and unlike most of the public, I am not opposed at all to an elected official interested in running for another seat. Some may say, “that person is just a career politician.” What a bunch of B.S. I congratulate that politician and wish them the best.

But I digress – this post isn’t about politics. This politician (and now candidate) was talking about putting a campaign website together. If you want to run for office, and you don’t have a decent website that doesn’t look like it was built in 1998 in WordPress or Drupal by a college kid for a hundred bucks, then you might as well not exist at all.

“There has been more evolution in web design in the last two years than there has been in the previous ten,” I said wisely, and everyone nodded.

This is the trouble not just for politicians and candidates but also for their web site designers. What won elections seven years ago will barely get a blip today. Partisanship aside – Barak Obama’s amazing two campaigns for election and reelection to U.S. President showed just how much one could do: communities, sub-communities, realtime data tracking of millions of voter attributes, micro-targeting messages down to the individual person – not even group or zip code, but person – based on their preferences and history.

This also exposes the risks for candidates and designers. Brushed up on your PHP skills? Great, except that many candidates are grabbing onto Nation Builder as the next coolest thing. And it is cool. Written in Ruby on Rails, it puts to rest the motion that Rails cannot scale.

Want to do a WordPress site? Sure, that’ll work. Just don’t use the default templates with the 2003-era three-column layout. You might as well drive a Pinto. Doing a Drupal site? If you’re not a third-party candidate running for President who won’t win anyway, then you should think very carefully before going down that route. At a minimum, wait for Drupal 8 to emerge.

Coming soon: Will candidates and politicans track voters and constituents (and contributors) using newer and hipper frameworks like Meteor or the Mean Stack? I hope so! Angular? Backbone? I hope they’re not yet out of date.

The evolution of the web, the frontend, the backend, and the role of the designer and the full-stack developer is changing fast. What do we do? Stick with a combination of what works, what you know, what you can learn fast, and what innovation will break the other guy’s bank. Eat healthy, have a stiff drink, enjoy the ride, and don’t forget to spend time with your family. After all, amid all the technological change, it is comforting to go back to something as enternal as dropping my kids at school.

David Kissinger consults with companies, trade associations, non-profits and entrepreneurs on external affairs, public relations, marketing, advocacy, IT strategy, web development and content.

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