This is a subject that I have thought about covering for a while but have not because of the sensitivities involved. But now that peace has broken out in the Labour Caucus and everyone is on the train it is a good time to rethink Labour’s social media efforts.
Red Alert burst onto the blogosphere a number of years ago. It’s first post was published in May 2009 and at the time it was called the voice of Labour’s MPs on issues that they care about. At the time it was a brave forward looking proposal to allow the caucus to engage directly with the population at large. At one stage it was one of the more popular political blogs in New Zealand. It was somewhat cutting edge and compared to the insipid imitation of a site that is National’s equivalent it gave Labour a decided edge. If you want to see how bad sites can get then you should look at the National equivalent. For quite a while I thought that National MPs was a cruel parody site put up by National’s enemies.
Red Alert has had its problems. There was the unedifying sight of Colonial Viper being threatened with disciplinary action for speaking his mind on that site. This led to one of the most enjoyable actions of on line solidarity I have seen when we all became vipers for a day. The site also struggled with moderation. Obviously the site attracted the attention of Labour’s enemies and sometimes the moderation of those smug annoying uber confident and unnecessarily loud comments that only the right are able to make meant that the discussions were a bit hit and miss.
The lack of nestled comments also affected the operation of the site. The Standard is an example how nuanced and discrete conversations can occur when comments are nestled.
The site appears to have run out of enthusiasm as the regularity of posts by MPs and comments by others has declined. I do not know the current figures but I suspect that frequency of posts, and numbers of comments and hits are well down on previous times.
As an example of the site’s problems I thought that its handling of the recent leadership campaign struggled. It may be that the administration is too rigid and the Parliamentary Services funding restrictions too difficult but certainly things can be improved.
So what should Labour do with Red Alert? In the spirit of the party’s unity can I ask for comments to be constructive and future looking.