Juggernaut

checkthefence A few months ago the web group at the ISC was ap­proached by a lo­cal de­sign firm to host and code check​the​fence​.us, a site meant to provide in­for­ma­tion about art put on the con­struc­tion fence sur­round­ing the Breuer Tower, a space for pub­lic com­ment on the con­struc­tion, and an in­ter­ac­tive Flash gad­get where vis­i­tors could de­sign their own wall.

This was right when the furor over the Breuer Tower de­mo­li­tion de­ci­sion and the sales tax in­crease was at its peak; and, at least from my per­spec­tive, it was ob­vi­ous that check​the​fence​.us would be a PR night­mare, a tax-pay­er fund­ed waste of time draw­ing even more at­ten­tion to the PR night­mare that the Breuer Tower [now for sale] al­ready was. I want­ed noth­ing to do with it, and though I wasn’t at the ac­tu­al meet­ing with the folks, I did see the mock­ups of what they want­ed, pri­or to. I was and still am un­der the im­pres­sion that every as­pect of this par­tic­u­lar de­sign project was ill-ad­vised. I think we told them that if they al­ready had the de­sign and URL pur­chased, they didn’t need us to im­ple­ment it. We didn’t hear back from them, so I thought it was dead in the wa­ter. Then as I hob­bled to work ear­lier this week, I saw the URL sten­ciled on the side of the wall. Checked the site, es­sen­tial­ly an un­der con­struc­tion page with the County lo­go on it. The full site went live to­day. The wall is cur­rent­ly play­billed with Preserve/​Conserve ban­ners, the irony of which is ei­ther com­plete­ly lost on those in charge of what goes on the wall or some­thing a bit more fright­en­ing.

And the Office of Sustainability web­site that they say is com­ing soon? Don’t bet on it. The de­sign has been done since the of­fice was first launched, but I’ve spent months try­ing to get the nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion to put on it. At one point we were asked to go with a the­me like “Green County on a Blue Lake” and I had to point out that Cleveland al­ready has a site like that.

I’m cer­tain that post­ing this might get me in trou­ble, since talk­ing like this with my cowork­ers of­ten re­sults in fear­ful looks on their part, but the whole thing is so ridicu­lous from my per­spec­tive that I can’t not share it. I’m at such a low­ly po­si­tion in the County’s hi­er­ar­chy that I am meant to be nei­ther seen nor heard. But when our de­part­ment reads about County news in the Plain Dealer, in­stead of re­ceiv­ing the press re­leas­es in­ter­nal­ly, even a pe­on like me can see that there is a prob­lem. Much of the time it is easy to do quite a bit of good web work com­plete­ly un­der the radar, so it is frus­trat­ing when high-vis­i­bil­i­ty cost-cen­ters like check­the­fence can’t be cur­tailed. I mean, I saw the mounds of hate email we re­ceived when we did a sim­ple re­design of the County Home Page. I can’t imag­ine what the pub­lic com­ment sec­tion of check­the­fence is go­ing to gen­er­ate. I bet on­ly pos­i­tive ones make it on the site it­self. You can be sure they’re mod­er­at­ed.

I’ve been think­ing about PR and tech a lot late­ly, and the con­clu­sion I’ve reached is that if your mes­sage needs to be con­trolled and go through a spin cy­cle or two, you’ve got the wrong mes­sage or you’re go­ing about its dis­sem­i­na­tion in the wrong way. There is no room for fear in pub­lic re­la­tions, es­pe­cial­ly on the in­ter­net. I like the way Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of Wired thinks.

2 thoughts on “Juggernaut

  1. Thanks for those no­tices, Jeff. I think say­ing that I’m speak­ing “truth to pow­er” [an em­i­nent­ly overused phrase] is a bit much; but it is nice to no­tice that oth­ers are think­ing the same things.

    No com­ments have made it past the mod­er­a­tion on check­the­fence yet. I took one of the fal­l­en vinyl posters and taped it on my win­dow. The sen­ti­ment is ap­pro­pri­ate no mat­ter what the source. I think they would have stuck up bet­ter if they were pa­per, but then there would be no re­mov­ing them.

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