Jul 22 2009

agree ~ disagree

There were about 25 at Souk on Tuesday, to talk about the recent perceived misstep by the city to get some help “refreshing” the cities website. Designers, agencies, associations, writers, theatre and a guy from the city! I was very glad he was there. But not the person or persons we wanted for the conversation. And while disappointed the invited city officials who invited the design community to enter a contest to win the honor of changing the way Portlandonline.com looks, couldn’t make it. I wasn’t surprised.

As a community, we have before us a unique opportunity. That with the right wit, savvy and controlled passion we can generate and create great change. Just because this strikes at the core of what we do and how we survive, does not mean that in one quickly pulled together meeting we would be ready and prepared to educate those that we deem in desperate need of education.

I’m not a web designer or developer. But I’ve found jobs for a few here and there. With this statement from the letter alone;

The fact that the contest winner or winners will receive one year of recognition on every page of the over 140,000 City web pages and all the additional web traffic that will generate in search engine optimization and brand recognition for the winner is a highly valuable commodity. PortlandOnline receives about 2.5 million hits per month.

It seems, (an assumption on my part) that they might not truly understand SEO and how that may or may not translate to measurable ROI for the “contest” winner. Yes, 2.5 million is a lot. But who is behind those 2.5 million hits? What percentage is thinking, while I’m looking for that carpool info or affordable housing, I’ll check out the design and maybe have the team that did this do a site for me.

Actually, if I had the cash and a business that I needed a site for, I wouldn’t be interested in someone who does work for the city or government. Unless I was a city or government. I’d go to sites that I liked or had similar concept and product and approach them. Now they might be the agency who “refreshed” the cities site. But PortlandOnline is not where I would go to find talent.

A contest is what my classmates did in art school to get their design up on a billboard in Kansas City. Actually, that had a cash prize with it as well. Point is, it was a “student” contest.

Some great stuff came from this roundtable last night. Someone who wasn’t there at the meeting Tweeted, that we shouldn’t care. I disagree, I think we should. So I said, “who cares? We should all care, it’s principle. No one’s work should be procured via contest.” They responded back, “I’d say you shouldn’t speak for others. if a pro, student, amateur wants to do the #portlandonline site they are free to (do it free). I disagree. I like the idea of a larger conversation that has engaged many who are speaking together.

I kind of blew it off. But now I’m a bit annoyed and confused by the statement, “I shouldn’t speak for others”? Well, “I” wasn’t really speaking for others, I was indirectly conveying the tone of the dialogue I thought I heard that we had earlier in the evening. I’m not going to sit back and let the talent that I know have their work devalued because someone doesn’t understand the value of it. I don’t understand that kind of thinking? Or how there is a difference in “speaking out”? They were using the hashtag #portlandonline so had to have been following the conversation? Should I not care? Should only they speak and not me or anyone else? Still confused…

I don’t claim to know anything or have the answers. But to take any talent, designer, architect, barista, factory worker, engineer and make light of what they do by asking them to participate in a contest?

Grabbing a comment from the Rick Turoczy's blog,

“To borrow a point from @Mattg (on Twitter), you don’t see the city asking for volunteers to fill in pot holes, do you? Would that be acceptable to you?”

To me? No, but then I shouldn’t speak for other’s. I’ll be quiet now. Maybe.