What is the point of a web site?
I was the creator and director of the first family computer channel in the UK (on BSkyB) which was initially called the Computer Channel and ended up as dot.tv. Our web site in 1996 had video (!) and we placed our programmes on to it though that wasn't as easy at it sounds.
When I was elected to Parliament in May, 1997 it was a shock to find how far behind the authorities were and how it took to move the machinery into the 19th century let alone the late 20th.
I had a web site designed by two students at Fulston Manor which were no more than functional but a start. UP dating them regularly was an issue. I then asked Jim Banting (maybe 1998 maybe 1999) to create a front page of television screens with each screen representing an interest of mine either in Parliament or in the Constituency. Problem was I had insufficient video content.
Matt, a student from California, arrived as an intern and he designed a web site for Labour MPs which had seven pages - the first three had Labour Party information and were updated nationally whilst the other four pages had to be updated by you. This didn't quite work as it should have - too many people at HQ wanted to control what was included.
Nonetheless, everyone wanted something for the election in 2001. By then, I had been to watch and participate in the USA Presidential election and saw at close hand how Howard Dean had used his web site to raise boodles of dollars. I thought that in the General Election 2001 few MPs understand the net (nothing changes) and even fewer constituents had made the digital leap. As a result, all I did was blog every evening after a day spent campaigning to the 800 or so local email addresses I had collected. I was hoping these would be sent to my opponents and might persuade doubters to stay and vote for me. There were some hard email exchanges but I was glad of the contact.
Finally, a couple of years before the 2005 election, I asked Andy Hudson, a constituent, to start again and design me a web site which told the story of my day at Westminster and my days in the Constituency. He was a genius at simple design and went on to design over 25 other MPs sites all different but at their heart was simplicity.
At its height my site attracted 20,000 weekly unique visitors and it grew to over a 150,000 pages. Daily updating became part of its success.
It kept winning awards: first up was the New Statesman's 2006 Elected Representative and then two from the British Computer Society in 2007 (Most Engaged site) and 2008 (Best MP site). It was legally deposited at the British Library in May, 2010 when I stepped down and you can still access it at www.derekwyattexmp.co.uk
I moved across to an App in late 2009 helping to design my own and launched it in February 2010. It was a first for any politician in the world. On its launch date it was third in the iTune download chart for a nanosecond with 7,700! The basis of the App has now been incorporated in an App entitled rite2MP which is available free for MPs and constituents alike but few have used it beyond an info-board.
And now dear reader, here I am with another friendly Andy Hudson creation, which has been up for five years. But lately my interest in it has declined. I have found tweeting more stimulating and have decided to stop doing daily updates which in themselves have declined over the past year and write a weekly blog and place that on blogging sites and here. So consider this to be my first blog!