today marks the one year anniversary of the 15 ideas blog. it's been a rather interesting year. and while i like to think every post is a waste of my time as well as yours, let's mark this special occasion by re-posting what i consider to be this blog's monument to time-wasting: a study of each u.s. president's online presence:
presidents and the internets
originally posted 2/16/9 - re-posted without permission
in honor of president’s day, the entire 15 ideas staff is taking the day off and leaving you with this: a breakdown of how our presidents are represented in the digital age. hopefully, you’re off work as well because it should take you most of the day to read.
44. Barack H. Obama
similar to his presidential campaign, the O-Bomb’s official white house site is filled with rich media, from home page widgets to lots of videos to a frequently updated blog, all well-designed throughout. there have been quibbles about him not twittering anymore, the last text that came from him was before the inauguration, and his iphone app thinks the presidential race is still going on. but all in all, he continues to do an outstanding job of using technology to define/promote his brand.
43. George W. Bush
in a google search for Dub’s official site, the second link that comes up is “George W. Bush Presidential Library.” it’s just a home page now that reads “Welcome to the future home of the officious George W. Bush Presidential Library.” according to the dictionary, the first definition of “officious” is “archaic.” the second definition is “volunteering one's services where they are neither asked nor needed.” it had to be a joke. oh yeah, it was. the real site looks like a placeholder, with FAQ on the first (and only) page. i'm sure he's just been busy.
42. William J. Clinton
overall, BJ’s site seems well-organized and frequently updated (free admission today, if you’re in the neighborhood). the design feels not quite presidential, with the off-blue and poor choice of typefaces. it calls out a newly added feature “Clinton’s Daily Schedule”. my hope was to see what he's up to this weekend, as i think palling around with him would be an adventure, but there's nothing post-presidential published. (insert joke about how he doesn’t want hillary to know what he’s up to here.)
41. George H. W. Bush
Herbie’s site is quite well-done. content is up-to-date (complete with a shot from january’s inauguration), the design is more presidential than BJ’s, and the navigation is quite comprehensive. there’s even a reasonably decent logo. looks like they’re charging admission on president’s day though. best head to arkansas.
40. Ronald Reagan
this site looks like it was built during the Reagan presidency, and hasn’t been updated since. there’s page design credits at the bottom, a “recent news stories” that contains only one article (from 1997), and the store looks like an outsourced back-end and template. if the goal of the site is to minimize the legacy of a president, it’s spectacular.
39. James Carter
phew, we’re back to semi-acceptable websites. Jimmy’s has got a pedestrian logo, good navigation across the top, and pertinent information on the left side, keeping necessary clicks to a minimum. the site really pushes the store, which is again outsourced and a completely different look than the rest. if you go deep enough, you can see a couple different templates at work. it’s decent enough on the surface, but you can’t re-skin only half a site and expect a good user experience. you can’t.
38. Gerald Ford
when you put the good up against the bad, bad wins. the look’s blase, the navigation isn’t as well-marked as Jimmy's, the logo looks like it was accidentally added to the bottom of the page, and the store – what is it with presidential stores needing to look like they belong in branson, missouri?
37. Richard Nixon
surprisingly, the site does include some secret recordings, and Watergate is mentioned frequently. that, combined with a straight-off-k-tel-records logo and overall decent-looking site serve the 37th president better than he served us.
36. Lyndon Johnson
I don’t know why, but in every picture I see of this guy, LBJ looks mad at me. seriously, look at this picture from the home page. tell me he’s not mad. another item that throws me off an otherwise decent site is the picture of he and president obama. roll over the picture, and you get “Obama and LBJ: A Civil Rights Legacy.” how’s the ride on them coattails, LBJ?
35. John F. Kennedy
now this is a lovely site. the white house diary talks about something that happened in the JFK administration history on that day. the navigation, while a bit clunky, has a flash-like animation to it. and you get to hear clips of JFK’s speeches when you visit certain pages, which emphasizes you’re not just visiting A president’s site, you’re visiting JFK’s.
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower
remember the guy who built the Reagan site? well, before he did that one, he practiced coding on the Ike site. if it loads for you like it did for me, you’ll get a large blue field, and a long list of navigation items on the left. if you scroll down far enough, you’ll see… aw hell, I don’t have time for this. fine, here’s what you’ll see: the site asks visitors to join an email list and it has a live web cam from the university, both of which haven’t been seen on other sites. still, it’s not enough to see why people liked Ike.
33. Harry S Truman
ok, we got the coding down. now all we need is a designer. the navigation’s a mess, clicking through the site is like looking at a collage whose pieces don’t know the others exist, and the gift store remains outsourced (the “Buck Stops Here Store”). other than that, it’s lovely.
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt
ouch. that’s two in a row of poorly designed sites. and for FDR, no less! (the more significant the president, the better the site should be, I say.) clearly, there was a lengthy discussion about what size the type should be, and everyone won.
31. Herbert Hoover
hey, they did their own store! it’s overall rather unattractive as a site (note the funkiness when scrolling across the top navigation). but its content is updated, some of it is interesting (cartoons from the 1929 inauguration day, for instance) and after Truman and FDR, my defenses are down.
30. Calvin Coolidge
CC is blogging! the first blog I’ve noticed since the site of the current 1600 Penn Ave resident. the rest of the site doesn’t seem to be keeping up nearly as well, unfortunately. but at least admission to the library is free. (please note thought, in the parking lot, the meters only take quarters. thank you, helpful website.)
29. Warren Harding
I’m not trying to diminish what were surely great accomplishments by President Harding, but when you google his name and the number 29, the 2nd link that comes up is a coloring sheet of him.
28. Woodrow Wilson
also in the “odd search results” category, the first and fourth results for president Woody have to do with his birthday. (it’s December 28th, if you’re planning ahead.)
27. William Howard Taft
we seem to be stretching here. the only result specific to Taft is a national historic site where he grew up.
26. Theodore Roosevelt
Teddy R might do well with social media today, because his popularity on the web is coming at the grassroots level. a bunch of strong-willed people have formed the Theodore Roosevelt Association. their slogan is “keeping the spirit alive” which just goes to show you it takes more than strong wills to write a memorable tagline. as for the site itself, I think it can be summed up in the latest news items: “James Bruns selected as new”
25. William McKinley
McKinley’s tough to find online as well. the good: he’s the first president to have a flickr page show up high in search results. the bad: they weren’t his photos. it was posted by a guy who shot (no pun intended, McKinley descendents) birthplaces of every president, not just McKinley.
24. Grover Cleveland
in the first page of results, a website correctly identifies Grover Cleveland as one of the top 100 Chicago Cubs of all time.
23. Benjamin Harrison
the URL, presidentbenjaminharrison.org/, gave me hope that it was an official site. it wasn’t. a company long ago grabbed a bunch of URLs for presidents, and has now created home pages for each, centered around visiting birthplaces.
22. Grover Cleveland
in the second page of search results, you can download a coloring picture of Grover Cleveland (the president, not the Cub.)
21. Chester Arthur
Arthur’s nickname is, “God, I can’t think of who was before Cleveland.” and it shows online – the most significant site that comes up is from the state of Vermont’s Historical Sites.
20. James Garfield
Garfield was shot after a few months in office, and died shortly thereafter. Apparently, that shelved whatever plans were in motion for his website, J-Gar.com. At least you can check out his birthplace.
19. Rutherford B. Hayes
Ruthie B comes on strong! as far as sites go, it’s no great shakes, with the main navigation featuring full texts from speeches. but they have their own store (complete with “wishlist” functionality), which explains all the Ruthie B shirts I’ve been seeing lately.
18. Ulysses S. Grant
it should be noted this is the only president whose first-page google results contain an action figure in his likeness. the main site for the president is very un-presidential-looking, but based on references from other sites, seems to be fairly complete. and you get music along with your visit.
17. Andrew Johnson
AJ’s web presence is scarce, with the exception of a kid’s newsroom site that reduces his presidency to 8 bullet points. (point #1: “no vice president”) at this stage, that’s my kind of site.
16. Abraham Lincoln
as you may expect, abe’s all over the interweb, from art galleries to astrology. but his official library/museum didn’t even come up in initial search results. being a resident of illinois (rhymes with “Stella Artois”), I knew where to find it. the site's well-done and easy to navigate, with lots of current and interactive content. i personally think lincoln's stovepipe hat is undervalued at $9.99, but that's just quibbling.
15. James Buchanan
tellingly, information about James Buchanan can be found in a blog post titled “Man! I Don’t Know My Presidents!”
14. Franklin Pierce
while some citizens have taken up the cause to remember certain presidents, the fans of franklin pierce put all their effort into celebrating the Franklin Pierce Bicentennial. if you missed it back in 2004, you can still check out the website. unfortunately, I was busy that year.
13. Millard Fillmore
the same people who fooled me on Benjamin Harrison’s site fooled me here. let the record show, however, this is the first presidential site with google ads – you ol' revenue generator, you.
12. Zachary Taylor
another site from the people who brought us the Millard Fillmore and Benjamin Harrison pages. so we jumped to another high search result, which touts the Zachary Taylor Parkway as “Louisiana’s Route to the Future.” (insert about a thousand jokes here, 94% of which are tasteless.)
11. James Knox Polk
this is the most cohesive site in a while. Jimmy even shares the attention with his wife Sarah. and the site announces the acquisition of an old church, soon to be to be home of Polk Presidential Hall. if a dead person can be considered an up-and-comer, POTUS Polk is it.
10. John Tyler
see, here’s the problem. even if you’re the president, if you have a common name, it’s going to be hard to find you. instead, we get John Tyler wines. even when we do get to you, it’s John Tyler Community College. think SEO, politicians. I have Windows 2008, and it still lists the words “Barack” and “Obama” as misspelled. now THAT name is going to have good search results.
9. William Henry Harrison
tough to find anything but standard facts for WHH (rhymes with “huh?”), except for an online summary from a fourth grade class from – I’m not kidding – Battle Grounds Elementary School. it should be noted that Harrison was the first president to have a campaign slogan – "Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too." as many brands have discovered, slogans are not life-saving. Harrison died in office a month after his inauguration.
8. Martin Van Buren
another birthplace, another national historic site. but no one can take that away from him.
7. John Quincy Adams
the adams family is rich in real life as well as on the web. unfortunately, we had to go to Wikipedia for a dedicated look at the Q-ball (as his friends called him) since the Adams Memorial Organization’s link was dead.
6. Andrew Jackson
there were no libraries or foundations for Andrew Jackson either. however, under searches related to Andrew Jackson, “andrew jackson jihad” was listed. I thought I’d missed something in history class. instead, it’s the name of a band.
5. James Monroe
bored with disappointing google results, I typed in James Monroe.org, and got a horrendous looking site with a “Your Logo Here” dominating the space. james’ relatives, you gotta get on this. it makes the Reagan site look as interesting as that liquefying google site.
4. James Madison
J-Mad has the institute, the graduate fellowships, and of course the restoration of Montpelier which acts as a portal to all other activities. clearly, diversity is rewarded in the digital age.
3. Thomas Jefferson
TJ stole a few lessons from J-Mad (or was it the other way around?) with diverse interests, from using his house to beef up google results to having all his records digitally archived. TJ’s search results are also assisted by a ken burns movie, a library of congress exhibit, and of course memorable quotes throughout the years.
2. John Adams
this is why search engine optimization is so important. you click on “John Adams Official Website" wanting to find out about america’s second president, but instead you find out about america’s most admired and respected composer. apparently, the presidency is no match for a song.
1. George Washington
as of this writing, G-dub’s peeps have had 211 years, 11 months, and 12 days to have gotten their boy’s story straight online. yet, there’s not ONE THING on the internet about him.