Democrats in Chi'town

The Democrats still have the party that likes to party based upon a glance at the World Wide Web site (www.democrats.org/) the Demo-cratic National Committee (DNC) set up for the party convention starting Aug. 26 in Chicago.

While the Republican National Convention Web site strived to keep "cyberdelegates" inside the virtual convention hall offering few outside links the Democrats' site features links to a wide variety of cultural musical and gustatory offerings in "Chicago our kind of town." Drill down from the Chicago button and you can get information on everything from the Chicago White Sox schedule to hot blues groups to a list of continuing exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago.

In addition to these diversions the DNC provides well-crafted links to the meat and potatoes of the convention including information on the delegate selection process the 1992 and 1996 platforms video and audio highlights from the 1992 convention and a thumbnail history of Democratic conventions starting in 1832. This section probably offers more limelight to Sen. Lewis Cass of Michigan - the Democrat who lost to Whig nominee Zachary Taylor in 1848 - than he has received in the past century and a half.

The DNC has structured its Web site so the convention has what amounts to two home pages. Click on the main DNC page's "Convention '96" bar and you end up at a text-heavy page that offers much of the convention boilerplate. From there click on "The 1996 Demo-cratic National Convention" link and you end up on a graphics-heavy convention home page (www.dncc96.org/). This page provides links to high-tech Web tools harnessed for the DNC Webcast.

The DNC also has harnessed older Web technologies quite effectively. Click on the "Delegations" button and up pops a smart map. Click again on a state or territory and you zoom to a well-crafted page that lists the delegation chairmen and state Democratic congressional delegations.

The Democrats like the Republicans could not resist the impulse to use the Web site to put up some "games" that give new meaning to the word sophomoric. The DNC's version of Othello makes reading the text of the North American Free Trade Agreement seem like fun - something Web surfers can do if they hop over to the White House site (www.whitehouse.gov).

Besides putting a very positive spin on daily Clinton activities the White House site offers some interesting historical insights. Click on the "White House History and Tours" button and you end up with a good digital companion piece to the history of past presidents offered by both parties on their Web sites.

If browsing the full text of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade - yet another compelling read available on the White House Web page - does not sound like a fun way to spend the evening check out the button that provides an archival search for a collection of White House photographs from the Clinton administration. Type in "Socks The Cat" on the query line and you'll end up with a photo of the first cat riding on Bill's shoulders.

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