NCC Constitution Daily
The National Constitution Center (NCC), located on Philadelphia’s historic Independence Mall, is an independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing public understanding of the U.S. Constitution and the ideas and values it represents. It is the home of the world’s only interactive history museum devoted to the U.S Constitution, and continually hosts the world’s most recognized politicians.
The NCC itself is the premier place to discuss and learn about the U.S. Constitution, but its leadership recognized that the reach of the NCC could expand beyond its walls. They operate a museum-specific website, but wanted to take advantage of their staff and visitors’ knowledge to continue smart discussion online and build an audience that could potentially be converted into visitors, donors, and (perhaps most importantly) informed citizens who can spread the word about the organization’s reputation nationally.
We partnered with the content strategy experts at Technically Media to architect and design a state-of-the-art blog called The Constiution Daily to provide an online daily analysis of current events, viewed through the lens of the United States Constitution.
A unique perspective
A quick round-up of daily news in the United States demonstrates clearly that the Constitution permeates political discourse, so there is no shortage on daily content. With the unique position of being able to tap in to The Center’s visitors, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and Karl Rove, content contributors are able to get the unique perspective of the news makers who pass through, creating newsworthy content in an of itself. In addition, the blog allows Constitutional scholars a public forum to add depth to current events across many active issues.
There were more than 40 issue topics, ranging from the 1st Amendment to Healthcare, that we identified for content classification when our project began. The site is built in a way that will allow content contributors to continue to add to that list as issues arise. Acknowledging that issues will peak and valley over time, we created several ways of indicating what issues are “trending.” The Center is also able to highlight issues that are currently in the news. Not only does this help the blog retain its currency, it provides a chance to highlight related content from the archives.
Within the back-end publishing system, management of the archives happens automatically. Posts tagged for the archives are automatically demoted from the homepage and onto the archive page. Featured stories are re-sized and promoted automatically. This allows the NCC to focus on writing engaging content and leave the management to the content management system.
The experience of The Constitution Daily does not end with reading and adding comments to articles. A goal of the design was to prompt users to take the next step with issues that strike a chord. We incorporated a “Take Action” module, which prompts visitors to join the conversation, contact elected officials, or volunteer with a charity or non-profit. Additionally, visitors are invited to weigh in on hot issues by taking a quick poll on the home page or a relevant issue page.
Facilitating smart discussion
Political discourse online can be tricky; for every well-crafted, civilized comment, there can be five negative comments that do not necessarily impact the conversation in a positive way. In order to facilitate smart discussion without a full-time moderator on staff, we were tasked to implement some features to reward good behavior and useful comments.
Displaying number of “reactions” per article
The quantity and quality of comments that each article receives impacts its usefulness to readers, and encourages others to participate in the conversation. We chose to display the number of article reactions prominently, where visitors can log on, and by using Facebook Connect, Twitter, or traditional commenting, they are offered multiple points of interaction. This elevates each issue, and logs the numbers to see how much traction it receives over time.
Community comments moderation.
With the lack of a site moderator, the NCC can’t block users from its site or even delete their comments. However, they can engage the community itself to help police comments for usefulness or civility. Every comment added to the site is up for a vote: ‘like’ or ‘dislike’. The premise is that commentors that receive negative votes will think about their responses in the future, and the popular votes will be highlighted throughout the site – even elevated to the homepage to add context to articles and issues.
Simple, proven technology
We chose to build the blog using WordPress (who we’ve worked with before), which not only easily enabled things like Facebook integration, but takes advantage of the active WordPress developer community so the NCC can manage and extend the capabilities of site in-house. The perfect technology for this project.
Graphic design, user interface design, CSS/XHTML template development, CMS customization and integration. Launched 23 December 2010.