Every Web site owner confronts a basic choice: Do we publish a relatively static brochure, or do we offer news about the things we care about?
If you decide that your site offers news about the things you care about, then you have a very real obligation: Keep the home page current. If someone visits you once a week, they'd better see something new every time they visit.
They say nothing is deader than a dead Web site. If your site publishes stale headlines, visitors will assume it is dead. Recently when I posted to Dave Farber's mailing list about a project to connect 100 million homes at 100 megabits/second, the professor heading the project sent me a polite note that my personal Web site is horribly outdated. He's right - many of the links to articles I've written are broken -- because Internet World and New Media have deleted their archives from the 1990s. And if I don't list recent speaking gigs and articles, I'm not doing a very good job of promoting my ideas.
Today I found what appears to be a very dead site: that of the political advocacy group MoveOn.org. This group famously launched their Web presence to urge the country to "move on" from its obsession with the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. Curious what they are up to now, I headed to their corner of Webspace.
At least on this day, MoveOn.org is indeed a very stale site. Their lead article pleas for people to attend house parties to watch a documentary they've made; they even offer a local party locator implemented as a fancy Flash animation. The only problem: the locator map refers to past parties held on December 7.
-- They tout their contest for a "Bush in 30 Seconds" ad -- but the deadline for submissions is long since past.
-- They promote a policy speech that Al Gore gave at their premises last November. Yes they may want to highlight the text, but a photo of Gore "above the fold" after Gore has endorsed Howard Dean may be misleading.
--- They call for Attorney General Ashcroft to appoint someone else to investigate the leak that outed a CIA operative -- which Ashcroft recently did.
-- The button labeled "Media Coverage" brings up an item from November; their most recent press release is from October.
-- They deride Fox News for a cheap shot they took against MoveOn "last week" -- but the complaint is dated December 19.
You get the impression that MoveOn's main products are television commercials and full page ads in the NY Times, and their Web site is an afterthought. If you think I'm being a tad harsh, compare their site to Democrats.org, the official Democratic Party site, or Democrats.com, the site operated by David Lytel (founder of Whitehouse.gov) and a small group of partners. Every news element on those sites is fresh.
Obviously things tend to slow down over the holidays, but if MoveOn wants to retain momentum, their Web site needs to get moving again soon.
I suppose after saying all this it's time get back to editing my personal site...