Webcameron: Sam Roake and his backhand stroke

Posted by Tim Ireland at October 2, 2006

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

This entry was posted on
Monday, October 2nd, 2006
12:23 pm and is filed
under The Political Weblog Movement.

What is blogging? Sam Roake explains...Sam Roake, who has been regularly name-checked for 3 months now as the head of the Conservatives’ web strategy, used to work for Google…. but what he actually did for Google is addressed almost universally as a throwaway line (in fact, here it is again).

Myself, I think it deserves a little bit of focus:

As a Google ‘maximiser’, Sam Roake wrote the copy for users of AdWords who did not feel that they were able to string a dozen words together.

He. Wrote. Ads.

Fair enough, this does require some skill, but it has sweet bugger all to do with Google’s central database – and knowing what you’re doing in this particular game requires knowledge not only of this database, but how its users interact with it (and each other).

When you’re about to go to the coal face and mine those rich seams, you want to make sure you have someone at the helm who knows what they’re doing; someone who has actually worked at the face and knows the potential risks and rewards inside-out.

Instead, the Conservatives have hired the chap from the tea-room who sold the biscuits (i.e. he was not considered responsible enough to make the tea).

The results so far speak for themselves:

1. In what universe do you have to live where you don’t realise that an “Oh, hello… you’ve caught me doing the washing up (with eco-liquid, no less)!” video is going to – quite rightly – get mocked again and again?

2. Comments? Until a few minutes ago, the only comments going live that related specifically to individual videos were going live under an unofficial mirror of the launch video on YouTube. The comments that were going live on the official site failed to raise a single response from David Cameron and/or his chosen ambassador(s). This. Is. Not. A. Conversation.

3. The response? A video interview with Sam Roake, who explains that it’s a ‘work in progress’ and proposes a brilliant solution; he wants to ask the users how they think the comments ‘problem’ can be addressed. Presumably because he has no ideas himself aside from a brilliant wheeze involving carefully ghost-written 12-word responses on behalf of David Cameron (that also double as ads for generic Viagra).

[UPDATE (1:30pm) – The video interview with Sam Roake has now been removed. How odd.]

4. And here’s the bit that really gets up my nose… David Cameron ‘caught in the middle of dinner’ and explaining away his lack of policies by stating that he has to clean up politics first. I sought to clean up politics in my local area (1, 2, 3, 4) and was recently rewarded with a very personal smear campaign run by local Tories. When I brought this to the attention of Conservative Central Office, they referred it back to this same group of Tories (1, 2) for ‘action’. (I also emailed David Cameron’s office about it, but have yet to receive a reply. Perhaps the evidence was ‘a bit technical’.)

So far, I’ve watched a number of Conservatives (and Blairites) have a go at this incredibly new ‘conversation’ idea, but – with very few exceptions – their approaches have been marked by desperation, dishonesty, arrogance, ignorance… or a mind-bending combination of all four.

I’m not seeing anything new here… and Sam Roake can’t prove me wrong without first delivering Anne Milton’s head on a stick.

UPDATE – And here’s a picture, boys and girls…


  1. cheeks says

    Christ, that’s a stinker. He might find that in order to do the washing-up, he would have to roll his sleeves up and get stuck in.

  2. webcameronator says

    In response to today’s request for suggestions on enabling Cameron to respond to the comments. Associating comments with posts will help organise the comments immensely – (this and the RSS feeds have already begun being implemented on the site)As to how to get Cameron to reply – one idea would be to let users rank and vote on comments – and get Cameron to respond to the highest rated comments to a particular post. (That’s not original, its tried and tested – that’s how “Ask Slashdot” works).The ratings system would have an additional use in enabling you to hide poorly rated comments from most users – while not having to censor/moderate the comments yourself.With a ratings system you could set up a post asking for suggestions for a topic / setting / angle for a future video post by Cameron – let Cameron choose from among those rated highest – so he’s talking about the subjects that matter to his audience here.Alternatively he could pick a subject, hit the relevant tag search and respond to what he sees. (Film him actually using the site – reading the comments and responding live).Moving on from that – what about better integration of webcameron with what else is available online. The text of Cameron’s speech is available online in full – yet this latest webcameron posting about it doesn’t link to it. How about trackbacks – and links out all the other sites where people are responding eg: Roake’s absolutely right with his delegation to the users – that’s just what he needs to do – there’s an infinite pool of experience and ideas just waiting to be tapped – his role should be to facilitate applying that. For example if you want suggestions for a new commenting system – put a Wiki up where the users can develop ideas. If he wants people to contribute to the site – release the code, make it an open source project. Release the content too under licences that let users re-use it – see what others do with it – if they do it better or reach another audience with it then that’s fantastic. I’m sure there’s a huge number of people who want this to work – if Cameron can see online interaction working well on his own Blog – just think what he might be able to do in Government – imagine “” with the web 2.0 treatment!

  3. Manic says

    “there’s an infinite pool of experience and ideas just waiting to be tapped”True, but please pardon me for pointing out that an actual expert would have had most bases covered at launch. FFS, Roake even had comments going backwards for the first 48 hours.

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