Looking for a "Letter to the Editor" function for a nonprofit web site
May 3, 2006 2:56 PM   Subscribe

Letter to the Editor creator for websites?

My organization will be building a new web site. The powers that be have decreed that it has a "build your own letter to the editor" function, similar (if not exactly like) the one here.

Now, personally, I question the value of such a tool, since it smacks of "astroturfing," but I have been overruled. In fact, it is so important to the muckety-mucks and pooh-bahs that without it, they may forgo the site.

I have investigated "Political Outreach" (which powers the function in the example site, and is the one I'm leaning toward), and "Capitol Advantage" (aka CapWiz, which has the function but doesn't sell it separate from its suite of packages).

Are there any other LTE widgets out there? My Google-fu is failing me -- when I try "Letter to the editor" and "javascript" I just get a lot of newspaper sites.

posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord to Technology (3 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You probably know this already, but the main underpinnings of your example system aren't going to be made using JavaScript, but a server-side scripting language like Perl, PHP, or something like that. Are you a programmer? If you are, it wouldn't be too difficult to whip one up. But if so, then you're asking for something else.

I've never heard of a script that does this specific thing, but there may be one out there if you look for "script archives" or something.

There is significant JavaScript in the part where users select text blocks to include, but you can look at how it's done on the example page to see how to do it yourself. If you just lift the script wholesale, though, that could be a copyright issue -- and it looks like a fairly complex script. You could also accomplish the same thing using just server-side scripting, more reliably -- i.e., it would have a better chance of working in more browsers -- but then the user would have an additional page load to get through, which may or may not be a problem. OTOH, the server-side scripting option allows you to easily record what points people are selecting, which might be interesting for the organization to analyze later.

You might want to hire a server script coder if you're not one yourself. But there may be a "widget" you can use that someone else will know about -- good luck.
posted by amtho at 3:20 PM on May 3, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the response, amtho!

Unfortunately, there are two parts to the problem -- the javascript that builds the letter (and you're right -- that's the easy part), and the GINORMOUS database of national and local newspaper email addresses. If you go to my example, you see that not only are you prompted for a topic to write on, but your zip code as well. That what determines which newspapers show up on your form.

So we're not just looking for the javascript, but the database (and the maintenance of it) as well. One of these prospective vendors pays another company a licensing fee for the database of editorial emails, and it's $1200 a year.

Sounds like not many people have run into this particular activism tool, which makes me wonder how effective it would be.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 10:48 PM on May 3, 2006

Three parts - Javascript, database, and server-side script (maybe perl or PHP).

If not many people have done it, it might just be because it's difficult. The other sites that use it might have data that would support (or not) its use.

Good luck!
posted by amtho at 7:44 AM on May 5, 2006

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