We close our biggest campaign of 2013

The Bahrain campaign, which ran well beyond the 3 month limit as we awaited news – still not arrived – of Mahdi’s fate, was closed today at the request of the Education International.   It had a total of 11,399 messages sent since its launch on 29 October.  It appeared in just 9 languages.

Meanwhile, our brand-new Turkey campaign managed to deliver 4,546 messages in its first 15 hours online — that’s about 300 messages per hour, or one every 12 seconds.

I still hope that 2013 will mark the first year that we have campaigns that top 20,000 — something we’ve yet to achieve.  Maybe Turkey?

Written by admin in: Campaigns |

Major new campaign launched

This will be a big one – launched at the request of the ITUC, two global union federations and a European trade union body.  Let’s spread the word.

Written by admin in: Campaigns |

The shock of the new [3]

I’ve made the following changes – as you all suggested – to the new version of the website today:

  • The site slogan is once again below the logo.
  • Global news stories have a new title (not ‘breaking news’) and have been highlighted with a red border.
  • The additional news stories line for each country has been bold-faced.
  • The bottom menu bar includes links to correspondent login, applying to become a correspondent, and join the mailing list (this was already there).
  • The icons for emailing us and the various social networks have been moved further down the page.
  • The unnecessary ‘photo of the day/week’ header has been removed.  This would have caused confusion as we were never sure how often we updated this and we shouldn’t commit.

There is still more to do – making sure that everything that was accessible from the previous home page is also accessible here (e.g., newswires) and making sure this will work in other languages — taking into account that there significant differences between how the different languages work.  Masha has also offered to come up with a new logo later this week.  But we’re getting close, I think.

P.S. “The shock of the new” is a great title – I lifted it from here.

Written by admin in: Site redesign |

The shock of the new [2]

Thanks for all your comments on my previous post – this has been a good discussion and it should continue. Let me comment on some – not all – of the things that have been raised so far.

The logo: Some of you like the new one, some like the old one, some want a new one. Masha has offered to create one – let’s see what she comes up with. We’ll also need a square version of the logo (maybe just the letters LS) for Facebook and elsewhere.

Slogan: This appears at the moment above the languages, but I will move it to below the logo, as before.

Making the middle column more prominent: I agree it would be a good idea to focus attention on the main news headlines – but if we make this column wider, it also becomes shorter – leaving a lot of white space underneath. It also means the photos in the left and right columns become smaller. We could try a two-column format, or other ways to draw attention to this column. Let’s try out a few things.

Non-English versions: The English language version is quite different from most of the other languages (French comes close) and obviously the new design will not introduce radical changes into how the other languages work. If they don’t have a top priority news story like English, then this part of the site obviously won’t exist.

Labelling the columns: ‘Breaking news’ is not a good title – this is actually our ‘Top global news’.

Highlighting additional news stories from a country: We can bold face and change colour for this so people can see more clearly that there’s a lot more news for this country.

Missing menu bar: There will be one, but the bottom of the page, not on the left or right columns. This is where we can put a number of the most important links — for example:

  • Correspondent sign-in on front page: This will appear somewhere, but probably not at the top of the page. (On the current home page, it’s buried in the mess of links on the left side.)
  • Invitation to become new correspondents: Our experience shows that very few people click on this — we tend to get new correspondents because we ask people to sign up after they’ve submitted news. Nevertheless, we can add a link in the bottom menu.
  • Newsletter signup: Our experience has been that very, very few people join our mailing list because of a link or a form on our home page; they nearly all come via the campaigns. But I can include a link with some other essential ones.

A WordPress theme?: This has been raised before by Andy and it’s not really appropriate, in my view. WordPress is a content management system – an excellent one which I have used many times to create union websites. (It’s even the system used for this blog.) But we don’t need a content management system — we already have one. In fact, we have several, all purpose-built for us. What we need is an attractive framework and while WordPress Themes offer these, it’s over-kill. There also many HTML themes available which we can use.

Written by admin in: Site redesign |

Weekly review – 20-25 February 2013

Annual survey: We’ve gotten just over 500 responses so far in the first week; last year we got 2,954. We have yet to do a dedicated mailing on this subject and when that goes out, we should see a big response. So far, we mentioned this in another mailing a week ago, but not as the top or exclusive story. Today, we mailed to over 5,400 UnionBook members about this.

Site re-design: I’ve now shared this with a number of people and will soon be posting my comments on their comments.

Campaigns: The Cameroon campaign was closed down after 3 months. We may launch a Turkey campaign later today.

Online campaigning book – French edition: This has been created and will shortly be ready for sale.

Internationalization: I completed a review of our 50 languages – see post below for details.

Fundraising: UNI has made a substantial pledge, as has PSI. We have made progress in getting a venue and performers for the first-ever LabourStart fundraiser, to be held in London on 4 May (tentative date).


The shock of the new

Here’s what our website looks like today:



And here’s the new design, largely completed:



You can view the old home page here and the new one here.

Some things to note about the new design and why I believe it is a huge improvement over the existing design (which is not to say that it is perfect):

  • There is considerably more white space for a much less cluttered look.
  • More prominence is given to images (photo of the day, campaign photo).
  • There’s a much reduced colour palette (no more pinks, blues, oranges, etc.) and single font for the whole page.
  • The technology back-end of the page is largely future-proof, as it was written in HTML 5, uses CSS and is based on PHP – it’s completely modular and it will be relatively easy to base all the languages on this model.
  • We’ve de-cluttered — there’s far less happening on the front page, and nearly all the links will now be moved to other pages.  The key stuff – news, campaigns, labour history and photo – are the only things staying on the front page.
  • Yes, there’s a new logo too.  For the first time since 1998.

We’re not going live with this just yet — let’s have a discussion here, in the comments, before we do anything rash.

I know that I’m taking a risk with all this, as people have very different tastes and some of you will think this looks horrible while others think it looks great.  What I’m looking for is constructive criticism — things that you’d like dropped, improved, added, displayed differently, and so on.

Written by admin in: Site redesign |

Our 50 languages – beginnings of a comprehensive review

I’ve begun a comprehensive review of the use of languages on LabourStart and have begun tightening things up, trying to make sure that a language that appears in one part of our system appears in the others. Over the years, it’s all become a bit of a mess, but here are some preliminary observations:

  • In our news database, we allow input of news in 50 languages.
  • Until recently, only 28 of those languages – the active ones – were properly tagged. From now on, all 50 languages are properly encoded.
  • Only 28 languages have translated frameworks and are therefore listed on the front page.
  • The five most heavily-used languages – the ones that have had 10,000 news stories or more in our database – are English, Finnish, French, Polish, and Norwegian.
  • There are 25 languages that can be used for campaigns, though any code can be entered — even inaccurate ones (e.g., xx).
  • As of this morning, we have mailing lists for all 50 languages. The 8 biggest, with more than 1,000 addresses each, are English, French, Italian, German, Norwegian, Russian, Spanish and Turkish.




A busy Thursday update

Some quick highlights …

  1. We’ll be launching a new campaign sometime today or tomorrow in support of the Turkish trade unionists who were arrested this week.  We’re waiting on PSI and EI to agree a text.
  2. Our book on online campaigning has been translated into French. Thank you Andy!  We’ll try to make it available as soon as possible.
  3. We’ve done a mailing to our Canadian list to promote a Canada-specific campaign, and earlier this week mailed to our UK list to promote a UK-only campaign.  A third of our current campaigns are now country-specific.
  4. We closed down the Cameroon musicians campaign today after three months.  Still waiting to hear from FIM about the results.
  5. We launched our first campaign ever in Esperanto this afternoon.  We have a small Google Group for volunteer translators who did the work on this – much appreciated.
  6. We had comprehensive coverage of the massive strike in India thanks to several correspondents – including Mahesh and Edd.
  7. We wrote this week to hundreds of state labour federations and city central labour councils across the USA to promote our new newswires for each of the 50 states.
  8. We’re up to 452 responses to our annual survey — nearly half of them this time in French.



Weekly review – 13-19 February 2013

Annual survey of trade union use of the net: This went live in English and French editions about 24 hours ago.  So far, there have been 271 responses.  Last year we got 2,954 over the course of a month, and the year before that, 1,336.

Site re-design: Work has resumed on this and significant progress made.  We’ll have a more attractive site to show in a few days.  For those of you desperate to see the work-in-progress, email me and I’ll tell you where to look.


  • New campaigns: We’re launching two new campaigns this week specifically for Canada (on behalf of COPE) and the UK (on behalf of RMT).
  • Viewing campaign supporters: Some time ago we made it so that you needed a password to view the list of campaign supporters.  The problem was, you needed to embed that password in the URL.  This is now user-friendly; you can key in the password directly onto the page, in a form.
  • Campaigns landing page: This now works in French – modeled on the English version.  We’ll eventually have this working for all languages.
  • New languages for campaigns and mailing lists: We now have a significant mailing list for Tagalog (191 addresses).  Our Czech friends have completed translations so we now have a couple of campaigns and have done a mailing in Czech (95 subscribers).  We  have three volunteers signed up to help coordinate translations of our campaigns into Esperanto; they’ve formed a Google Group to share the effort.


  • Book 1: The Kindle edition of our book (Campaigning Online and Winning)  is now live and has been promoted.  Sales of the paperback edition are now well above 500.  We’re waiting for the French and German translations.  We’ve essentially run out of the 100 copies we bought for the office, and have ordered – and received – 100 more. A review is appearing in the next edition of Labor Notes, in the USA.
  • Book 2: Edd and I are in the advanced stages of planning for this one — more details very soon.
  • Book 3: I completed and submitted my manuscript to UCS 12 days ago — waiting to hear from them what else they need, and a schedule.  The working title is Making Unions Stronger – Using the Internet Better, but this will change.

News database:

  • Countries list for news database: There were several versions of this — you could, for example, add a story for a new country such as “South Sudan”, and that country was one of the options, but that name didn’t appear in the list of countries on the front page of LabourStart.  This has now been fixed — both scripts are now reading from the same file.
  • Languages for posting news: While it was possible to post to LabourStart in some 50 languages, we have only about 30 translated front pages — so if you posted a news story in, say, Urdu, it entered the database and would have appeared if you searched for news in all languages — but was not tagged in our database with any specific language.  This has now been fixed, and every story in the database from now on is tagged with a language code.
  • Newswires for all 50 US states: We now have this — previously we had for fewer than a dozen.  Now we have to think about how to publicize this – it could be useful for local unions, state federations, and so on.


  • Fundraising: I wrote to every global union federation last week; only two have responded, one with a promise to donate more than last year.
  • Fundraising evening in London: We’re making plans to hold this on 27 April – details coming soon.



3rd annual survey of trade union use of the net – now live

survey-monkey-logoIn 2011 we had 1,336 trade union members from around the world fill in our survey which was really impressive; it was the biggest survey we’d ever done.

But a year later, we had nearly triple the response, this time 2,954 respondents — and 349 of them in French (2011’s survey was in English only).

Today we launched the third annual survey and are beginning publicity for it now – please fill it in and spread the word.

The survey is available in English and French editions.

We’ll run the survey for one month.

Written by admin in: Surveys |

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