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Nation builder Review

Nation builder Review

Here is my review of he Nation builder software.

NationBuilder is a platform used by many Green Parties.  I really like it.

It is based on Ruby on Rails, probably my first choice for a platform, if required to use a relational database, and not allowed to use an Object-Oriented database.   As far as I can tell they have done a really good job.   They have a rich domain model, a good user interface, and Python and Ruby apis. They say they do not sell our data.  I was worried about that.   What else could I ask for?

I really like their mapping of voter data.  And their email interfaces. 

Is NationBuilder perfect?  Hell No. 

First there is the pricing problem.  Nation Builder targets wealthy corporate parties.  There is so much money in US elections.   No way could the Green Party afford to track half the state's electorate, let alone half the national electorate.  My state keeps deleting precious data because they cannot afford the fees. My state even once accidentally deleted all of the most recent volunteers, because they did not (yet) have any engagement with the system.  My state has completely switched off the Twitter and Facebook interfaces, because each user in the database costs money.  I suspect that there is additional functionality for advertising on Twitter and Facebook, but that also costs lots of money.    In any case, we get censored on social media, and really should focus on platforms which do not censor us, Email, Mastodon , and  maybe TikTok. 

Nation Builder does do page templates, but it does not do web site templates.  It is easy to create a page and add some content.  The page layout is acquired for free.   But what the Green Party needs are not just page templates, but also web site templates.  Right now every candidate builds their own web site.  What a huge waste of  developer resources.  And in 2020 about 1/3 of the candidates did not even have a web site.  it would be much better if state parties could use templates to generate instant web sites for their candidates.  Just change the photo and contact information, and text  And let the candidate do further edits if they want. Nation Builder does not do this at all.  "They support custom web sites", but every one has to be built from scratch.  No way to import a web site template.  You could create a tempalte and copy it but then improvements to the template are not shared across candidates web sites. Nor is does it automatically understand who owns which data.  It is just not how the software is used.  

So Nation Builder does not do web site templating which Greens need, but it does have a lot of functionality for Democrats and Republicans which Greens do not need.  They just add complexity.  Bundlers (recruiters), Leader boards. 

The next  problem is that NationBuilder is fairly clueless of hierarchy.  There is a natural hierarchy in the Green Party.  National Party ->State Party -> Local Party -> Local candidate.

A friend told me about one such example.

/ USA / California / Los Angeles /Luis Rodrigues.

Each of those  has their own Nation builder server.  They pay their own fees.  And they all send my friend email, and all ask him for money.   Nation Builder does not  understand that those groups are connected. 

Here is another example.
My state would like to give each committee their own branch of the web site, but not allow them to edit other committees pages.  Can't do that in Nation Builder. securely   So you get a central person who has to do all of the updates, and gets overwhelmed. 

Their API is quite brilliant.  It understands that it is working with other applications. Specifcally each object can have a refernce to a remote version fo that object.  But the api is not included at the price my state is paying, which has been a huge roadblock in migrating  the old web site over to NationBuilder.

Nation Builder does have an interface for browing and editing pages. Editors are good, but the browser is quite primitive.  You can only operate on one page at a time.  There is no check box next to each page to select it, and no buttons to cut, copy paste, paste rename and retitle or both retitle, and rename.  One has to operate on one page at a time, and you cannot operate on multiple pages at a time. 

Each page has a name, a slug, and a title.    On the page browser the name is shown, but not the title.  Better to display the title and slug who needs a name.  Really the name has no useful function.  And you cannot click on he name to edit it.  Instead there is a pop up when you hover. Odd. It wastes user time.  Hover, then move the mouse and click.  Just let me go there and click.

Every page on the web site shares a template.  One can customize a tempalte for a page, but one cannot share that template across multiple pages.

Of course I have only scratched the surface of Nation Builder, so I may be wrong on some points. 

Overall it still looks great.  Way way better than I expected.   Way way better than almost anything else I know of.  

Compliments also go to  I am amazed that no candidates are using it.


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