So, in case you missed it, House Republicans are well into their first week of the launch of their new website, "America Speaks Out". The enterprise is basically an elaborate online exercise in confirmation bias -- the House GOP invites Americans to sign up and offer "ideas" to the Republican Party, and if those ideas square with the ideas that the Republicans want to pursue anyway, they'll pursue them, safe in the knowledge that some online commenter gave them their blessing.
Which essentially means that the whole thing is a tedious P.R. mechanism. But what you probably didn't know is that the more the site gets used, the more expensive it gets. Over at Salon, Mike Madden runs down the particulars:
"The Microsoft TownHall software, which is the underlying software on which the America Speaking Out website was built, is available at no cost," Microsoft spokeswoman Sarah Anissipour said in an e-mailed statement. "Customers only pay to host their TownHall solution on Windows Azure, which is available using a scalable, pay-only-for-usage model. The number of people visiting a website does have a direct correlation to Windows Azure usage." Translated out of P.R.-speak, that means the more people who come and post crazy ideas on the site, the more it costs. Brendan Buck, a House GOP leadership aide, confirmed that Republicans are using Azure to host the site.
Asked exactly what the site costs, Buck pointed me to a price list on the Windows Azure site. That says the standard fees are 15 cents per month per gigabyte stored, 12 cents per hour of server time used and 10 cents for each gigabyte of data into the servers, 15 cents for each gigabyte out. Given the site's graphic-heavy content, those fees could add up quickly if lots of people start speaking out, as Republicans want them to do. Even if it's not that expensive, a government contract that costs more money the better it works is exactly the sort of thing Republicans love to complain about, now that -- out of power -- they've remembered how much they hate spending.
Madden was subsequently contacted by an "online strategist for Newt Gingrich's American Solutions," who pointed out that Microsoft was actually offering a promotion, in which Microsoft Townhall users could use Azure for free until the end of July. All of which sounded pretty thrifty, until Buck called Madden back to tell him that they weren't participating in the promotion.
Back to Madden:
The GOP sees the arrangement as another market-based solution. "Only paying for as much as Americans want to participate?" Buck said. "It's a pretty efficient way to set it up."
Of course, one of the things that undercuts this efficiency is the fact that every Wonkette commenter in the world is using the site as a venue for their comedic self-expression. Which is why the site is packed with this sort of suggestion, as an idea for "job creation."
You guys need to create a bill that would make Kevin Smith important again. He used to be funny, thought provoking, and creative, a great story-teller and an example of American ingenuity. He made a great flick relying on nothing but his bootstraps. But now he is fat and unimportant. I used to be kind of cool and popular back when Kevin was, but now im just fat and stupid. Kind of like Kevin and America. If you pass legislation that mandates Mr. Smith to be funny again, maybe it would give our stock market a rocket in the butty. You never know. As goes silent bob, as goes the nation.
We should create jobs by taxing the expulsion of bodily fluids: So for every citizen there is someone who watches them all the time and counts how many times they use the restroom, vomit etc. This will create roughly 300 million new jobs, and to pay for them we can use the revenue generated by taxing the fluids that we are paying people to count. If you disagree you are wrong.
Now, here's the part where you find out I've artfully buried the lede: this whole enterprise is being paid for with your tax dollars. Hope you're getting your money's worth!
New House GOP site costs more money if it succeeds [Salon War Room]