Thursday, November 09, 2006

Being unprepared has a strong bite

From what I understand about our website to date is that it’s been largely reacting to organizational needs.

To a certain extent, this is expected as the web is the primary means in which we reach our audience(s) and typically comes in to play after some big event. However, as we move forward I hope we can become a little more proactive with our attempt to connect our supporters to new river developments.

For example, last week senior staff talked about how we planned to respond to the 2006 elections. We batted around ideas, but failed to come to a conclusion or a plan of action. We talked about emails, photos, quotes, and even video, but as time wound down, I ended up waiting until the very last minute to do anything.

On the morning following the 2006 election (still in a shocked stupor from the previous night’s vote tally), I realized that the web was not prepared to capture the events.

So, with about 30 minutes to spare before our president was to address the organization, I rushed out and bought a $20 microphone while my colleague downloaded www.audacity.com, free audio software. We planned on at least audiotaping the event, then uploading it to Gcast, a free podcasting service, and eventually posting to our site. We have no home for this on the site, but wanted to do something.

Well, it smelled of a disaster from the beginning. There were lots of folks involved and with an equal number of ideas, but no clear direction and many changes along the way. I already felt like I was backpedaling once the election neared and had not taken ownership of the web side of things. In the end, we added a homepage header, created “a letter from the president,” and sent it to our online activists. Not too bad, but it felt like a great deal of energy was spent after the fact.

I’m not a big golfer these days, but it basically felt like we hit the green with a low riding screamer; it wasn’t pretty, but in the end it worked. That’s not the way I hope we move forward with future web developments.

5 comments:

Page Sands said...

Chas,
In my opinion, the blog format works great for content that doesn't have a home.

Whether it be an on-the-fly mp3, a video clip, or digital picture, the format is pretty touch to beat.

Chas Offutt said...

I'd agree for a blog, but a national site?

The trouble we sometimes run in to is creating more pages than we need and having them only live in the emails we send. Currently, we can't tag pages and our search function is pretty weak, so it seems like it would be nice to be able to archive pages that we create for our email program, updates, news, podcasts, etc.

Plus, we pay for a certain amount of pages, so have to be a bit frugal. Thanks.

Serena said...

I'm just glad you're not giving up in trying to drag them into this century.

Page Sands said...

Even for a national site... you bet. I think the issue has more to do with integration into your existing content management application, and not necessarily proof of concept.

I prefer the blog format + RSS one two punch over email alerts any day.

Why? Because I can search it, link it, tag it, and comment on it.

Chas Offutt said...

I hear you, but when 70% of those who responded to a recent survey said they had no idea what RSS means, how about a little order within chaos...?

Not sure if I subscribe to the idea of bringing everything down a notch, but don't want to turn people off before we can land their support.