Monthly Archives: December 2007

Lasa connection

It didn’t take long before I was scribbling down a list of resources and websites to look into after meeting Aba Maison, from the London Advisory Services Alliance (LASA). While on a two month trip around New Zealand, Aba took time out from her sight-seeing to swap notes about using IT to support community groups.

One of the tips I was most pleased to get was a plugin to the WordPress blog software that makes it easy to link to YouTube videos (it’s called EasyTube). As we discussed the education and mentoring focus of the Wellington e-rider service, Aba suggested taking a look at a specific article entitled “Moving from personal to organisational directory structures” listed in the hugely impressive ICT knowledgebase.

The knowledgebase is just one part of bigger ICT Hub and helpline freely available to any UK community and voluntary organisation. Aba is responsible for content development, both writing material herself, organising others and working with techies. Along with her colleagues, Aba supports LASA to work as the London regional ICT champion (one of nine appointed nationally by the UK government), and is involved in supporting the UK equivalent to our e-rider, called circuit riders.

The ICT hub has just been expanded with the addition of a supplier directory. Hundreds of pre-vetted suppliers of hardware, software and services are listed. It looks a really useful tool, and something we could possibly look to establish in Aotearoa. The underlying code could be made available to us – something that would be a massive headstart.

I already knew about the ICT hub, but it’s value was really increased by having someone who could point me to particularly relevant content. Aba also pointed out the UK-riders list, which has 380 subscribers providing peer support around community organisation IT development.

The team at Lasa have established strong connections with people working in similar ways in the United States. Aba commented strongly on the value of co-operation, particularly as the issues all for groups seem to be very similar regardless of where they are based. There is an opportunity to swap material that we produce.

The last hint I was left with was about the fifth Community Information Strategies Australia (CISA) Connecting UP annual conference being held in Brisbane in May 2008. I didn’t know there was another CISA conference happening before chatting with Aba, but I’ve already added it to my diary.

BTW: Follow Aba’s travels on her blog at: www.abasplace.co.uk.

Webstock – here I come

Yeeha!! I’ve just been awarded a scholarship to attend the 2008 Webstock conference. The 20 kick-ass speakers and truckloads of high energy talk and inspiration will cover just about everything to do with improving the standard of website design and development.

Topics include information architecture, writing for the web (including a presentation by Rachel McAlpine, whose new book is mentioned below), search engine optimisation, accessibility and interface design. Kathy Sierra, who didn’t return to our shores earlier this year because she’d been harassed for comments she made about blogging etiquette (see “Kathy Sierra cancels NZ workshop” ) is again listed on the agenda. Sam Morgan, whose reputation proceeds him, will be having a fireside chat. And there’s even a 50 minute talk covering all you want to know about the shape of the web to come and how to make things that thrive as part of it by Tom Coates from Yahoo.

From what I heard about the first Webstock in 2006, it was lots of fun and has had a big impact. There has been a real buzz about designing usable websites that anyone can use ever since.

A responsibility I have accepted as the recipient of a scholarship is sharing my experience of the Conference with others in the field I work in. I’ll keep you posted.

e-rider new website now live

Wellington e-rider IT service logo
I’m really pleased the new e-rider website went live last week. On the site you’ll find all you need to know about the new IT advisory and support service available to community and voluntary organisations in the Wellington region.

Perhaps even bigger news is that the e-rider service is actually underway. Last time I wrote about the project being run by Wellington ICT in August we were still looking for an IT professional to serve as our first mobile advisor, (see Wanted e-Rider mobile ICT technician/ advisor). In early October Lindsay Hunter started part-time.

It’s been a helluva busy time marketing the service, setting up the office (including choosing a CRM to track our marketing efforts, more on this later), taking care of all the usual project management stuff, as well as setting up the new website.

Setting up the website has been a joint effort. I was fortunate that Dave Turton stepped forwarded to help with design and the technical side of things following a request I made to the Php users group mailing list. He runs his own web design company called Indede alongside working in an IT role at the Correspondence School.

I chose the Drupal open-source content management system as the back-end for the website. I chose it because I wanted something with consistent layout, ease of updating (without having to mess around with too much HTML coding) and to demonstrate what could be done with something off the shelf. Dave reckons he spent about 4-5 hours getting the site running and adding the design template.

My initial organisation and text was reviewed and edited by Tina Callcut. She made some fairly dramatic suggestions for layout and organisation (I gulped when I saw them), and pruned the text back so it’s web friendly.

The contributions from Dave and Tina were voluntary, so I want to make deal about thanking them. Of course, thanks are also due to Wellington Community Net (WCN) for the free web hosting service it provides. Tim Jordan, WCN’s coordinator, provided lots of sage advice about some of the technical nitty gritty.

Work on the website hasn’t finished now that it’s launched. We need to make sure the content is accurate, links working, etc, as well as ensuring it doesn’t grow stale. First on the list of enhancements are some photos for the header, then expanding the resources page.

Thinking about the bigger scheme of things, I won’t actually be spending much time on the website. We’re finding that meeting people kanohi ti kanohi is the best way to promote the service. The e-rider service, with it’s focus on helping groups prevent problems rather than calling in technicians after something crashes, is not something people have necessarily given a lot of thought to. So the website sits there in the background, playing a supporting role, while Lindsay and I talk to people.

Better get a move on. Setting up a new service like the e-rider takes lots of work.