I’ve been elected as secretary of a community group that I’m involved in (the Feldenkrais Interest Group). The organisation has been around for 20+ years but no one would know it existed becuase of a very anologue way of doing things (ie posting out newletters, putting flyers up at the local community centre and relying on word of mouth). So I said to the group “We need an on-line presence”. They said, “We can’t do that, we have no money to spend on things like that”. I said, “Well what If I could do it all, and do it for free – website, email, calendar, everything – all Free”. So I was elected on the platform of bringing the group into the 21st Century.
I want the following items for my group’s web presence
- A home page
- A blog – they don’t need to know it’s a blog – to them it’s just a website that can be easily updated with the latest news, minutes, notices etc
- A central calendar of all group activities
- A place to store group photos – not for general public, only for members
- A way for people to pre-register for events via an online form
- A place to put flyers that people can download and print out
- A database of members
- Group Financial data
- Group To Do Lists
- Document Creation
- A Document Storage Library
I’m a big google user, but I wanted to use Yahoo! as I thought it would be a bit more user friendly for the non PC users of the group. So I did some quick reasearch on the following Yahoo! tools
- Yahoo! Mail
- Yahoo! Calendar
- Yahoo! Geocities
- Yahoo! 360
- Yahoo! Groups
- Yahoo! Photos
What I was looking for was one place to do the lot, but Yahoo! is a bit fragmented still. 360 seems great but more in the mySpace and personal or family blogging arena. Geocities is a hangover from days gone by and is mainly about static pages. Groups now has 360 combined but seems a bit limiting, and I did not like the user interface.
- As TechChrunch says, why call it a Wiki? It can still have the same functionality without the word Wiki plastered all over it – I think the term Wiki and Blog can turn a few non-techo’s off
- The layout is a bit all over the place
- The JotSpot logo is always there – you can’t remove it on the free version
- The worst thing is, you can only have 10 pages on the free version, and to fulfil my list of requirements, I needed at least 12 or so.
I think if Jotspot could re-think their marketing a bit and allow 30 or so pages and at least 1 logo on the front page instead of the jotspot logo for their free sites, it would definitely be a goer for small groups and would beat Yahoo! Groups hands down. Jotspot’s killer feature is the ability to add the plug ins that you want – ie a Project Management plug in or a Contact Management or a To Do list plug in, so you can customise it to just the features you want.
So, after all my research, here is my solution. It’s a bit haphazard but it’s scalable and most of the parts are changeable if we don’t like them after a while.
- Home page and Blog – WordPress.com – Easy to use, looks good, can have the logo on the front page (it’s not there yet) – check it out at http://fignsw.wordpress.com
- Email – Gmail of course – can’t beat it for ease of use and storage size email@example.com
- Calendar – Google Calendar – see link from blog. Still got a few issues but great for publishing the calendar live
- Photo’s – Probably Flickr but it’s not high on my priority list at the moment, so something else may come up.
- Online Forms – I placed a few candidates on my del.icio.us account Wufoo looks promising, as does JotForm, so I will try them out and report back.
- Static Pages – Google Pages – I can build a flyer online and have the same flyer for printing out and on-line
- Members Database – Probably Google Spreadsheets for now – but I will try Gmail Contacts first
- Financials – Defintely Google Spreadsheets – Love it – it just needs a few more tweaks like being able to freeze the top rows and left columns.
- To Do Lists – for it’s sheer simplicity, but with heaps of features, I like Voo2do – Backpack is great but a little bit of overkill for what we need
- Document Creation – Writely when it’s up and running.
- A Document Storage Library – At the moment it will probably be Gmail, but I’ve also looked at Openonmy and of course when OmniDrive comes that will be great too.
What I will do is put a set of links for the commitee on the blog to the spreadsheets, ToDo lists etc, and they will all have the passwords that the committe knows. For members only stuff like photos I can email the passwords for that to the members, and everything else, like calendar and notices can be public domain.
If anyone else has suggestions on ways to create an on-line presence for community groups for free, I would love to hear your feedback.