In my daily trawl of everything relating to Birmingham that appears on the interweb I came across this story about a programme to provide community groups with websites, called E Voice and run in conjunction with Digital Birmingham. Sounds like a great deal, but I had reservations. I sent the link off to Nick Booth of Podnosh, who is a bit of an expert on community action on the web, voicing my concerns that the websites are awful and it seems to be funded through the use of proprietary tools (eg. ask.com refering).

Nick put it better than I could, and had additional concerns of his own:

“The principal problem with both is ownership. Yes you can sign up and fill in your organisations details and create a webpage – but the chances of you using it are slim. But there are other problems too.”

He’s right, ownership of your own web identity is paramount if you are to create any use, promotional or otherwise, and the ability to control the content is not only needed – but quite a difficult skill to pick up for some. To offer training in a proprietary tool (especially one that is so limited) is not a sustainable way – and if the training enthuses the people and they want to move on, well that’s it you’re on your own to learn HTML or even how to use blogger.

Local blog stalwart Pete Ashton has some thoughts about how blogging can help the creative community which are great in principle, but there are a lot of people – creative and in community groups – that just aren’t ready for blogs yet. Blogs are only one tool, and for many are stuck as electronic newsletters, it’s the wider concept of the the web that needs training. How to use sites as well as how to create.

I think this is a problem that will somewhat solve itself as the younger generation who’ve been myspacing for years grow up, but there will already be people for whom the web could really help that need help.

I’m rambling, but I doubt that “training” as government orgainisations see it is the answer – as to what is I don’t have a solution – yet.

3 thoughts on “When free is a bad deal

  1. A quote from the Digital Challenge page:“The website was incredibly easy to create, and only took a few hours,” said Pam Slater from the society.http://www.amosmallard.comHere's one that I set up for a friend, in, err…. a couple of hours. He now manages his content on his own hosted site via WordPress with a customisable layout and manages his images via Flickr.And he owns it… BTW. I’m sure that when making things becomes this easy it’s time to move with the times…

  2. I was confused by that for a second – I was thinking “that sites great, how did they make it with the E-Voice stuff” – but of course it’s not.

    There is some easy stuff out their for techy types – I’ve set up wordpress blogs for people in an hour to two as well (it’s making them look nice that takes time).

    Of course as my mate Gavin always tells me – “you make someone a website and it’s great, until they think they can alter things outside the CMS – then you keep having to go back and fix it”.

    The love that only a web designer mate can provide…

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