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we need assistance for those chapters who want to have their own sites... why the notable lack of "how to HTML" seminars at convention and region conferences?

In June Institute promoted an offer for "free chapter and region web sites"; I was surprised by the cost to upgrade from a simple two-page site to something that might approach a useful web site. An update was recently sent to chapter presidents. I was again surprised, not only by the cost, but by some of the comments made in the update. Here are some excerpts, followed by my comments.

The question of the Institute providing websites for chapters and regions has been under examination for over two years.

After conducting simple research of chapter Internet needs, it became evident that each Chapter had needs that varied greatly. Some asked only for a template which they would implement, others asked for CSI to take charge and provide a finished website, some stated that they already had a website provided free of charge, and others still said they didn't want any involvement at all with websites.

One point was very clear: few Chapters had the technical expertise within their membership to support a comprehensive website. Most Chapters wanted CSI to develop a simple solution that would require little, if any, maintenance.

Excuuuuuse me! As my faithful readers know, I have been promoting the use of electronic technology and Internet communication for a long time. And, along the way, I have attempted to point out how easy-to-use these new tools can be.

rocket science - not!

The conclusion that our members are too stupid to learn the basic concepts of web sites is erroneous. Many members long ago asked Institute to provide web space for chapters and regions. Because Institute was unable to respond, members went ahead and built web sites on their own.

In some ways, this reasoning follows that of many companies, who ask upper management technical questions about which they are relatively clueless. The introduction of the personal computer changed the source of demand for computers from management to worker. Any survey that did not get to all members was bound to produce erroneous results. I'd bet that every chapter has at least one person who could maintain a web site.

Why is minimal effort a requirement? Does Institute produce standard meeting formats, standard newsletters, etc., so the chapters don't have to do anything at all? Members able to use current word processors will certainly be able to use web site software. In many respects, it is easier to create web pages than it is to lay out a newsletter! Rather than take this useful work from chapters, CSI should help them learn how to do it.

What we really need is assistance for those chapters who want to have their own sites. You can talk until you're blue in the face about how wonderful a new product is, but a demonstration sells it. The lack of "how to HTML" seminars at convention and region conferences belies the stated concern for our chapters.

With a little help from CSI, members won't be so eager for that simple solution. For those who want a site with little maintenance, the Institute web site already has about all they need. If they don't care enough to put a little time into advancing construction technology, they aren't doing CSI much good anyway.

web site hosts

Another issue is the promotion of a single web site host. The Southeast Region had already established a site that is available to CSI chapters and regions at no charge - apparently an honest freebie. CSI does not favor any particular publisher of master guide specifications, nor should it advertise a single web site host when other hosts with equal or superior services are available.

Before you jump on the wagon and go after the freebie, please - do a little research. Free websites and free software for creating web pages are readily available. The NorthStar site costs about $25 per month, and includes over 250 pages and well over one hundred pictures. Granted, there is a crazy member who spends many hours each month maintaining the site, but most chapters are blessed with similar people.

2000 Sheldon Wolfe, RA, CSI, CCS, CCCA, 
on the web at 
September 2000

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