GUI Bytes

Dying Star

the growing number and quality of manufacturers' web sites reduces the need for gateway sites

A few years back, when the Internet was still not that great a place to find construction information, I had what I still think was a good idea. I wrote about it in a GUI Bytes column titled "a star is born"; following is an excerpt:

"I saw that there are islands of construction activity separated by more rural areas. One of these is defined roughly by the locations of four CSI chapters in and near Minnesota. From the Red River in the northwest to the Twin Ports in the northeast, down to the Twin Cities, and finally to La Crosse in the southeast, building conditions and services are much the same.

Furthermore, distributors and product representatives that serve any one of these four chapters almost always serves the others. Contractors within the area frequently serve the same cities, as do the architects and engineers. Leaving our shores you have to go all the way to Denver, Milwaukee, Chicago, or St. Louis to find the centers of similar large islands of activity."

I had already been keying in the Twin Ports newsletter for some time, and soon after I began carrying the La Crosse and North Dakota/Red River Valley newsletters. Later on the CRandIC chapter also came on board.

Unfortunately, the idea never quite caught on. Even though industry members were offered free pages on the NorthStar site, only a handful took advantage of the opportunity. The fault was mine; I did not understand the value of promotion, nor did I have the time to try to convince people that they should advertise on the site.

The other areas of the site - the list of local educational programs, links to other construction sites, a library with over one hundred articles, help wanted ads, "guest speaker" articles, and newsletters for five chapters - required many updates each week, leaving no time for promotion.

The result was no surprise. After the initial group of suppliers, few were added, and the information on the ones that were there gradually became less accurate as phone numbers changed and people moved from one job to another. Similarly, the pages for the four distant chapters fell into disrepair as editors and chapter information changed.

I firmly believe that a bad web page is worse than no page at all. When people visit a site and find information that is obviously out of date, the site loses credibility and the number of return visits plummets. In keeping with that belief, I have no choice but to remove those parts of the NorthStar site that are obsolete.

This will be no great hardship for either suppliers or the distant chapters. It sometimes seems like everyone has a web site now, and people have become quite adept at finding what they need without having to go through the NorthStar site. There are several companies that will provide basic web sites at little or no charge, so those chapters that elect to maintain an Internet presence should have no difficulty.

It was a fun ride while it lasted, but NorthStarCSI will soon fade away. I will continue to maintain the library and other information that is not time sensitive, but over the next few months the Mpls.-St. Paul Chapter site will replace the NorthStar site.

2001 Sheldon Wolfe, RA, CSI, CCS, CCCA, swolfe@bwbr.com 
on the web at www.NorthStarCSI.com 
September 2001


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