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Web options for Transition Initiatives

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[This is a work in progress. It is live as Ed is looking for feedback from Transition webmasters, so all constructive criticism welcomed - please email Ed with suggestions]

There is a fantastic array of Transition Initiative websites out there, from Lewes' cheeky bouncy look, to Norwich's bloggy storytelling focus, Forest Row's great Ning site, Marsden and Slaithwaite's big kahuna...

  1. Introduction
  2. Social Networks
  3. Features list for initiatives
  4. Services list with examples

Introduction

A website is an brilliant communications tool for any community organisation, as it allows you to publish your information and events freely and for anyone to keep up to date with your activities. Your website links should go on all your posters, and you should enable people to subscribe to your newsletter online as well as at your events.

Newsletters are invaluable too. 

The feedback from our 2011 survey was loud and clear: newsletters were the single most important communications tool for initiatives. A well timed newsletter (Thursday or Friday lunchtimes are popular) gets straight to people's attention. 

We recommend you use the free service Mailchimp (listed in the options table below).

Planning and designing your site makes a difference to how useful it is, but this does not need to be a big deal; all you really need at the beginning is to publish news and events. Focus on getting the basics up and running. 

You do not need sub-groups and forums and multi-user ding dongs, widgets and guff like that at the beginning, we promise.

You need to get used to publishing news regularly and sending out regular newsletters. You need to find out who is actually going to add the news items and how often, before building a site that can fly to the moon.

Don't get too hung up on the look and feel either. The amazing new website technologies mean that:

  • all the designs (in Ning, Wordpress etc.) are automatically changeable
  • the most important thing is content not fiddly layout of pages



Websites should be light and flexible, not big burly cumbersome beasts that scare everyone including the beleaguered techie who volunteered early on and then found themself struggling to deliver something far too complicated that no-one really understands. We see this around and about and promise that it's a pain in the backside, and it's avoidable!

Web hosting

There are a host of web hosting company choices for you. Our advice is that if you do not have a techie, choose one that sets your site up for you. Either by them doing it, or by using a 'one click' interface that they provide.

We are happy to refer Web Architects, who have a 'one wordpress website' offer where they install wordpress for you (and any techs you have if neccesary) (See the Database S offer), and Eco Web Hosting, who offer a 30% discount to Transition Towns on one click Wordpress or Joomla installs if you tell them you are a Transition Initiative.

Whatever you use

Avoid making it complicated at the beginning. Keep it Simple! Start with a news section, some 'about' pages.

Social Networks

Facebook, Twitter and Ning (and Youtube and Flickr for videos and photos) have exploded in popularity in the last few years. Since their foundation they have gone from strength to strength, collecting millions of users, making them an important part of many peoples’ internet practices. They are Social Networks, so they mimic group processes online, enabling people to set up groups, follow their friends, serendipitously find new friends, and other things that might happen in a group social setting. They are very powerful tools, and great fun if you like that sort of thing (many don’t).

Transition Initiatives have used them to grow their memberships, co-ordinate events, connect with other initiatives, share ideas and make friends and much more. They use Social Networks in a mix, along with other media including mailing lists, their own websites, Youtube, Flickr and much more. The best way to see if you enjoy using them, and get value from their use, is to give them a try. It can’t hurt!

Transition Network has a presence in most of the Social Networks and we like to do that Social Networking thing, but deep down we feel that the best place to do 'social networking' is with your neighbours. Doing it online is good, but shouldn't take priority over doing it locally.

Transition Network page about Social Media

Features list for Initiatives

Features
Just starting upMaturingMature
Basic web presence (URL)XXX
Pages (e.g. about us)XXX
Someone to do the editing!XXX
News / blogXXX
Events / calendarXXX
Mailing list / NewsletterXXX
News Feed (RSS) XX
Mapping XX
Widgets (e.g. Transition Network news widget) XX
Social Networking (e.g. 'friending and following people, status updates)  X X
Group functions (news/events/members) for sub-groups   X

 Some services and examples

ServiceHosted by?Free or paid?Need a techie?CommentsExample
 Wordpress.com Wordpress Free No techie Handy website building platform. Can have pages and news and events. Lots of 'template' designs to choose from. Lots of widgets.
Barcelona
 Barcelona
Wordpress.orgYouFree (you need a webhost)Moderate techie required

Handy website building platform to download onto your own webhost. Can have pages and news and events. Lots of 'template' designs to choose from. Lots of widgets. Very flexible and you are in control. Increasingly popular among Transitioners.

Lewes

Heathrow

Montpelier
NingNingPaid: 150 GBP per year perNo techiePopular Social Networking platform. Lots of features and plugins. Lots of Transition groups use it including the 'Transition in Action' Ning space. Hard to remove content if you leave. Can't control features in the future. Used to be free, so lots of groups were on it, but is now expensive, so lots of groups looking at other options.

Transition Cascadia

Transition Ireland and Northern Ireland

      
CrabgrassYouFreeAdvanced techie requiredOpen Source social networking platform specifically designed for activist movements. Full of excellent features, built in Ruby on Rails. Needs good tech to support it.Nothing yet!
Drupal GardensDrupal GardensFreeNo TechieVery useful looking service to build your own site using Drupal technology without having to have a Drupal tech. Can be exported into your own Drupal site later.Nothing yet!
Transition DrupalYouTBDTechie requiredCommunity provided 'website in a box' service specifically for Transition groups. Open Source.Gone quiet since initial enthusiasm. Maybe happen in the future.
DrupalYouFree (you need a webhost)Techie requiredVery flexible website building framework and tools for any site you fancy. Open Source, popular with techs, enjoyed by quite sophisticated initiatives. Needs updating and generally tending. Tech presence required to be around. Preferred platform for the National Hubs.

Malvern

MASTT

Community ToolsCommunity ToolsFreeTechie neededVery interesting looking drupal 'distribution' you can download and install, offering with posts, pages, events, members, mapping and more. No current TI examples but has potential.Community Tools main site
Open OutreachYouFree (you need a webhost)Techie requiredOpen Source drupal distribution for download and technical tweaking for your siteNone known of
WeeblyWeeblyFree (paid option available)No techie neededVery easy to use website builder with handy templates, pages, blogs you can plug in and more. Great route to getting a site up and running quickly and easily. No membership tools, and not clear how you would extract your data if you moved.Transition Liverpool
JoomlaYouFree (you need a webhost)Techie requiredVery flexible website building framework and tools for any site you fancy. Open Source, popular with techs, enjoyed by quite sophisticated initiatives. Needs updating and generally tending. Tech presence required to be around. Similar to, but not as widely adopted as Drupal. Some techs like joomla, some like drupal...

Transition Torquay

Transition Stratford

MailchimpMailchimpFree to a pointNo techie requiredExcellent newsletter service, free up to thousands of subscribers. Easy to use, easy to plug into your site. All round best tool. Highly recommended.Hundreds of initiatives use it...
Survey MonkeySurvey MonkeyFree to a pointNo techie requiredExcellent survey service, free up to thousands of recipients. Easy to use, plug into your site. All round best surveying tool. Highly recommendedHundreds of initiatives use it...

 

Handy list of 'tools for learning'