The biggest changes in half a decade are coming to QuakerQuaker. The Ning.com service that powers the main website is about to increase its monthly charge by 140 percent. When I first picked Ning to host the three-year-old QuakerQuaker project in 2008, it seemed like a smart move. Ning had recently been founded by tech world rock stars with access to stratospheric-level funds. But it never quite got traction and started dialing back its ambitions in 2010. It was sold and sold again and a long-announced new version never materialized. I've been warning people against starting new projects on it for years. Its limitations have become clearer with every passing year. But it's continued to work and a healthy community has kept the content on QuakerQuaker interesting. But I don't get enough donations to cover a 140 percent increase, and even if I did it's not worth it for a service stuck in 2010. It's time to evolve!
There are many interesting things I could build with a modern web platform. Initial research and some feedback from fellow Quaker techies has me interested in BuddyPress, an expanded and social version of the ubiquitous WordPress blogging system. It has plugins available that claim to move content from existing Ning sites to BuddyPress, leaving the tantalizing possibility that eight years of the online Quaker conversation can be maintained (wow!).
I will need funds for the move. The subscriptions to do the import/export will incur costs and there will be plugins and themes to buy. I'm mentally budgeting an open-ended number of late Saturday nights. And the personal computer we have is getting old. The charge doesn't hold and keys are starting to go. It will need replacement sooner rather than later.
Any donations Friends could make to the Paypal account would be very helpful for the move. You can start by going to http://bit.ly/quakergive. Other options are available on the donation page at http://www.quakerquaker.org/page/support. Thanks for whatever you can spare. I'm as surprised as anyone that this little DIY project continues to host some many interesting Quaker conversations eleven years on!
One of the white ministers with James Reeb in the 1965 attack that helped propel the Voting Rights Act remembers the night.
He also reflects on the value of white lives vs. black lives for national attention in the Civil Rights Movement. While the actual Selma march was protesting the killing of black civil rights activist Jimmie Lee Jackson by a state trooper, national outrage focused on the visiting white minister.
In 1967, Dr. King noted, “The failure to mention Jimmy [sic] Jackson only reinforced the impression that to white Americans the life of a Negro is insignificant and meaningless.”
To translate, SEO is “search engine optimization,” the often-huckersterish art of tricking Google to display your website higher than your competitors in search results. “Usability” is the catch-all term for making your website easy to navigate and inviting to visitors. Companies with deep pockets often want to spend a lot of money on SEO, when most of the time the most viable long-term solution to ranking high with search engines is to provide visitors with good reasons to visit your site. What if we applied these principles to our churches and meetinghouses and swapped the terms?
Outreach gets people to your meetinghouse / Hospitality keeps people returning.
A lot of Quaker meetinghouses have pretty good “natural SEO.” Here in the U.S. East Coast, they’re often near a major road in the middle of town. If they’re lucky there are a few historical markers of notable Quakers and if they are really lucky there’s a highly-respected Friends school nearby. All these meetings really have to do is put a nice sign out front and table a few town events every year. The rest is covered. Although we do get the occasional “aren’t you all Amish?” comments, we have a much wider reputation that our numbers would necessarily warrant. We rank pretty high.
But what are the lessons of hospitality we could work on? Do we provide places where spiritual seekers can both grow personally and engage in the important questions of the faith in the modern world? Are we invitational, bringing people into our homes and into our lives for shared meals and conversations?
In my freelance days when I was hired to work on SEO I ran through a series of statistical reports and redesigned some underperforming pages, but then turned my attention to the client’s content. It was in this realm that my greatest quantifiable successes occurred. At the heart of the content work was asking how could the site could more fully engage with first-time visitors. The “usability considerations” on the Wikipedia page on usability could be easily adapted as queries:
Who are the users, what do they know, what can they learn? What do users want or need to do? What is the users’ general background? What is the users’ context for working? What must be left to the machine? Can users easily accomplish intended tasks at their desired speed? How much training do users need? What documentation or other supporting materials are available to help the user?
I’d love to see Friends consider this more. FGC’s “New Meetings Toolbox” has a section on welcoming newcomers. But I’d love to hear more stories about how we’re working on the “usability” of our spiritual communities.
Came across an 2004-era page of mine (the Baby Theo homepage) via an Archive.org search today. Here was a description on the sidebar:
This website is part of a informal emerging network of Friends that are reaching across our institutional boundaries to engage with our faith and with each other. The “ministry of the written word” has often sparked generational renewal among Friends and there’s something afoot in all these comments and linkbacks. There are lots of potential projects that can be launched over the new few years (books, workshops, conferences, etc) so if you like the direction of this site and the questions it’s asking, please consider a donation to the nonviolence.org site.
Even I’m a bit shocked by the title of this post. Have I really been blogging for fifteen years? I keep double-checking the math but it keeps adding up. In November 1997 I added a feature to my two-year-old peace website. I called this new entity Nonviolence Web Upfront and updated it weekly with original features and curated links to the best online pacifist writing. I wrote a retrospective of the “early blogging days” in 2005 that talks about how it came about and gives some context about the proto-blogs happening back in 1997.
But I could arguably go back further than 15 years. In college, my friend Brni and I started an alternative print magazine called VACUUM. It came out weekly. It had a mix of opinion pieces and news from all over. Familiar, huh? Columns were made up from a dot matrix printer and pasted down with scotch tape, with headlines scrawled out with a sharpie. The ethos was there. Next April will mark its Silver Jubilee.
What’s most striking is not the huge leaps of technologies, but the single-mindedness of my pursuits all these years. There are cross-decade echos of themes and ways of packaging publications that continue in my work as editor of Friends Journal.