Pete Ashton has posted an excellent explanation of why you should care more about what your website does than how it looks.
It's an issue that often disappoints me, most often when the website in question is one that some publicly-funded agency has had built by a big-name web design agency. I'd expect the agencies to know better, and to produce good work, but that could also be solved by those commissioning the work having a better understanding of what they want.
Pete also touches upon the portfolio software of choice for non-web-designers, indexhibit (which I'm thinking we should maybe start referring to as inhibit...) which Alex covered well in her piece on online presence for design students.
There's an excellent interview with Umair Haque on the GOOD blog. In it he wonders why so many people are protesting against cuts rather than attacking the institutions that caused the problem in the first place, the banks? He argues that a better response than marches and protests would be grassroots organised economic action. I think he's right
The UK Uncut movement et al have shown that they can mobilise lots of people and generate lots of action. What if instead of occupying shops and going on marches, they persuaded people to move their bank accounts elsewhere? Would that succeed where Government is failing, at curbing bank bonuses and making credit more available for businesses that need it?
What if people banked with a local credit union or building society?
What if, indeed.
Why aren't the local credit unions (e.g. Partners Credit Union who are for anyone in Merseyside) working out how to persuade me to move my account across? Surely having lots more people using a local, non-profit savings/loan institution would be a good thing, and widening the customer-base to include conscientious objecting middle-classes would improve the image of credit unions from the reputable lender of last resort?
And what if we mixed in the technical chops of groups like One Click Orgs and the open-source movement? Just think how awesome and secure a way of banking that would be...
Over the past few weeks, those of us who organise events in the digital area have been taking stock a little over the state of the community, and thinking about what direction things should take and where we should direct our efforts.
So far it's been a fairly anarchic process, with ideas often hatched as the result of a throwaway comment from someone planting a seed of an idea with someone else, and all over a pint somewhere. It's worked well - I remember Neil Morrin explaining what became How? Why? DIY whilst stood having a smoke outside Static during some gig or event; Thom and I came up with the idea of Howduino and the Liverpool hackspace during Barcamp Liverpool; and just recently I came across the original email I sent to Neil and Andy Goodwin to connect the two of them for the first Ignite Liverpool, which contained this superb paragraph:
"[Sending this introduction email] is about as involved as I'll be in the process, as I've got too much on this month already. I'll definitely attend, and I can probably be persuaded to put some slides together about something or other, but apart from the odd retweet and email helping promote it, it'll be up to you guys."
I didn't manage that very successfully, did I?
Now that more people are getting involved and more events are happening, it shows that the shared vision over a coffee style of organisation has problems scaling, not least because we're getting too busy running events to get together as a group (and the group is getting too big).
So that's led to this open letter to Liverpool's digital community. If you're reading this (and in the North West) then we'd love to get your input, find out what you want (and then see if we can persuade you to help us implement that *mwahahaha* ;-)
I mentioned a shared vision above, which makes it sound like there's a grand plan being secretly put into action. That's not really true, I mean, I've got a grand plan, but I don't know how shared the vision is, and I'm not implementing it secretly - as anyone who has accidentally strayed onto the topic in conversation with me will no doubt attest.
I tend not to commit plans to paper because I long ago learnt that the benefit of a plan isn't in setting steps in stone, but in thinking about what you're trying to achieve and what you need to do in order to get there. Plans are useful tools to list dependencies and work out milestones, but are also out of date before the ink dries and should be open to amendment when you need to route round roadblocks or take advantage of newly arisen opportunities.
So even more-so than usual, this blog post is just a snapshot of my latest thinking around the topic, and a way to help me order my thoughts.
As plans go, it was quite a long time in gestation. I can trace the start back to the Biennial of 2004. That's when I visited Liverpool for the first time in a few years, and let myself to take in the city properly. That's when I decided that I should move back to the North-West and play my part in restoring the city to prominence on the world stage. Told you it was a grand plan.
Events are just a part of that ambition, but a vital one. When I arrived in the city in the summer of 2008 I looked to the existing events to find out what was going on, and to meet interesting people. Geekup and LivLUG were, and still are, great for finding the software community, and Barcamp Liverpool in the December helped widen that network.
By then I was already starting to agitate for doing more and in the following months started putting that into practice, organising the first Howduino and bringing Be2Camp to the North.
Twitter, and Twestival, helped broaded my network beyond just the software geeks, and meeting Neil meant we could start to bridge the gaps between the techies and the artists.
And that's the most important part of the events for me. Events are a way to engineer serendipity - give lots of people with different backgrounds and skills and ideas a reason to mix and get chatting to each other, and interesting stuff will result. I don't think you can, nor should you try to, be more specific than that. Ignite Liverpool is a perfect example of this although I don't think we'll ever know if it's succeeded.
As to any more detailed planning, that's for all of us to work out. Think about what events you wish were running in Liverpool, and if they aren't already then start them. Test the water with a tweet or a one-minute pitch at the next Ignite or Social Media Cafe. Choose things that will help build the community rather than divide it, and support and help other people running events when you can.
I suppose if I were to put together some maxims by which to guide how we proceed, they'd be these, to which I often seem to return...
I haven't got any permission to give you, but there's piles of initiative for you to take.