Reflecting on Web Presence

    I’m at the airport in Hartford waiting for my ride to Denver (NOTE: I began this post there.  Finished it @ home. – BH).  I’m sucking down podcast updates on the free wi-fi here at the airport so this seems like the right time to try to capture some of my thinking about the web presence retreat before time gets in the way of the learning that happened this weekend.

    This post is probably more useful for those of you who are affiliated with the in some way, as I’m going to slip into NWP-speak a bit.  Ask in the comments if something doesn’t make sense.  One note as I begin.  When we (those folks who are writing project people) usually talk about those entities that are affiliate local writing project organizations, we call them local sites.  So, for example, I work for and with the .  I usually call CSUWP my "local site."  When you start to talk about websites, then it gets tricky.  "Let’s take a moment to think about our site’s site."  Get the point of potential confusion?  So we on the planning team for this event began to distinguish between a web presence and a local site.  So throughout this post, I’m going to refer to a local site’s web presence, meaning the web stuff associated with a particular local site.  The larger point here is that with any group or network, there’s a shared language that can sometimes be both an aid and an obstacle to understanding.

    I want to remember that and try to use language precisely, as jargon can make things helpful — or can completely destroy meaning for folks.  But anyway — on with my reflection.

    Saturday was a very long day, as we began to walk the retreat participants through a process of examining their respective local sites, thinking about what they do, why they do what they do, how they work, and who they’re made up of.  We intentionally spent the first half of Saturday away from our websites, asking folks to think about who and what is important in their local WP sites.  As a way to model everyone’s thinking, we asked the local site teams (each local site that participated had a team of two people there at the retreat) to build a visual representation of their local site.  (Yes, there was yarn involved.  I’m beginning to wonder if I should own some stock in a yarn production company.)  The end product of all that examination was to develop an inquiry question that would help to guide the rest of the time we spent together. 
    I was really struck by the depth and the range of the questions that folks were and are asking.  Some sites wanted to know how to turn their great resources of people and programming into useful online tools and resources.  Others were interested in using their web presences to develop communities that would support the work that their members were doing as well as to help them keep in touch.       

Once we had a handle on individual sites and the work that they do, we moved off to a computer lab to explore various research interests arising from the inquiry questions that we created for ourselves.  From there, we asked each site team to think explicitly about how they would go back to their local sites and further the conversations that we were only able to begin.  I do hope that folks returned home feeling confident that their time was well used.  I got the sense that most people did.

    There are plenty more details that I’ll be thinking further about and digging out of my notebooks and notes over the next few weeks.   But for now, I want to share a really great metaphor for thinking about web presence that Symmetris and Amanda from the came up with during the visual representation section of the day.

    They thought about their work as a house with two stories.  The first story is where everyone is invited over to share and to take part.  When you have a party, you don’t have it upstairs — you invite your friends, neighbors, business acquaintances over to your house and have the party in the living room or the dining room.  Some folks get to go upstairs in the house, but not everyone. 

    The first floor of that house can represent the very public work of a WP site – sharing writing resources, working with schools and teachers and principals and everyone that wants to come over and dig in.  The second floor of the house is for the work that WP sites do that is not necessarily for everyone.  Invitation only workshops, institutes, programming, etc. 

    Thinking about the web presence of a WP site, or of any project, as the windows in that house is very helpful, I think.  The windows on the first floor are usually more open.  Perhaps the blinds are raised so that lots of light can get in and people can see in or out.  The windows on the second floor are more thoughtfully open.  Not every window is open, some are obscured by blinds, but they’re still there.  We share lots of information about the first floor stuff and less about the second floor. 

    But we still have windows upstairs.  That’s important, and I’m glad that Symmetris and Amanda were able to help me think about that.

    I’m not articulating that metaphor as well as I would like to, but I will be returning to it in my thinking over the next few weeks.  I hope that others will share their experiences and learning from the retreat, too.  We’ll be sharing some of that work via listserv, as it was a second floor or upstairs experience, but I do hope some of it makes its way to the various web presences of those folks who were there.  I learned a great deal, and I hope to continue to.  More information and resources are available at the wiki if you’re interested.

    On a side note, it was a special treat for me to get to meet some of the folks in my blogging network.   Kevin, Gail and Bonnie have all taught me a great deal, and it was a pleasure to chat face to face.  (I promise my ABC movies will be in on time, y’all.  Well.  At least close.)   Susan is becoming a blogging comrade, too.   Now if I could only get the rest of the folks that were there to start a blog, or to tell me where I might find theirs  .   .   .   .

2 thoughts on “Reflecting on Web Presence

  1. Susan says:

    Bud. It was great working with you this weekend on all of this. Looking forward to continuing our thinking together in this interesting and ever-growing concept of web presence.

  2. The wiki and the research interests links are terrific, Bud. This sounds like a great conference. I’ll be eager to hear in person what you learned that we can use at our site (and on our site’s site :). Great work.

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