If it's not on the Web...

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I spent a quiet Thanksgiving with family in Pennsylvania. While I was there, I reconnected with my cousin, who's helping organize a conference next spring at Penn State on the figure of the animal as seen in the context of various humanities subjects. Planning was well underway, speakers had been invited, and the tentative program was being filled in with names like Peter Singer and Donna Haraway. And yet--there was no website. Business was being conducted over the phone and by email, without any central online resource for people to find and look at.

I boggled. In the year 2008, how does anyone organize a public event with a potentially national audience without a web presence? Turns out her department at Penn State didn't necessarily have spare IT capacity, nor did anyone involved have the know-how to spend $10 to buy a domain and spend 5 minutes hosting it for free on Weebly. (Or even easier, a free quickie wiki on WetPaint or PBWiki or one of those providers.) I'm not a fan of ad hoc solutions, but some website is infinitely better than none.

The organizers seem to have been doing a perfectly fine job; it may be only me that's agitated. But I can't help but think how nice it would be if web publishing were as simple, boring, and reliable as email -- the net protocol that conference organizers did use.

Though I'm still nursing a mild grudge against Google Sites for being a third-rate replacement for the JotSpot wiki platform, I realize how important it is to have accessible self-publishing tools. The promise of the net includes publishing for everyone; we haven't gotten there if it's not incredibly simple and obvious to do.

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1 Comments

Hi, Anirvan.

I am a long time user of Bookfinder, and was idly surfing today after purchasing (yet another!) book and found your blog, and this post.

I have been interested in the same issue as the one you bring up here: how can small organizations or groups be able to effortlessly put up an online presence to support small event and project managements tasks, or small, possibly ad-hoc, communities?

I live in the Bay Area too --- I would love to have the chance to meet sometime to discuss. Shoot me an email at siruguri [at] gmail.com, if you are up for it.

Sameer.

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