Thursday, December 3, 2009

The snow is falling and other evolutions

Looking out my office window on North Ave. in Milwaukee, I have an unobstructed view of Whole Foods. But more importantly, on this day, I have a perfect view of the current level of precipitation: the flurries are falling.

This transition is both wonderful and slightly depressing. The wonder comes in the form of beauty, change, and the excitement that my dog Lafayette experiences when he jumps into the first fallen snow. The depression exists, unfortunately, because the first snow of the season is indicative of several every long months of cold and hibernation.

But let's look at the positive aspect of this whole if I direct my energy to the work at hand maybe I'll actually get something quite interesting done. The website, although not a failure, is not exactly a resounding success. It is functional, it tells the basic story, and it is easy to update and modify. It runs on the Joomla CMS system with which I've become somewhat proficient. I'm also following several Joomla experts on Twitter and that has been eye-opening in many ways. The politics of Open Source CMS systems is amusing to behold. Another CMS system, Drupal, appears to be the leading CMS system giving joomla a run for their Open Source money. When I first got into CMS systems, about four years ago, I looked at Joomla versus Drupal and selected joomla as my CMS of choice; not so much because Joomla was more powerful but because it was easier to understand to me personally.

All that is really a prelude to the point I'm trying to make about the website. That is, it could use a facelift and, I believe, the ability for visitors to interact with each other as well as with us. We now have quite a few videos available for viewing and said videos are viewed regularly. But the feedback we've received on the website has been virtually nil so it's difficult to know if were on the right track or not. Additionally the enthusiasm that we feel for the project comes from our inner selves and not a resounding "wow" all from the community that were trying to reach.

So what does this mean? I think that a reasonable first step would be to add some sort of social networking component to the current website. I've had some experience with product called JomSocial and it can be added to our current website without too much difficulty. Whether our visitors will read this networking tool by the forums and interact with each other remains to be seen: not sure what I can do to incent this but what I do know is that what we have is not working.

Ideas welcome.