the POCA website and new frontiers

Hello POCA Punks, Patients, and other pokable creatures:
My name is Domenika and I am in the Web Circle as a Tech Consultant. I've been volunteering with POCA for about six months, learning about POCA's needs and the challenges it faces, and here is my prescription for a shiny bright POCA future on the internet. I also wanted to clarify some misinformation about how websites work, and how they are run. Note that I am not a Punk, rather a patient and a Massage Therapist that runs her own clinic and dares to swim in Tech-y waters and that these are MY OWN OPINIONS, not the formal Web Circle Decree.

Websites like POCA's are Dynamic, not Static creatures.
They require attention and work and money at all times. Websites are not tangible things that we can keep static. They are totally dynamic between our changing needs and the changing technology available to us. If you want the website to be a vibrant community where newcomers discover Community Acupuncture and veteran punks can teach and share the Way Of Community Acupuncture, then you'll have to put in some time, energy, and money towards it. This means that websites will be migrated and revamped every few years. YUP. We are ALREADY PLANNING THE NEW POCA WEBSITE. Crazy, you say? Not at all! We are evolving as a community and so are our needs! Therefore we need to evolve the website to meet our needs. But don't despair- this is the natural life cycle of any dynamic website.

What should a website do? Static vs. Dynamic, back end vs. front end.

Static websites are ones that have content that never changes, or changes rarely. It is an online reference material. For POCA, this would work for a homepage that defines community acupunture and defines POCA. Simple and Easy, right? Except we want a website that also allows us to manage multiple levels of memberships, allow members to connect to each other via forums, and also provide e-commerce for things like tickets to POCAFest and Little Red Books. These are dynamic features, and we have projected POCA's growth to expand exponentially over the next few years…yikes! That's a big, complicated website suddenly. (And we're not even touching the issue of database usability…you know, how we keep track of who paid what for which services across hundreds of clinics in multiple countries???? Yeah, that stuff.)

How does POCA want to achieve its funding goals through the website? AKA The Money Question.
 Here are a few options that come to mind- retail things punks and patients need (herbs, insurance, T shirts, books) and sell them through the store; leverage an in-house web developer to help clinics build their sites, on a sliding scale, perhaps; set up community funded/crowd sourced fundraisers, similar to, through POCA's website to pay for needed services for the website; add every conceivable way of accepting a donation to every relevant surface of the website; create needed services on the website that people can subscribe to- It could be Live Chat with a Punk during certain hours of the day (provided by CA Punk volunteers). Essentially we need to expand the relevant services and products that we offer to our main constituents,  the Punks, Clinics, and Patients and make it REALLY EASY for website users to fund POCA. Remember, this is funding specific to the costs of the website meant to raise revenue up to levels that are sustainable for POCA's online goals.

Who does POCA want to partner with to achieve these goals?
 When POCA gets big enough we'll need to hire and/or train two people: One to build stuff and make it pretty, and one to fix shit that breaks. And it will break, no matter how good it is. So that's a web developer and a systems administrator, for the most part. Preferably they'd be “one of us”, willing to work within the cooperative model and help train other punks on how to use this technology to benefit their own practices. Understanding how websites work and how to work on them is the best long term web development strategy for POCA, in my opinion, when it comes to managing the cost and energy of running Reframing the question “How much does it cost to pay someone to do this for us?” to “How much would it take to train our volunteer staff on these technologies?” Now you can leverage your newly trained worker bees to educate other future volunteers and provide the services for a reduced rate in exchange for the training. I believe this can be done most effectively by using Open Source products that are focused on community because that way we can partner with local groups to build better products collectively (Drupal is one example). But that is for another post. Even if we had our own developer and system administrator, POCA can not DIY its way through the intertubes! Why?! Because we aren't a community of software developers, YET. We need the help and support of larger communities. Unfortunately these do not exist with the current platform for the POCA website. Remember how I said that websites are dynamic because both our needs and the technologies change? Well, here we are needing different things for the future. And that's actually a good thing, it means we are alive and growing.

Domenika Radonich

Author: POCAGuestBlog

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