Archive for the ‘Back End’ Category

The Land of the Pod

March 8, 2009

Believe it or not – I heard a rumour that the Ipod was named after 2001 A Space Odyessy for the pod doors…ok – podcasting can be a little out there for the novice.  It started for us when I was thinking of how to get more CLE out to the hinterlands at an inexpensive rate.  I looked around at various webcasting ideas – and was almost sold on Skype, but didn’t want to have to force my members into a system that I chose.  I basically lucked into podcasting and again – emphasizing the lazy part of me – I wanted something cheap and easy.  It was when I discovered the notebook function of my new Word for Mac could record a conversation and then export it so that I could then import it into Itunes – I was sold.  BUT – we’ve run into a little problem.  The brown bags we record (thank goodness we aren’t recording a whole day’s program) are HUGE!  Too huge to email to some members whose servers bounce things that big. So we’re now exploring a hosting location to direct members to download the various offerings.  There is some tech support with this as well…oh well – it must be my fate.

Tail Wagging the Dog – Part Two…Getting even more fancy

March 8, 2009

As I started to write out my talk – I started to get excited about some other options that we are working on for our own site which might be good ideas for other SLDOs…

IPhone Design – With more of our members addicted to their Iphones, Blackberries and Treos, we need to adapt our webpage to their needs.  This is still in the early production stage, but I\’m hopefully that by this summer – we will have a decent facsimile to roll out.  One easy option that I just found out about is Intersquash but your website needs an RSS feed.

RSS Feed – RSS stands for Real Simple Syndication. If you have a my yahoo page that has various items on it that you customized – you have already participated in an RSS feed. Basically it\’s a code written into a webpage or blog that lets the aggregator know when you have updated it and pushes it forward to those who have subscribed to those updates. If you have ever seen this image on a page  – it means this page has RSS available. I can see that having our calendar of events and the newsletter be an RSS compatible.

Content Aggregator – We have done this already – Top Network – our web guru, set up a news feed for all of the legal news aggregators which then sits on our site.  If a member wanted the latest legal news – that member would direct their homepage to be the WDTL news site – good marketing, if I can brag for a minute.

Wikis If you have ever visited Wikipedia (I think my children get all of their school information here – oh brother), you have visited a wiki.  Basically a wiki is a multi-contibutor webpage or blog.   A wiki is more collaborative than most blogs and can have a lot of contributors.  I’ve been a little slow to adapt this to our website because I’m not quite sure I want a written piece of information that is discoverable out there by the other side.  So this is in the works but for what application – I’m not quite sure yet.  I want our members to be more collaborative and more interactive, but I also don’t want to have to produce it in a legal situation.  It probably wouldn’t be covered under attorney/client privilege.

The Tail Wagging the Dog – Creating the Plug In & Extras for the Website

March 8, 2009

When asked to give this speech – the one that I’ve decided to blog and then do the PowerPoint for – yeah – that one – several of the other EDs asked me to talk about the backend of the website.  Backend – I mean the ugly little code and databases that each of us need to make our website interactive for our members.  This is where it can get a little complicated – and you will probably need to have paid help in developing this part of your web presence.  I don’t mean to give a plug for our web host & all round awesome backup help – but Topnetwork has been a great part of why our members have used the website so extensively.  Also – apparently I push him to create better programming since I’m so demanding.

Before launching a new website or reworking your current site -survey your members.  Surveymonkey.com is an awesome little site that allows a cheap and easy way to survey members whether it’s a 3 question survey for a seminar or a 50 question membership survey.  (I wouldn’t go over 50 questions ever – no-one has that kind of time).  This is how we discovered our members like the little networking events, wanted a brief bank (although they haven’t used it yet) and LOVE the list serve.

So – they asked for it and we built the website for them – one little problem…our tracking statistics for the site doesn’t work, so I don’t know really where people are going (more on that problem later on marketing), so as to our website – who knows where people are landing.

Brief Bank – we have one that members can contribute to, and if someone offers up a brief – I put it in.  Do people use it?  Nope – they continue to ask for the same briefs from the list server.  It’s a long slow learning curve.

List Server(s) – Members love it – it’s one of their favorite things about their membership.  We have an expert witness list serve and a general list serve (for those questions who don’t fit in the section list serves or expert witness list serve).  I know some SLDOs have captured the list serve, but at this time, we have decided not to capture it.  The answers are sent to the inquirer – not to the whole list serve – so just having the question on a database seemed kind of lopsided.  One downside is that everyone gets put on the list serve when they join and have to take themselves off – which can mean a lot of technical support on our part.

Member Directory – Apparently – and I say apparently because it happened before WDTL was foolish to hire me – we stopped printing the membership directory and put it all online.  This confuses the heck out of some of the less technical of our members and they still call me and have me look up other members online for them – but for the most part it has been a good thing.  We were green before our time.  When you visit our site, wdtl.org and go to member services, the membership directory is right there.  This is run from the main database that not only runs our member directory – but is also the back end for registration as well.

Online Registration – this was my first project as the ED for this crowd.  I can’t tell you how much easier it has made my life.  Attendees for seminars can either send me a check and I’ll enter them online or they can register themselves online via a credit card – which is then emailed to our accountant through a secure site.  This saves countless amount of time and effort to track payments and let’s me see in real time how many people are at each event.