All of you are familiar with our web site www.ChennaiTrekkers.org which is basically a blog running on blogger.com . Write ups for some completed treks are published on the blog. An index of all completed treks with photo links is also listed.
We have a separate Google Group which is used by our organizers to send out emails to all members with invites for upcoming treks and post-trek updates. All our members are part of this group.
Lots of useful info about the club and trekking is published in Google Group Pages in the same group.
Upcoming trek invites are implemented through Google Forms which makes it easy for our organizers to consolidate details from participants rather then handling numerous emails.
Aside this we have a Nabble Forum where participants of treks can share their post-trek experiences, photos and feedback with the group. Each individual member can configure the forum to receive email notifications on specific topics. This was initially done in the same Google Group but resulted in too many emails once the group got bigger.
Members typically upload their trek photos in individual Picasaweb or Facebook photo albums and share the links on the nabble forum. Links are also added to the web site periodically.
The above online tools form the main infrastructure on which CTC is build upon. We also have a Facebook group, Orkut community, Twitter channel, etc. but these are less frequently updated. Our organizers mainly use emails through the Google Group.
I hereby wanted to check within our large member base whether anyone could suggest any improvements to the current online infrastructure - e.g. a better web site design reflecting the various activities within CTC (trekking, biking, social treks, environment, workshops, ....), a better integration between the above needs (upcoming treks, complete treks, invites, members, photos, ....), more online interaction/discussions/contributions between our members, better automated organization of trek invites, post-trek write-ups and photo links (requires lots of manual work right now), more comprehensive introduction for freshers, ...
At the same time we will require volunteers with time available to implement some of these changes, not just ideas. Until now much of the online infrastructure is being maintained by very few people. We badly need help on this front.
Myself and praveen(CTC member), interested in upgrading CTC site with the needed features. Am a Front-End Architect and praveen is a Ruby on rails, PHP and Joomla Expert ,working in a R&D(Web2.0) Lab of Large Indian MNC.
We are short of a visual designer. Am in process of getting a one..
~Copy-pasted from the email I sent you folks by mistake instead of replying here!~
Hello all! :)
I've been a silent member of CTC. Haven't trekked with you guys so far (because I'm free on weekdays and not on weekends, alas)! I hope to make it to one of next month's treks, though. :)
Peter's question made me wonder whether a monthly CTC e-newsletter - to be circulated by email among its members and on social sites (for non-members) - would be a feasible idea. It could include the month's event calendar, spotlights on social treks, a column on one member (maybe the outstanding volunteer of the month), a letters to the editor section for members to voice their comments and other such elements.
Your thoughts? :)
I believe the total revamped into a better more usable site.. IMHO, changing forums location or modules from one point to another will work for a small set of groups. Automating features requires customized coding and interface for it.
Hope discussing more this, will pour more light on revamping..
first off... i happen to have come for only one trek bcos i am too tied up with college :P so i happen to be more of a silent member
I do have a few ideas (and i can help implementing them as well since i am web developer myself)
we could shift the blog to wordpress( not a must but pretty kool) and all the online registrations etc could moved to online forms with php mysql database... these would make management easier... and if we do so we could put up the fotos with our own image viewer/uploader...
and the post trek mails could be stopped and replaced by a dedicated section for this... apart from this if all trek data is maintained on a database then all photos posts comments could all be categorized in a prettf efficient manner ...
Considering the varied requirements, I think that a collaboration platform would be helpful. Such a platform will support discussions, forums, various subgroups (including private groups), sharing rich media content, a collaboratively editable blog through a wiki, micro-blogging as well as notes and posting events as well.
For example, we can use these different tools for different reasons:
Blog -> wikis, micro-blogs, notes, video/ audio sharing (for sharing useful info. about trekking, write-ups on trips)
Google groups -> event calendars (for notifications), groups (for specific treks), discussion forums (for post trek updates), specific theme s (for e.g. social treks, ham radio training, photography etc)
In this regard, I would like you to take a look at this site called kineticglue.com. Its a online collaboration platform. You can get a feel of the platform and its features, by joining a public group there called itfundas.com.
Honestly guys/gals... I think the need of the hour is to hire a professional web designer/architect to offer some ideas on how to STRUCTURE our website based on our "current and future" needs. Maybe we can then start the implementation with volunteers within CTC. To pay for the professional service, we can set up a voluntary fund for this purpose, and I'm sure we'll receive enough from our members towards this purpose. Alternatively, if someone within CTC fits that role and is willing to singularly LEAD the re-structuring effort, great!
A lot of us have a lot of ideas and a lot of them are great! However, I don't think it's possible to put so many good ideas into effect with the current website structure. It would be a massive band-aid, and we all know how that turns out! :)
If anyone agrees/disagrees with this suggestion, please respond one way or the other.
Suggestion: Hire a professional web designer to design a new website based on CTC requirements. Set up a CTC fund for this effort, based on the designer's quote.
Also, realize that this will be a regular "project". It cannot be successfully completed no matter how many volunteers offer their services... unless... we have a DEDICATED project manager. :) There has to be a single person who leads this entire effort... as it will require a fair amount of hours/wk...
Although I have been a silent member in CTC but I do visit the blog/site very frequently just to match the dates (for trekking ). To me there are few things that needs to be more focused and amended. The first thing that I see is the whooping amount of photos especially large resolution ones that makes the site to load a little slower than others.We can have the optimized or smaller photos or there can be a see more photos link to check the more photos , so that the site gets more optimized.
Secondly Once the site is opened the first thing that I want to look is the calendar for the upcoming treks. So currently as the calendar is placed below the intro text I try to scroll down to see the calendar ,now at the same time as the content is getting loaded it gets very difficult to stay at the same calendar area.
So for this it would be better if the calendar, subscription to the group, upcoming treks with date and Interesting links are given more prominence.
Apart from this I think its only the design that of course can be improved.
BTW what about having a small social network of CTC which will have all the things/features ? Or having a separate wiki for each treks (just suggestions)
I think the first thing that needs discussed is how to make this site more user friendly ,attractive etc. Also there will be n number of suggestions from the members but which one of these suggestions to be taken and implemented.
Well integrated and simple. It would be nice if we also have a page with an automatically generated list of completed treks which consolidates for each trek the invite, the participants, the shared photo links, the write-up. (replacing the current trek/photo index on our blog)
Automatically listing all future invites on the web site would be really nice as shown in your proposal (missing now - lost in emails). Hope we can also support email notifications (member customizable) for various things - new invites, post-trek emails, new photo links, etc.
The member profile section can be flexible - many might not bother to create a detailed profile but instead refer to their existing Facebook or Orkut or Google profile. Our huge member database definitely needs a better classification - more attributes for each member - email, contact, location, age, gender, vehicle, education, employer, which treks completed (recent/old/none), organized, volunteered, etc. Which would allow us to browse this huge member base more efficiently.
Hope we can put a nice relational database behind this site with a proper ER diagram - members, treks, participation, .... This would allow us to run detailed queries on the databases and generate interesting statistics.
We'll also need to think about the migration of the current 8500+ members from the Google Group to default profiles (with some random/email password). And of course the migration of the current blog/write-ups/photo links to the new one....
One last thing - please also think how we can trigger more interaction between our members - e.g. some kind of discussion forum integrated into the site (rather then a separate forum) - e.g. showing the latest discussions on the home page inviting all to participate.
Great job - I suggest you could work it out in a bit more detail or try a prototype to get a feel....
One more requirement - organizers spent too much time in handling advance payments - if this can somehow be integrated in the web site along with the trek registrations that would be wonderful. CTC remains non-profit but advances are required for arranging food and transportation in advance. Also I am more inclined towards introducing mandatory non-refundable advance payments for each future CTC trek to enforce more discipline in the group - currently there are simply too many who register and drop out last minute. A non-refundable advance payment will solve this problem as only serious candidates will apply.
Any tools available to implement online payments, e.g. using a credit/debit card redirected to some third-party side which will return some kind of confirmation to the CTC site and allow the member to sign up for the treks after paying,
I have not been any treks yet but would take part sometime in future. I run a web consulting firm and helped organizations to develop portal. I have put my views depending on advantages and challenges I could foresee. The objective of the topic is to figure out a easy collaboration process for users of CTC.
The features that a collaboration environment would require as peter, jovemac and others specified
7. Events (information on treks)
8. RSS Updates
9. Links to social media
First option is BuddyPress which is built on WordPress. BuddyPress has the following features
1. Activity Streams
2. User Profiles
3. Options to add user profile fields and sections
4. Avatar uploads
5. Group Creation
6. Group discussion forums
7. Group logo and Wire
8. Friend system
10. Blogs per user (via the WordPress engine)
and there are more open source plugins to show flickr stream, youtube videos. The site becomes scalable (extendable) with more and more plugins available for free.
- Less flexible (features cannot be tuned to our needs)
I would personally recommend the development with BuddyPress
As Hari Rao said either it should be given to a professional team or a core technical team has to be formed (as CTC has more people involved with web and technology) to develop and manage the website if the first option is chosen.
We have met at TEDx Chennai. Hope you remember me. Following our yesterday's discussion over phone I've added my comments to simplify website structure at the forum. To address the trek registration and payment challenge I would suggest www.1008events.com (event registration portal). This is our product which comes with free setup and low transaction fee. I have attached the presentation with this. Let me know your thoughts if this would be a feasible solution for CTC.
BuddyPress is also free and open source. BuddyPress has been built as social network package and has the features listed by default so configuration is not needed. Drupal is a CMS that could be configured as a social network site with all the features listed above, it needs more configuration and choice of plugins which may make it a bit complex
Some topic above Drupal vs BuddyPress as a social network will give more clear idea on this.