Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Virtual Tour of Columbus

John just forwarded this article to me from OSU today. Some of you will have seen this already, but for others it will be new. If you have Google Earth, take the tour - it's really interesting. If you don't have it, this may be just the incentive you need to download it. Google Earth is really amazing - I love it!

"Geography students create virtual field trip of Columbus"

"A group of undergraduates in Geography professor Ola Ahlqvist's computer based mapping class have developed a digital version of emeritus professor Henry Hunker's "Time and Change" tour of Columbus. Places and events described in Hunker's original 1956 narrative and later updates come alive in this interactive mapping environment. Hunker's text serves as the primary guide, but students have added themes and resources, videos and 3-D graphics for an interesting result. <http://www.geography.osu.edu/get-connected/hunker>..."

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Diurnal Badger

We've been seeing a badger in the daytime. This is extremely unusual, and we're not sure why it's happening. Is he a young male that has been made unwelcome in the sett? Is he/she unwell? In the States we would immediately worry about rabies, but that isn't at all likely over here.

This behaviour has been going on for several weeks, so if the badger is ill, it isn't very ill, and it certainly doesn't look ill at all. Maybe this is just a response to a safe environment.

Once or twice we spotted the badger crossing the driveway on his way between two wooded areas, and a neighbour saw him trotting up the driveway and along the road to someone else's house, but today he was out feeding on the lawn for several minutes and I was able to take a few pictures looking down on him from my study window.

It may happen after a rainy night. We're not sure about this, but perhaps some part of the sett is getting wet for some reason. We're going to have to look into this in more detail.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Musings on town websites

Hi there friends! I know it's been a long time since I last posted. The post below this explains why!

Right now, I'm involved in helping our Mayor - Bob Welch - understand our town website and answer the various criticisms that have been levelled against it. I need to post some links for various people on various committees, too, and I've decided to do it here. Some of you won't be very interested in this but others might, so feel free to read on if you want!

There has been quite a bit of discussion about the Church Stretton town website. Is it doing the job? What job is it supposed to be doing anyway?

Most towns now have some sort of presence on the web. Here are some links to other towns’ websites. I've been browsing around to see what I like and don’t like about them.

Shropshire Town sites include Ludlow, Bishop’s Castle, Clun, Wem, Ellesmere, Market Drayton.
There’s a large range here. Some towns have town council sites. These in turn may include tourist information or may just list council facilities or events or may not even be complete. Ludlow has lots of information and looks quite upbeat, but it’s still a bit “busy” for my taste.

Yorkshire Towns: Why Yorkshire? I’ve just spent time in Skipton at the Action for Market Towns Conference and was impressed that North Yorkshire is doing a lot to promote its towns and tourism. Skipton, for instance, has two sites: one from the council and one from a local web design firm, whereas Ilkley has a comprehensive but amateurish-looking site. Here’s Hebden Bridge’s site.

Lots of towns have sites run by the borough council. Here’s Tamworth’s. It’s quite typical. In fact, as I look at town sites on the web, I find many of them have very similar structures. I wonder if they are following some template that I could find out there somewhere. Nuneaton and Bedworth follow the same typical pattern.

The thing about many of these sites is that they have to do everything for the town/borough council. Tourism is just a tiny part of it. These sites are dealing with everything from benefits to transport, from dead animal removal to adult education. It’s no wonder that the tourism stuff gets buried in all the other stuff.

On the other hand, you can just chuck a lot of stuff on a page and get a bit of a mess. Looe in Cornwall has a website like that!

Here’s a newly re-vamped web site that looks promising - Telscombe in East Sussex. It looks as though it isn’t completely ready for prime time, but the design is fresh and exiting.

Some other good sites that I have come across:

  • Alcester in Warwickshire - a bit busy, but something about the site hums with activity and draws you in.
  • Seaford in East Sussex - a clean, fresh looking website
  • Hythe in Hampshire - this is the place that did the snow machine thing last Christmas.

I’ve just come across a web design firm that can make a cheap website from a template. They are Spider solutions. They have designed websites for several towns including Diss, Wymondham and Thetford. All the websites are similar - obviously put together as one template and then just the colours and copy changed from town to town. At the bottom of any one of the sites, you can find links to all the others.

Having seen all these sites, I’m underimpressed. I think our site is on the right track and covers most of the salient points. There are problems, however. One is the home page, which is dull and busy. Another is difficulty of navigation. For some reason I can’t find my way to the pages I want, when I want them. A third problem is copy. Unfortunately, that is a universal problem and not limited to the Church Stretton Web Site. How do we get people to contribute information? How do we make it easy for them to submit it on-line? How do we get it up and displayed in a timely manner?

Does anyone have any ideas?