ellohay! West Michigan

Reference links for community, general audience (for portal)

Posted in clients, links for community, planning, portal by forgr on March 18, 2008

Local colleges
Tax forms
Tax help
Local event calendar
Local business directory
Local government, courthouse, Secretary of State, Police stations
Neighborhood associations
Local public and private schools
Parks and recreation
State and National Parks
School closings
Local TV station websites, WOOD TV8, WZZM 13, local cable networks etc.
Volunteer opportunities
Tutoring and mentoring resources
Flickr photos for the region
YouTube videos of the region
Public library and literary resources
Craigslist links, Grand Rapids specific
Homeowner resources
Home improvement resources
Community aid organizations
Childcare resources
Book clubs, interest meetups
After-school program resources
Job boards
Local healthcare resources
Local maps
Attractions, museums, parks, landmarks
Festivals, and city events
Local radio, public radio, local stations

What else does every community need to know? What should be common knowledge?

4 Responses

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  1. smcmaster1995 said, on March 19, 2008 at 10:05 pm

    Why duplicate these things? I mean, I don’t think this is a list of content to create, but rather a list of links to establish for the portal. By why?

    Many of the sites to be linked to are already portal/aggregator sites–local broadcast sites often have many of these links. Chamber of commerce… Google searches can turn up a lot of the rest of it…

    I can see that there might be utility in bringing them all together, and by a non-profit, to boot. Still, I see a list like this, I think about the time and effort to bring all the information together in one place, and keep the links valid and I think… why?

    There are aggregators already, and the training forgr offers should include search engines….

    I’ll be posting something about community over at How is it Good? soon…

  2. […] can be helpful… the idea of the Grand Rapids wiki is appealing…  but something about this forgr post gave me the wrong kind of chills.   And it’s a little more than the mission drift I alluded […]

  3. forgr said, on March 20, 2008 at 6:53 am

    Perhaps what’s important about these links is not that we provide them directly, but that they exist.

    It’s my current opinion (and granted I could be swayed by the right argument) that they should exist either in a portal accessible to all of our clients, in a targeted audience category, or we populate their “favorites” or “bookmarks” with these links prior to their distribution. Here’s why,

    If you take my mother-in-law, for example, she’s 56, recently divorced and single, and had never been on the internet by herself until this year. We gave her our little 12 inch MacBook last year as a present. We had grown out of it, but it was perfect for what she might be using it for (internet, word processing, watching dvds). She mainly wanted to type up a resumé as she was looking for a new job at the time, and hadn’t had a recent one for 10+ years.

    We suggested that she come to the local wifi coffee shop to write email to us, and to her friends and family. She thought it was a great idea. So, we sat down with her at the coffee shop, and opened up the laptop in front of her. Victor (my husband, her son) talked her through making sure the computer was connected to the wifi properly, opening up the browser, entering a url, arriving at a website.

    We had to explain what a link was, what a link normally looked like on the page, and what happens when you click on a link. We had to explain what a blog was, a news website, an online store. Super basic, basic, basic.

    We asked her how she was feeling about it all, and she said “overwhelmed”. We ended up writing it all down for her in a Word document, we literally wrote:

    Step 1.) Click on the icon in your dock that looks like this ____ it’s an application called Firefox, it’s what’s commonly know as an Internet browser.

    Step 2.) We’ve set Gmail, your email page as your home page, your username is “X”, your password is “X”, sometimes you may need to reenter this information, don’t worry if you do, Gmail sometimes wants to make sure you’re the right human.

    Step 3.) …

    After that we showed her several useful websites that might be of interest to her, one about designing gardens, another about training dogs, another one from a local winery she likes. We helped her bookmark them to save them for later too. She then asked “So, what else is there?” as in, “I have no idea where to go from here or what’s out there, I’m almost 60 and it’s too late for me to even try. It’s over my head. There’s nothing new that I’m wlling to learn, thankyouverymuch.”

    We had to back up again.

    We explained that the internet is “like a big city”. Most companies have stores or “websites” and most have a digital version of their catalog available, with much more information and usually more up to date than a printed catalog. We suggested that she look for some clothing shops online that she likes. She typed in literally “J. Jill” in the address bar and got an error page. She was confused, frustrated. She put her hands up in the air. We had to actually take a break.

    When she came back, she said “I’m hopeless you guys.” We explained that “No, you’re not Mom, it’s okay, and that Rome wasn’t built in a day” and then we explained difference between an address bar and a search engine, and so on a so forth. We sat with her for an hour more, answered all of her questions before she said that she “had a headache and wanted to get going” so… ” we suggested that she come and explore on her own after work. We also showed her how to use iChat so she could talk to her sons for free, any time we were online.

    Granted she’s a unique creature, but think about all the other people like her that are resistant to learn new things, get overwhelmed easily and don’t know where to go next. They don’t go on the internet because it’s “too late for them” or they “wouldn’t even begin to know where to start”.

    That’s when you need a list of “what to do” and “where to go” “how to get there”. In many cases, we are literally going to have to have classes that start from “The internet is a large network of yadda yadda yadda…” right? There will need to be documents that exist that walk our moms and aunts and grandmas through each step.

    The portal, or their “favorites” will have to exist somewhere for them to fall back on. Especially if our clients are anything like my mother-in-law… since we couldn’t be around to answer every question afterwards, one-on-one. She stopped using her laptop for email or chatting or the internet after she couldn’t find a connection at the coffeeshop. She now just uses it to watch dvds in bed. Seriously. It’s like pulling teeth to get her to try again.

    I personally feel that because we don’t live near to her, and she feels too embarrassed to call us when she has a question, she’s not even going to try by herself. It’s been seven months since we sat down with her. At least she uses it for watching dvds, that’s one success.

  4. smcmaster said, on March 20, 2008 at 7:18 am


    Got it. Thank you.

    I’m still unsure about the mechanics of maintaining a portal, and I always knew the training was going to have to be very basic–my own parents have a Mac book, and I regularly get calls for help which include things like me saying, “Here’s when you single click on something, and when you should double click on something.”

    I do, however, totally love the idea of populating a browser with useful links.

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