Technology

We get a lot of questions regarding what technologies we suggest for this or that. This section of our website starts to point out a variety of the online tools we have found helpful. There is no right or wrong answer. It is helpful to assess the skills and passions of those in your group. We are happy to work with Transition initiatives on a one-on-one basis with specific questions.

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Email Lists

Next to a website, having a email list critical (maybe even more important). There are varying ways to maintain this list. The most simple is to collect names/emails (and other information) via simple paper sign-up sheets, and then have someone in your group responsible for maintaining this list using something like Gmail. A better approach would be to set up a Google Group which will allow them to sign up on line as well (and can serve as a listserv). As your list grows (along with your sophistication) we might suggest a email marketing system like Mailchimp. This will allow you to better track your outgoing messages, format them nicely, and make it easier for people to drop off the list without human intervention

Listservs

A listserv is a different kind of mail list.  The email list described above is really a one way communication with your community whereas a listserv allows people to send an email to the whole group at once (and allows members of the listserv to reply to the whole group if they choose). Having a firm protocol around what the listserv is to be used for is very important otherwise it can turn into a non-relevant soapbox that alienates rather than brings people together.  Google Groups is a really good tool for this if you are just starting out.

Events Calendar

Events such as films, talks, or reskilling classes are central to the Transition Model.  Depending on how many events you host you may want to consider having an events calendar on your website.  Each CMS has a number of "plug-ins" or "modules" that allow you to do this quite easily. If you need some recommendations please don't hesitate to contact us and we will give you some ideas based on the various groups we have worked with. 

Online Payments

It won't be long before you will need to collect credit card payments and/or have people RSVP to an event.  The online service we recommend is Eventbrite.  If your event is free and you just want a mechanism for having people RSVP then there is no cost to use the Eventbrite service.  They make their money by charging a fee thus eatting into your "profits" but sometimes this is well worth the price.  It just depends.  Brown Paper Tickets is another reputable, and more grass roots option.

Social Networking

Nothing could be easier that setting up a Facebook page.  Facebook is proving to be an effective way to get the word out to those in your community (once you get a large enough number of people to "like" your page).  Some groups start here before even creating a website.  Let us know once you have set up your Facebook page and we will help let people know you are "online."

Websites

Having a website that tells your story and let's folks know what is happening in your community is critical in this day and age. The good news is that it is easier than ever to get up and running on the world wide web. With this being said, you will need someone in your community who is willing (and able) to set it up and maintain it.  Believe it or not, Google Sites is a super easy and fairly robust way of setting up a website.  For those who want to go the more "traditional" route here is a break down of what needs to happen to get a website up-and-running:

  • Find a webhost.  We here at Transition US use Gaiahost because of their cooperative business model and committment as a "green" company.  You might want to go with a local ISP (Internet Service Provider).  Make sure you get a plan that supports open source content management systems like Wordpress (more on this below).
  • Secure a domain name.  You should be able to do this with the host you select. In most cases it costs ~$10 per year to maintain a domain name. 
  • Choose your platform.  Our recommendation is that you consider starting out with Wordpress.  Originally a system for creating blogs, Wordpress has matured into a very robust Content Management System (CMS). There are other platforms as well, most notably Drupal. We here at Transition US use Drupal due to the complex nature of our website.  While it is very robust and fairly easy to use once it is set up, it is not for the faint at heart. It often requires minor customizations to get it to do exactly what you want as well as periodic updates that are not always as simple as 'point and click.'  Transition Putney put together a page on d.
  • Pick a theme.  Most CMS platforms utilize third-party themes.  It is the theme that makes one site look different than the next.  There are hundreds of free themes out there so don't get overwhelmed. We would suggest paying a few dollars ($30-80) to get a theme that is well designed, easy to modify, and provides some level of support.  For Wordpress we might suggest SimpleThemes or StudioPress.
  • Install your CMS.  This is where you might want to get a little help from someone who has done this before.  If everything goes as planned you should be up and running in less than 30 minutes.
  • Start creating your pages. Having an idea in advance of what information you want to present on your new website is always suggested.  We have some recommendations and we would also suggest looking at a few other Transition websites.  You should feel free to copy content from the Transition US website as needed (just let people know where you got it with at link back to our site please).

 

What about Ning?
Ning enables you to create your own social network complete with groups, chat, personal profiles, etc.  When it was free it was a popular platform for Transition groups to create a quick online presence. Our experience is that for a local group who simply needs to get the word out you are best served implimenting a simple Wordpress site, avoiding all the bells and whistles built into Ning, and going out to meet people face-to-face.