A Different Sort of Art
I am the (volunteer) webmaster for the Watercolor Society of Oregon. It’s not a big deal, except when it is. And the last couple of years, with the increased demands of everything going online, the website has become a bit of a burden. This last year, at the fall WSO convention, I was named volunteer of the year, which was a very flattering surprise and made me feel like people actually noticed how hard I was trying.
As some of you may know, a webmaster is not someone who creates content for websites; instead, it is someone who administers all the behind-the-scenes widgets that make a website run. This used to involve coding and other dreadful terms, but in the last few years, there have been a lot of technical breakthroughs that have enabled websites to look great and accomplish a lot of functions. I have also worked to take on integration of YouTube and some social media into the website.
As with any volunteer organization (or at least any I have worked with), WSO functions on the edge of chaos. Months pass with very little happening, then panic because there is a deadline coming up. Volunteers come and go, leaving institutional knowledge behind them. And no one is 100% sure who does what, but no one can give order or fire anyone. And woe betide those who step on toes. I’m certainly not immune to volunteering challenges and have had my share of meltdowns.
Recently there has been a big push to “fix” the WSO website. This made me grind my teeth because there was nothing wrong with “the website”; it was just ugly because no one spent any time curating content: the photos were decades old; the text was out of date; the theme was antiquated; no one was using any of the new capabilities of website plug-ins. My pleas on these issues had (largely) been ignored, and when this “push” happened, I decided it was time for me to call it a day as webmaster (10 years seems long enough to me.)
Well, it turns out… I’m irreplaceable. In the six months between my announcement and my “last day” the powers that be couldn’t find anyone else to take the reins. So, very frustrated, I said that what we needed was a working website retreat so we could nail down what needed to be “fixed” and I could explain why they weren’t using our existing website structure effectively. I spend a few weeks drawing up a facilitation plan to cover the necessary areas, and this last weekend the event was to take place.
What started out as a medium-sized group was eventually whittled down to just the current president, another “know it all” volunteer, and me. Oh, and Key and the president’s dog, Kona (that could be its own post.)
It ended up being a very effective group. We took a lot of breaks, and with two dog owners, a lot of walks.
At the end of the day Sunday, we had:
- Selected a new website theme (how it looks)
- Gone through the content
- Re-organized the content
- Deleted what was not needed
- Identified what needed to be curated
- The group understood my job (not a curator, a webmaster)
- Figured out a plan to explore using the website to track membership
- Figured out a plan to replace the broken show entry page (this plan was implemented today)
I’m still interested in taking a break, but I no longer feel the sense of urgency as I feel I have been “heard” about the issues and I know people (besides me) are working on it.
I went back to work this short week, but things are pretty light because of the holiday. So, I decided to take today off too. I did some more work on the website, laundry, dishes, finished a puzzle, and then… painting! And I hadn’t even forgotten how!
Tomorrow I am driving down to Florence to visit a friend and eat pie. Then I’ll have a couple days to do… nothing. I hope to get more painting done. Sunday Key and I have a nosework trial; I’m hopeful we will attend, though Key has had a slight tummy ache that I’m keeping an eye on.
Thus ends this update on my creative adventures, in all forms.