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Webmasters-leading The Way Into The 21st Century?


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Webmasters-Leading the way into the 21st Century?

 

An interview conducted by Brett Doran (BW Correspondent)

 

March 2001 newsletter of the Budgerigar Interest Group

 

For the uninitiated a Webmaster is a term used to describe someone who sets up and maintains Web Pages on the Internet. As we move into the 21st Century I felt it was time to have a look at what Clubs are doing to promote themselves and the budgerigar fancy on the net. I have concentrated this interview on a group of Australian Webmasters from across the country. I must point out that wherever in the world budgies are bred and exhibited there are equally dedicated Webmasters with quality web sites for you to visit and enjoy. I sent the participants in this interview a set of questions relating to their websites and experiences in the hobby and thank them sincerely for taking part. I hope you find their responses as interesting and thought provoking as I did.

 

In alphabetical order our Webmasters are:

 

Jim Calder – Queensland

Sharon House – Western Australia

Geoff Lowe – Victoria

Eric Mapp – South Australia

Ken Yorke – New South Wales

 

Q. Can you provide out readers with a brief outline of your experience in the hobby. Do you have favourite varieties of budgerigars that you specialise in? Do you keep other species of birds as well?

 

JC. 35 years breeding budgies, 18 years as a judge but am currently “retired”. I have held many budgie club committee positions and am currently ABS President, ex SQBBA President and have been ABS Bulletin Editor and Secretary previously. Currently concentrating on Spangles, Normals, Black Eyed Yellows and Clearwings. Have previously also specialised in Fallows, Lutinos and Lacewings. I have only kept budgies.

 

SH. I became involved in the hobby of exhibition budgerigars in 1985 on seeing a show at a shopping centre. Have held numerous committee positions in various clubs. Main varieties specialised in are Black Eyed Self, Clearwings, Texas Clearbodies, Dutch Pieds and Goldenface, and have a keen interest in very rare or new mutations. I also keep Zebra Finches (Exhibition type), Gouldian Finches, Neophemas, Weeros, King Quail and Pigeons. A pet galah of 13 years is also a feature.

 

GL. I am 54 years of age, starting in the hobby at 8 yo. The first Society meeting I attended was at the Kensington Town Hall in Melbourne in 1954. In 1964, family circumstances limited the keeping of many birds, but I always managed to keep and breed a few budgies over the years. In 1978 I left Melbourne and shifted to the rural city of Warrnambool in Victoria. It was here that I really became involved again, to such an extent, that with my youngest son, we began exhibiting in 1993. To be honest, I do not have a favourite variety I like them all. I admire all types of birds, but have never kept any other birds over the years.

 

EM. I have been involved for approx 3 years. Started with “pet stock” in a patio aviary and bred lots in colony. Finally got into “exhibition” type mid 1998. I am trying to build up a good line of Goldenface – love the colours! I have other types, mainly Greens and Blues, also a couple of Dominant Pieds and Spangles.

 

KY. Almost 30 years breeding budgies, including almost every variety known. I specialise in Black Eyed Yellows and rare varieties. Have bred several varieties of quails in the past and owned but not bred Canaries. Close contact with other Canary, Finch and Parrot breeders.

 

Q. While this interview is primarily about club websites, do you also maintain personal or business related websites? If so, what?

JC. No, I only look after the club website.

 

SH. I have a site to show-case our stud called Down Under Aviaries. I am in the process of building a site for my business, Aveswest and am in the planning stages of another couple of web sites.

 

GL. I have an interest in many websites, none commercially, they are all community sites covering a large spectrum in the local community.

 

EM. I am webmaster for our church.

 

KY. Yes, business site related to bird products, computer products, standardbred horses plus general information service for hobbyists.

 

Q. I am assuming you are not an IT professional, but amateur PC enthusiast. As such, are there any special talents required for Web Page design? Have you done any computer courses that have provided additional skills or have picked it up as you go along? How would you recommend someone get started?

 

JC. No special courses. I just picked it up as I went. Best way to get started is for someone else to make up a simple web page for you and show you how to edit it and add on other pages. Once you get started you will find it easy.

 

SH. Have never done any computer courses. There are no special talents needed for Web Page design. As there are a host of programs available. When first designing the Down Under Aviaries site it was done without the use of any design software. For anyone wanting to build a page but doesn’t have the necessary software then some web page hosts such as Yahoo/Geocities and Homestead have page builders you can use whilst you are online. Give it a go, it’s easier than it looks and there is always someone out there that will help you if you get stuck.

 

GL. I first began by trial and error, making many mistakes in the early years. I made a decision to do a Multimedia course at a TAFE college, majoring in web design. This was the turning point, web design is a lot more complicated than first meets the eye. Although I was fairly adept when I begun the course, it was a great learning curve. If someone is keen to create their own site, have a go, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

 

EM. Basically picked it up as I go along. I have done several computer courses, but not related to web design. I use “Splash” as a web program. I am a teacher and I think it helps to be able to ‘simplify’ things and make them both informative and attractive for the audience. My recommendations would be:

Look at lots of websites and pick out the good ideas and discard those you don’t like.

Keep it ‘friendly’ and informative with links to other sites.

DON’T put in 1000’s of pictures that take forever to load!

Work out what you want to say/show on your site and make a flow-chart so you know where you are going.

DON’T just show captions like ‘My Birds’, explain what the bird is, its parents and any good/bad features.

DON’T use lots of advertising or ‘Banners’, I hate them and so do most of the people I know!

 

KY. Have had computer experience and training in several computer languages but learnt web design by trial and error. There are a number of reasonably idiot proof packages on the market to enable computer programming illiterate people to create web sites reasonably easily. Some of these programmes can be downloaded free from the web.

Q. As a Webmaster what gripes you most when viewing any website?

 

JC. Things that don’t work, pages links etc.

 

SH. Links that don’t work, awful colour combinations making some pages very hard to read, inadequate navigation guides and slow loading pages.

 

GL. I would have to say the overuse of images, especially those that are very slow loading. There is nothing worse than sitting there waiting for a page to load.

 

EM. Here are a few, my pet hate is going to a site that has 1000’s of pictures and little information. I also dislike lots of advertising, slow loading sites and unreliable links.

 

KY. Extremely slow loading sites and sites with so many pages and a maze to find what you want, (usually government sites).

 

Q. Was the website your idea or that of other members? If that of others, how did you become involved.

 

All answered that it was their idea.

Q. Do you seek or receive significant support from members with articles, meeting reports and feedback? What else can they do to help improve the site?

 

JC. We really need to make the ABS site a whole team effort as currently 95% is done by me, and the other 5% by the club secretary. We have plans to have own domain name and will try to get a major sponsor soon now that the pages are built to an acceptable level. Also we need someone who knows what they are doing to help us with a makeover on our front page to make it look more professional.

 

SH. Feedback from members is limited as not all are able to access the net, but of those that have their comments have been welcomed. As for member contribution by way of articles, none at this stage.

 

GL. To be honest I have struggled with support from the hobby in general, but I will persist in what I do, and hope eventually more people take an interest. People in general, especially in the budgerigar hobby, have not fully grasped the concept of the internet and I think it will take a little more time yet, but I will persevere.

 

EM. Everyone thinks the site is fine. No-one is eager to do anything for the site or supply pictures or articles. A couple of people have but it is like getting blood from a stone!

 

KY. Very little help. Occasional articles submitted by others.

Q. What was the concept for putting up a club site? Do you have a target audience in mind when designing a site?

 

JC. The concept was to be able to reach new members and also provide a method of cheap communication with those we already have.

 

SH. The reason for putting up the club site is purely for the purpose of advertising the club and the hobby. The internet is like one big advertising billboard. Where else can you put up an advert for no cost, for as long as you like and include as much information as you like? Our audience in effect is the whole world and from the millions that surf the net daily we hope to catch the eye of a few of them.

 

GL. All of the budgerigar sites I have done so far have been aimed at the newcomer in the hobby. As such, they are all general information based sites, but I am working on a totally new concept which I hope to have online by the end of February.

 

EM. Primarily for beginners and to promote our club.

 

KY. Looking for new members.

 

Q. I have always found feedback very valuable both complimentary or critical as without it you can only assume that you are heading in the right direction and providing the content required. Do you receive much response through Forums, Guestbooks etc? Does this feedback influence further updates of the site?

 

JC. We get feedback through Guestbooks and Polls but so far it hasn’t really influenced the site.

 

SH. Not much yet on the club site. Although most sites ask for feedback I don’t think a lot of what comes in is particularly useful. Occasionally you will get someone who’s not afraid to tread on a toe or two and makes comments, which are taken on board and if a change is required it will be implemented. Saying “nice site” or “great pages” doesn’t give me a lot of information as I have seen similar statements made in other guestbooks about sites with very little content. Criticism can be seen to be positive or negative depending on how receptive you are to other people’s points of view.

 

GL. As we design these sites for a purpose, and market for a particular audience, it is vital that you keep up to date with the amount of visitors to a site, and what they are looking for. I don’t take a lot on notice of Guestbooks, or Forums, or counters, but find the most valuable guide to what people are looking for is an internet search engine on the site. It tells me what people are seeking at all times and is a very useful tool to both the webmaster and the visitor.

 

EM. All the feedback I have received – about 15 emails – says the site is okay. I have redesigned the site, added articles I have written and tried to make it fun and informative. I am just waiting for our 2001 calendar before I upload the new site.

 

KY. Get response from email, always complimentary so far. As part of my business I send out newsletters with questionnaires and some ideas comes from those responses.

Q. With the world getting smaller and communication ever easier, how important is it to get your message across? Is the exchange of information and research a significant part of the websites role?

 

JC. Yes, one thing we want to establish soon is the ABS Research Trust which will offer awards for original research.

 

SH. Getting the message across is still as important today as it ever was. With the advent of the internet it has just become a lot easier. Exchange of information is vital and research should receive more encouragement as there is still much to learn. With the web site being still in its infancy these areas are yet to be covered but who knows by the time you are reading this I may have something up there for you to browse through.

 

GL. I think the exchange of information is terrific, and we can learn a lot from each other. I was amazed at the results from a particular hints page on my personal web site. The interest shown from the UK was incredible. I found it hard to come to terms with it at first, that I could produce a column that clubs wanted to publish in their newsletters in England.

 

EM. I think it is very important. However, most people in the club are apathetic about providing information. I have only been in the hobby for a couple of years and do not feel appropriately experienced to write on most subjects. I have, however, created a section on basic genetics, written for the novice or intermediate breeder. I am quite comfortable with the subject material because of my background in health teaching.

 

KY. The information section on my site enables a lot more information and education about rare varieties to be distributed.

 

Q. Does the site mainly cater for the “converted” or is the education and encouragement of the general public about our great hobby also an important aspect?

 

JC. Both.

 

SH. The site has not been up long so at present at caters for the converted. From previous experience putting together club pages for other budgie clubs it is important to cater for all aspects of the hobby and that is what will develop on the BIG pages over coming months.

 

GL. You must cater for everyone, or at least try to. Every bit of information on the hobby that is available needs to be presented to all and sundry.

 

EM. Currently it is mainly for beginners.

 

KY. It is probably more aimed at those with an existing interest.

Q. Has the site contributed to bringing in new members? If so, what was it that attracted their interest?

 

JC. Yes, we have received new members, about 6 or so in 2000 directly through the web pages. Our online club started in July 2000, has also received many requests to join and now has 46 members.

 

SH. As mentioned previously, it is a young site but some have shown interest.

 

GL. I will answer that question wearing the hat of the South West Victoria BS webmaster. Out club has 4 new members that have joined from an interest obtained from the website. They all liked the personal approach shown on that site, and the fact that it was kept up to date with current events bi-weekly. It showed that the club was in touch with the hobby in general. It may be a coincidence, but we are generally the only club with their own website, and we have the biggest membership in country Victoria.

 

EM. Yes, we have had a few join. They found the information for beginners very useful.

 

KY. Actual numbers for new members are small, but has been well accepted by many fanciers who are geographically far away (and hence less practical to join a distant club).

Q. How important so you see the promotion of the Budgerigar through the internet to the future of the hobby?

 

JC. It is the single most important thing we can be doing right now!!

 

SH. It is quite important as more people over time will access the net. The younger generation will access the net rather then buy a newspaper or magazine.

 

GL. It is crucial that we promote the hobby in this way. Being realistic we are trying to capture a very small audience at any time, so the more we promote the hobby the better. I think last year’s Nationals in Adelaide were a case to examine. The pages that were done for the Nationals, on the Budgerigar Council of Victoria site alone attracted interest from all over the world. The feedback from some of the South Australian members was very positive; they estimated that up to 40 people came through the doors that had seen the information on the website, a very good result.

 

EM. Hard to say. From what I have read, there is a concern that the hobby is declining. However, analysis of membership stats from some clubs indicate it may be static. The thing that does appear to be declining is the number of birds that are shown.

 

KY. Extremely important.

 

Q. Do you see a time when members will be admiring their “cyber” aviary on a computer or television screen or will the hands on approach that we all love ensure the future of the hobby?

 

JC. Both will be necessary. I see a time when people won’t have the time or space to actually keep birds for themselves. They will live in inner city apartments. There will be budgie farms out in the city outskirts where their budgies will be kept and are maintained for a small fee each week and their owners will see their birds via video monitors and the internet etc. Its probably 50years of reality but it will eventually come.

 

SH. The pleasure and satisfaction gained from being able to interact in the same environment with another living creature cannot be easily duplicated by technology. So I think the hands on approach will be around for a little longer yet.

 

GL. I see what I do with my birds as a form or art, living art in fact. I show my birds for all and sundry to see, but the hands on approach is a must. We can go so far with electronics, but you cannot duplicate the human touch. I hope to see the day we can have a total World Championship, perhaps on the internet. What a show that would be, living art for the world to see online.

 

EM. Who knows? I think that IT will change much of what we do and how we do it, but I don’t think it can ever replace the “mystery” of surprises in the nest box.

 

KY. Hands on will always rule.

Q. Briefly, what do you see as the big issues facing club administrators in ensuring the future growth of the hobby into the 21st Century? How big a role will the internet and Web Sites such as yours play in that future?

 

JC. Size and managed growth. In order to be able to compete with other hobbies we have to become larger yet still provide the friendly small club atmosphere. Budgie clubs usually rely heavily on voluntary labour from a few individuals. Once they get to a certain size invariably internal politics and jealousies come into play and a split or faction develops which breaks away to form its own club. The challenge is to develop a workable structure which can grow but also involves everybody without splintering up into many little pieces. We also have to get back to basics as regards pet budgies. There is an unhealthy preoccupation with shows and exhibition standard birds and not enough emphasis on what the vast majority of people see as a real budgie – the simple pet in a cage.

 

SH. I suppose the biggest issue would be declining membership. Clubs are predominately for the show enthusiast and not much is done to encourage the general budgie keeper/breeder. Of all the budgie enthusiasts around, only about 10-20% are catered for by clubs. There is a perception that a pet budgie is less important than an exhibition one, yet each bird holds the same importance to its respective owner/breeder. Showing budgies is only a small section of the hobby as a whole but over time it has become the dominating force. If the hobby is to survive into the next century then administrators must starts looking to attracting and keeping the non-exhibition budgie enthusiast. The role of the internet is to simply announce the club via the web site to the world and through it to inform and educate and obtain new members.

 

GL. The encouragement of youth into the hobby is the most important thing administrators must be looking at. Other things in the hobby will evolve as we go along, the same as things do in our own lives, but to keep the hobby at the levels they are now, much depreciated as they are, the young must be introduced to aviculture. I think we must start at preschool level, and create an interest early on. Letters should be written to kindergartens and playgroups offering our services. If the people won’t come to the birds, take the birds to the people.

 

EM. 1. Attracting and retaining members

2. How to “pension-off” off the old timers

3. Competing with the media – including IT – for providing information about the hobby. I think as more and more people use the internet, out members will want access to information quickly and efficiently. I think that one day in the not too distant future our members will communicate with each other through the internet or telephone and at the times they meet at show. “Clubs meetings”, apart from shows, may become a thing of the past.

 

 

KY. Less emphasis needed on producing the super power grand champion bird and more emphasis on keeping people on limited budgets in the hobby. This will also help to bring new people into the hobby or at the very least get people into clubs who already have an interest in the hobby but perhaps are not in clubs.

Q. Finally, have you any interesting or amusing anecdotes that your can share with readers from your time as Webmasters?

 

JC. Only a lot of the crank email messages you get. Such as “My budgies beak has fallen off what do I do??” I had one little kid in Miami USA once, whose pet budgie kept dying. He took it straight back to the pet shop and got another one. Same thing happened again. He was feeding them on pellets and I told him to feed them on budgie seed. He didn’t listen and killed off about ½ dozen budgies whilst all the time emailing me asking what was wrong. Feed the bloody thing on bird seed!! He didn’t like my advice and eventually stopped his emails.

 

SH. No, nothing I can think of.

 

GL. No Nothing that comes to mind.

 

EM. Only one. Someone emailed me, from the website, asking for the URL!

 

KY. Its amazing how many people keep changing their email addresses every couple of months and then wonder why you can’t contact them.

 

Thank you all for your contribution and continued success with both your sites and breeding programs.

 

 

 

 

 

Thankyou to RIPBudgies for this article :D

Edited by KAZ
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Where is the web address,I would like to have a look at the site Thanks.

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