What are your most popular pages?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grady's school webmasters forum : One Thread

What is working for you? What sort of pages does your online community want the most. What pages does your community bug you about updating?

-- Terry Kearns (gradyproject@aol.com), April 09, 2001


Since I'm not running a school website per se, I will make an observation from browsing the links people have posted on this forum. What stands out immediately upon visiting many school websites is the sports programs. Is this a sad statement of what's important in our schools? Mind you, I'm a big sports fan, but I'm bothered by the obsession we seem to have with sports and the way atheletes are glamorized starting in school and moving on up the ranks to college and the pros.

-- Michael Gatton (mg143@aol.com), April 09, 2001.

Sports news is magnet content that attracts folks to your site.

How well do school sports and school websites mix?  Pretty well if you are trying to build your school's online community.  My experience is that sports parents are, by and large, more involved with the school and know more about the school than typical parents.  Consider the football parents:

They have something in common that builds bonds with the athletes, their follow sports parents, and the school:  Every day during the season their sons come home tired, bruised, dirty, and starving-to-death.  At games they some exciting relief from their complicated lives.  They may see their son exhibit skill, discipline, determination, courage, and sportsmanship.

During the season parents bump into each other after practice and at meetings.  At games they sit with their fellow sports parents.  They learn the names of about 30 - 40 of the athletes, 12 of the cheerleaders, a bunch of the band members, and they get to know most of the parents.  And you know what they do at the football games?  They talk to each other about their boys, the team, the coaches, the school, the teachers, and the rumors.  The activity and the community it builds generate a lot of energy.

What's this got to do with a webmaster?  Well, the energy translates into folks who will send you schedules, scores, and game reports.  It translates into folks who will visit your site just to see sports news.  If you can provide some additional service such as a map to the game or a link to the conference standings, the sports surfers may think you have a pretty-cool-site and might visit some of the other pages you worked so hard on.  They might even find a picture of that teacher their son always complains about or find out that the science project is due next week.

I talked with our track coach (who is a science teacher) this afternoon and asked him about school sports on the web.  He said that before a track meet he surfs his competitor's website to see what he can learn.  If the track page is good, and it usually isn't, he looks for science teachers and checks to see if they've published their lesson plans.  Well, I never though of that.

-- Terry Kearns (pthkdym@aol.com), April 09, 2001.

Without a doubt, Athletics. We are a boys school and have 13 varsity sports, grandparents from all over the country want to know the score of the game almost immediately.

-- Glenn Hymel (hymel_g@strakejesuit.org), April 18, 2001.

The two things that have attracted folks to Grady High School's sites this year are our weekly email newsletters called *GradyGrams* and our forum called "Real News."

Our home page has a link that allows folks to join our mailing list. We have about 800 students. We have about 200 folks on the mailing list, mostly parents, some students and teachers, middle school PTSA folks, a few school board members and other community members. Each Friday we email a calendar and announcements for the next week. We also archive all the emails so folks can find old versions. A number of schools have mailing lists like this. This is the most popular thing we've done and it has attracted folks to the website and to its potential.

"Real News" allows the school community to publish on their own. It's a response to the question, "Why haven't you published the basketball scores yet?" We set up a simple LUSENET forum (the Webmasters' Forum is a LUSENET forum)that allows folks to post news themselves. It got off the ground because some soccer parents wrote game reports and emailed them to the team. We created the forum and just paste in the game reports. Now, we have an archive of game reports for the last two years, all in one safe, accessable place.

The value of Real News is that it demonstrates the value of community contributions. You get more current information, you get more people actively involved in publishing and reading, and you get folks thinking about the website's potential. Did I mention that this takes a real burden off of the webmaster and reduces the publishing bottleneck?

The risk in allowing the community to publish is that that someone might post something bad or otherwise misbehave. It is certainly a risk. It is probably worth clearly distinguishing between official school information and user contributed information.

-- Terry Kearns (pthkdym@aol.com), April 18, 2001.

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