Website: Open Source Homeland

Today I launched a website called Open Source Homeland. Here’s the about page:

This site highlights the people and tools that support the idea of Open Source Homeland— that regular citizens can play key roles in what are traditionally considered government responsibilities— disaster recovery, national security, and emergency preparedness.

Here are some recent examples:

  • Craigslist Katrina: the spontaneous offers of help and lists of the missing that were organized quickly and efficiently by regular people on a free website. Thousands of people with free tools doing what the government couldn’t possibly do on its own
  • CTA Alerts: a group of hundreds of riders of the Chicago Transit Authority who text each other with service updates. The largest contributor to this site, which I started on a free wireless network service, is the CTA itself. Government cooperating with citizens to get things done cheaply
  • Policy Analysis Market: the failed 2003 initiative of DARPA-run Terrorism Information Awareness Office. It was to be an online tool that would allow people to trade contracts on the likekihood of certain events. Subtitled “A Market in the Future of the Middle East“, PAM sought to use market forces to pull quality info out of normal people

In earlier times, people used spades and seeds to plant victory gardens. Now we naturally turn to other tools. With a focus on the United States, this site highlights the tools people use to be of use.

Open Source Homealnd

Website: Case Study on a Parish Weblog

I maintain the parish website at http://parish.queenofangelschicago.org/. Here’s a summary of the website strategy & structure, some stats on the site, and some thinking for the future.

Underlying strategy

  • The site launched in the Spring of 2004 after a few months of planning and development
  • There were a couple of main impetuses for the site– one was to have all of the great content from the weekly parish publication (The Guide) available on the web (this has been successful) and the other was to allow any ministry to publish their own content to the web as well (less successful)
  • In support of the “ministries can publish” strategy, I conducted a number of training sessions at the school after we launched the site. Some ministries attended. The Peace & Justice Committee, http://www.peaceandjusticechicago.com/,  were probably the most excited and they maintained a site for a while. The Respect Life Committee published for a while as well
  • Another successful site was for the Athletic Committee, http://www.chicagoknights.com/. They have stopped publishing to the site as well
  • I think one reason why few groups publish on their own is because they are so well-represented in The Guide (and therefore on the Parish homepage). So, I think the strategy was actually flawed and not the execution. It’s really too much to expect entities to maintain their own sites in a volunteer environment. They are well served with the other element of the strategy (i.e. publishing to The Guide = publishing to the web).

Underlying technology

  • I created the site myself using TypePad. I am providing the logins in the mailed version of this email for the sake of security.
  • The top banner was created by parishioner Tim Irvine
  • TypePad costs $15/ month
  • I get a copy of The Guide every week. I cut up the articles (Nothing Is Impossible With God, Announcements, and Mass Schedule & This Week at Queen of Angels). If there is a big story, I pull it out of Announcements and make it separate.  In the main, I publish as soon as I get The Guide– I’d say 70% of the time. I do lapse every once in a while and have to publish 2 at a time
  • The URL for the site is a subdomain of the school Web site:  http://parish.queenofangelschicago.org/
  • TypePad generates RSS feeds for the site. These are underutilized by parishioners– there is room for improvement here. Here’s a good primer on RSS: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/help/3223484.stm
  • There is room in our $15 TypePad account for an infinite amount of subsites and URLs

Statistics
Here are some hard numbers about our website:

  • There are close to 800 pages of content on the Parish website. You can browse the entire archives here: http://parish.queenofangelschicago.org/archives.html
  • This includes every single word published in The Guide for the last 3 years
  • We currently average 73 unique visitors per day and the view an average of two pages each. In the overall world of the internet, this is not a lot of people, but in our world of Catholic parishes, it’s actually pretty good. That’s like 511 visitors to the Parish per week!
  • We get some web stats from a free service called Site Meter, www.sitemeter.com. You can get the stats just by clicking on the colored box in the left column or go here: http://www.sitemeter.com/?a=stats&s=sm3queenofangels
  • We also get some stats inside the TypePad tool
  • Judging from the referrers (i.e. the link that people clicked on to get to our site), a high percentage of our visitors are from search engine traffic (as opposed to parishioners or other people who know about the site and reach it by typing the URL into the browser or by a browser bookmark
  • We rank #1 for the search term, “Fr. Jim Kaczorowski”, for instance: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=father+jim+kaczorowski
  • We also use Google Analytics for web stats: www.google.com/analytics. See the attached chart for the most popular content in the last week (highly representative of what I’ve seen through time). Here’s the list:
  1. Homepage
  2. Masses
  3. Contacts
  4. General Parish Info
  5. History
  6. Book a Wedding
  7. Links
  8. Nothing is Impossible With God

Queen of Angels Parish, Chicago

Member: Queen of Angels Catholic Parish Pastoral Council

This month I joined the Queen of Angels Catholic Parish Pastoral Council. Here’s the functions of this group:

  • Advise and work with the Pastor on policy development and vision formation.
  • Advise the Pastor on other concerns he may bring to the Council.
  • Coordinate the activities of the Parish towards its goals through its Clusters.
  • Present Parish goals to the Finance Council for their possible incorporation in the Parish budget. The PPC reviews the proposed budget to see what parish goals or pastoral ministries have or have not been financially sustained. The Council may question and advise on the budget.

Queen of Angels Pastoral Council