Commonweal & Web practices
From: Christina_Hilliard-LCH005 (Christina_Hilliard-LCH005email.mot.com)
Date: Tue, 23 Apr 1996 13:42:58 -0500
Hi all,
In an effort to publicize Comonweal Cohousing (Massachusetts), we've maintained 
a World Wide Web page since mid-February,  and we just passed our 500th-hit 
milestone.  

(For non-Web-sters, this means that we used a free Web service to count the 
number of accesses to, or "hits on,"  our Web page.)  

This of course is a tiny number, by Web standards, (cf 10,000++ hits per DAY at 
a site like People Magazine, or "HotBabes" [please, don't ask me for the URL]), 
but by Commonweal standards, you might say it's the equivalent of an Intro 
meeting, with 35 people in attendance, every single week!  And that, to us, is 
huge.

After learning the ropes of tagging, posting, and linking by trial and error, 
and by copious copying and adapting of ideas I find on the Web, I'm terribly 
eager to know how other cohousing groups have used the Web, and with what 
results.

To me, much of the value in Web publicity is in simply introducing the concept 
more widely, and accelerating the spread of public awareness and of cohousing's 
entry into the common idiom.  Then more people will actually consider the idea 
for themselves, since it will be less "foreign."  

The availability of detailed project content, for the use of people already 
involved with us, is secondary, but important, too.  (We list our upcoming 
meetings, FAQs, and contacts, and we're adding site and group info.) 

We've had several email followups from the page, and three people have come to 
at least one meeting after first learning about us on the Web.  (This is much, 
much lower than follow-ups after a real Intro meeting.)

I am particularly interested in insights into the kind of content that will 
prompt email inquiries from live leads.  Good design, frequent content updates, 
and human interest (e.g., member profiles) are some examples.

We've done a lot of linking of our URL (or home-page address), at sites that 
fall mainly into these categories:

   . Indexes (Yahoo, Inktomi, InfoSeek, Starting Point, others)

   . Spider sites (WWW Worm, Webcrawler, others)
 
  . Geographically-oriented sites (WorcesterWeb, Clark U.'s Local 
    Sites of Interest, CityNet Worcester, BostonWeb, others)

  . Family-oriented sites (ParentNet--looking for ideas here)

  . Usenet groups (ne.housing, alt.somthing.sustainable, others)

  . Related clubs and organizations (home-finding sites, a local 
    bike shop, a sustainable-development site, an architectural
   info center, others)

We've also indirectly linked, by entering our INFO (Introductory) meetings into 
several on-line Calendars of Upcoming Events, which are maintained by some 
real-estate sites, some towns, and other clubs and groups.   Where possible, we 
include the URL in the meeting annoucement.  Any calendar tips? 

We are considering entering Commonweal's URL, or perhaps the Cohousing Center's 
URL, into paid subscription indexes.  Has anyone determined the value of this 
type of index?  It seems hard to go wrong with a $5. to $75. monthly investment 
for the listing, but there are so many.  And a good designer can make a tiny RE 
operation look like an international conglomerate!

One good thing about having the two URLs (The Cohousing Center's page describes 
the business' functions, and the non-cohousing architectural services it 
offers), is that we can get legitimately and approriately  list with both 
non-commercial, community-type ".org" and ".edu" organizations, and with 
business (".com") indexes.

Our model of excellence is the Westwood Cohousing page (North Carolina).  They 
have terrific variety and human appeal, as well as detailed content.  We hope 
to 
have our page buffed up to  a comparable (?) level within the next two months, 
especially now that we have a (physical) site. We may post recent decisions, 
site plot plans, policies, all kinds of info.

How have Web-aware cohousing groups fared?  
Are you tracking responses?  
What parts of your page seem to draw the most interest? Any "goldmine" listing 
sites?  

(I'd have to say InfoSeek is good, though it's hard to be sure where people 
find 
your URL.)  I also recommend creative use of keywords (KEYWORD tag), with words 
like (family, kids, sustainable, home-site, fun, child care, New-England, 
neighborhood, village) and conceptually-creative words that will make your page 
pop up on people's search results, a little unexpectedly.  I change some 
keywords every month or so, so that when spiders sweep by, they will re-catalog 
the URL.   But be judicious with this.

Christina Hilliard
Commonweal Cohousing
 
 
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