Re: Cohousing Digital System
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Fri, 14 Feb 2020 08:22:42 -0800 (PST)
> On Feb 13, 2020, at 1:15 PM, Scott Drennan <scottd [at]> wrote:

> We use a combination of G-Suite and Wordpress for sharing information among
> our membership, budgeting/accounting, expense/invoice tracking, marketing,
> decision tracking&minutes, calendaring/booking, intra-community
> communication, etc.  But I wouldn't classify either G-Suite or Wordpress as
> something which is similar to Mosaic and Gather.  

Agreed. Drupal and Wordpress are software programs that you have to learn how 
to use to make them do what you want. There are thousands of plugins that can 
be added for specific features but you still have to understand them so you can 
troubleshoot and use them to their full advantage.

Gather and Mosaic are complete programs that do everything they do without 
programing or changes. They are designed for a specific purpose and over time 
have included more and more features. But they are also complete in and of 
themselves and not all changes are possible.

I favor Wordpress because in the end, it will do whatever you want it to do. 
But in my community, some of the people who wanted to work on the website 
didn’t like Wordpress — they wanted something like Mosaic or Gather but when 
the decision was made neither were developed enough for them to feel 
comfortable with them.

We ended up using Association Voice for the main website for the pubic and 
private pages, storage of PDFs of minutes, policies, etc. CalendarWiz for our 
complex scheduling — we schedule 2 parking places, 2 guest rooms, 5 or 6 places 
in the CH, the piazza, the SE corner, and record who is away. Other things as 
well. The calendar is very well used and very feature rich. No matter what we 
do we would probably still use it. People doing special meals, etc, use Google 
docs for sign ups. Each one does their own.

Association Voice is standard condo management software and designed primarily 
for property managers. For me it is too programmed — changes have to be done by 
Association Voice and they are limited. It isn’t as flexible as having your own 
server with unlimited memory and ability to add features.

We have also had good luck with a Facebook page. I was opposed to it because 
the decision was made during the revelations about Facebook’s involvement with 
the Russians. I didn’t want to be associated, but I also resist anything that 
feels like marketing. Business cards. Regular tours. Etc. In the end,  it has 
been easy for everyone to post pictures etc., share comments, etc. And for 
former residents to reconnect and see what is going on now.

One of the hardest things for members who have left is leaving the internal 
email group for members only. It’s like cutting the cord. The world goes blank 
and silent — even when they complained about email all the time when they were 

But it really depends entirely on who is going to do the work. 

The person doing the main website on Association Voice loves it and spends a 
good deal of time on it. She has developed it to do many more things than I or 
other webmasters did. But I also never use it. I prefer something less 
commercial. No matter what you do to it it screeches real estate. It’s just the 
look of it. I feel like I’m living in a retirement community. Too slick and 
controlled. But that is what some members like.

I’m willing to spend days and days programming wordpress to handle a wiki for 
all our buildings and grounds stuff. We have had a very successful wiki on 
Google Sites, but they kept changing their policies and doing things without 
telling us. Limiting memory. Not doing what they said they would do. Etc.  I 
spent a month studying all the wiki software and finally ended up using 
Wordpress. I designed forms so entries can be made from the frontend so no one 
has to know anything about code or being exposed to things they don’t want to 
know about. Now we will have complete control over everything.

If I walk in front of a truck, any Wordpress expert (I use the word lightly) 
can step in if something goes wrong and can help make the next decisions about 
what to do. People in the community who know anything about programming have 
been able to step in very quickly to do this and that. They just do so much 
computer stuff all day, they don’t want to do more.

Because of our experience with Google — about to lose years of information 
after having lost years of attachments at YahooGroups — I wouldn’t trust any 
service free or expensive that doesn’t give you full control over your 
information. It has to be downloadable in a format that can be uploaded 
somewhere else in another program. That is vital. Google will tell you it does 
a lot of stuff but in the end, when you really need it, they have some 
limitation they never told you about.

Wix and FourSquare — simple sites that produce lovely looking websites are not 
robust enough to handle all the stuff a cohousing community will build up on 
10-20 years. You will end up using a bit of this and bit of that. It can be 
frustrating not to have it all in one place. Speaking one language. And one 
monthly bill. (I’ve yet to figure out how much we spend on telecommunications 
because it is in so many parts of our budget.)

Who is going to do the work, and how much will it cost in the end? Do you have 
complete control?

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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