on having two squeakland websites
A few people have been suggesting that Squeakland should have two
websites, the "official" site we have now, and a new "community"
website with a different look & navigation scheme.
As with all suggestions, I'm open to ideas, but in this particular
case, I'd like some serious community discussion about this. I'd like
there to be solid, compelling, reasons for such a move.
Here are the reasons I'm against "splitting the baby", as IMO would
happen if we make two sites. I'll distinguish as squeakland.org
(official) and etoysville.com (community).
1. etoysville.com would siphon away a significant number of visitors
The single biggest boost in squeakland.org website traffic will be the
public showcase, because of its social networking potential. When
everyone can upload Etoys projects and easily email their friends and
family and post on facebook and myspace about it, etc, our traffic
numbers will grow exponentially from what we're experiencing now.
IMO, it is to the benefit of Squeakland that these new visitors come
to squeakland.org, where they can see "download", "contact", "about",
"tutorials", "donate", etc. They will be much more likely to click
such links than they would if there was a single "squeakland" link
from etoysville.com back to squeakland.org.
2. squeakland.org will be able to have callout boxes around the site
with random public projects
It's very easy to have projects appear on the home page and perhaps
even within a sidebar on all pages on the official website. This
will draw people to the showcase and keep the site looking fresh and
alive, which is always a good thing. The more people see fresh
content, the more they will return to the website. Yes, we could
achieve the same thing with RSS between sites, but there's two
problems here. First, clicking the link draws visitors away from squeakland.org
, which decreases the chance they will click "donate", "come to
squeakfest", or any of the other links we want them to see. Second,
clicking such a link and finding yourself at a different website with
a different look & feel is confusing to new visitors. Remember that
our target audience is largely non-technical. We could make it
somewhat clear from the callout box, but my first point still applies.
3. "squeakland" as a name is already well suited to connote community
From the start, I've always seen squeakland.org as a shared website
for everyone, not just the sandbox for arbitrarily selected team
members :) Having hundreds of new voices scattered throughout the
site is a very positive move. It will generate a strong feeling of
community for anyone that first visits the site (and we want first
time visitors to show up where the "download" and "donate" links
are. Put another way, I want squeakland.org to resemble New York
City more than Los Angeles .... the former has lots of people walking
the streets, the latter has almost no pedestrians in evidence. I
*want* to see the people.
4. having *lots* of fresh, compelling content is good PR for
As we try to raise money from corporations, government organizations,
and individuals, it would hurt us to have the "10,000+ projects"
number located on another website with a different look and apparent
group. If there's two sites to choose from, there will always be the
"who should I give money to" confusion, or more likely, "I don't need
to give money because it looks like they're volunteer community is
much stronger than their official representation." One of the most
impressive things about the Scratch site is the "number of projects"
box, which simply says "SUCCESS" to new visitors. Their large
number of projects, and the way it's integrated into their main site,
is IMO a big reason for their success. People see people using it,
and so they say, "neat, I'll try it."
5. having the showcase allows us to integrate with other
Everyone who creates a showcase account has an option to subscribe to
our newsletter. The more subscriptions to our newsletter, the better
our ability to keep Etoys in people's minds and promote events like
Squeakfest. My plan was to have a weekly "best of" email that goes
out to interested people that contains five or so new projects from
the showcase. This can already be done with the current website.
Also, anyone who clicks through such emails will go to squeakland.org,
not etoysville.org, which means we're driving traffic to the site we
want action from, not a separate site. Other functionality includes
the ability to make multi-language descriptions for all projects, etc,
6. having two sites will make ongoing maintenance more difficult or
less likely to happen
People tend to improve what's right in front of them, so if the bulk
of the time from our community is spent on a separate community site,
then they'll spend less and less time on squeakland.org, hence they'll
be less likely to volunteer to improve content, see typos, or
whatever. Also, there will be a natural "us vs them" vibe that gets
started, where squeakland.org will be seen more as the "suits" site
that's not really the real volunteer site. (as with OLPC)
7. duplication of content is inevitable with two sites
Splitting efforts like this generally leads to duplication of effort,
where, for example, someone down the road decides to add a community
blog on etoysville.com and it ends up drawing attention (and life)
from squeakland's blog, etc. As much as we say "we won't compete, we
won't duplicate", it's pretty much inevitable, particularly when the
new site gets several orders of magnitude more traffic than the
8. it's just confusing to have two sites
People will always end up on one site or the other, wondering where
something on the other site is. People won't know which site to go
to, or where to put content, etc. You can say, "this is the
project server" as loud as you want, and there will always be people
who get confused by two sites.
9. the new site will draw google rank away from squeakland.org
With google, who links to you is what determines how high up on the
list you place. Having LOTS of people linking to their projects on
their blogs, facebook, etc, will help squeakland's google rank
immeasurably. You'll be able to type "educational software" in
Google and actually show up in the first or second page. Not so if
we split the sites . . . the community one will always win. Also,
having two sites makes it confusing for other sites when determining
which site to link to. Schools will want to link to their group on
the project server . . . requiring them to put both the squeakland
website and the community site is cumbersome, and won't always happen
10. having one site helps us enforce a simple & clear navigation
One of my primary roles at my work is warning clients about making
their site architecture & navigation too cluttered. The general
trend is always to add this page, and this section, and this other
thing, all of which sounds like a good idea at the time, but people
forget the big picture . . . the first time visitor. I force them
to keep things within the "rule of fives", where the top three levels
of navigation must fit within logical groupings, so that there's only
so many misclicks before people find stuff. Usability is the "art of
the obvious", and it's HARD to imagine how people use a site. You
need hallway reviews, and stats analysis, etc, etc. With a separate
community site, there's a greater danger that it'll turn into the OLPC
wiki, where it's much too hard to find things of value. Yes, you can
say, "the community committee can enforce usability", but I'll just
point you back to #6 above. They can help squeakland.org too.
Anyway, these are my major points. There's other ones like
scalability, stats gathering, load balancing, ease of updates, single
point of monitoring, etc, but these are really extensions of #6.
Also, we already have a wiki, which is community generated, so we're
really talking about THREE squeakland websites, not two. (and yes, I
know that #8 applies to having a wiki ... it's a concern of mine)
What reasons are there for having two sites?
I can see five possible reasons so far:
A) it will make the volunteer community feel more empowered to have
their own garden to grow, leading to more effort by these volunteers.
My response to this is that we should make squeakland.org more
appealing to volunteers, if it isn't already, primarily for the
reasons above, particularly #6.
B) not invented here
Some of us want to design & write the software underlying the
community site, or at least customize some other software, because
it's fun and fulfilling, and would be good for local installations.
As with SuperSwiki2 and Michael Rueger's system, Squeakland encourages
such efforts and will help promote their use in local installations.
For the reasons listed above, I'd still prefer to have the centralized
project server be integrated with the primary website. Also, do the
wants of a handful of developers really outweigh the needs of a much
larger community? I need a more compelling reason than "because I
just want to".
C) squeakland is built on storymill, which is not "free and open
source" or written in Squeak itself
My company, Immuexa, is not charging Squeakland for Storymill, and
we've given quite a bit of free labor to add Squeakland specific
enhancements, such as requests by the folks in Brasil for their
Squeakfest site. Immuexa has a team of paid developers that
continually enhance Storymill as they work on other client
projects . . . in other words, Storymill's continued improvement is
paid for by corporate clients. Storymill is production ready, using
the same technology as used by such sites as Bank of America and
Travelocity, etc. We can make *need-based* changes to Storymill very
quickly, and safely . . . either by me or any of my staff. There's
LOTS of functionality in Storymill that we're not yet using, it
combines elements of many social networking, CMS, email & contact
marketing sites ... lots of stuff. If things were switched to Squeak
and Seaside, me and my staff would no longer be able to help in this
That said, if the larger community really feels strongly that all
things Squeakland should be free and open source, and written in
Squeak, then I'd at least ask:
1. that the replacement(s) is immediately capable of replicating all
of the functionality of the existing Squeakland website
2. that someone else spends the time needed to migrate all existing
data to the new system (we'll give you database access & SSH, of course)
3. that you carefully consider that the vast majority of our users
really don't care what's under the hood . . . it's a tool like
Dreamweaver or JIRA.
4. that you consider that the effort needed for such a switch could be
better spent on improving Etoys itself
And the last reason, which has not been publicly stated, but I suspect
exists . . .
D) some people are frustrated with me personally and want the freedom
to change things without me saying "well, what about so and so"
In the end, it usually comes down to personal feelings about creative
control and interpersonal dynamics. In the last nine months, I've had
many people express appreciation for the way I'm doing things, but
also a few who seem to bristle whenever I open my mouth. My style of
spoken delivery is strong, and people can often mistake passion for
arrogance or the need to be right. I'm fully aware of such things.
Behind the passion and apparent obstinance, there's actually a great
willingness to listen to other opinions and change my opinions
completely, which if you listen long enough, you'll see happen often.
I'm a proud flip-flopper. I tend to see many, many factors all at
once (as this email may show), and my ability to express them in
person is not always up to the task, so people sometimes assume that
I'm just being difficult and, even worse, not respecting their
opinion. I really do respect all opinions (even the anti-OLPC guy).
My willingness to put other opinions to the test is really a sign of
respect, not disrespect. And of course, I can completely disagree
and still respect your opinion. Why people link the two is a mystery
Since the most negative remarks seem to come from the people who have
already given the most to Etoys, I tend to believe what someone told
me a while back, that "we're all going through different kinds of
separation anxiety", and that at least a part of the negativity comes
from a "who is this guy, and why is he telling me what to do"
feeling. It hasn't been easy taking the reins from such a talented
and selfless group. And of course there's always "I just don't like
him" too, which is inevitable in some cases.
My answer to all of this is simply: let's talk about it. I'd rather
hear that you don't like me, then perceive it in your body language or
tone of voice. Such disagreements are usually helped by frank and
honest conversation. They usually stem from misunderstandings, which
can only be helped by talking things out. So Skype me and say, "You
piss me off because . . ." and I'll be glad to hear it.
Anyway, this is a long email. If you've read the whole thing, I'm
impressed. Thank you.
Let us know what you think about the two site plan. I really am open
to the idea, but want my ten points above countered before making such
a drastic step.