Once you have your chapter set up with
an effective e-mail system, it's time to think about setting up a Web page.
Chapter Web pages are a great way to give members 24-hour access to information
regarding chapter activities as well as providing links to psychology-related
resources found elsewhere on the Internet. However, just as I pointed out
potential problems associated with establishing an efficacious e-mail system in
the last issue of Eye on Psi Chi, there
are also potential problems with developing chapter Web pages.
The biggest obstacle one is likely to encounter
creating a Web site is where to store it. When I say "store" a Web
site, I mean roughly the same thing you do when you save an individual file,
like a WordPerfect file, to a 3.5 floppy disk. The difference is that a Web
site must be saved on a computer network that is accessible via the Internet.
Obviously, a 3.5 floppy disk carried in your backpack isn't going to be
accessible via the Internet. The problem with finding a suitable network on
which to store your chapter Web site is that some schools don't provide Web
space for student organizations on their network servers, while other schools
that do provide space don't offer easy accessibility that would facilitate
quick and frequent Web page updates. The focus of this article is to suggest
alternatives to storing Web sites on college or university networks.
If you can work with your school's
computer services department to set up an easily accessible chapter Web site on
your school's server, this, of course, would be the preferred option. Nonetheless,
some chapters will not have this choice and will have to find other ways of
posting a Web page on the Internet. Geocities (http://www.geocities.com) is a
destination on the World Wide Web that allows individuals to post Web pages
free of charge, provided the actual Web pages don't exceed 1 MB of network
space. This would be one alternative to storing Web sites on school networks.
The positive aspects of Geocities are
that it is free and readily accessible 24 hours a day from any computer that
has access to the World Wide Web. One can make Web page alterations from
home-based personal computers or school computers. Thus, with Geocities, it is
well within a chapter's power to make frequent changes to the chapter's Web
pages stored on the Geocities server. This means keeping chapter activity
calendars current is a real possibility. In contrast, accessing Web pages
posted on school servers sometimes requires contacting a school administrator
to approve Web page alterations. One may also find that Web pages stored on
school servers are not easily changed from a home computer that accesses the
Internet with a modem. These disadvantages related to school servers can delay
Web page updates for days or weeks, thus defeating the purpose of posting
activities calendars on the Web.
Geocities isn't the perfect
alternative, however. One drawback with using Geocities is that there are
limited support services available. Therefore, to get the most out of Geocities
one should already have some knowledge of programs such as WS_ftp. This program
allows one to upload files using FTP (file transfer protocol). If you don't
know how to use WS_ftp, Geocities does have a fairly comprehensive help page
that attempts to explain how to upload pages to their site using their
primitive Web page editor. Nonetheless, be warned--when I say primitive Web
page editor, I mean primitive. Forget about adding pictures and unique
backgrounds that will make your Web site stand out. The appearance you will get
using the Geocities editor will be very generic.
Another problem with Geocities is that
their computers have been know to crash, resulting in the loss of stored
information (i.e., your Web page is lost). Geocities does back up information
stored on their computers every so often, but there are no assurances they've
saved your latest update. A few months ago I stored a personal Web page on
Geocities. Due to several computer crashes at Geocities, I had to upload my Web
page over three times in one week. Since most students are pressed for time,
repeatedly uploading Web pages can quickly turn into a major nuisance.
Other unwanted idiosyncrasies will also
confront you at Geocities, but I'll leave that to your discovery. I'll end my
discussion of Geocities by saying that you get what you pay for, and that if
you are confused by some terms I've used in the last few paragraphs, then
Geocities may be more hassle than it's worth.
The next alternative I'd like to
discuss is storing your chapter Web page with a local Internet service provider
(ISP). This alternative provides many benefits and few drawbacks. On the
positive side, local ISPs generally don't have problems with their computers
crashing. This will save you from having to upload your Web pages repeatedly as
you might find yourself doing with Geocities. Another benefit of using an ISP
is the availability of technicians to help you over the rough spots when
posting your Web page on their server. It's much easier to understand Web page
technology when it's explained to you by a human rather than trying to decipher
a poorly written FAQ (frequently asked questions) page on the Internet.
Nonetheless, ISPs are not completely
problem free. The most obvious drawback with using an ISP is that storing a Web
page on a local ISP will cost your chapter a small monthly fee. The current
rate charged by most ISPs is $19.95 per month for Internet access, which
usually includes up to 2 MB of Web site storage space on their server. I
realize that for most chapters $19.95 is money better spent in other ways,
especially when one considers that over 12 months the cost adds up to $239.40.
If one is diplomatic, however, chances are fair that an ISP may donate Web
space in exchange for some kind of advertisement placed at the bottom of your
chapter's Web page.
To date, the two alternatives I've
proposed here seem to be the best alternatives to storing Web pages on your
school's servers. I hope I've done a fair job explaining the perils of Web page
publishing in a manner understandable by most. If, however, you find yourself
confused by what I've said here, feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I'll try to answer any questions
this article may have elicited.