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 email@example.com, and I'll try to answer any questions this article may have elicited.
Winter 1997 issue of Eye on Psi Chi (Vol. 1, No. 2, pp. 19, 24), published by Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology (Chattanooga, TN). Copyright, 1997, Psi Chi, The National Honor Society in Psychology. All rights reserved.