Fixing a Site: Google Webmaster Tools

January 31, 2011

Ken Cybulska, a member of Staten Island Netpreneurs, sent around a link to an excellent Google webinar about the Google toolkits, “Google tools to turbocharge your website.”

Fast Smart Web Design was thrown up in a hurry a couple of years ago and then left to fester while we pursued actual work. (The shoemaker’s children have no shoes….) But it’s time to clean up the site, see what works, and kill off the rest.

The Google tools webinar provides a step-by-step approach to optimization, and we thought, “Hey, let’s see if this works, and if it does, we can follow the same process with our clients.”

So here’s the first step: Use Google’s webmaster tools to find out what Google sees when it indexes your site. Read the rest of this entry »

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Make Your Website Multilingual in 5 Easy Steps

December 19, 2010
The starting website, Fast Smart Web Design

The starting website, Fast Smart Web Design, in English

On Staten Island, nearly every time I meet with food-pantry and soup-kitchen organizers, they mention that some new ethnic group has shown up at their doors. For example, the food program with which I’m associated expected to serve English and Spanish speakers. We do, but we also now serve Russian and Chinese speakers, and a nearby food pantry has had an influx of Albanians.

It’s hard, and expensive, to keep up with all the languages and cultures crossing our thresholds. How can you avoid spending money you don’t have on multiple translations of your materials, and yet help all the people who need your services?

There is a solution, and although it’s not perfect, it’s probably good enough: Follow a few rules for your text and then use Google Translate to create websites that can be translated on the fly into 54 different languages. (If you do mostly print materials, you can use the same techniques to translate your brochures into multiple languages. Just be sure to use a typeface like Lucida Sans Unicode that has letters in almost all known languages.)

Heres what to do:

  1. Change the text on your website so that it’s easy to translate. Use pictures and maps and reduce the text to captions wherever you can. Dont use synonyms—if client and customer mean the same thing, pick one term and stick with it. Spell out abbreviations—they dont get translated (and not everyone knows what they represent in English anyway). Check spelling and grammar carefully—errors dont translate well. Read the rest of this entry »

Barbara Crafton on the Corboba Center

July 6, 2010

In her Almost Daily eMo, Rev. Barbara Crafton wrote about the Muslim Cordoba Center proposed for the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan. What she says has bearing on the mosque controversy here on Staten Island, although she doesn’t mention it in her post.

To read her piece, click here.

Online Donation Tools

May 26, 2010

Idealware’s Laura S. Quinn just published a useful update on online donation tools.

What Sense of Entitlement…

May 21, 2010
End of Massachusetts Street

End of Massachusetts Street

On Tuesday, I drove home with a Parks employee, let’s call her Q, who had discovered that day that three 60-foot oaks had been girdled (the bark cut all the way around to kill the tree) in Conference House Park. The damaged trees and a cleared area were behind the Park’s fence directly opposite a brick house on Massachusetts St., which borders the park.

Hmm. That’s bad. Why would someone do that?

The Sighting

On my way into work on Wednesday, I drove down Massachusetts St., and who was there but an older gentleman standing at the end of the street, scraping dirt off his adze with his foot. (That might explain the damage at the bottom of the trees—easier to do with an adze than an ax.)

So I got out of my car and said, “I’m from the Conference House Park and we noticed some damage to the trees here. Have you seen anyone working in this lot?”

“No,” he said, “I just moved in two weeks ago.”

“Oh,” I said. “Maybe landscapers or gardeners? Someone caught vandalizing a tree has to pay something like $80,000 for the damage, so….”

He seemed a bit startled by that. I said, “If you see anyone, could you call us, please? Let me give you my card.”

He took the card, and I said, “Come visit us sometime!” and smiled, and he smiled back. I didn’t go behind the fence to look, however—not yet. Read the rest of this entry »

NYC’s 2011 Budget: Who Speaks for Parks?

May 19, 2010

A water filtration pond in Conference House Park, 2009, before the damage

A water filtration pond in Conference House Park, 2009, before the nor'easter damage in 2010

Dr. Marcia Van Wagner, assistant comptroller in the New York City Comptroller’s Office, talked about the NYC budget Monday, May 17, 2010, on Staten Island.

Here are some highlights:

  • Financially, New York City is the fourth largest government in the U.S. The federal government manages the most money, followed by California, New York State, and then New York City.
  • Because of the Financial Emergency Act, passed in the 1970s when the city was about to go bankrupt, the city must balance its budget and also keep a reserve of at least $100 million (in practice, the cushion is $300 million).
  • The city gets 60 percent of its revenues from taxes and most of the rest from the state and federal governments. Total revenues in fiscal year 2010 (from July 1 to June 30) were $60 billion.
  • Fifty-seven percent of the money was spent on salaries, pensions, and benefits. The rest was spent on social services (17 percent), contracts, and other non-personnel expenses.
  • Breaking down expenditures by function, 30 percent was spent on education (including salaries), 20 percent on social services, 13 percent on public safety (police, fire), 16 percent on pensions and benefits, and the rest on environmental protection, sanitation, health, and paying off debt.
  • The city has a nifty acronym for methods used to balance the budget: PEG, or “Programs to Eliminate the Gap.” Van Wagner offered a few examples: Increasing parking-ticket fees would be a revenue PEG. Eliminating fire houses would be an expense PEG.

Read the rest of this entry »

Tracking the damage with cell phones

May 5, 2010

For the computer geeks among us:

A nonprofit called The Louisiana Bucket Brigade has created an online “crisis-map” that is crowdsourcing reports from victims of the Gulf Coast oil spill. The group is using social media — including mobile video, email, and text-messaging — to aggregate health, job, and water quality reports from people living in the coastal crisis zone. Organizers are then plotting these reports on their Web-based Oil Spill Crisis Map in near real-time to track the spread of environmental damage.

For the full story, see Nonprofit Uses Social Media to Track Oil Spill Fallout.

Quote of the Day about Volunteer Work

April 26, 2010

Rick Cohen commenting in the article Solving Problems Through Service: CAP Event Looks at State of Volunteering:

At a meeting of the Center for American Progress (CAP), one of the speakers said that “70 percent of nonprofits are completely volunteer-run.  That statistic is amazing, but the nation has to ensure that it doesn’t confuse the value that unpaid (or low-paid stipended) volunteers bring with the necessity of creating good career paths with livable salaries in the nonprofit sector.”

Cohen also mentioned that the speakers acknowledged that most volunteers are middle-class suburbanites who can afford to work for free. But when they said it was important to make volunteering more accessible to people in low-income areas, it struck him, he said, as “missing the almost constant mutual aid that occurs in low-income communities that doesn’t get classified as ‘volunteering’ (just like the constant flow of charitable donations as remittances that don’t get counted as charitable giving in minority neighborhoods). Moreover,” he added, “it would be so much better to see low-income people’s employment and income prospects raised so that they don’t have to fear the trade-off between time spent volunteering and time spent earning an income.”

The Math Behind No Good Deed Going Unpunished

April 22, 2010

Pearls Before Swine

City Money: Why Make Non-profits Responsible?

April 20, 2010

According to the New York Times article “Nonprofit Groups Hopeful but Wary as City Aims to Cut Red Tape,” Mayor Bloomberg’s administration is about to overhaul its system for distributing city money.

Having a centralized office for efficiently distributing money to non-profits is the goal. Currently, non-profits are promised funding for various projects through city council members who then tell the relevant city department to fund the programs. However,  each department has different rules and different deadlines for proposals and reports. I’ve talked to heads of a number of organizations who depend on city funds for soup kitchens and pantries, and they all throw up their hands. The money is always late and the paperwork is arcane.

So anything that simplifies the process is good.

However, I don’t think a simplified process for distributing money is what we New Yorkers need. I think our attention is being misdirected. Read the rest of this entry »