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Club politics, or another reason I started aboc ...

by Carl Brewer last modified 2007-03-07 18:36
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The Blackburn CC is dragging the chain on a new club website. I'm not amused.

A little background before I vent.  BBN (Blackburn Cycling Club) is the club I'm a member of, and aboc is a sponsor of.  BBN is, whether they admit it or not, heavily biased towards track riders - if you're not a tracky, you're out of the loop. The club fails dismally to communicate with its members.  Newsletters are once every 6 months if at all, the website is moribund since Alan Barnes (who to his credit, worked for a long time on it and it has some good content) got his new job and has lost time and/or interest in maintaining it. One of the reasons I started aboc was to look after riders who were being neglected by the club - the club is happy to have your money and membership and help at events, but unless you're a junior or a tracky, it makes little effort to communicate with you and help you.  Thus, aboc was borne!

One of the pieces of the solution puzzle is a CMS website, one that delegates and simplifies the addition of content and allows the club editorial control.  Just like the aboc site - the aboc site you're reading this on was created as a testbed of Plone, a CMS that fits the clubs needs pretty-much spot-on.

Clubs, being committee run (as they should be), take time to make decisions, but their latest one is a real corker.  Here's my draft letter to the committee after the latest bad decision to come out of the committee :

The BBN committee et al ...

The club faces an ongoing issue, which was clearly identified during strategic planning sessions in the summer of '05-'06.  A core problem the club has is retaining club members, and one of the key factors in this was identified as a lack of communication with club members.
There's not been a newsletter in months, and the club website is moribund.  Alan Barnes, as the current site maintainer, has lost
interest and the site is such that delegating this task to others is not feasible.  Fixing this is now no longer a background task, it is a matter of urgency.

Almost insurmountable barriers exist between club members with information and news and getting that information made available to other club members. If club members don't show up to track races in summer, they don't know anything about what's going on, and that is a clear and identified failure on the part of the club.  We know it's bad, and we need to fix it, and it has been the case for at least as long as I have been a member of Blackburn (some 5 years now).

At the planning meetings last summer, Tabatha Cole suggested that the club investigate the use of a CMS (Content Management system) to replace the current website.  The primary advantage that a CMS presents is the ability to easily add content and to provide editorial control over content in ways that suit the club's policies.

At present, there are two proposed CMS solutions in various stages of readyness for the club to consider.  Both proposed solutions are good, both solutions are suitable for the main aims of a sporting club website, which is that they offer easy addition of content and easy editorial control.  Additionally, both are mature and stable products.  There are technical and political differences between the two, but both are, in their current forms, far superior to the current site and capable of rapid deployment to a service provider site. I know I can get the proposed Plone site online at a professional service provider in a matter of days if given the authority to do so.  While there are healthy differences of opinion between the proponents of both sites, these are on technical and quasi-religious reasons, and should not, in my opinion, influence the decisions made by the club.

I learnt tonight that the club has decided to hire a consultant to determine the club's requirements and to make a recommendation on what CMS is most suitable for the club's use.  This is, in my opinion, an appalling and disgraceful waste of the club's money, and a further setback in terms of time. It will add at least another 6 months to the process and who knows how many thousands of dollars to the cost of the system, which can be done for free, now, with both Magnolia and

As a club sponsor, I am very disappointed that the club has elected to spend precious time and money to hire a consultant when the club has expertise in this field available and willing to present solutions. A consultant will have to spend a lot of time determining the club's requirements and needs, which duplicates the work we did last summer and over the previous winter in evaluating CMS's and building experience with them in real world scenarios.

That is what I have done with Plone, after extensive testing with my own commercial websites. I didn't recommend Plone because I like the default template, I recommended it because it is a very good fit for the club's website requirements both now, and in the foreseeable future. It is not the only good fit, but it is a very good fit, and it is a well supported, stable and
popular CMS, which is used not only be many sporting and volunteer organisations worldwide, but also NASA and the United Nations.

As a club member, I'm surprised and disappointed at the club's lack of respect for the recommendations made to it by both the Plone team (myself and Rowan Geddes) and Magnolia, championed by John Nicholson.  Does the club not think that we did our homework? Is the committee so insecure and indecisive as to not trust its own judgement that it needs a report from an outsider to tell it what it already knows?  We need to fix the website, and we need to fix it now.  We can have a Plone or Magnolia site in place and running in less than 4 weeks, and can expand on what it offers as the demand for such expansion
presents itself.

I urge the club committee to reconsider the decision made to hire a consultant.  I urge the committee to make a decision between Plone and Magnolia and to let us get on with addressing the urgent need to communicate with club members.  While I think that Plone is a superior solution to Magnolia, in either case, I want to be able to contribute content to the site now, not in
another year.


Blackburn Cycling Club

Posted by robmonteath at 2007-03-13 05:10
Interesting read.....I have been a member of Blackburn for almost a year and to be honest I am disappointed that nobody has contacted me apart from an e-mail to tell me that I was on the summer roster. I have been a member of two Golf Clubs and both clubs had a new members day. I thought that this was a great way to meet people at the club and to find out what facilities are available to you.

I agree the BBN website is not good and there is alot of improvements needed. I am a frequent visitor to the aboc website and there is alot of great information available. I keen to find out when the clubs next meeting is as I am keen to voice me concern.


good idea!

Posted by Carl Brewer at 2007-03-14 23:20
Rob, a new members day would be great, and easy to organise - I think aboc would even sponsor a BBQ. I'll suggest it to the committee when I next see a committee member.

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