As per the request of one of the DanceNet readers, here are copies of the past ramblings of the DanceNet Webmaster.
For some of us, if not most, it is a great relief now that the elections are over. For many of us, it was a lesson in frustration in that the general population appeared to have ignored the reality of the past 4 years and voted because of something that *might* happen (i.e., gay "marriage") even if it really would have no impact on themselves. (I almost feel sorry for those Republicans who felt they had to vote against their party).
The voters appeared to ignore or be ignorant of the fact that the current administration lied to the American to get us into an extra war and use up resources (over $200 billion this year and $77 billion next year) and tied down American troop which could have been used elsewhere. Let's not even talk about those soldiers who will not be re-enlisting after their tours are over or when they're allowed to go home, whichever comes last. The voters didn't seem to care that our jobs were getting outsourced to other countries. They don't seem to understand or care that this country went from a surplus to the biggest budget deficit and that our kids will be paying that debt down for...oh, probably forever.
I'm sure that the voters must have gotten confused. The last Democratic president had a balanced budget while the following Republican president had a huge deficit. People expect it the other way around. The current president gave out a tax break to the richest Americans while increasing the deficit to the maximum possible legal limit, and all that without doing what Republicans tend to do in such times: cutting expenses to match the revenues.
It was said that many of the people who voted "Red" in this election pulled their heads out of the ground to vote for an intangible concept called "values" without truly understanding or examining how the adminstration defines "values". They don't understand that Blue states don't just talk about values, that they actually live it. Don't the "Blue" states have fewer divorces and fewer abortions? Who cares about higher income per capita or better education? Perhaps many of these values or issues are really tied together? Many voters appear to not understand that "gay marriage" has nothing to do with their personal lives.
Some people will blame the Democrats' loss on the issue of gay marriage. Whether this is true or not, I remember thinking 9 or 11 months ago (when the Massachusetts' Supreme Judicial Court declared it was illegal to prevent gay marriage) that this would give the Republicans a cause to rally around (even if it was a stupid issue) and I asked why the gay rights groups couldn't just wait until *after* the elections to deal with the issue.
It appears to me that many of us lost view of the big picture and just focused on those little issues near and dear to our hearts and that the real goal was to send a Donald Trump "You're Fired!" to the chief executive officer of this country and tell him he screwed up. The Republican Party was better focused and used the populace's ignorance to rally the votes on the basis of fear, uncertainty and doubt. The Blue voters need to remember that some current non-issues were major problems in the past: women's right to vote, slavery, racial discrimination, and even inter-racial marriage. These were not "traditional" ideas at one time and certainly scared many Americans who never had to think about them before; yet, through time and education, the American people came to see that they couldn't stay with the "old ways". Such is it with the issues that now divide this country. The Republican won this round. The rest of us now have the task of educating and showing the rest of the country that there is no reason to fear all new and/or different ideas, that new ideas are not necessarily bad ideas. We've only got 4 years so we should get started now.
Those stores that install those new "self-serve" cashiers at various grocery and home improvment stores did so to decrease their labor costs and improve their profit (as any self-respecting business should be doing). I'm amused when they try to rationalize such "improvements" as helping the customers get through the lines quicker. I often see the lines for the self-service cashiers get really long as they have fewer and fewer live cashiers at the regular checkouts.
While I don't mind the stores trying to improve the bottom lines by implementing such changes, it confuses me when they promote such efficiencies as being good for the consumer.
For instance, at the local grocery store near my house, I noticed that:
I'll continue to use those self-checkout registers in the future, but I'm under no delusions when the stores tell me that they're there for *my* convenience.
I got into a conversation with a "follower" recently about the beginner lessons taught at dances.
The lady in question said that she had a tough time dancing in a single-hand hold/lead with a beginner dancer. Those beginner lessons aren't going to go into the finer intricacies of "arm tension" so beginner leaders aren't going to know that they shouldn't have "spagetti arms" if they want the follower to feel the lead.
It was suggested that the "instant" beginner lessons be taught in closed position only so that the follower will have a better connection to the leader and be able to follow him better.
It's something for the teachers to think about.
I just noticed that Best Coast Swing was discontinued. This was a dance website that allowed the dance promoters to enter information for their venues with no intervention from the site's webmaster. The webmaster of the site explained that it seemed like there wasn't enough of a critical mass of promoters going onto the website to list their classes and dances.
When that website (that is, Best Coast Swing) came out, I was wondering about how much of a competitor it would be to DanceNet; I had the same thoughts when Total Swing and the New England Swing Dance Server showed up. A part of me had hoped that these other websites would be so good that I could stop running DanceNet while another part of me was annoyed that someone else was encroaching on my "turf".
Over time I saw how these other websites were aimed at different types of web surfers, with styles geared towards a certain type of user, so they really didn't compete with this website. Of course, competition only helps you, the dancer, and these other websites forced me to re-evaluate and review this website constantly.
However, having been in the dance scene since 1991 when we had only our paper newsletter, I've seen the whole range of dance promoters and dance customers. I didn't want to solicit advertisers for this website because it would have become a full-time job and I knew that a lot of promoters wouldn't have wanted to pay for it (at least, they wouldn't have at that time) while I couldn't see the dancers paying for information they could get for free elsewhere. I decided to just build a website with a lot of information and not worry about paying for it until later on. Getting a lot of visitors to this website was the important part.
The key to getting readership is to create a wealth of information to attract the readers. I did that with this website by combing the web for information for inclusion, plus adding all the information that I knew for the local scene. This gave the dancers a reason to come and take a look. Once a reputation for good information was established, the promoters took notice of where their customers were getting their information. At this point, the (other) promoters saw their competition listed and sent in their own information for the website. Pretty soon the dancers and the promoters kept the website active enough to reach a steady-state existance.
Websites such as Best Coast Swing and the New England Swing Dance Server rely on the vendors to self-promote...to list their events themselves. This strategy does not take into account those promoters who are computer illiterate and who won't be entering their data in (Does Ron Gursky even have email?). These promoters are just too happy to let someone do it for them (I have to wonder if my strategy for Dancenet affected Best Coast Swing). Depending on the dancers to input this data is just as problematic, since the same people end up doing all the work and they will eventually wonder why they're getting stuck with it. This impedes the addition of new and current information into the websites' databases and results in "stale" data, the beginning of the end of the usefulness of any website. (Does anyone still use the New England Swing Dance Server to find useful information? I think the preferred West Coast Swing site is now Westie Monkey.)
Another issue is a result of people who aren't into computers. Website design should take into account how the reader will use that information. With so many people still on 56k modems (or slower), Windows 95 and/or Netscape 4.x, it doesn't make much sense to implement a website that includes all the "wizz-bang" special features of newer browsers that won't work with older computers. The websites shouldn't require a lot of typing or clicking to find the needed information or some readers will get frustrated and leave. The value of a website is not how many high-tech features that can be implemented; it's the quality of the information and the usability of it's graphical interface.
An informational website requires a certain level of dedication to maintain the currency and usefulness of its data. It requires a person or a group of persons to be obsessive enough to want to type in the data, day in and day out. It shouldn't rely on the user to keep the information up to date. (Note that Total Swing is updated regularly by a Bostonian who moved to Norway; now that's dedication.)