Community websites on the cheap

websitescollageI have been in Round Table for a few years now, and really should have known better than to admit  I worked in the computing industry – I got “volunteered” to manage the existing website.  Me and my big mouth… But after a while I decided I would like to modernise the rather traditional and static website that I had inherited. The main constraints of this revamp were (a) it had to be cheap, and (b) I’m no web designer! In other words – no money and no talent. The reason for “cheap”, by the way, is that Round Table is a voluntary service organisation – we have a good time doing all sorts of things, but primarily we raise funds for charity and help out in our community. For more information on Round Table and what we get up to, follow this link.

So my challenge was how to put together a community website using – ideally – one of the free or very cheap services out there “in the cloud”. It had to look reasonably good, and also include an email infrastructure to help keep the 200+ members in touch.

This article describes the software and services used to create and manage a modern community website,  and the reasons for choosing them. I describe the basic steps to get up and running quickly, including optional links with Twitter and Facebook. There are doubtless a number of alternatives, and I make no claims to my solution being the best or being suited to the needs of everyone. But in explaining the choices made I hope to at least help guide those who want to do something similar.

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Flickrvision – A Very Cool Flickr Slideshow

Something that caught my eye on the Digital Urban blog was a reference to a fantastic little website applet that shows Flickr slideshows with a difference. Called Flickrvision, it shows a near-realtime view of images being uploaded to the Flickr online album website, overlaid on a map of the world. You can overlay the pictures either on a normal 2D Googlemap or, as the screenshot here shows, onto a 3D view of the Earth which spins around to help position the images.

Flickrvision in 3D mode

Flickrvision in 3D mode

You can go straight to the 3D version by clicking this link. There’s no need to install anything – just click & go. To switch to the Googlemap version, just press the “Classic View” button that appears on the screen. It is a great page to just leave open on your desktop, especially if like me you have a two screen set-up.

A game you could play would be to upload photos to Flickr and watch to see if they appear on the globe. Have your favourite screen grabber tool at the ready…

Posing Robin

While out walking one chilly morning in Attenborough nature reserve I spotted this Robin. Luckily for me he was in posing mood and I managed to get pretty close with my 200mm lens. The image is uncropped – I got within just a few feet of him. I saw how they used bird feeders that spins off squirrels to feed them. You can click here for more info about these feeders.

I got some nice comments on the image from the people over at, and thought it worthwhile to post here too (see the links panel for more of my pictures on Flickr). I’ve also recently been getting into Flickr a lot, and this was an opportunity to link my gallery straight to this blog for a bit of a test. Regular readers will have noticed that at long last I have chosen a different theme – the header images are all mine, although I plan on randomising the set to add a bit of variety.

Hopefully this hooking together of online galleries and WordPress means I can keep my earlier promise of updating this site more frequently.