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Evolution of IT Services Used by OBJ Morris

About This Document

This case study describes the evolution of IT services used by OBJ Morris since formation (as OBJ Border Morris) in July 1996.

Background

OBJ was formed in 1996 when the world was still largely paper-based.  The Internet had existed for 13 years, and dedicated web sites were used almost exclusively by large organisations, and rarely by individuals or amateur groups. Email was used by about 75% of our members, desktop PCs were the usual hardware, and while smartphones had been conceived in 1992, they were not in common usage until about 2005.

Network access was typically by dial-up modem operating at 9,600 bits/second – less than 1,000th of the speed of today’s ADSL networks.  This meant that low-resolution images were usable, but higher-resolution images and video were still in the future. Digital cameras were in reasonably common use – the earliest pictures in our scrapbook had been taken digitally.

Social media had simply not been invented. If you wanted to publicize your team, you placed an article in the newspaper, put notices on noticeboards and in shop windows, and handed out paper flyers. But, the times, they were a’changin.

The OBJ Web Page Beginnings

OBJ’s web page was conceived in 1998-1999 as a means of making the side find-able by the general public, for recruitment purposes. The content was simple – who we were, what we did, how to contact us, and where/when to see us dancing. 

From our humble beginnings in 1996, we’d kept a paper-based scrapbook with digital images stored on a PC, and by about 2000 we had started to add a scrapbook to the web site using the accumulated material. The limitations of free website hosting (around 10-20Mb) and low-speed network access, meant that only images below 100Kbytes were practical.

In these early years, there was no freebie software  for authoring web pages. It all had to be done by writing html commands, which were fairly similar to earlier mark-up languages used for formatting computer documents. The author had worked in IT so this was achievable, but not without considerable pain and undoubtedly some false starts.

By about 2002 (see archive copy of website from 25 January 2002), rudimentary freebie software tools had become available, and we started to use Komposer (now BlueGriffon). This could be used to maintain the previously hand-coded html pages, perpetuating any limitations that we’d started with.

The OBJ Web Page Today

Maintaining the web site is a somewhat knife-and-fork job, but its just about manageable as there was a folder structure right from the beginning. But it does mean that the web site has a dated look.  In the last 10 years, a couple of members have looked at “modernising” the web site with more capable software tools. When they discovered that the site held 6,000 files in 88 folders, the “too hard” light came on.

Limitations on image sizes and resolutions have largely disappeared, so we no longer have to resort to reduced-size thumbnails, and we have included links to YouTube videos.

The OBJ Morris website now contains:

  • A public façade giving information about the side, contact details, dance programme etc
  • A publicly-accessible scrapbook for every year since 1996, including an index of YouTube videos which began in 2003. 
  • A members-only area containing kit list, dance and music notations, and other reference material

Email

All of the contacts shown in the public areas of the web site are generic addresses, thus when officers change, the email forwarders at our hosting company can simply be re-routed. In addition, we maintain a members distribution list at our hosting company.

Google – The Dance Calendar Spreadsheet

Like most sides, we started off with a tick-list for members to sign up for events they would to participate in. Also like most sides, half the members readily filled this in, and half needed reminders and occasional arm-twisting.

We replaced the tick-list with a Google spreadsheet in about 2010 – known as the Dance Calendar. Members have access to it, and can put a Y(yes), N(No) or P(possible) under each event. It also serves as a register of who was present at each event/practice – useful for maintaining Covid attendance records, and for identifying that dancer who was half-hidden in a picture in the scrapbook.

This hasn’t altered the readiness to fill in tick-list entries, but we have found that some members just can’t update it using mobile phones, which have taken over as the default device for accessing IT services.

Facebook

We have a Facebook group page which became an alternative façade for public access. I contains a sub-set of the information on the web page, including the next few events from the dance programme and some of the photos/videos from the scrapbook.

But, like all the other technology we’ve used, Facebook has evolved appeared. It appeared, became popular, and is now waning. There are significantly fewer Facebook members today, compared to the peak of its membership.

WhatsApp

We started to use WhatsApp some time around 2018. Almost all members have access to an OBJ group and it’s used to pass on last-minute messages, and individual news etc.

Other Social Media

We don’t use Twitter, Instagram, TikTok. The demographic that we’re trying to attract doesn’t use those platforms (yet?).

Yes, this means we are deliberately avoiding recruiting teenagers, which some may see as retrograde, but that’s our choice, based on past experience.

If a new platform emerges that becomes dominant within our demographic, like Facebook  did, then we’ll probably have to address it.

The Future

Starting a new morris side is extremely hard.  Perhaps harder today than it was in 1996 when every town had a local newspaper that would fall through every letter-box.

Many lessons have been learned about how to use IT services.  How hard would it be for an organisation like The Morris Federation to set up a complete set of IT services for XXX Morris, which could simply be copied and customised by new start-up sides?


We welcome feedback on this document. In addition we would like to hear from morris, sword and other traditional dance sides who have used Zoom. Would you like to contribute a case study?


Status of this Document

Document published: 6 Feb 2022

Licence for this Document

This document is available with a Creative Commons Sharealike (CC-BY) licence. In brief, this means you can copy and make changes to this document provided you give acknowledgements to the author/publisher. A suggested wording for acknowledgements is:

This document is based on the "Evolution of IT Services Used by OBJ Morris" document by Colin Charman, one of the founding OBJ members and bagman and webmaster continuously since OBJ was formed.

About the Author

Colin Charman is one of the founding OBJ members and has been bagman and webmaster continuously since OBJ was formed. Colin has worked in IT since 1965, but was very quickly promoted away from hands-on contact with technology – probably a good thing for all concerned!  This meant that although he knew WHAT had to be done, it was a major challenge to learn HOW to achieve it.  If the same job had to be started today, Colin would politely decline and suggest that someone else takes it on – while keeping a wary eye on the “too hard” light.

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