// Blog: Short for 'Web Log'
Technology, the Web, life hacks, and more
Mar
30
How I Discovered Wild Apricot BY Kim Skimmons

In May 2007 my kids were all in elementary school. I attended the end-of-year PTA meeting, mainly because they promised free food and wine; I’d not attended many previous meetings and wasn’t really involved in it. Of course, the food and wine was a trap designed to lure unsuspecting people like myself in so that the officers could pressure us into volunteering for the next school year.

And sure enough, here came that woman with the clipboard, making her rounds and headed right for me. I turned her down once. She persisted. Twice. I got a nasty scowl and she left. My friend helpfully suggested I just take over membership chair from her. She said it’s so easy, and it’s all over by the end of October. Sounds good, I’m thinking, and I can get that other woman off my back.

So when she came around a third time, I said I’d do membership. Everybody’s happy now.

A few weeks later, my friend stops by my house and hands me two thick binders with all these ragged papers shoved inside, scraps of notes hastily scribbled on torn corners and napkins. I said, “What’s this?”  “It’s the membership stuff,” she says. I guess the look on my face said it all because she laughed all the way back to her car — still running at the curb for a quick getaway.

And so began my entry into the PTA world.

I made it through the first membership season, sort of, all the while thinking there must be a better way than this. I’m a computer programmer and web developer, after all! An exhaustive web search turned up a lot of super-expensive options, none of which our type of organization could afford. Then I hit on Wild Apricot and the sun came out, the birds began to sing, and all was right in the world again.

By summer of 2008, I had finished up my first WA site. By August, we had our first online membership sign up. That year we did pretty well, adding about 50% more members than the previous year. The real test came the following year, however, when automatic membership renewals kicked in.

In mid-August the first renewal reminder emails went out, and people started renewing online. By the first day of school we had about half of the previous year’s members already signed up for the new year — unheard of in previous years! By mid-September we had met the previous year’s numbers and by November we’d more than doubled the membership from just two years before.

Amazing.

My experience with WA — both the product and the support staff — was so positive that I became a Wild Apricot Partner and incorporated it into my business. Over time, Wild Apricot work became my primary focus and I’ve had the privilege of helping other dedicated volunteers grow their organizations using Wild Apricot.

Mar
01
Advice to a 12-Year-Old BY Kim Skimmons

[I] was recently contacted through my website by a young man asking me for advice on how to become a web designer. His exact message was:

My name is Curtis. i am 12 years old. Can you give tips about how to be a Webs Designer please.

Here was my reply:

Hello, Curtis.  Thank you for your question.  I have three children in middle school and high school.  Here is what I tell them:

  1. Stay in school and study hard because your education doesn’t end after high school graduation. It’s a lifelong thing.
  2. Learn HTML & CSS.
  3. Also learn a programming language like C#, C++, Java, Javascript, or Python.  Besides the obvious fun factor ;), learning a programming language teaches you how to think clearly.  See http://www.codecademy.com/ or http://code.org/.
  4. Equally important:  Take some art and design classes to understand how to make things look nice and how to lay out pages so that people can understand and use them easily.

My #1 piece of advice for ANY career, including technical ones:

rules for how to write wellLearn to write well in English.  This includes attention to details like proper capitalization (e.g., capitalizing the word “I” — hint, hint Curtis) and punctuation (e.g., ending a question with a question mark and not a period, Curtis — hint, hint again — as well as proper use of commas such as before the word ‘please’ in your sentence), writing in complete sentences, and using clear and concise verbs.  Writing well will set you apart.  You can never write well enough!  Those who are sloppy writers are not taken as seriously as better writers even if their technical skills are good.  So please, do yourself a favor and work really hard on your writing skills.  Listen to your English teachers — they know more than you think they do.

Hope this helps you.

Sincerely,

Kim Skimmons
President, Sister Webs Design Studio, LLC
http://sisterwebs.com
“Everybody in this country should learn how to program a computer because it teaches you how to think.” ~ Steve Jobs
Try it now:  http://HourOfCode.com

William Zinsser's book "On Writing Well"P.S. For slightly older folks (16+) who want to become better writers, there is one book you absolutely must read and keep beside your desk forevermore: “On Writing Well” by William Zinsser. Even if you only read the first section it will transform you.
Feb
05
Why I love Microsoft OneNote BY Kim Skimmons

Microsoft OneNote[T]he biggest thing that kept me from moving from the PC to a Mac a few years ago was one program: OneNote. I love this program and couldn’t see functioning without it.  Yes, my Mac-enthusiast friends all insisted that surely there must be a Mac program that does the same thing at some silly Microsoft program — and ten times better by the way. It was just inconceivable to them that Microsoft could actually have a product that beat the pants off anything the Mac could offer. More on that in a sec.

What is OneNote?

Simply put:  Microsoft OneNote is a digital note-taking program.  But it is oh so much more than that.  It is a beautiful, organized, intuitive repository for any kind of notes you can dream up.  It works the way you do. (more…)

Feb
02
Stripping 101 BY Kim Skimmons

[W]hat a teaser of a title, right? Sorry to disappoint, but while this post is not at titillating as the title suggests, it nonetheless addresses a very common problem that nearly all of my clients encounter at some point concerning layout issues — especially font size, font style, and line spacing — that suddenly appear after updating the content of a webpage on their site and which the client cannot figure out how to remedy despite numerous attempts. That’s usually when my phone rings. (more…)