Nearly 7 years ago, I was sitting in the bath when I had a Eureka moment. I had taught myself how to build a website for my first business and realised that it was not as difficult as the web designers would have you believe. I had also started running an “Intro to Philosophy” evening class and was using the Internet to post up the notes and interesting links for my students.
As I was lying there in the tub, belly sticking up out of the water, it suddenly occurred to me that local community groups would really benefit from using this new technology known as the World Wide Web. They would be able to link up with other groups, share ideas, publicise events, and recruit volunteers; it didn’t just have to be a few university geeks and businesses that could profit from the Internet.
We could recruit volunteers who wanted to learn web design, or people who already knew how to do it but wanted to create a portfolio, and team them up with local groups and organisations who wanted to embrace the technology.
Ideas were racing around my head and I couldn’t write them down fast enough. Back at the beginning of 1999 no one was doing anything like this. I knew I could teach people how to build basic-but-functional websites, but I didn’t understand enough about community group structures, so I got in contact with a guy called Des Gallagher from Clackmannanshire Council who was excited by the idea and had all the contacts.
Over the next few months Des assembled a small team of key players in the community and we gave shape to the idea of ClacksNet.
We faced many problems over the coming years, which were mostly based around resources – time and money. Although we had a few very dedicated and committed volunteers, such and Brian Young and Tricia Stevenson, there was a limit to how much time anyone was able to give to the project. And as for money, well despite countless requests and submissions to all sorts of funders, we never got anything like the amount we needed to really move it forward at the rate it should have developed.
It didn’t help either that we’d clearly spooked someone high up in the local council, who decided that when they launched their new Council Website, they would call it ClacksWeb and throw countless thousands at it in a big marketing splash. It nearly squashed us completely, but we were a hardy bunch and kept on going.
At the end of last year we were nominated for the Calor Scottish Community Award. A few of us went along to the award ceremony, and although we didn’t win, we did get a first rate lunch out of it.
As I was moving away from the area, I stepped down as Chairman and handed over to George MacLeod who, with a great deal more technical ability than me, has since made considerable improvements to the website and ClacksNet has once again been nominated. I was asked if I would like to attend, and never one to refuse a free lunch (even if it is costing the petrol and train fair, plus a full day away) I decided to go.
The Awards are being held in Edinburgh today, so I'm off in 15 minutes. When I get home I'll post whether we won anything.
Well, we didn't win. But we were shortlisted, and we were given a commendation. And lunch wasn't too bad either.
Mind you, lunch was a close call as the train to Edinburgh was 45 minutes late. However, I just made it in time for the first course!