CIlogotype11

We craft websites...

...cloud data & website management systems, & nonprofit fundraising campaigns

 

We're glad you found us.

Most likely, you arrive here from one of the websites we built, and so you already know a bit about our work. Here we explain how and why we do the things we do, a little of our history explaining why we are better at our work than our competitors, links to many of our clients and projects, and a few irrelevant details that we find useful or amusing. To know our deepest motivations in working the web, you can view a legacy sampling from our durable “soapbox,” the Solar Utilities Network legacy site, and especially the article there on Sustainable Hedonism ...or read on...

a little history

We started helping folks integrate computers into their lives in 1979. Our first clients were Montessori pre-schoolers, but soon we graduated to high-school students, then their teachers, and finally managers in the real world (whom we found, in many cases, to have more trouble wrapping their heads around computers than did our pre-schoolers.) We have now come to call this first generation of adult computer users digital immigrants.

In 1992 a beloved student said “You need to look at this,” and showed us the World Wide Web. We were delighted. Our clients have come to share our enthusiasm for the power of the web: it's nothing less than the most important new medium for information exchange since movable type. Printing in color for free! Feedback! Hypertext links that explain themselves and lead to a web of informative resources for searchers to navigate at will! Interactivity! What a great communication and data management tool!

During 2017, our websites ‘published’ more than 56,000,000 pages of information, instantly and faithfully, to more than eight million people all over the planet ...without uprooting a single tree! ( Click here to jump ahead to our Website Gallery. )


our premise

Our clients are very, very good at what they do, but fast-moving technology baffles them. They joyously follow (or lead) breaking developments in their own fields, but come to us feeling overwhelmed by the tech world and its deluge of search engine optimization offers, domain transfers, security and "responsiveness" requirements.
click to visit Solarnet
Managing all that is our specialty. Our own business experience helps us learn your business, and our appetite for the ins, outs, ups, and downs of technology lets us help you bring management tools and office automation into the core of your enterprise while preserving your own particular genius (and the sanity of your team.) We have outstanding success salvaging spoiled, unloved websites and retrieving lost domains. Our graphics skills are professional-grade, and word-smithing is our wheelhouse. Here on the web, we can make you look and feel good about your most public manifestations. See what we've done for others in the website gallery below.

Your website’s audience is global, and your website is open for business 24–7–365.AlwaysOpen
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Being able to present meaningful, in-the-moment, engaging, and lively information to a global audience using recycled electrons and existing infrastructure fulfills a dream for us. We eagerly offer to share this web tool with you; the web is not going away anytime soon, and anyone with ideas to share or products to exchange should consider taking it up.

We are not webmasters, and neither are YOUWe call ourselves websters, and find the word ‘webmaster’ risible. We know the web to be a demanding and rapidily evolving art form, and shrink from declaring ourselves masters of such a protean and slippery medium.

Nature can take care of our needs, but not necessarily our greeds.
-- Gandhi

Professionals practice – doctors, for example, don't advertise themselves as “healthmasters.” Like lawyering and doctoring, webstering combines craft and art. Many critters build webs, and all us critters are involved interdependently in the web of Life. Anyway, webster is shorter, and describes what we do.

our pet project

We live in the small coastal village of Caspar, on the rugged North Coast of California. We put down roots here five decades ago – one of us even went to the trouble of being born here! This is a wonderful place to live quietly and resiliently while damaging the planet as little as possible (for USers). The weather is clement and the land we live on is fertile and generous. Caspar is just about the right size for the work of reinventing community, and we and our neighbors have been diligently pursuing that effort for the last thirty years. We feel blessed to be able to bring our grasp of the best technologies, old and new, to help preserve and improve the quality of all life in our village.
click to visit the Caspar Commons websiteYou see, all the ideals and notions expressed by our heroes, of which a few can be found on this page, mean nothing unless they can be applied to the art of living in real time and with continuity and consensus. Amazingly, in a world apparently gone awry, we Casparados seem to be working our hundred year plan toward resilience. For more about Caspar, please visit the Caspar Commons website.
 

Here's a hot flash that still seems to escape many who work the web: This is not paper! No trees died in order for this page to be viewed 54,539 times in the last year. Nor are website visitors passive “readers” as we are with books, TV, and the movies. The web is active and interactive, better than a video game and much better than a four-color brochure on glossy paper. By coordinating print and web efforts and integrating media in a single design process, much time and money can be saved. When we help you design your web pages, you benefit from what we have learned posting thousands of other pages for our clients. One key to our success: we craft clients' websites to look like them ...not like us.


Our calculations show that on the web a picture is worth 4,000 words
The little corporate logotype above (a design of ours that makes us proud) consumes 3,902 bytes, or the equivalent of about 800 words of normal text. Worth noting: if something isn't "plain text" (like this) it's a graphic, and consumes a comparatively larger amount of bandwidth – so we insist it carry its weight.
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We continue to be intrigued and dazzled by the web, although we lament some of its recent evolutions. Striving to be a single source for everything – it's barely out of its teenage years – and under concerted assault from its many abusers, it is impossible for most business folks to keep up to date with their businesses and the web, and to continue making good decisions about what new developments belong in the electronic storefront – their website – and what will not.

The latest craze is an attempt to make a single web page serve the wildly different requirements and abilities of computer screen and mobile phones; this is called “responsiveness”. In our opinion, trying to view a full-blooded web page on a tiny hand-held screen is as difficult as passing a camel through the eye of a needle. Nevertheless, we have been able to guide many of our clients through the difficult transition to responsiveness without undue expense, adapting valuable old “legacy” content with caution, using the new abilities only when they enhance the client's message, never just for eye candy or to indulge the phone-bound. Our clients trust us for good advice and knowledgeable guidance through what can otherwise be a costly techno-swamp.

Everything should be as simple as possible ...but no simpler.
-- Einstein

who we are

Michael Potts
Founder and Director Michael Potts is instrumental in planning, conceptualizing, and executing the Institute's work. A California native, he graduated cum laude from Harvard ('66) with English as his field. A 49-year resident of Caspar, he has pursued training in graphics design, typography, advertising, accounting, pedagogy, and information technology.

Sienna
Chief Technical Officer Sienna M Potts is responsible for maintaining client operations. Her special skills in web design, photography, and writing give her an extraordinary ability to “get inside the client's mind.” Sienna is a graduate of Reed and Evergreen State. She has lived in Caspar for 47 years. More of her web work may be seen at Siennese.com

Rochelle Elkan
Chief Scientist Rochelle Elkan is uniquely well-qualified in areas of pedagogy, with a particular emphasis on reading, writing, and cross-cultural communication. Rochelle holds a BA from Temple and an MA from Sonoma State. She has lived in Caspar for 44 years.
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One important thing we have learned in our practice is that building a website, with the associated organizing, analysis, and thoughtful enunciation of mission and purpose, provides a business owner with a great tool for thinking about how the enterprise works, and could be improved. The business graveyard is full of companies that didn’t understand their real business, and were busy doing things unadaptively right up until they failed. ( Remember Woolworth, Compaq, PanAm, Oldsmobile, Borders, Delorean, Enron, Tower Records, Blockbuster Video...? )

A website is structured, visible, and can usually be traversed in many ways for differing purposes by an enterprise's various audiences: customers, workers, managers, stakeholders, critics, competitors. Thinking of a website as a metaphor for a brick-and-mortar institution, many of the same traits that distinguish a web page from paper apply. Ink, once dry on paper, is immutable; not so with the architecture of a website. While business owners and entrepreneurs are undoubtedly their own best customers, being as diverse as their website's visitors is impossible. They tend to look in the same window and walk in the same door every time.

Appealing to the full diversity of the customer base is important ...so one’s corporate website turns out to be a cost-effective, low-risk way to experiment with different ways to entice customers, showcase capabilities, and broaden product offerings.

For us, as for our clients, message comes first, and is best expressed in words, with images for support ...and, yes, why not a little eye-candy? We believe firmly that content is primary ...and we can point to results that confirm our beliefs. To this end, we provide our clients, as necessary, with editorial, copy-writing and -editing help, as well as marketing, positioning, graphical, identity package design, and strategic advice – much more than the mere “programming” at the foundation of web design (in which we also excel.)


Integrative design

Everyone in business has heard of “the cloud,” one of the internet's recent gifts to information. Simply defined, the cloud is a remote data store where corporate records and details may be kept, and accessed easily in numerous ways to facilitate operations. Here (below) is an example of the public face of one of our clients, a nonprofit Senior Center, today's lunch menu. (C'mon down; many consider it the best lunch in Fort Bragg.)
RCSCnutri
This Senior Center serves several constituencies, from the federal government (that wants to assure that clients are getting nutritious lunches, while also serving various agricultural lobbies that influence funding), to the 100+ elders who break bread together every weekday. As you can imagine, planning, purchasing, storing, preparing, promoting, reporting, and analyzing this effort is complicated. By centralizing many of those functions in the cloud in a single integrated data store, detail management is markedly simplified, money is saved, frustrating duplications are reduced, timely information is automatically available ..and the savings can be reinvested in better food and a more enjoyable workplace for all.

Examine the workings of your business, and we think you'll find places where integrative data handling would facilitate. We would be glad to help you make this assessment.
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Work smart, not hard
– IBM

We started this computer gig as teachers, knowing that our “digital native” students were entering an intensely computer-laden future. Our work soon moved into industry, where two generations of “digital immigrants” needed remedial education to keep up with the way business was changing. Our interest, always and to this day, is the impact of computerization on workers – on people: Save a bit of dehumanizing duplicated effort here, some wasted time there, provide answers for frequently asked questions ... without ever impairing precious human interactions ... makes for a happier, more productive workplace.

I think [tolerance] sets the bar too low. I recognize that tolerance is progress over intolerance, but I believe a great democracy should have higher aspirations. Instead of tolerance, we should be calling boldly for the creation of brotherhood and sisterhood. Let us not merely accept our differences, but celebrate our kinship as sisters and brothers of the human family.
–Coretta Scott King
 
The lights of night-time earth
The Web: Earth at night

The Internet has been lauded as a democratizing force, a tool to be put in the hands of everyone right ’round the planet, but as can readily be seen from the nightime view of the web of light above, this tool is unevenly available. Even now, a quarter century into the reign of the ’Net, it is too easy to see that many here in the US are disenfranchised. It strikes us as a simple matter of noblesse oblige that we who have by chance been endowed with the ability to see these tools in the hands of those whose lives might be bettered by access to the web's burgeoning trove of information should bend at least some of our talents to this task pro bono publico ...and this is the work that makes us happiest.




used without permission; we apologize, but the sentiment is too precious and so well presented there is no way we could say it better
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webstering in the cloud

“The cloud” and “Cloud computing” are buzzwords with a simple meaning: instead of keeping data on your home office or business computer, it resides on a fast, well-connected off-site server. The advantages are obvious: you can access your data from any net-connected computer ... and so can others. Two or more authorized users can work on the data simultaneously, while visitors can make orders and retrieve data. One of the purest uses is noted (above) in the description of Redwood Coast Seniors' menu system.

We are cautious about novelty, especially when it’s flashy displays and annoying animation, but the cloud is something we’re enthusiastic about, because it confers on clients the ability to make simple website changes – changes in hours of operation, names of the Board of Directors, upcoming events – easily, without calling on us. Many of our clients now have the ability to keep their sites up-to-date by maintaining their own calendars, adjusting their home page announcements, or adding new products.

In our 26 years working on the Web, we have helped our clients improve their operations while enhancing the human values that make work enjoyable. Our Donor Management systems, serving some of our favorite non-profits, earn tens of thousands of dollars every year (in a harsh and declining charitable climate.) Our content management system, at the heart of many of our clients’ online enterprises, publish thousands of pages every day.

Ask us how we can make your business operations more efficient and humane by moving parts of them into the cloud.


salvage sites

During our webstering career it has often been our forlorn honor to salvage websites produced by "webmasters" with negligible to marginal skills. It may fairly be remarked that their limited skill did not extend to their notion of the value of their work – typically, a salvage client will already have spent several thousand dollars and many frustrating months trying to get their internet presence organized. Another dead-end is do-it-yourself websites generated by a WYSIWYG (What you see isn't what you get!) page mill programs.

If you can't find time to do it right, how will you find time to do it over?
We're quick to understand when a potential client really just wants a blog or a vanilla website: we don't do those. We are in business to conform websites to complex businesses, so they don't have to conform their operations to the one-size-fits-all off-the-shelf “solutions” on offer from low-end providers (like GoDaddy.) Several of the sites shown above were salvaged – often we find and salvage good graphical material that can be used intact, or good initial ideas that did not stand the test of time. It's the architecture of a good website that seem so hard for beginners to grasp. This reminds of us of our favorite adages, at right.
To the best of our knowledge, we have never lost a site to another webster. Our clients are universally pleased with our promptness, responsiveness, and fair fees.

         website gallery – some of our favorite projects ... scrolls to the right   scroll right   scroll right   scroll right   scroll right

Village Ecosystems St Anthonys Catholic Church Caspar Commons Hogan and Stickel Mendocino Eco Artists Mendocino Knights of Columbus Redwood Coast Seniors Bolinas Stinson Summer Camp Rawsome Creations Mendocino Coast Humane Society Mendocino Coast Sports Foundation Blessed Sacrament Elk StringBender Three Gaits The Public Press Green Heating Technology Green Living Journal - Columbia River edition Golden Gate Burial Service Holistic Orchard Network
portal page, forum,
& and orchard profiles

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Some of our favorite pages


We may be reached by email at info@CasparInstitute.org .

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updated: 22 March 2018 Caspar (Pacific) time – Happy Birthday, Sienna We love you
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