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
Nature can take care of our needs, but not necessarily our greeds.
a little history
We started helping folks integrate computers into their businesses in 1979. Our first clients were Montessori pre-schoolers, but soon we graduated to high-school students, then their teachers, and finally in the real world (whom we found, in many cases, to have more trouble wrapping their heads around computers than did our pre-schoolers.)
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: no 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 tool!
During 2013, our websites "published" more than 42,000,000 pages of information, instantly and faithfully, to more than eight million people all over the planet ...without uprooting a single tree!
In March, 2011, solarnet.org was acquired by a British company whose owner promised to carry on "the work." He turned out to be a bottom-feeder like most of the rest of the present-day internet solar hypesters, so we have restored our old site here.
Being able to present meaningful, up-to-date, attractive, and lively information to a global audience using recycled electrons and existing infrastructure fulfills a dream for us, and we eagerly offer it to you: this web tool is not going away and anyone with ideas to share or products to exchange should consider taking it up.
We call ourselves "websters," and don't much like the word "webmaster." We regard the web as a demanding and rapidily evolving art form, and shrink from declaring ourselves masters of such a protean and slippery medium. 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 says what we do.
Here's a hot flash that still seems to escape many who work the web: This is not paper! No trees were killed to deliver this message. 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 on glossy paper. When we help you design your web pages, we benefit from the feedback we have received and what we have learned posting thousands of other pages for our clients. One key to our success: our clients' websites look like them ...not like us.
on the web
a picture is worth
We are intrigued and dazzled by the web, and hope we can inspire you, too. The web is evolving so quickly -- it's a gangly teenager of a medium -- that it is impossible for most business folks to keep up to date with their businesses and the web, and make good decisions about what new developments will work well for them, and what will not. We regard the leading edge – , , and – with caution, using them only when they enhance our message, never just for eye candy. But when a little dazzle is called for, we're not afraid. Our clients trust us for good advice and knowledgeable guidance through what can otherwise be a costly techno-swamp.
The little corporate logo above (a design we are proud of) 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.
One important thing we have learned in our practice is that building a website, with the associated organizing, analysis, and carefully enunciation of mission and purpose, provides a business owner with a great tool for thinking about how the enterprise works best, or could be improved most. The business graveyard is filled by examples of companies that didn't understand their real business, and were busy doing something peripheral right up until they failed.
A website is structured, visible, and can usually be navigated in many ways for differing purposes. While business owners and entrepreneurs are undoubtedly their own best customers, they cannot be diverse in the way they approach their businesses or websites as they hope their audience will be – they tend to look in the same window and walk in the same door every time. Appealing to other customers is important, and a 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, the message comes first, and is best expressed in words, not images. 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, , and strategic advice – so much more than the mere "programming" at the foundation of web design (in which we also excel.)
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 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. It takes very little inquiry to see that many here at home 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.
Most of our clients are very, very good at what they do, but find emerging technology beside the point. While they joyously follow (or lead) breaking developments in their own fields, they come to us feeling a little bewildered by the fast-changing tech world, the deluge of search engine optimization offers, domain transfers, and other confusions thrust on them.
That's where we shine. Our own business experience helps us learn their businesses, and our appetite for the ins, outs, ups, and downs of technology lets us help them bring management tools and office automation into the core of their enterprises while preserving their own particular genius. Here on the web, we can make them look and feel good about their most public manifestation, (some of which are visible in the website gallery below.)
our pet project
We live in the small coastal village of Caspar, on the rugged North Coast of California. We put down roots here four decades ago – one of us even went to the trouble of being born here! The weather is superb for sustainable living; 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 twenty 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 here.
You see, all the ideals and notions expressed by our heroes, some of whom can be found at left, 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 self-sufficiency. For more about Caspar, please visit the Caspar Commons website.
who we are
Founder and Director Michael Potts is instrumental in planning, conceptualizing, and executing the Institute's work.
Chief Technical Officer Sienna 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.” More of her web work may be seen at Siennese.com
Chief Scientist Rochelle Elkan is uniquely well-qualified in areas of pedagogy, with a particular emphasis on reading, writing, and cross-cultural communication.
website gallery – some of our favorite projects ... scrolls to the right > >
If you like what you see at these sites, pleaselet us know.
– Michael Potts
sites our clients maintain
We like to encourage technology transfer, and webstering still isn't exactly rocket science. For small businesses wanting up-to-date websites, nothing beats teaching someone in your business how to roll your own web pages – provided there's native talent available. Using administrative pages and database techniques, we have made it possible for many of our clients to make day-to-day changes, keeping their websites timely themselves, and calling us in only when something new and fancy is needed. We have enjoyed striking success with our clients over the years, and so you may notice that some of the websites in our gallery are now being maintained by the clients themselves. We're prouder of these sites than anything else we've done.
Increasingly, with the emergence of "cloud computing", we have helped clients take control of their website content, and use the web as the mainspring for their information management systems. While we enjoy one-size-fits-all solutions like Blogspot, Wordpress, and Tumblr, we think that professional clients deserve more purpose-built websites, and specialize in designing them. We think the web may be here to stay, and that we websters should therefore be evolving the day-to-day maintenance of active websites – and we think all websites should be active and ever-mutating – toward a state where keeping the website up-to-date is as commonplace as turning over the CLOSED sign when the storefront doors open in the morning. Several of our clients are on-track with this plan, and wholly or partially manage their own sites. We particularly value our ongoing connections with our brave proto-co-websters who take over responsibility for these sites:
During our webstering career it has often been our forlorn calling 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. Several of the sites shown above were salvaged – often there is good graphical material that can be used intact. It's the mechanics of a good website that seem to be hard to grasp. This reminds of us of a favorite adage, below.
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.
If you can't find time to do it right, how will you find time to do it over?
webstering in the cloud
"The cloud" and "Cloud computing" are brand new buzzwords with a simple meaning: instead of keeping data on your home office or business computer, it resides on a fast, well-connected server somewhere else. The advantages are obvious: you can access your data from any net-connected computer ... and so can others. Authorized users can work on the data simultaneously, while visitors can make orders and retrieve data. One of the purest uses is noted above under sites our clients maintain.
We are cautious about novelty, especially when it's flashy displays and annoying animation, but the cloud is something we're enthusiastic about. More and more of our clients 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 decades-long practice helping businesses improve their operations while enhancing the human values that make work bearable, the cloud is providing new ways for us to help cooperating organizations keep off each other's toes – our pro bono Calendar Collision Avoidance System used by North Coast nonprofits to avoid scheduling duplication – or Donor Tracking systems used by some of our favorite non-profits, or the publication management system at the heart of the Green Living Journal publishing empire.
Ask us how we can make your business operations more efficient and humane by moving parts of them into the cloud.