A local environmental group in my area does a wonderful job of showing off information about upcoming events. Their calendar of “events to come” include things like an Annual Land Trust Conference, a local food forum addressing initiatives to get people to buy food locally to benefit the region economically and environmentally, an educational program about sharing the area with bears, and many others.
The announcements provide details about what will be covered at these conferences and gatherings, and for some of the larger events, information on how to become a sponsor, how to register, as well as information about travel and dining and accomodations.
Once the date of an event has come and gone, pages about it disappear from the site completely, as if it never happened.
I’ve seen local tourism sites produce newsletters filled with information about events, with extensive archives of those newsletters on their pages. The newsletters often link to about a dozen or so events pages each month, and those pages would describe the “who, what, where, when, and why,” of each.
The events range from conferences to festivals to exhibitions to parades, and many other going-ons in the area, attracting visitors from a good distance away. If you browse through the years of the newsletter archives, the links to events that happened more than 6 months ago mostly lead to dead pages.
My town hosts a number of annual parades and happenings every year, and shows off a paragraph or so about each on the front page of their web site, starting a month or so before the date of each event. The lifespan of these announcements is numbered in weeks, and any history of those community gatherings lives on only in the minds and possibly the photographs of those attending.
The World Wide Web Conference brings researchers, business people, technologists and many others together to a different location every year. The 18th annual conference took place in Madrid in April. Instead of having one web site for the conference, a new one is created annually. Trying to find information about past conferences can be difficult – many of the sites hosting information about older conferences have disappeared from the Web completely.
Here today and Useless Tomorrow?
What if the environmental group, the tourism site, the town home page, and the international conference took a different approach? What kinds of benefits might they see if they planned upon revisiting the pages or information about their gatherings and used them to make a record of those events, to share information about what happened, to show off photos and meeting minutes or summaries, and personal reflections about those activities?
The environmental group might be able to spread their messages further, to people who couldn’t attend and inform a much wider audience. Visitors to their web site could learn about initiatives in the area and ways to participate even though they weren’t able to be physically present.
The tourism site, focusing upon bringing people to the region, could show off past events to attract future visitors.
The town web pages could help build a sense of community, help newcomers learn about local history and traditions and become a place where people outside of the region could learn more about them.
If the Conference used one site instead of a new one every year, it could provide a repository of white papers and learning to those who couldn’t cross the globe to be at the different conferences in person. Those pages could provide a clear look at the evolution of research over the years to those who could use that information to learn and innovate and grow.
Evergreen and Transitory Information
The term “evergreen content” is sometimes used by site owners and designers to refer to pages that contain information that continues to remain informative and useful over time. Pages about how to knot a tie or play a musical instrument or design a web site might be useful to someone who comes across those pages years after they are written.
Other pages on the Web can have a more limited lifespan, providing a quick look at the news of the day or information about an activity that may be taking place sometime in the future. Many pages about events are created from a transitory perspective.
But they don’t have to be, and planning ahead to transform such pages to new uses can often result in richer and more useful web sites.
Some things to consider to make web pages about events reblossom from transitory to evergreen might be:
1. Find ways to involve participants and give them the opportunity to record events through photos and videos and blogs and interviews.
2. Approach events as a reporter and share some of the who, what, where, why, when, and how with those who couldn’t participate.
3. Create continuality as a local historian, and share information about traditions and community.
4. Develop anticipation in those visitors who come to the pages after the event took place so that they would be more likely to attend future events.
5. Provide information in the form of transcripts of speeches or collections of white papers or in other ways that can make events timeless instead of forgotten.
6. Have a vision of how your web pages will evolve from “before” to “after” an event to do things like keeping as many of the same web page addresses, or URLs, on your site for each of those events, and use the same site for future events.