The City of Northfield’s Friday Memo for Jan. 23

Joel-WalinskiThe Friday Memo, written by interim Northfield City Administrator Joel Walinski and many of the department directors, managers, and supervisors, summarizes many of the staff activities for the week. Although it’s directed to the mayor and city council, it’s helpful for citizens to see what’s going, too. (continued)

fridaymemothumbThe Friday memos are published and archived in PDF form at the bottom of Joel Walinski’s web page. See the Friday memo for this past week and then comment or ask questions about it here.

NOTE! There’s a City Council meeting and work session tonight.

15 thoughts on “The City of Northfield’s Friday Memo for Jan. 23”

  1. Hey Griff: I’m surprised you’re not crowing like the proverbial rooster over the NFNews deciding to follow your lead and publish the Friday memo…. Actually, I think I did hear you crowing all the way over here!
    Here’s a factoid: there was a time not too long ago when the Friday memo was not allowed to be public. I remember asking the library to have it along with the council packets, and at that time it was considered an “inter-departmental memo, not for public dissemination”.
    How ‘Rovian’!

  2. Actually, just for clarification, Northfield.org was the first to run the Friday memo. It started more than two years ago with the total cooperation of former administrator Al Roder. I created the arrangement and linked to the city site. We also ran the complete list of upcoming meetings each week, with links to the appropriate places on the site.

  3. I think their refusal to link is based on a misconception that THEY are the prime source of information, and so not linking to other sources except as captured by them as text, preserves their territory.
    Have you ever asked the News that question?

  4. I remember having a conversation about links in a meeting with Sam Gett and Jaci Smith a year or so ago, and though they didn’t have a “no linking” policy per se, the conversation as a whole left me with the distinct impression that they were so married to the print model that they really didn’t get the fundamental shift in the way the internet has changed things,and how they could benefit from the rising tide lifting all boats.

    Plus, they just aren’t very tech-savvy over at the news, and I’m not sure that whoever puts the content on the website even knows how to make a link.

  5. When you archive stories with outside links you run the risk of the links expiring, rendering the story incomplete when you retrieve it later. Putting the material on the newspaper site when possible means you can archive that information with the story and retain a more complete record later. Since newspapers tend to be sources of record, archiving and preserving information is important. I’m not saying you can’t do outside links, but news organizations tend to like to preserve the entire story package when possible.

  6. Anne, that would make sense, except that the Northfield News is the biggest offender of expired and/or erroneous pages on their site that I’ve ever run across! It’s been frustrating in my fifteen or so years of online dialog in Northfield that whenever a site has linked to an article on the Northfield News site, it’s just a matter of time before the page URL is invalid.

  7. Tracy,

    The Internet is dynamic and always changing. Expired content happens… nothing that anyone can do about it. To blame a company for not saving their content forever to make it available to your site for your benefit is not realistic. I am sure if you called the news and offered to pay them to keep their content there forever, they might consider it.

    Not all sites have the money or resources for unlimited storage space, content management, and hosting.

    I would be willing to bet the platform that the Northfield News runs on is third party hosted, and they only have so much room for content.

    Even in corporate America, we change our content frequently, and URLs change. Asking for a page to exist forever on a server on a third party site is incredibly unrealistic. (We only backup our pages to a file server to satisfy Audit & legal requirements, but they are taken offline from public view. Thanks Sarbanes-Oxley!)

    Also, according to the Internet Archive, the Northfield news website has only been online since May of 2001.

    Netscape 1.0 was released in October of 1994, so that’s only 14 years and 4 months ago. (Griff may have been a old darkscreener before then, so he may have had one of those old 1200 baud compuserve accounts…)

  8. John, you raise an interesting issue, one that libraries are pondering as they give up scanning paper copies of publications and rely on electronic records. What happens to Newsweek or the Star Tribune when they go out of business? It is interesting that even as we have more and more information at our fingertips, we will be trapped in the present as our past disappears into broken links.
    There is a project out there to archive websites. It’s called the Wayback Machine and it’s amazing.link text

  9. John T., it’s one thing for a company whose website is essentially “brochureware” to have dead links and changing architecture; it’s another thing entirely for a company whose business IS information/content to have the same problem. Storage is cheap. Permalinks have been around for several years now. A well-managed website simply has no excuse for content disappearing, unless it’s a policy choice to make certain information unavailable or by-subscription after a period of time; I just don’t buy the cost argument.

    The Northfield News, when owned by Bob Bradford, was well-run, well-liked, and had some forward-thinking leadership. They had a portal back in the mid-90s called “northfield.org” (you can see a version of it on the Wayback Machine entries, which only goes back to 1998) when they were trying to figure out how a small-town newspaper could leverage this new Interweb thing. I had my eye on that domain name for Northfield Citizens Online, so I went out and registered the domain name “northfieldnews.com”, then . Sometime in the late ’90s we worked out an even exchange. I probably could have had a lot more fun here in town if I’d kept the domain myself. 🙂

    Back to the issue at hand; I believe the City’s website content, particularly documents, should be as permanent as they can make it. It’s technically possible, and can be done inexpensively. Just because the City (or the Northfield News) don’t know how is not a sufficient excuse.

  10. Tracy, if the News and the city had unlimited resources, your premise would make sense. Locally Grown ‘should’ do a lot of things, but there’s no money. I prefer to think everyone is doing the best they can with the resources available.

  11. I agree in regards to brochureware, and I believe that the City of Northfield’s site more closely emulates that model.

    However, I see the Northfield News site as being somewhat more dynamic.

    Perhaps this could be solved by better “archiving” of thier content, something I do not know if they do online currently. ( I did a couple of searches on NNews, and the archives appear to only go back to about mid-April, 2008).

  12. Anne, I don’t think what I’m suggesting requires “unlimited resources”. In fact, if better/different hiring and personnel decisions had been made in the past (by both the City and by the Northfield News), it wouldn’t require ANY additional resources.

  13. Interesting comment… but hiring and personnel decisions of an entity such as a city, and a business such as the Northfield news are two completely different business models.

    The city needs to run on a budget (um, yea, okay…) and the Northfield News runs as a business, purely on a profit/loss basis.

    Economics drive hiring and firing at the news, and they are always having to do more with less.

    The city on the other hand has a larger staff, and budgets that tend to keep folks around.

    Yes the city could have more IT folks, if the citizens are willing to pony up the $$ and fund it.

    Yes, the Northfield News could get off the third party platform they are on and hire a IT person to administer their site in house. However, it has to be able to run as a value add, and not run at a loss. In a town of 17,000, I realistically do not see that happening. Because of the sheer costs, they have to do the updates with existing staff, and use the vendor for hosting.

    Trust me, Jaci and Sam are frustrated as all get out with the templates and the way the site acts… but, they need to generate revenues to keep the paper viable.

    I would be curious if you wanted to elaborate further on all of the “better/different” practices that could have been done.

    All things take SOME resources, but resources, and the costs of those resources are always limited by other factors in each of the models.

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