The following is a Plus Edition article written by and copyright by Dick Eastman.Technology is a great gift, and perhaps one of the best uses of all is keeping families in touch with one another. Unlike the "days of old," we are no longer restricted to writing letters and occasionally enclosing pictures of new babies, weddings, and such. A great use of the World Wide Web is to create a family web site, usually visible only to the members of that family, and then post news, information, and digital pictures of all the new happenings to the site. If you or someone else in your family creates such a family news service, all your family members can post information for all to see. You can also (optionally) restrict access to only family members.
I would suggest this family web site is much better than the annual "newsletter" enclosed in a Christmas card. Not only is it much more frequent (daily if you wish), it also provides an opportunity for two-way dialogs with your siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and everyone else who is granted access to the web site.
Web sites are perfect places to keep families in contact, even when family members are separated by continents. Post a picture of that new baby. Announce your daughter's engagement. Tell the family members about your upcoming retirement or that new promotion. Is someone relocating? If so, let everyone know. You can even create a birthday calendar for all your family members.
There must be dozens of methods of creating such a family web site. If the technical knowledge is available, one family member can create a traditional web page at little or no cost and then grant access to others selectively. However, creating a specialized web application on a general-purpose web server means that the creator must have some knowledge of web HTML programming as well as experience in maintaining a web server. Then there is the question of "what happens when the creator leaves or becomes incapacitated or simply loses interest?"
Some families create family web sites on Facebook or other web sites, but there are several drawbacks to doing so on public services. The biggest issue perhaps is privacy: do you really want the entire world, including Google, to see everything on the site? Also, there is a question of control: will that web site still be in business next year, providing the same services? Or will they be bought out by a larger corporation that is more interested in the site's members' email addresses so that they can send spam-like email messages?
In short, a family web site ideally provides access only to family members. The family should decide "who sees what." The web site also needs to be very simple to set up and simple to use. After all, not all your relatives are computer experts. Your non-computer-expert cousin won't contribute much if he or she cannot figure out how to use the family web site!
Of course, the family web site must run on a web service that is either free or is available at a modest price.
Defining the requirements is critical. Even after specifying the above requirements, we can still find several web services to choose from. I have found one web service that seems to meet all the requirements I have listed. I thought I would describe its use.
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