Webellion is a Melbourne based studio that creates websites for organisations and individuals working towards environmental and social justice.
What path led to where webellion is today?
I guess I started making websites as a teenager, met Sarah Day a few years ago and helped her out with some eco-shout programming. We both had similar ideas about social change and complimentary skills, she with web design and myself with web development.
Webellion was an attempt to formalise the work that we ended up doing together on other people’s sites. Its also a place where our folio is up www.webellion.net/folio.
We’ve both always done free sites for people and want to continue that, but also for myself at least its something I’m trying to earn a living from now that I’ve finished university.
What have been the highlights for webellion to-date?
For me, doing www.stolenwealthgames.com.au was the most fun, it was a mimic parody of the commonwealth games site done in association with the Black GST campaign.
The site used the same design, but different content, so the Venues and Places page showed the Massacre Map of Victoria for instance. I guess also learning more and more web wise has been really great.
I do feel like I’ve become a lot more proficient at what I do over the years. Likewise with trying to learn to quote properly so that I get paid well enough, that is and has been an ongoing lesson in assertiveness.
Who/what has inspired your work both in digital and in activism
The Yes Men were quite inspirational with the stolenwealth games site. NetAxxs, a workers co-operative in Wangaratta have been great role models in helping me believe we can do this kind of work – enjoyable work, for amazing not-for-profit groups, while being financially sustainable and not working for a boss.
Sarah with eco-shout inspired me as well. I’m sure theres a lot more but cant think of them now…
How do you balance earning an income while providing free and low cost services to the community.
As mentioned, this ones tricky. But it is and has to be doable. I try to charge $30 an hour for my work, but that price goes up and down depending on how much the organisation can afford to pay.
The more expensive sites cover the cheaper sites. I try to quote to cover a bit more than the expected time since I almost always go over.
One way is learning new processes that make web development quicker, and hence cheaper. Another is just taking on free sites when groups that I really believe in cant afford to pay. Barter is great too.
We’ve got a lot of word of mouth paid work coming in now, so its not so much of a problem anymore I think.
Am working on a business plan at the moment so that I can know exactly how many hours a week I need of paid work in order to survive, as well as cover tax and holidays.
I’m also going to work in free sites to this plan so that I dont have to do those sites on top of my normal work, but part and parcel with them. This way I can just take a weekly wage from a bank account, and work the same number of hours each week whether its for a free site or not.
The eco-shout and thesharehood websites have been a catalyst for building community in melbourne. What has been the most successful parts of the projects that could be applied to others seeking to improve their communities.
I believe one of the main attributes of the sharehood that could be applied to other projects, is that it self-replicates in a way. Its a framework which can be used by anyone anywhere in their neighbourhood, to do the same (or different) things that we do in my neighbourhood.
Every user has the autonomy to use the site and to create their own communities in whatever way they want, but they have the tools ready there for them.
Self-replication seems to be one of the defining features of amazing social enterprises that I’ve read about. You dont want to have to implement your solution everywhere yourself, just set it up so that others who may want the same thing can do it for themselves.
Any advise for those wanting learn to build or improve websites to support community organisations.
go for it! Geeks teach themselves how to do things amazingly well, so dive into it and learn what you need as you go.
One of my mistakes has been taking on too much work, particularly free work, and learning to say no occassionally has been a big thing, but I reckon like everything, thats a lesson people need to learn for themselves.
For the geeks out there, what tools and software do you use to create your websites
what do you see the future holds for webellion.
Just ran a course to teach activists to build websites with drupal which went really well, so will probably continue with that. Iam hoping to develop the business to a point where I can live on the income, and would love to welcome more designers and developers to get involved into the future