BalsallCom.Com – the story behind the Balsall Common and Berkswell website

balsallcom_logo

2003: Balsall Common – what no website?

 

In November 2003, three Balsall Common residents got together to discuss how to create a community website to serve the local area. The lack of a central online information and news source seemed to be an issue at the time so the three of us (Craig Burgess, Neil Cooke and Paul Tasker) set about creating a solution.

Craigy B

 

The first thing we needed to do was sit down on the floor at Neil’s house. Then, once we’d pulled off this herculean feat, we set about thinking about how to create something better than other community-based websites we could find at the time.  Most such sites seemed to lack a community feel, which seemed to miss the point, tragically.

  

Six months later, the planning and design was more or less done and we launched BalsallCom.Com, Balsall Common’s first dedicated online news, information and discussion website. Here was a website where visitors could submit links, contribute stories and discuss local issues, all stuff we tend to take for granted in our online lives today.  
 

In 2004 – the days before Facebook and Twitter – BalsallCom.Com was somewhat ahead of its’ time. That said, quite a few nincompoops out there couldn’t see any value in what we were doing. Luckily there was plenty of non-nincompoops who loved what we were doing. In terms of scale and significance, BalsallCom.Com was an achievement to rank alongside epic inventions like the wheel, the aeroplane and crisp sandwiches. Or important discoveries like electricity. Or the Americas. Well OK maybe it wasn’t epic on that kind of scale, but we’d definitely done something clever, like escaping from a securely taped cardboard box or something.

Neil
Neil

 

BalsallCom.Com – established 2004

 

The official launch date for BalsallCom.Com was 1st May 2004. It was the beginning of a journey.

 

The website enjoyed some early success before the advancement of new technologies left it looking all wrinkly and dated. Eventually we decided we needed to overhaul our approach and in 2008 work began on figuring this out.

 

What we hadn’t reckoned upon was how long this would take …

 

Because what followed was 2 years work exploring what a community website should be, talking to residents and public figures, and figuring how to fit everything together with the advancements in mobile and social technology, particularly the emergence of smart phones and escalating prominence of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

 

BalsallCom.Com – the 2010 overhaul

 

From June-August 2010 the physical work to overhaul BalsallCom.Com project was undertaken to create a brand new incarnation.

 

The changes were a huge success and saw the site’s traffic grow to 20,000 page reads per month from a range between 2500-3500 unique visitors, including growing numbers viewing the site from their smart phones and iPads whilst on the move.

 

2013 and another new look

The speed at which technology has been changing meant it wasn’t long before we needed to review our approach again and in early 2013 we delivered further website changes, in an effort to keep up with ongoing changes in the number of devices that people use to visit the site and generally keep the site relevant and up to date.

 

Community ethos – the one true constant

The one thing we’ve remained committed to throughout all the changes is a desire to maintain a community focus with what we do. In that regard we always welcome feedback, criticism and ideas which we can use to improve what we’re dong and help us deliver on this commitment. Please email your comments to
admin@balsallcom.com

 

The aims of BalsallCom.Com:

 

    • Raise awareness of what’s going on in and around the villages of Balsall Common, Berkswell and outlying areas.
    • Offer residents a place they can make friends and enjoy friendly discussion. This includes a Balsall Common Facebook page for Facebook fans at: https://www.facebook.com/balsall.common
    • Boost community activity and encourage people to get involved with local clubs, societies, sports and events.
    • Provide news and information that’s relevant to the people of Balsall Common and Berkswell.
    • Help promote local businesses
    • Make the site accessible from different media (e.g. PCs; laptops, mobile phones).
    • Foster a healthy sense of humour.

 

Facebook fans are invited to share their suggestions on our dedicated page at: https://www.facebook.com/balsall.common

 

Anybody wanting to correspond with us more privately can email us at
admin@balsallcom.com

 

What Next?

 

We’re keen to keep moving forward and expanding the range of matters we cover to make the site as relevant as we can to our, but as BalsallCom.Com is a part-time passion we need more people to help this happen. We do struggle to keep up with content production and there is a fair amount of content we’ve received from the community over the years, especially recently which has gone unpublished. As our audience has grown the amount of time we have needed to spend on responding to emails and talking to our audiences on Facebook and Twitter, content production has suffered.

To take BalsallCom.Com to the next level we’re keen to hear from productive driven volunteers who can help us in any of the following areas:

 

Copywriting/content production/editorial
Art & Design
Directory maintenance
Social Media management
Feature writing (HS2/History)
Photography
Video/film-making/editing
Marketing/market research

 

Plus any other skills the reader thinks they can bring to make this project work better for our audience.

 

See BalsallCom as it was ..

 

a twinkle in the eye (2003) …. almost there.. (2004)up and running (2004)events (2005)forums (2007)video (2008) … TBC