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February 09, 2006

AssnHack #4: Yummy uses

Here comes another tip to help association managers be more productive. It's AssnHack #4, using and the wisdom of crowds to compile and share a library of Web links on specific topics.

Like Tuesday's hack, let me first present the trouble that can help alleviate. Visit virtually any association Web site and you'll probably find at least one resource guide. In my experience, they are usually collections of links that point to pages all around the Web on a particular topic. For example, here are resource guides for the Music Publishers' Association and the American Association of School Librarians.

So, who writes these resource guides? Well, in my experience the links are harvested by association staff and/or volunteers, who also compose short descriptions for the sites they collect. They then write up the guides in MS Word, hand them over to a webmaster, who codes it into HTML and uploads it to the Web site. Then, the resource guide gathers dust on a static page. Perhaps it gets updated next year. Perhaps not.

Friends, there is a better way!

What allows users to do is create a set of Favorites or Bookmarks that is stored online at's server farm. In addition to simply capturing a URL, though, allows users to write a description for the site and tag the sites. (I'm not going to get into tagging and folksonomy here, but you should read up on it)

"So what?" you say. Well... One feature is a linkroll, a little javascript code that you can cut and paste into your Web site to display everything you've posted, or just sites you've tagged with a particular tag. Just slap that code on to your resource guide page and, away you go with dynamically updated content!

And remember, anyone can tag stuff, so if you subscribe to the right RSS feeds in, you can easily build out a living resource guide for your members. With a few clicks, your links are constantly updated and refreshed, and you don't have to search the Internet for new links. They simply come to you.

I've started tagging relevant sites with CPAfirm with the goal in mind of creating a resource guide for managing partners of accounting practices. I've also started talking to other state CPA society staff around the country to enlist their help in building out this resource.

So, that's how I'm using it. Any other known association uses out there?


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