Working folks find Web site for them
Finally, the Net offers a place for nonmanagers
BY GLENN GAMBOA
Beacon Journal staff writer
There's plenty of help out there for management.
Attend a seminar here. Read a book there. Swim with the sharks.
But Jennifer Vogel always wondered about the regular folks, the ``working stiffs,'' the people being managed.
Where do they go for information? To whom do they turn for help?
``To me, working life is something that is drastically unexplored,'' said Vogel. ``Working people need a place to gather and talk and trust that the information they're getting is from someone advocating for them, not for managers or business owners.''
Vogel had been kicking around the idea of a way to get people that kind of information for a couple of years, but mostly as a magazine. But when her friend Robin Marks told her of the New York Foundation for the Arts' Web Development Fund, moving it online seemed to be the way to go.
Soon, Working Stiff (http://www.pbs.org/weblab/workingstiff) was born. Marks is Vogel's co-producer of the site.
``There are a lot of working stiffs online,'' Vogel said. ``Secretaries and paralegals and a lot of others have Internet access at work. And a lot of people are connecting at home. There are also a lot of people in small towns who feel disconnected from the world. This is a way for them to get hooked up.''
Since launching in June, Working Stiff has already become the most popular area on the Public Broadcasting Service server, which houses all the Web Development Fund's sites.
``The traffic has been enormous,'' said Vogel. ``We've had lots of people sending us questions, offering to write diaries, signing up for the mailing list. It's obviously something that has a place.''
It's that kind of interaction that makes the site work. Whether it's the actual diaries of workers or the Stress-o-Meter quiz, Working Stiff involves visitors in the process.
``It's not only a lively, energetic, welcoming place,'' said Marc N. Weiss, producer for Web Lab, who decided to make Working Stiff one of the four Web sites it funds this year. ``It couldn't exist anywhere but on the Web.''
The Web Lab (http://www.weblab.org) was designed to explore the Internet as a ``participatory medium'' and wanted to fund sites that would encourage people to think or act differently, providing $150,000 in seed money to get things started.
Working Stiff was the first Web Lab site to launch, which led to unique pressures on both sides as to whether this experiment could work.
``In a lot of ways, it's been like a first child growing up,'' said Vogel. ``We both have to figure out the boundaries. But they have always been very supportive. They have the right things in mind. And they are pushing for the same things we are.''
Working Stiff's deal with the Web Development Fund is for six months, with an agreement that can be expanded to a year.
Vogel, who makes her living as a free-lance writer, plans to run it for six months and see if it clicks.
``If we continue to have this very lively discussion going and continue to help people with our labor experts, then that will tell us how to proceed,'' she said, adding that they haven't even started to look for outside sponsorship and advertising yet. ``It would be great if we could keep it going, if we could expand it.''
Discovered an interesting site? Call Glenn Gamboa at 330-996-3524 or e-mail him at email@example.com.