Historical Gem Club Snapshot

Snapshot Of Gem Club Website in September 2021.

How John became Webadmin of Cairns Minerals & Lapidary Club Inc (CMLC) and produced a useful historical archive, despite saying no to the club five times.

The historical snapshot of the CMLC website at September 2021 at https://cmlc.zgus.com is as the website was when I ceased to be CMLC webadmin as of the club AGM in 2021. The current official club website is at https://www.cairnsmineralclub.rocks

I wanted to build a website that would hopefully stand as an archive valued both by the Cairns Community and by Australia in years to come. The club reflects a little known part of Australia that is rapidly fading and is undocumented: a popular movement by many ordinary Australians in unusually sophisticated volunteer activity run at a community level without a head office dictating their organisation and identity.

In other words, Australia has an unusually rich but undocumented history of self organised mass volunteer club participation that has all but disappeared

After my wife, Isabella, and I joined the club early in 2019 and I showed the president on a fossicking trip a live demonstration of geolocation fossicking maps, I was asked to do the club website. I said no. This was to be the first of many times I have used the word no at the club. I was in the club to encourage my wife with her interests in involvement in the gem club. That was it. No more or less. The classes were difficult for those with no prior experience.

Eventually I offered to become weadmin for the club for five reasons:

  1. The President, Michael Hardcastle, continually complained that Goggle Search did not recognise the club
  2. The club newsletter was embarrassing to me as a member. At the time the newsletter barely recognised members existence or achievements and was full of unacknowledged copy and paste of others people work that is easily googled.
  3. I felt aggrieved that achievements by members with hard work were not documented and that interesting stories were not being told
  4. Club fossicking trips were poorly documented as regards to preparation and expectation.
  5. I felt the full range of club activities and member achievements should be documented as what I hoped would be seen as a contribution to a history of undocumented ordinary Australia.

My offer was accepted. When asked I always stated the website was about the club AND the achievements of its members. The president stated I was free to construct the website the way I wanted. I took him at his word!

There was a club website at the same URL, https://www.cairnsmineralclub.rocks, on Wix, but it was neglected. Most of the ‘About’ section and some photographs in the archive site, https://cmlc.zgus.com, came from this previous site. I never met the webadmin who established the website on Wix. Before becoming an archive site, the site used Hugo static site builder and was initially deployed to AWS (through an automated CI/CD rebuild with GitLab) and later to Firebase (which allows faster incremental deployment from a local build), where it now lives.

However, I soon gave my second no to the club. The president wanted me to digitise their archives. Frankly I saw little value in this. The archives have nothing of real interest. That the club continued to exist and expand for 60 years is its achievement. Individuals in the club did and do have interesting achievements and stories, but this was not documented in the archives. However I did place their 40 and 50 year celebratory publications on the web, did place pictures of past president on the web and did place some past newsletters and some extracts on the web.

The club has an unusual system whereby all club appointees are required to reapply for their positions at the AGM, whether or not the club constitution requires this. At the 2020 club AGM I reapplied to be webadmin and this time part of this appointment was becoming a member of the club management committee (MC). The MC, under state law, is equivalent to a board of directors in terms of responsibilities and duties. Early in 2021 I resigned from the MC but stated I would be prepared to do webadmin duties until the next AGM, when I would not reapply for webadmin. While I did later state I will reconsider, I did not withdraw my statement I would not reapply. I suggested the club have a webadmin to take over by the AGM and would help them with whatever alternative system they might want to use if they wanted to use something else other than the current system.

Nevertheless, I was determined to do my task as I set out, up until the AGM. Basically the club ignored my expiry date as webadmin. Just over one month before the AGM I repeated I would not be reapplying at the AGM for webadmin but since they had made no effort at preparations for a replacement I stated I would help any incoming webadmin up until 31 December 2021 but would not edit the website for them.

So contrary to what the club states, I did not step down as webadmin. As consistent with their practices, I simply did not reapply for the vacated position at the AGM.

My third and fourth no to the club came before the AGM when my replacement on the MC asked me to stand for club president. I stated no. I was then asked to stand for club secretary. I stated “no to everything” without any further discussion.

My fifth no to the club came after the AGM when I was asked to write a website report for the club despite not even being the club webadmin. I said no, that this was never an agreed webadmin duty (despite my doing it) and this was not in the scope of expected duties of a webadmin. The reports I generated used raw log files and the amount of data was massive. The web site did not use Google Analytics.

The webadmin reports I did write proved that the club was firmly recognised by Google Search. The website became popular, simply by focussing on and documenting the achievements of members with their stories. I felt I had achieved everything I had set out to do as per reasons one, two and three above. Time will tell if the snapshot will achieve its goal as per reason five.

If I was to pick out the two most interesting sections from the archives, these are:

  1. Ken Vaughan’s remarkable fossicking stand
  2. Opening address by Minister Michael Healy at Gemfest 2021

However there is a lot that is interesting, if you dig around!

Despite my persistent no to the club I am grateful for the opportunity to construct the web site the way I wanted. If I not been given the freedom I had, I would have left a lot sooner!

A lot of the lessons are included in https://fnqcwd.zgus.com/. The principles encourage collaborative contribution, editing and administration through permissions with git repositories and with firebase. So there is no complex onboarding and disruption to add or remove users for development and administration. This is consistent with enterprise level practices. You may not think this is relevant for small organisations and non-profits. However the model is extremely flexible. For example, through volunteer exchange agreements, if small like minded organisations get together and share skills for mutual support with one organisation acting as a main webdev support centre for others in exchange for ongoing renovation or field work volunteers. As another example, it was a short job to take a snapshot and make the archive site.

John Heenan