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Acorn Cybervillage needs new webmaster

By Mark Stephens. Published: 11th Feb 2005, 20:21:47 | Permalink | Printable

Campaign against dead websites

Acorn Cybervillage is to close this summer unless someone takes over from current webmaster Stuart Halliday. Stuart, 44, says ill-health has forced him to look for someone to succeed him.

"When you get a serious illness at my age, you realise there are more important things in life than supporting a tiny computer market with limited number of members," Stuart, who has been using Acorn kit since 1982, told us. Cybervillage, which opened in 1995, was once the principle source for RISC OS news and rumours on the Internet.

He adds: "I asked for volunteers to help in writing articles but no one came forward. That surprised me". Due to criticism received last year over the lack of updates to Cybervillage, Stuart decided to throw in the towel.

"I've now got little interest in the site now. Unless someone volunteers to take over, it will die in July when its hosting time runs out. Shame really. If someone wants to take over then that is fine by me. Get them to email me."

Stuart however praised a number of initiatives, which he feels are underrated. He says, "One of these is the amazing Nutshells web site. If this was developed and integrated with all RISC OS desktop users via small application, we'd have a desktop system which gives the non-techy user a huge database of quick and easy to find information, free software, news, software updates and support. Is the RISC OS community doing anything to drive this forward? Nope, not a thing."

The news of Cybervillage's imminent closure came during an investigation into the number of stagnant and non-updated RISC OS related websites rampant on the world wide web.

On reflection, many websites are run as personal activities and are therefore dependent on the free time and health of the volunteers behind them. However, there are also too many apparently 'abandoned' sites, which appear to be very out of date, with little or no excuse. What about even an update a month, or two? Arguably, these sites do a big disservice to the RISC OS market. Think about the impression to a casual visitor of logging onto a news site to see it was last updated two years ago or stumbling across details of a never-to-be-seen laptop. The market is dead, right?

We emailed a number of webmasters to ask them about this, and unsurprisingly, a few of our attempts bounced. The general response was to say that websites are not being updated either because they had nothing new to say or they are disillusioned with the RISC OS market. However, none of them had any plans to alter the website - a 10 minute cosmetic job in some cases, although considerable work in others.

Speaking of the lack of movement on the AAUG website, the site's former webmaster Andrew Harmsworth said: "User groups are notorious for not communicating updates to the site. Personally, I don't think AAUG's site has a negative effect overall. It is genuinely positive through its existence. It would just be more positive if it got updated."

Qercus publisher Finnybank, which absorbed Acorn User some time ago, advised us to 'watch this space' regarding the replacement of the Acorn User website - we'll hold them to that.

Jim Daniels of Pineapple software, whose website seems to be gathering cobwebs, told us: "[Our website] has been updated in as much as I have removed things that we no longer sell. The virus protection scheme which is the only remaining item on the site, is still available to anyone who wants it. New viruses have not appeared to my knowledge since the latest version of VProtect which is available free from the site."

Are we being too harsh? Let us know of any sites you think need a good spring clean. Websites with no news in months, hyping exposed vapourware or, say, advertising the Christmas 2003 edition of a magazine which no longer exists are all prime contenders. The current list looks like this:



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This really is too bad... and reflects current state of things. I think we can now safely say the news in all things risc os is being brought purely by the last remaining tribe of devotees, who I guess mostly will stick until the end. I think it's better this way - just regularly updated sites and losing those void of any recent updates. Another neglected site not in the drobe list is [link] which reached its 10 year anniversary...

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 11/2/05 9:11PM
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I am very sorry to hear about Stuart's MS. I have a couple of friends with it, and there is no doubt that if you are going to get it, the later the better. There do not seem to be many mechanisms for killing off obsolete websites. Indeed, I do not know what the legal position is on websites whose owners are deceased. Cybervillage has played an important role in Acorn and RISC OS's history and I would be sorry to see it disappear.

 is a RISC OS UserGavinWraith on 11/2/05 9:14PM
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There's probably a much longer list than that. Part of the problem is people taking on too much.

So in my case, I've still yet to get round to altering the "Risc PC x86 card information pages" to remove surplus parts and indicate that they now only exist to provide reference information - there's unlikely to be any new development, and the x86 card is even more out of date than the Risc PC (even though some people still use both daily). Efforts to hand over to two different replacement webmasters failed.

(I think still advertising the RISC OS 2000 show beats still advertising a Christmas 2003 edition of a magazine!)

I've also relatively recently (ahem) taken over maintaining [link] from Andrew, which makes this Drobe article itself rather out of date - a gradual trickle of updates did start appearing very shortly after I finally completed my 2002/2003 tax return, i.e. nearly two weeks ago. But there's still a great deal more to do, and right now it's my top priority as far as websites are concerned.

Andrew is correct that a lot of user groups don't update the AAUG when details change. On the other hand, a lot do tell the AAUG, but have to wait a very long time for action. There even seems to have been some confusion over whether information was being acted on or not. (One disadvantage of having a webmaster in addition to a chairman!).

I long ago maintained the [link] website, handed it over to someone else (it was roughly up to date at the time, which makes a change!), they didn't maintain it, it's now been handed over to a third webmaster but still hasn't been updated. Unfortunately the onus now seems to be on me to specify what I think needs to be on the site, before anything happens. A warning that handing over responsibility doesn't always seem to mean that!

In addition, there's at least one other well known RISC OS website that now almost certainly won't get any more updates unless I do them. (I suppose this makes it my responsibility :-) )

Throughout much of this time I was also maintaining [link] , which Martin Savage took over some time ago. This is an unusual example of a website handover that actually worked! Possibly slightly aided by the fact that getting content updated was given priority over "redesign", "relaunch", fancy new features and all the rest of it.

I think Paul Vigay possibly has similar time constraints simply in terms of the number of different websites and initiatives he's running, alongside his RISC OS day job and, well, starting up a new ISP :-)

A fair number of user group sites also suffer from site drift - a new webmaster takes over and produces a fantastic new site, so the old website owner feels his responsibilities are complete. The old webmaster never gets round to deleting the old website from his personal webspace; and even when he closes his account, his ISP doesn't delete it, and now won't let him do it either. So old Google links to the old website keep working, which is even worse than just failing to find anything...

Speaking of Google, RISC OS related searches do quite often turn up pages that are years out of date (everyone, including me, wanted to create their own page of RISC OS links once upon a time). This means that obscure personal websites can be just as annoying as the more high profile sites listed in the article.

So, think now. Do you have a website (even a personal one) that professes to give information or links about RISC OS ? Does it need a spring clean, or does it just need to be deleted or replaced with a link to somewhere up to date?


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 11/2/05 9:15PM
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riscos.net domain expired a week ago, and took several days to be renewed. I've contacted Karl Hawkes about doing something with the site in the past, but he seems more than happy to just hog the domain for no reason.

 is a RISC OS UserAndrewDuffell on 11/2/05 9:25PM
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I've received complaints that my last comment was too short, so I'll expand on it a little.

I don't think "nothing new to say" is a good reason to leave a dead website. If it's a website on a topic where there's nothing new for several years, it probably needs to be shut down. If, on the other hand, it's a general RISC OS news/views website, why should it be less up to date than Drobe or IconBar?

Likewise, I don't think being "disillusioned" is a good reason for leaving a dead website. Are you leaving it there out of spite, or would it be better to just politely close it and move on to whatever grass you find greener?


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 11/2/05 9:30PM
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The thing to remember is, if you can, always put up a notice saying "Go to <wherever> for up to date information", rather than removing the site completely. Such sites are interesting historically, if nothing else.

The other thing to remember is that it's not just RISC OS sites that lie dead - sites on any number of subjects do. It's because we're such a small market that there's such concern about it, I suppose - and I agree that people should take any opportunity to point people towards new information. But I can't find myself getting too concerned about it, I'm afraid. Sorry.

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 11/2/05 9:37PM
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Oh, and riscos.net should be left for an ISP ;)

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 11/2/05 9:37PM
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Sigh. That is, of course, r i s c o s . n e t - stupid comments system. Don't try and figure out what you think I mean!

 is a RISC OS Usermoss on 11/2/05 9:40PM
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In reply to DGS:

We sent the email to the AAUG webmaster at the address on the front page and Andrew replied.....

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 11/2/05 10:18PM
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markee174: Sounds good to me.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 11/2/05 10:31PM
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In reply to dgs:

So what does 'I've also relatively recently (ahem) taken over maintaining [link] from Andrew, which makes this Drobe article itself rather out of date -' mean then?

Drobe does make some vague efforts to check details....

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 11/2/05 10:34PM
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markee174: I think the whole point of the article should be that being "vague"ly up to date isn't good enough.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 11/2/05 10:38PM
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In reply to DGS:


There are some very good sites with lots of still very useful content (after all whats really new in the IT world in the last 10 years!). But having an out of date news section has a negative effective and takes up valuable space. Bin it and add a useful nav panel with some shortcuts!

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 11/2/05 10:44PM
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markee174: That's a thought! I'm going to look into what people would think of a total site redesign, followed by a site re-launch. The existing design and paradigm worked well for a great many years (lack of updates of the content was the main problem), but maybe it's time to move on?

Of course, I'd arrange a webmonkeyexpert to manage the redesign, so updates of the content might not be seamless for a month or three... hmmm :(


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 11/2/05 10:50PM
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In reply to DGS:

Or you could use the rss feed from drobe and then blaim them if the news does not seem to change ;-)

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 11/2/05 10:53PM
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markee174: As far as the AAUG is concerned, the priority is getting the user group directory up to date. After all, that's what people are most interested in.

As I said in my first comment, there's still plenty more to be done there. Anything else will take second priority.

As with some of my previous examples, there are lessons to be learned here. If your website focuses on a specific topic, why add links or news if that just increases the possibility the site will be badly out of date if you're away for a while.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 11/2/05 11:05PM
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Mark: Excellent article and about time someone dared mentioning this. Now lets hope webmasters pull the thumbs out from where thumbs shouldn't be and start updating.

dgs: How about simply putting up news about the site being actively updated again and put some minor content additions just to support that news?

 is a RISC OS UserGulli on 11/2/05 11:50PM
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Gulli: I'm sorry, but I refer you to the priorities I just listed.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 12/2/05 12:32AM
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dgs> sounds like you take too much on!

 is a RISC OS Userjonix on 12/2/05 12:39AM
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I'm just reading the comments here with an increasingly sick feeling in my stomach. The real story is at the top of the article, Stuart, who has been devoted to Acorn/RISC OS kit for over 20 years has an illness and due to this is unable to continue to update his website.

I can only say that, like Gavin, I wish Stuart all the best. As for the other posters, quite frankly I would have expected more from the RISC OS community :-(

 is a RISC OS UserVirtualAcorn on 12/2/05 12:39AM
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VirtualAcorn: "As for the other posters, quite frankly I would have expected more from the RISC OS community"

You're right, relying on other members of the community to help or take over is something we all look to for various reasons. Unfortunately, as we've seen, it doesn't always work as smoothly as most people would like.

That's not to say we shouldn't be grateful to all the people who support or work on RISC OS websites for free (or indeed at their own loss) rather than looking for a profit.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 12/2/05 1:02AM
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Dear dgs, I think you might have misunderstood my posting. My point was simple, someone, who many of us know, has been diagnosed with MS. I simply want to convey my feelings to Stuart, in a public forum, and express my good wishes. Please don't be over concerned by your ignorance of MS, the vast majority of the public have little, or no, understanding of diseases of the nervous system. My posting has nothing to do with RISC OS websites. It was simply to say that I would have expected a close knit community to wish one of it's one well under trying circumstances.

 is a RISC OS UserVirtualAcorn on 12/2/05 1:34AM
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VirtualAcorn: "Please don't be over concerned by your ignorance of MS"

Thank you for your comments.

Many of those who know me will understand why I find your comments (what I've quoted in particular) utterly repugnant.

You can discuss "ignorance" all you like, but you should perhaps *think* a little first.

I won't be commenting further.


 is a RISC OS Userdgs on 12/2/05 1:49AM
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Could be why many out of touch (non-RISC OS) people looking at these web sites think that Acorn / RISC OS is dead?

Would there be a high percentage of PC user old web sites in the same situation as the many dead vintage RISC OS sites, or are we just more noticeably unique?

Cybervillage opened in 1995... now that's ten years ago. I wonder how many Windows '95 (or similar era) reference sites are dead and unmaintained? Or should I ask are many people still using Windows '95?

Maybe I shouldn't really be comparing Windows '95 with RISC OS? As they are two very different types of aging cheeses, and from different cheese makers?

RISC OS has aged very well although the numerous stagnant web sites are increasing rapidly, but where do we go next?

 is a RISC OS UserSawadee on 12/2/05 6:09AM
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Sawadee: your "comparison" isn't relevant, nor very interesting. CV might have been opened in 1995, but it's been updated much more recently than that (sadly, not by much since 2001, which is a long time before Stuart's diagnosis). And most users are (arguably) using an OS that's more recent than 1995. Nor is there is question about the widespread use of Windows, even if there are such things as "Windows '95 reference sites".

The points about unupdated websites have already been outlined in the article above - there's no need to try and make any more up to avoid them.

Where we go next should be obvious - we need to ask those website maintainers, again, to do something about their sites. The situation isn't good, and hasn't been for some years. dgs at the very least has been honest about why some of the sites under his influence aren't as current as they could be.

 is a RISC OS Usermrchocky on 12/2/05 8:21AM
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Don't forget that Google search results are based on how many different sites link to the listed page. So if everyone just removed the links from their sites to avoid the dead links problem, RISC OS sites would not get high priority listings in Google searches any more.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 12/2/05 10:57AM
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"What is the RISC OS community doing about it? Not a thing."

If Stuart has seen the newsgroups he'd notice how Drobe have been pushing for people who started websites to live up to their responsibilities to keep them active and alive. Also, I noticed Nutshells via Google:


Sorry but if you start a site then it's your responsibility to keep it going and active. As the article above says there have been numerous news and resource sites started in a frenzy of enthusiasm which are then abandoned and it's more often than not through loss of the same enthusiasm.

The problem I suspect with Cybervillage was that at around the time Stuart was asking for help, a plethora of other news sites were springing up most of which seem to have stagnated or disappeared.

Best wishes to Stuart.

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 12/2/05 4:22PM
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I can't agree it's a 'responsibility' to update a website, if people do not want to read out of date news, then don't go to the website, period. And with regard to Stuart's condition, I think quite frankly a website, out of date or otherwise is not even worthy of a moments thought when you compare it's importance with the importance of your own health, or that of your friends/family.

 is a RISC OS Userthegman on 12/2/05 6:46PM
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It's not about what people want to read, it's about the kind of shop window that people are showing in the name of the RISC OS community.

 is a RISC OS UserAW on 12/2/05 7:23PM
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While I would agree it is generally a bad thing to have news sites stagnating, giveing the impression that nothing is happening around here. There is also many usefull resource websites disappearing. Would anyone like to volunteer some server space to provide a home for destitute websites?

Ian K

 is a RISC OS UserIanK on 13/2/05 1:34AM
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VirtualAcorn Those who choose to make public statements of support etc in situations such as this are free to do so.

However some people may have chosen to send thanks and messages of support privately and don't then feel the need to make such statements on a public forum.

 is a RISC OS Userblahsnr on 13/02/05 10:40AM
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I just wanted to say thanks to Stuart for providing us with the Cybervillage for all these years. I remember when I first found it. A RISC OS site with news and rumours. He certainly was able to dig up the gossip long before I saw it in print in the magazines. Cybervillage was a 'must check' website. In addition, his list of links to various items of RISC OS software was very worthwhile. I remember looking through it all to see what I'd missed. Also using it to set up my RiscPC for the internet. As many have pointed out, the site became less frequently updated and this coinsided with the rise of drobe.co.uk. I have to admit that in recent years I didn't visit it much. I'll be sad if it goes. It was part of RISC OS's history, along with the likes of the poppyfields Acorn links page.

And to Stuart, I have experience of MS through a family member. I know that the illness progresses at different speeds with different people and so I hope you are lucky. Of course, you'll change your priorities in life but do everything you can not to let the MS prevent you from enjoying life!



 is a RISC OS UserSpriteman on 14/02/05 11:11AM
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Cybervillage served us well, and was more widely-read than by just RISC OS users. I sold an old monitor off using Cybervillage, and it was bought by a non-RO user.

 is a RISC OS UserSimonC on 14/02/05 11:40AM
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Thanks for all the kind comments.

I just wish Drobe hadn't mentioned the exact nature of my illness. It wasn't what the interview was about I believe.

Their refusal to remove it after the article was published wasn't a very nice attitude imho.

 is a RISC OS Userquatermass on 18/02/05 11:36AM
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