four blossoms with the word jebrawebbed below

Jebrawebbed is the blog written by Debi Lewis, founder and owner of sustainable web site development company Based in Evanston, IL, Debi and her firm are focused on building web sites for organizations with a purpose beyond (but not exclusive of) profit. Debi blogs about open source content management, non-profit and small business web sites, the importance of local community building, and women-owned business. She is the mother of two young daughters, married to a non-geek, prefers her bike to her car, and is the proud owner of a few too many stringed instruments.

You can find Jebraweb on Facebook and Twitter. You can email Debi at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Tags: this i believe open-source ethics web content content content management

Open-Source Chocolate Cake

Note: This post is part of a series of blog posts related to Jebraweb's "This I Believe" statements. You can read about them in our first post, "Welcome to Jebraweb."

chocolate cake

When I tell my clients that I utilize open-source content management software with some extensions to run their web sites, most often I am met with blank stares. There are so many pieces to unpack from that garble of tech geekspeak that I had to come up with a good metaphor to describe it. Fortunately, I have both degrees in creative writing AND eleven years of parenting experience, so I came up with just the right metaphor for the modern-day business owner or non-profit manager:

Recipes. Let's pretend, for a moment, that the delicious chocolate cake on my counter right now is your web site.

OK, stop drooling.

Put Your Money Back, Really

sign: please do not touch the herringNote: This post is part of a series of blog posts related to Jebraweb's "This I Believe" statements. You can read about them in our first post, "Welcome to Jebraweb."

I promise not to trot out that old cliché: "Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach him how to fish, and he'll eat forever." No way. I would never be so trite.

Except, it's true.

One of my major selling points when I talk with my clients about using a content management system for their new (or redesigned) web site is that it will enable them to manage their content themselves. I don't want to overstate this, but it really is one of the best ways I have of saving my clients money in the long run. Here are some typical scenarios I see in my clients' businesses and organizations when we first meet:


  1. They had a web site built for them several years ago by someone they know -- a cousin, a neighbor's kid, a friend, an intern. It was fine at the time, but now they need to change the store hours or the logo color or add a page, and they can't get in touch with the designer. Sometimes they can get in touch with the designer, but the response time is too slow. Either way, they need their site edited and it's just not getting done.
  2. They made a web site themselves using an online tool -- sometimes it's a software-as-service provider, which makes their content hard to get out or customize as much as they'd like, and sometimes it's just not as robust as they want. They want something better, but they don't know what's available.
  3. Their web site is dreadful and everyone knows it, even Tibetan monks, even them. They need a new site -- needed it yesterday.
  4. They love their site. It's perfect. It's exactly what they want. Now, how do they change it? Can they change it? Do I know how to change it? Will I change it for them?

Bigger Than Profit

Debi in helmetNote: This post is part of a series of blog posts related to Jebraweb's "This I Believe" statements. You can read about them in our first post, "Welcome to Jebraweb."

Fair warning: if my father -- who worked harder and for more hours and more tirelessly than anyone I know, squeezing profit from every possible piece of his expertise that he could -- saw this post, he would fly here from his retirement community and do everything he could to shake some sense into me as I admit this unforgiveable truth: I don't really need to make a fortune.

A little back story, here: I have both a BA and an MA in English and entered the world of web site development in 1996, just as the graphical web was really taking off. Everyone used dial-up modems, disabling their call-waiting before calling into their internet service providers to wait forever and ever while the home page for AOL loaded. My first job -- according to the job posting and what I learned in my interview -- was supposed to be writing reviews of web sites for a new search engine where every site indexed would have a description and review. You read that correctly: I would be reviewing every site in a search engine index. It was ambitious but, in 1996, it was by no means impossible. However, this was the dot com boom, and between getting the "you're hired!" phone call and walking in on my first day, the company's business plan had changed entirely. Now, it would be an internet advertising network, buying and selling banner ad space via live, streamed internet auction.

"Here," my new boss told me, handing me a shiny new book called HTML for the World Wide Web, "Can you figure this out and build us a web site?"

Welcome to Jebrawebbed

happy people with blue backgroundIn the 1950s, journalist Edward R. Murrow hosted a radio program called This I Believe, sharing a daily distillation of one person's deeply held principles. The show was revived in the early 2000s on National Public Radio and as a national non-profit organization to collect essays and stories from today about people's core values. I was always intrigued by what I heard on the show, everything from the spiritual definitions of life's meaning to the conviction that one's mother's cooking is superior to the cooking of anyone else on earth. Both types of values are important and influence the decisions of the people who commit to them. Having taken the time to articulate their beliefs helped make these folks even more resolute.

When I think about what that means for myself as a business owner and as an agent for change through my business, I realize that feeling strongly about what I believe makes me better at my job. These things distinguish me -- and Jebraweb -- from a horde of web consultants and developers working today.

And so, I submit to you as our first blog post for Jebrawebbed, a list of what I believe. This is a result of many years of watching my clients show me what they believe, of finding what works for me and them, of learning what about my career works for my family, and of making decisions that allow me to stay true to the list below.

This I believe:

  • that nothing Jebraweb does will ever feel right if it is not in support of something bigger than profit
  • that we should never create a scenario for our clients that leaves them dependent on us
  • that open-source software is the most ethical choice for ourselves and our clients
  • that recognizing my clients as human beings with personal lives is important
  • that admitting to my clients that I am more than a business is also important
  • that chocolate chip cookies and cafe mochas are indispensable business tools

In the coming weeks, I'll be telling you more about each of these beliefs. Once we've discussed them in detail (yes, even the cookies!), you'll start seeing posts about more of the nitty-gritty of our work -- things like tools we love to use, trends in web design and social media, and non-profit organizations we especially love. My goal is for this to be a non-geek-friendly blog -- so don't worry if Facebook itself is a trial to your technical expertise. I'll keep it accessible, conversational, and hopefully fun to read. As always, please feel free to write to me on our Jebraweb Facebook page, or shout out to me on Twitter. I'm looking forward to sharing with and learning from you.


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