WI down wid da kidz

I have recently written, for publication elsewhere, an article comparing Waterways Ireland’s online presence unfavourably with that of the Canal & River Trust, which manages many waterways in England and Wales. WI clearly listened, because it has completely revamped its website.

Actually, that’s my little joke, because WI has clearly had folk working hard on this for some time. Its home page address remains as it was with (as I write) a clock ticking down to the official launch on 18 April 2013, but you can bypass that. Clearly not all the pages have yet been populated, but the overall design can be seen and it is several leagues ahead of the previous version.

It promotes a wider range of activities: walking, cycling, angling, boating, rowing, canoeing, sailing and power sports (but not, alas, campervanning). It has an events section, with events listed in chronological order by starting date; you can shorten the list by selecting a waterway, an activity or a date. This online listing is far more user-friendly than WI’s print equivalent. Sensibly, information on planning events is in the same section as the events listing.

The Clones Sheugh is listed amongst the waterways under Events, but no activities are planned there. However, the sheugh is not amongst the seven waterways listed under Our Waterways.

There’s a useful Do it Online section, with subsections called Register it, Pay for it, Apply for it and Report it. The last of those is rather disappointing, suggesting off-line communication; it would be more useful to have this sort of discussion between WI and its customers conducted in public. The promised form for online compliments and complaints isn’t there, but presumably will be added soon. Apply for it includes a procedure for applying for permission to film on WI property; this is something that BW (C&RT’s predecessor) had years ago.

The Learning section includes online games, the teachers’ resource pack and, encouragingly, information on arranging group tours of WI facilities and on accessing the archives; we are promised that some archive material will appear online.

The Corporate section includes About UsFAQs, Public Consultation, Research, Careers, Partner Information, Policies and Plans & Reports. There is little that was not on the previous version of the site. There are sections for the Media and on Commercial Activity; Visitors Centre leads to the existing pages on the Box in the Docks; there is a much better Contact Us page, with a classified list so that you can find the office you need.

The down-wid-da-kidz bit is that there are links to WI Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pages. There is nothing on the YouTube page yet; perhaps the first video will show Jimmy Deenihan cutting the ribbon on the new website tomorrow. The Twitter page — joy! — includes the marine notices, which makes this the first good reason I’ve come across for taking an interest in Twitter. The Facebook page seems to be no better or worse than other FB pages I’ve seen.

The new website does not seem to have anything about Nuttall’s Pondweed, which was the only thing on the old site that might attract nature-lovers. I see nothing on the new site to interest such folk; apart from the archives bit, WI’s wealth of industrial heritage is not represented. So, despite the much improved appearance and organisation, there are constituencies, or potential constituencies, that are not being addressed.

However, on the whole the new site does seem to fit in with and promote WI’s Marketing Strategy 2012–2017:

4.1 Marketing Mission

Essentially the marketing mission of Waterways Ireland is unchanged and is defined as increase awareness and promote greater use of Ireland’s 
Inland Waterways.

4.2 Strategic Marketing Objectives

Within the period 2012–2017, Waterways Ireland wishes to build on the success and achievements of the previous Strategy taking a more proactive approach in achieving the following strategic marketing objectives:

– promoting increased use of the Waterways including promoting the range of uses;

– creating awareness of the waterways including the commercial potential of thewaterways; and

– creating working relationships with other state and semi state, tourism, trade, recreational organisations and users.

What is not entirely clear to me, though, is whether this new and much-improved website is to continue the one-way communication process or whether WI will use the new media to their full potential, encouraging two-way communication (even if it includes criticism) and building a real waterways community. It will be interesting to see.

For far too long, the IWAI website was streets ahead of WI’s. The shoe is now on the other foot. Congratulations and best wishes to all involved in this major improvement to WI’s online presence.






16 responses to “WI down wid da kidz

  1. About bloody time! I emailed them last year pointing out that it wastaking them longer to update their website about completing the restoration of the Royal Canal than it did to actually complete the, er, restoration of the Royal Canal.

  2. I am also greatly relieved to see that the website is not available in the made up ‘language’ of “UIster Scotch” :)

  3. Does anyone claim that it is a language? I’ve always looked on it as a dialect … of Scots, which has a reasonable claim to be a language. And I did like the title “Heid Fector” for CEO. bjg

  4. They not only claim it is a language, they managed to get legal recognition of it as a “minority language” from the EU, and all public sector business Northern Ireland has to be “translated” into it (paid for out of the public purse, of course). I’m sure Waterways Ireland’s budget is squeezed enough without them having to pay the Ulster Scotch Institute to “translate” their new website into a ridiculous phonetic transcription of English being spoken in a Ballymena accent. As such, it seems reassuring that there is nothing more than a Google Translate button on their website. (And Google Translate, being as it only deals in real languages, not ones invented for politcal purposes, doesn’t have an Ulster Scotch option).

  5. We must not assume, though, that there is only one English. The good folk of Ballymena (no doubt a delightful place, albeit one I have not knowingly visited) are surely entitled to their version of English or of Scots. bjg

  6. I dare say the citizens of Ballymena are entitled to have written communication from their government agencies provided to them in a language they can understand. But as there are no monoglot speakers of “Ulster Scotch”, and any who do profess to know it all have ordinary English as their first language, spending cash translating leaflets, forms, roadsigns, websites and all Stormont business into it does not seem like a very good use of public money to me!

  7. I mean next thing you know, they’ll be spending nearly millions of quid repairing locks on the Lagan Navigation, when it has no prospect of being made navigable or connected to the rest of the network (not least cos about half of it is under the M1 motorway), simply because it’s an alternative to spending it on the dastardly North-southery of the Clones Sheugh …. oh wait! /sighs/

  8. Parity of esteem, innit? The Lagan as the loyalist canal, the Clones as the republican? Down with both of them, say I. But the cost of Ulster Scots is a separate matter from the question of its existence (or non-existence, if you prefer). bjg

  9. Parity of infantile bigotry, more like. Can’t they restore the Newry Canal instead? It has the advantage of (a) still basically being intact and thus actually achievable for far less money and (b) going from a city where Themmuns mostly live to a city where Thoseuns mostly live. So, they could all go up and down it on cross-community boat trips, building a mutual understand of their wonderful local dialects and traditions. Americans and the UN might even give them some cash for it.

  10. There is a campaign for that too, and it does seem to involve folk from both ends (only one end has a city, though). I am happy to say that these good folk do actually undertake some work on the canal themselves. However, restoration would be folly, given the non-fungibility of boats. Larger sailing boats are unlikely to be able to travel on the Newry Canal; the more powerful motor-cruisers are unsuited to canals; canal boats (whether barges, lighters or narrowboats) are unsuited to the waters at either end, Lough Neagh and Carlingford Lough respectively. But perhaps there might be a dozen or so small outboard-powered boats that could use the canal, stopping at Scarva en route. bjg

  11. Hah! There had to be parity of city status too, sadly – Lisburn (pop. 70,000) wanted to me made one, so themmuns had to have a city too, and Newry was picked (pop. 27,000)… in reality both it and Portadown (pop. 20,000) are are similar size (and both just big market towns, really). Your point about boat fungibility is well made (although what did they do originally in the 18th & 19th centuries? Swap boats to get goods across Lough Neagh?)

  12. Actually, some surprising progress made by that IWAI Newry group in getting locks 2 & 3 working again http://www.newry.iwai.ie/lock2and3.pdf
    However it’s telling that their write up starts with the fact that these locks had already been restored by Newry & Mourne Council in the 1990s … “but allowed to fall into disrepair” – sadly very typical of ill-planned canal restoration projects! They get funding for isolated bits but no funding for further work or maintenance, basically meaning the work is wasted. This is of course why WI want to start their next restoration at Clones, which is connected to the existing system and can be used by actual boats…

  13. I know little about the practicalities of transport on northern waterways before the age of steam: I haven’t researched the topic and W A McCutcheon [in The Canals of the North of Ireland] doesn’t say much about it. A boat or lighter might be horse-drawn on the Coalisland Canal, but how would it cross Lough Neagh? How would it get up the Upper Bann to the Newry Canal? There is a suggestion that some mid-eighteenth-century vessels were sailed across Lough Neagh, presumably lowered their masts for the Newry Canal and resumed them to sail to Dublin with their cargoes of coal. The availability of a large workforce, with appropriate sheers for raising and lowering masts, might have helped. Boats might have used sweeps or poles, but McCutcheon doesn’t seem to have much about these matters. A barge-shaped object could probably be moved on all those waterways, waiting out any gales before crossing the lakes, but I’m not sure that a modern holidaymaker would think it worth the effort. bjg

  14. Consider also Strabane. bjg

  15. The council there paid a fortune to some quango to restore their little canal, did they not? [redacted] and so it was still unnavigable and so is slowly falling into disrepair again? (Not that there was ever going to be much of a leisureboat market in cruising between Derry and Strabane, I wouldn’t have thought?)

  16. I used the Google maps satellite view to look for leisure craft along the Foyle. I could see none inland of Stroke City. bjg

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