‘Tis Better to Give: How To Find A Charity

The giving season is upon us. With Thanksgiving just past and Christmas still ahead, you may be thinking about those less fortunate. Or maybe you’re just thinking about what to buy for the picky aunt who has everything though will still be offended if you don’t find her the perfect gift. I can’t really help you with this last one, but if you are thinking about how you can help those in need, go to Charity Navigator.

I discovered this site a couple of months ago while trying to learn about different charities to determine who does what, what types of donations they accept, and how they use their incoming dollars. Charity Navigator has rated more than 5,000 of America’s best known charities. Their focus is on the financial health of the organizations and also includes their mission statements, links to their websites, and an option for immediate online donations.

Have a charity in mind? Search for them in the database to learn what percentage of their expenses goes toward administrative fees, or how much their CEO takes in salary. Trying to find the right charity? You can search their database by cause or rating to find those that fit you best.

As for your aunt’s Christmas present, make a donation in her name to a charity she couldn’t snub her nose at.

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Casual Visitors Not Welcome at Cornwall-on-Hudson

I had a well-needed (mostly) relaxing vacation in Cornwall, New York this weekend. It was my first time staying at a bed-and-breakfast. The owner of Cromwell Manor Inn, Jack, was very hospitable and the manor itself proved to be the quiet getaway I wanted. I savored every bite of my delicious dinner at The River Grill overlooking the Hudson. I photographed to my heart’s content from the summit of Bear Mountain. Though 75 miles away, the skyscrapers of New York City were visible in silhouette. Everything was near perfect. Until the day I left.

On our way out of town, my boyfriend and I went to visit the site of his grandfather’s (“Grandfeathers”) home in Cornwall-on-Hudson. His home is long since gone, replaced only by a thick blanket of freshly fallen gold leaves. From there, we drove about a half a mile to the Hudson River, where we found a beautiful park. We parked in the lot, walked to the water’s edge, took a few pictures, then began a calm round of Frisbee with an old plastic ring we found on the ground. A peaceful end to a peaceful vacation.

It was about that time when a man parked in the lot and walked by with his dog. He informed my boyfriend that we should be careful not to be ticketed- the parking lot is for permit holders only. When we asked where we should have parked, he “politely” informed us that we weren’t supposed to. It was a private park for the residents only.

What kind of world do we live in that I can’t walk through a grassy patch along a river’s edge? Who has the right to own nature and refuse it to others? If I had been in a boat on the river, rather than on the bank, is that acceptable? We caused no harm, made no raucous noises, destroyed nothing. We simply weren’t welcome to enjoy such a magnificent view.

In a sarcastic tone I shall say I am happy to have contributed to their economy. Grandfeathers would have been proud of his fellow residents.

Should you find yourself in Cornwall, head to Bear Mountain. You can go to the top, hike its trails, and climb the summit tower for free. From there, you can even see the forbidden Hudson.

Is Web Design Becoming Less Important?

Design may be less important than you think. More and more users are reading content from locations other than that content’s Web site. More simply put, users are turning to RSS feeds and the like for catching up on information.

When I redesigned the old Life After Web blog earlier in the year, one reader acknowledged that the new look was better, though he read my blog through a feed and never really saw the design anyway. This comment made me realize I worried way too much whether visitors to my blog would be adversely affected (particularly when I’m not exactly CNN here- it’s just me writing a little about technology and a little about life).

Anita Campbell discusses this notion in her article, Do You Know Where Your Content Is?, where she argues that “most of the activity involving your site may be happening off your site.”

Users want to control what they read, when they read it, and how they access it. Personally, I use netvibes to follow technology news, my favorite blogs, and the local weather, all of which I hand selected by source. Beats visiting those 17 sites individually.

This shift means that site owners must think of content in a different way. Content should be chunked and it should be portable. Read Anita’s article for ideas on how to do that.

All that being said, don’t panic. Your Web site isn’t obsolete. People still visit it. And some people don’t. Hopefully those people will read your content through some other method.

Most importantly, remember that you can’t control how your user gets to your content. Just make sure they get to it.