Sunday, April 18, 2010

iWeb To Help Queenie The Elephant

An advocacy project that my wife and I are involved in is helping circus and zoo elephants find a better life at animal sanctuaries such as the Performing Wildlife Animal Society (PAWS) and The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. One elephant of particular interest is Queenie, also known as Boo. You may have seen her performing or giving rides at the Shrine Circus. Queenie has been marooned in Texas, sometimes chained to a tree, since the USDA ordered her off the road and pulled the license of her exhibitor months ago.

We’ve been advocating that the USDA transfer Queenie to the rolling grassy hills of the PAWS sanctuary in California, where she is wanted and will be well taken care of for life. However, just last Friday we heard that the USDA has made the decision to send her to a small, dark and barren elephant exhibit area at the San Antonio Zoo. This is being done against the wishes of the owner and all of us who recommend a transfer to PAWS at no cost to the government or the owner.

Well, friends, this is America, the land of free speech and personal initiative. Since our business and social network is primarily online, we immediately decided to take action by spreading the word on the plight of poor Queenie and asking for quick action on the part of those sympathetic and willing to spend a few minutes to help Queenie get a better deal. But how could we get an attractive and informative website up quickly enough to do any good? The answer is iWeb. It comes included with every iMac computer as part of the iLife software bundled with the system. Could it do the job?

The Help an Elephant website. Click to visit.

You decide! I had the welcome page for Help an Elephant up in less than an hour with a basic appeal for help and links to the IDA Blog from In Defense of Animals and the PAWS news statement as backgrounders. The template is the “travel” theme, one of many designs included with iWeb. I kept all the defaults for layout, font face and color. The picture of Queenie is one I took myself when she appeared at the Shrine circus in Loves Park, IL last June. Notice that her back leg is chained to the truck with only a few feet of chain. All I did was drag the picture from my photos file to a blank spot on the page template and there it is.

At the time I was working on the welcome page, Barbara wrote a blog post and added another picture of Queenie giving rides at the event. iWeb includes a blog feature as part of the tool. All you have to do is select what type of page you want and it takes care of the code details for linking and provides an RSS Subscribe button. At some point we’ll add a YouTube video using the YouTube widget in iWeb.

How easy is it to get one of these sites online? Pretty easy. You have a choice of using your MobileMe cloud service from Apple if you are a subscriber. Or you can publish to your own domain on your hosting service, if you prefer. I’ve got a reseller account that I use for many commercial websites, so I just added another account there and entered the settings into the iWeb FTP client. You don’t need a separate FTP with iWeb ‘09, although the earlier ’08 version does require it. This site went up Friday Night. I did a quick submit to the search engines at the same time. By Sunday afternoon, I found it listed in Google on the first page for a search of “help an elephant.” Pretty fast.

There are two morals of this story. First, if you have a cause or point of view that would benefit from being on a website, you can get something really nice looking and functional up and running in a matter of hours using iWeb. From there, you can promote it in the search engines and using social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.

Second, if this story tugs at your heartstrings and you’d like to spend just a minute or so helping Queenie get to a better life, make a quick phone call to USDA Secretary Vilsack’s office at (202) 720-3631. The nice lady will add your name to a petition to send Queenie to the PAWS sanctuary. The idea here is to show public demand by flooding the government phone system and letting them know there are a lot more of us that care about this issue than they might think. I’ll let you know how it works out. Best of luck also with your own advocacy, charitable or political initiatives.

Follow Telexplainer on Twitter