As I wander through the internet, I often come across services and websites that provide organizational services. In fact, there are probably thousands of online tools that promise to make your life easier, run more efficiently, and solve any number of dilemmas. Occasionally, I find items that I think may be of use to my readers. Qlubb.com is one of these services. I’ve explored the site and would like to present its possible benefits for studio owners and parents as a means to improve communication.
Many dance studios rely heavily on parental involvement to car pool to rehearsals or events, volunteer throughout the year, and help keep things organized at performances or competitions. What perhaps was once handled through phone lists and paper mailings, is now typically taken care of via bulk e-mailing. E-mail, overall, has offered an ease and speed in the communication between people. For groups, however, e-mail alone is not always sufficient. Here’s an example:
A studio sends a reminder to all of the parents in an e-mail group, asking them to sign up for various duties. The parents receive the e-mail and “reply all” to the whole group, stating “I’ll take care of this,” or “I’ll do this from 2 o’clock to 4 o’clock,” etc. At the same time, a parent asks a question about what their child needs to bring to the next competition, sending her query to the entire group list. Some respond, some check but ignore the e-mail once they’ve realized it does not apply to them. Before you know it, the entire group has received thirty (or more) e-mails, and whichever poor soul has been selected to organize the details must sift through and decide who is doing what, which tasks remain, and make sure people received answers to their questions. The problem, as you can see, is that e-mail works best when communicating from person to person. It is not interactive enough to deal with multiple people “talking” all at once.
Qlubb to the Rescue!
Qlubb is not unlike a number of sites on the web in that it seeks to solve this issue, creating an interactive “home base” for groups to interact. What makes Qlubb distinct, however, is its simplicity. Whereas some websites offer mind-boggling options which could be daunting for those with a) little time to waste, or b) little experience/confidence with computers, Qlubb allows for an extremely quick set-up (as they state on the site, “It only takes 2 clicks to create a Qlubb, and 1 click to join a Qlubb,”) and intuitive methods of adding and editing events, messages, tasks, and more. This makes the site an attractive solution for “real-life” groups that meet in person and want to organize themselves in a simple, no-fuss, fashion.
Only a year old, Qlubb is still a work in progress. It was developed by an active community member who saw a need among real-life organizations and set out to provide a solution. Thus far, groups at Qlubb have been small in comparison to larger websites offering similar services and is utilized by many types of groups, including book clubs, playgroups, and families. I am told that a number of dance groups already utilize the site.
As stated above, creating a Qlubb is easy, and it is free. All that is required to set up a Qlubb is your e-mail address, chosen password (which will act as the password for the entire group), and a simple name for your group. This name will become part of the group’s URL, or web address, as well as the group’s e-mail address. For instance, I created a group, using the name dancetest, which resides at http://dancetest.qlubb.com, with the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org. Once the group was created, I was immediately able to start editing the group’s web pages. Groups are kept secure and invisible from the general public with the use of a shared password. Although, creating a “public” page for the group (here is *dancetest’s public page) is an option, only members with the password can visit or send e-mails to this group.
Qlubb offers several pages within the group website on which members can access various features. Pages are easily accessed with a tab system at the top of the site. Each page and its features are described below.
- Group description (html, videos, widgets, and more can be added here, in fact most text areas on the site accept html code, allowing the addition of links and more)
- A slideshow of photos added by members
- Event listing
- “Useful things” like reminders or links
- “Blurbs” (short messages or comments for high visibility on the front page)
Probably the most important feature accessed here is the event listing. Events can be quickly added with a simple form that collects the vital information such as date (multi-days is an available option), time, event name, and location. As with most forms on the site, most of this information is not mandatory – only the event name is required. Once the event is created, other options (found below) are available by clicking on the event name.
- Add a description of the event
- Send an invite to the entire group to notify them of the event
- Choose to include the rsvp option for the event for a quick tally of who will attend
- Set automatic reminders which can be sent to all members or only members with task assignments
- View the “task” list.
Task List – Tasks are like a “to do” list and sign up sheet for the event all in one. Like events, tasks are added via a simple form. Those organizing the event may ask for a particular number of volunteers or assign a group member to the task. Other members can easily click on the “Me!” button to volunteer for the task and have the option of removing themselves, as well. Each task may be marked completed for a quick idea of what is left to accomplish. Events can be listed without tasks.
- Displays member information, much like a business card (no fussy profile pages!) – name, photo, e-mail, and other relevant info.
- Each member can decide if their picture and name are to be displayed on the “public” homepage, visible to anyone. E-mail addresses and other info are displayed only to group members.
- Members can choose how much or how little information to reveal. The only member information that is mandatory and disclosed (to group members) is the e-mail address.
- When one edits their member card, members may choose to receive e-mail messages from the group, a feature that may be turned off or on.
Members can view the gallery or upload photos from a home computer to the website. These photos can be made public (i.e. visible on the “public” page) or private (visible only to group members).
- Photos may be associated with a particular event or date (photos that correspond with these will appear in a separate album on the photo page).
- Clicking on each photo, takes the group member to a page in which the photo information can be edited and comments on the photo can be added.
- Files may be added in exactly the same manner as photos, with all the same options. (This is an excellent place to put permission forms, costume order forms, and more.)
- All files are available to members for download.
- Uses a familiar message board format.
- “News” can be added through the site or by sending an e-mail to the group address (email@example.com).
- Replies can also be added using either method, allowing users to respond just as they would to a normal e-mail.
- Those posting a message from the website have the option to send it to the entire group. Any member of the group that has chosen to receive e-mail updates (see MEMBERS) will receive these messages in their inbox. Messages posted/replied to via e-mail are automatically sent to the entire group.
ADMIN (UPDATE!! 3/23/09)
Qlubb seeks to allow all members administrative access to everything on the site. Whereas some websites require a “moderator” to add content to the site, forcing one person to be responsible for the upkeep of a group, Qlubb allows group members to be responsible for themselves and all content on the site. Overall, this makes group participation and interaction extremely easy and is a positive feature. However, having access to everything means, EVERYTHING, including the ability to change the group’s access password. (this feature has changed!)
My Two Cents
As I stated previously, I truly think that what Qlubb.com offers is unique in its simplicity and real-world application. The task feature in particular is one that I think could streamline an organization’s processes immensely and I believe the effects would be noticed and appreciated immediately among group members.
One feature I feel is missing from the site is a calendar view of events. Although one can see a mini calendar when editing/adding an event, currently events can only be viewed in a list format. Viewing dates on a calendar is, for me, helpful in visualizing upcoming items in a way a list is not. Some of you may prefer the list view, but I believe there are probably enough people like both you and I to consider offering both options. An attractive aspect of the site is that suggestions such as these are welcomed at Qlubb and help is always an e-mail away. In fact, I found that my inquiries to Qlubb’s help e-mail address were answered very promptly, with a friendly tone, and contained applicable information.
Perhaps like many of you, the very open administrative access is the one area of the site about which I have some misgivings. Drama (in case you haven’t noticed) has been known to occur among dancers, parents, and studios. While I would hope that most people would handle themselves in a mature manner, I have witnessed episodes of surprising childishness among grown adults. In correspondence with a Qlubb representative, I brought up the potential problems of across-the-board access. I felt reassured to know that Qlubb recognizes that as the site and its groups grow that further options may need to be added to the administrative aspects of the service. In the meantime, I think groups and organizations can benefit from what the site has to offer. Tampering with the group’s password or other features is likely to remain a rare occurrence among most users of this site. For the most part, I think the benefits of starting a Qlubb outweigh the risks.
UPDATE – 3/23/09
The calendar feature was an addition made in December of last year and has improved the event aspects of this site. Also just recently Qlubb has restricted password and other controls to just the group creator (and members appointed administrators). You can read more about this feature here, on the Qlubb blog.
Join the Qlubb!
Although there is not a specific “dance qlubb” group, I placed mine under sports team. The features are the same, regardless of this label. If you want to see samples of how different groups might use the site, these are accessible from the Qlubb homepage. If you feel this may be a good solution for your particular group, I encourage you to try it out. Of course, as with any site, please make sure that the terms and privacy policies are acceptable to you. You can learn more by visiting the Qlubb website, the QlubbHouse Blog, and by checking out the FAQ.
I hope you found this review of the site helpful! If you have experience with Qlubb or similar sites, or if you would like to ask questions, please post a comment!
*this page will not be available after 12/13/2008