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Subject:  BOD for my HOA is going to operate a web site
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KeithH7
(Florida)

Posts:20


08/21/2012 8:01 AM  
Hi There!
The BOD for my HOA is going to operate a web site; what are some of the do, don’ts and tidbits that should be taken into consideration?
TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16379


08/21/2012 8:24 AM  
Good question.

Decide what you want to do with the site first (access to documents, links to local schools, etc.), then keep the following in mind -

1) The web is public!

Anything placed on the site could be seen by anyone. Therefore keep privacy issues in mind and take steps to protect the privacy of your members. This can be done by:

Password protect the minutes - which might contain sensitive information
Sanitize some of the documents posted - for example, we give access to our parking plan but keep the maps (which identifies assigned parking spots) password protected.

BTW: Other than minutes and the parking plan, all of our documents are available on the site. We have gotten a lot of good feedback on this from new owners and Realtors.


2) Spammers love forums & guest books

When I first started a forum on our website, I made the mistake of making it open to anyone who registered for it. I then spent approx 1-2 hours a day taking spam off of the forum. I finally resolved the issue by banning all overseas and a lot of US IP addresses from even accessing the site. Now I still check it daily but only spend an hour a month maintaining it.

To prevent this completely, I would suggest either not including a forum or make it members only.


3) Consider adding links

In addition to our own governing documents, we have links to applicable State laws and Federal laws.

We also include links to the local schools and nearby parks.

I've seen some include links to various services (TV, Phone, electric). The more useful you make it for your members the more the site will be used.

Tim
LarryB13
(Arizona)

Posts:4099


08/21/2012 10:10 AM  
My association has an official website plus one of the former board members has operated a forum for over a decade. Both are password protected and open to members only. I have never seen any spam on either site.

The operator of the forum asked us once if we felt it should be opened up to outsiders and the overwhelming response was no. Part of the concern was that our association is essentially recreational and retirement living and members were afraid that outsiders would use the site to find out when owners would be away from their properties.

My suggestion is that any HOA website should be members only with password protection.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:8425


08/21/2012 10:48 AM  
Posted By KeithH7 on 08/21/2012 8:01 AM
Hi There!
The BOD for my HOA is going to operate a web site; what are some of the do, don’ts and tidbits that should be taken into consideration?




My suggestion would be make the site informational only meaning not a chat board and make it open for anyone to view.

Post everything, Covenants, Bylaws, budgets, meeting notices, meeting minutes, etc. Let everyone see how smooth the place runs and how all get along.

I say no chat as it could quite easily deteriote in a moaning and groaning situation.
RichardP13


Posts:0


08/21/2012 1:33 PM  
I agree with John. Show everyone, you have nothing to hide. The only people that would be looking at the site would be residents and individuals interestd in your property.
LarryB13
(Arizona)

Posts:4099


08/21/2012 1:47 PM  
I agree with John that there should not be a chat room on the HOA's website. If you have chat, sooner or later someone will criticize the board and the board will respond by removing unfavorable comments leading to even more criticism of the board. Avoid this spiral of death by encouraging members to maintaint their own discussion board elsewhere.

JohnH37
(Michigan)

Posts:5


08/23/2012 3:40 PM  

We use a company called that hosts our website, designed it and it's very user friendly as well as eay to udpate. Please contact me if you would like any additional info. Check out their site, it was very helpful for us to make a decision.
SteveM9
(Massachusetts)

Posts:3264


08/23/2012 5:36 PM  
Posted By JohnH37 on 08/23/2012 3:40 PM

We use a company called condosites.net that hosts our website


$600 per year? No thanks.
JohnH37
(Michigan)

Posts:5


08/23/2012 5:39 PM  
No need to be nasty. You asked for help. I didn't ask for your help.
JohnH37
(Michigan)

Posts:5


08/23/2012 5:41 PM  
Sorry it wasnt you that asked for help. But good for you if that works for you. This works for us and I don't mind paying for it. Thats why we collect Asscoaition dues.
CindyB5


Posts:0


08/23/2012 6:40 PM  
I read every website, facebook page and whatever else I can access online of HOAs in my community. I read and learn. While I appreciate what they have made public, I have decided that we will think twice, thrice or maybe more before attempting it. I have been able to read minutes to meetings that I probably should not have been allowed to. Names, addresses, you name it...stuff I should not be able to read and if it was my association, I would not be happy that it was accessible.

That said, I have learned which lawn services to avoid, which property management companies do well by their communities, who the best handymen are, how to hold a progressive block party and, where to hold our board meetings in the community for no charge.

Social media is working for us, lol. Seriously, I hope that anyone considering a website will take the time to learn how to lock-down sensitive info.

Cindy
RickW
(Illinois)

Posts:169


08/26/2012 5:54 AM  
Posted By TimB4 on 08/21/2012 8:24 AM
Good question.

Decide what you want to do with the site first (access to documents, links to local schools, etc.), then keep the following in mind -

1) The web is public!

Anything placed on the site could be seen by anyone. Therefore keep privacy issues in mind and take steps to protect the privacy of your members. This can be done by:

Password protect the minutes - which might contain sensitive information
Sanitize some of the documents posted - for example, we give access to our parking plan but keep the maps (which identifies assigned parking spots) password protected.

BTW: Other than minutes and the parking plan, all of our documents are available on the site. We have gotten a lot of good feedback on this from new owners and Realtors.


2) Spammers love forums & guest books

When I first started a forum on our website, I made the mistake of making it open to anyone who registered for it. I then spent approx 1-2 hours a day taking spam off of the forum. I finally resolved the issue by banning all overseas and a lot of US IP addresses from even accessing the site. Now I still check it daily but only spend an hour a month maintaining it.

To prevent this completely, I would suggest either not including a forum or make it members only.


3) Consider adding links

In addition to our own governing documents, we have links to applicable State laws and Federal laws.

We also include links to the local schools and nearby parks.

I've seen some include links to various services (TV, Phone, electric). The more useful you make it for your members the more the site will be used.

Tim




Tim,
I find your secoond item very interesting. We have our forums set so that a new user must register prior to being allowed to post. I spend an enourmous amount of time checking each user to determine if they are a resident or not. Most are fom overseas IP addresses. It would be great to ban them from even attempting to become a registered user. I'd be interested in knowing more.
Thanks
Rick
hoatalk
(California)

Posts:571


08/26/2012 10:44 AM  
Keith, As you may have noticed, Community123 owns and runs this HOATalk.com website. We offer it as a free service to HOA and condo leaders and use it to reach out to potential customers like yourself.

Some advice for you is below along with how we implement that advice on our service. Yes, this is a sales pitch but it also has advice you can use whatever route you choose:

We have been building and hosting Community websites since 2004 so we've learned a lot about how to make them work.

SECURITY? Our sites have multiple levels of security because we (and industry attorneys) don't recommend that internal HOA/Condo docs be published outside the association membership. Your Association is a corporation and it's internal docs should be kept internal just like any other corporation (public docs like CCRs, Articles, etc can be open to the public on your site).

FORUMS? As to forums, most of our Board customers choose not to have one, even for members only as it tends to require too much oversight work. What we normally use instead is an online Suggestion Box that all members can see, but there are controls on posting and the posts are not emailed to all members.

EMAIL? Lastly, we find that email is an important partner to the website. You have to push important information to members via email if you want them to see it. People will not check the HOA site too often on their own. It's used more as a 24x7 library when needed.

So what Community123 does is this: We have an Automatic Email Newsletter feature that reads your website once a month and sends a summary email with links back to the site for any upcoming events on your calendar, new documents posted (like minutes), new news articles posted, etc. This keeps the members up to date, brings them to the site for more details and the site becomes your permanent repository of Association information.

FREE SERVICES? Should you use a free service for your HOA/condo website? Of course you would expect us to say no, but here's why: Frankly, your community's image on the Internet is your website. Do you really want random ads popping up on your site? Imagine your front entrance sign having ads posted on it by the road. That would look cheap and so does a free site with Google ads or the like all over it. You need a real, professional website to represent the $millions of real estate in your community. It makes your community appear solid and well run to prospective Buyers and Realtors....Yes they are looking since 85% of all buyers search for community info on the Web.

DIY VOLUNTEER SITE? If you have a technical person in the community it sounds great to have them build your site for you. That may work OK until that person moves, leaves the Board or has a conflict with the Board. We have seen more than one community have their site taken away, taken over or let die in this situation. Many of our customers tried this first, then came to us when it failed. Other issues are that only one person can update and control the site, so the site is not updated often and the Board really has no control over it. Again, your site represents $millions in real estate and should be taken seriously as it is your Internet front gate to the world.

We offer a 2 month no hassle free trial if you want to see how it works.
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TimB4
(Virginia)

Posts:16379


08/26/2012 1:49 PM  
Posted By RickW on 08/26/2012 5:54 AM

Tim,
I find your secoond item very interesting. We have our forums set so that a new user must register prior to being allowed to post. I spend an enourmous amount of time checking each user to determine if they are a resident or not. Most are fom overseas IP addresses. It would be great to ban them from even attempting to become a registered user. I'd be interested in knowing more. Thanks Rick




Rick,

It's done with the .htaccess file.

Within that file, you may allow or block specific ip addresses (as well as do other things). IP addresses do change every once in awhile, so this does need to be updated from time to time.

Here is a link to htaccess tutorial and a link to the page on blocking users by IP.

I use the this site to identify the IP addresses used by a country. Their free version isn't as accurate as the paid version but it seems to work for me.


If you would like a copy of my file to use as a starting place, e-mail me at [email protected] and I'll be happy to provide it.
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