Ragged University Website Development Workshop Pilot by Mike Harkness

This is an account of the pilot of the website development workshop brought together to promote digital literacies and help realise people’s ambitions through sharing in a community setting.  More workshops will be coming, and this would not be possible without the generosity, support and contributions of Graeme Sturrock (owner of Edinburgh Computer Repairs), and Derek Howden (owner of Great Website Hosting)…


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For weeks every click on my mouse pad when I was within Mozilla Fox internet browser brought up an intrusive webpage of adverts that required several clicks to get rid of. When I was within a page such as my email the right hand side of the screen had flashing adverts and some of the adverts were for my bank and asking for my account details. These were nasty malware virus type things which I had picked up when I first installed my browser and I didn’t know how to get rid of them for good and neither did AVG my anti-virus software but Derek did.


After about twenty minutes he’d installed a free anti malware package which had revealed more than 100 viruses running on my laptop and ten minutes after that had killed them all of. Derek said that even if the afternoon only resulted in ridding my computer of these annoying things then I would probably feel that it had been worthwhile.


He was right but the rest of the afternoon had much more to offer. The truth is meeting Derek and Alex made the afternoon worthwhile for me and all the computer and internet related things were a very helpful bonus.


I had informally approached Alex Dunedin from Ragged University for help in setting up a website and he had brought along his friend Derrick who is a web designer by profession. We met at the computer repair shop and internet café on Melville Terrace which Alex had booked for our meeting. I had no idea what to expect when I turned up that Sunday afternoon but I felt relieved to see them both standing outside having a fag when I got there.


These guys were giving their time for free to provide a service to help people like me to realize their aspirations in terms of an internet presence. It is such a great thing to inspire a sense of community and sharing among people to do Random Acts of Kindness and I hope that I am able to reciprocate in the future.


We stood together in the street talking about Derrick’s idea to set up a version of LETS (a Local Exchange Trading System) for Edinburgh and as I had been a member of one in Findhorn for twenty years I could talk about that and felt like there was a lot of common ground between us from the outset. The lack of formality and the fact that it wasn’t a commercial business meeting as well as being enjoyable and sociable, also allowed me to feel relaxed about my lack of knowledge and low level of preparation.


Once we all went inside Alex had very kindly supplied snacks and coffee so for the first few minutes we sat and chatted. He explained his idea that the afternoon shouldn’t be viewed as a top down teaching but more an interactive mutual sharing. WordPress is the name of the programme that Derek uses and had shown Alex how to use to get a website up and running.


Derek spent the afternoon setting up my domain name and my various Facebook and Twitter accounts that would help my website once published to find an audience. As we worked on the various components of the website set up we chatted. Our conversation covered our spiritual ideas, the politics of globalization and mental health. These are all subjects that I have spent most of my life thinking about so it was a real pleasure to talk to two thoughtful people who shared my interests.


I am training in Glasgow to become a Cognitive Behavioural Therapist and as part of the course requires me to give CBT sessions I have to find clients. Normally the Glasgow Cognitive Behavioural Therapy Centre, where I am studying, supplies work placements but usually for students from Glasgow. As I live in Edinburgh I thought it was best if I try to get clients directly myself by setting up a website. The meeting gave me much more than what I had expected. I hope that I can be part of these guys efforts to create community in Edinburgh and very much look forward to that.


Kind regards,

Mike H