Experiments in New Journalism – Live Tweeting the Sutton Chain of Lights Festival

I’ll be live tweeting today from the various events of the Sutton Chain of Lights celebration, in Sutton, Massachusetts.  You can find my tweets at http://www.twitter.com/mncahill or by searching in Twitter for the #suttoncol hash tag.  

My tweets throughout the day will include pictures of the event via my Iphone, and later today I’ll up load a photo gallery of the pictures.  If your out and about in Sutton, I encourage you to tweet using the same hashtag and I’d be happy to put your photos into the photo gallery I post later.

I you aren’t tweeting and just want to catch up, I plan to be that the National Gallery and Gift Shop on Putnam Hill Road at 1pm.

Sutton Chain of Lights This Saturday

There’s nothing like the Christmas season in a traditional New England community, and that is exactly why you should try to get to Sutton this weekend for the Chain of Lights Celebration.  The celebration runs from 10am to 5pm (although some of the churches end a little early for Saturday Mass) followed by a tree lighting and caroling on the common at 5:30 and a roast beef dinner at the Congregational Church next door from 5pm until 7pm.   You can come to town and grab one of the trolleys that will be running around to take you to the various businesses, community centers, schools and churches for the events.

It’s a really special time, one of the few days of the year you can get to the Sleighbell Farms Christmas Shop, which is worth the trip in and off itself.  Addionally, there are tours of the Vaillancourt Folk Art shop where they make the wonderful chalk art figurines (historical note, they are located in what was the original Fruit of the Loam Factory, in the Village of Manchaug, according to the National Park Service).

At the National Gallery and Gift Shop (I built their website…) they will have representatives from Jim Shore and from Byers’ Choice, the makers of the Carolers figurines.  A member for the New England Revolution Soccer Club will be signing autographs.   There will be crafts for the kids to do, while the adults can check out the great collectible deals.  You’ll want to check out the special deals they’ve setup for the Chain of Lights on their site.

Johhny at Johnny’s LJ says its “Not closest to Boston, but possibly the best…” of the local Christmas events.

There are three separate bus routes this year.  You can find out more about the participating locations by visiting the Chain of Lights page here.  There is a full brochure available here.

If you’re going to be going and use Twitter, why not use a #SuttonCOL hashtag?

WordPress as a Small Business Content Management System

National Gallery and Gift Shop using WP as a CMS 
National Gallery and Gift Shop using WP as a CMS

I’ve been telling everyone for a while that WordPress is a Content Management System – now I’m ready to prove it.  I’ve set up a small site for The National Gallery and Gift Shop in Sutton, MA using WordPress and I’m thrilled with the way it’s turned out.  

Before I mention the features of what has been setup, you need to know one thing – I was able to train them how to enter content, manage their calendar and add products to their product gallery all in two short sessions, about 3 hours of training total.  They have created most of the content you see on their site. 

Here are the general features I’ve provided:

  • Completely editable content by non-technical personnel
  • An online events calendar they can easily manage
  • A full product gallery which is both simple to use, and can handle tons of products and product lines (more on that in a minute)
  • Online newsletter capability (that’s a blog to the rest of us)
  • Contact form that pays attention to Akismet for anti-spam
  • Google maps directions
Product Category Listings for Dept. 56 Collectibles
Product Category Listings for Dept. 56 Collectibles

WordPress Product Gallery

That’s right, a product gallery for WordPress.  It uses the WordPress Photo Gallery feature, which means you can upload 10 products at a time, manage both product title and caption, plus add a full description.  It’s dirt simple to use.  

Even better, because of the way WordPress works, we could easily add a Paypal B Buy Now button, or use Google to  to the system and have an online catalog.  It’s the type of feature that lots of people ask about, but generally go running for the hills when they realize how much work is traditionally involved.  I think in this case, we’ve got a very simple solution that could be setup with modicum of work.

Events Calendar

Online Events Calendar
Online Events Calendar

I hate Events Calendars, or at least I used to.  Everyone wanted one and they were generally a pain to get setup properly.  Once I got it setup, i’d generally find the customer gave up using it almost right away because the data entry pages were too hard to use.  

In this system, I’ve opted for a very resilient plugin I found for WordPress and it’s integrated almost out of the box.  National Gallery runs a lot of art classes in Central Massachusetts, including Tole Painting, Quilting, etc, and they were able to get the full month of events online in about an hour.

Another Cahill in the Press

My daughter’s third grade class, taught by Ms. Lynne Bannon, has been writing pen pal letters for the whole year with the Sutton Senior Center. Monday, they got to meet their pen pals. NECN carried the story on the television and has posted the video on the web. The girl in the video at the beginning of the story and featured throughout, is none other than the vivacious and talented MacKenzie Cahill, my 9 year old daughter. I’m so proud!