[thelist] what IS a webmaster?? THANKS!

bill bill at first-encounter-design.com
Mon Nov 28 12:12:24 CST 2005

Thanks Marc (and Chris, Ron and Ian) for your thoughtful responses to my

It seems like the general feeling is that 'webmaster' is a, according to Ian
at least (and I agree), a dated term for a website manager. And also a term
used by people -- in my case the Board of Directors who  --  not
understanding the technology, jobs and skills involved -- lump together
everything it takes to keep the website up, running, looking good and
current, under the term 'webmaster'.

As you stated below, Marc, the nonprofit I work for is a small, sorely
underfunded group that naturally wants to get the best virtual face it can
to get its message across without expending resources it doesn't have. We're
at a place now, though, where we need to start thinking about renumeration
in some form -- preferably cash :-) -- in order to stay up and running.
Also, as a volunteer, it's helpful for me to define for the Board what the
distinct elements are that go into planning, building and maintaining a
site. That would allow me to do more of the part of the job I especially
like more effectively and provide a framework for them (and me) to either
find other volunteers to fill certain roles or have specific roles defined
if we need to contract out or hire someone in the future.

It seems the most flexibility in describing to the Board what it is I do
would come from defining my role, as was suggested by just about everyone
who responded, as a managerial position responsible for overall planning,
developing standards and practices and  overseeing the tasks involved in our
staying up and functioning. In effect, that's what I've been doing, except
that as the manager I've been supervising myself in several roles -- not
always a great setup for anyone involved!

So, again, thanks to all who've responded. I'm off to do some job
description writing, now. 

-----Original Message-----
From: thelist-bounces at lists.evolt.org
[mailto:thelist-bounces at lists.evolt.org] On Behalf Of M. Seyon
Sent: Tuesday, November 22, 2005 10:59 PM
To: thelist at lists.evolt.org
Subject: Re: [thelist] what IS a webmaster??

Hi Bill,

It is an interesting question, and certainly one that is likely to generate 
a variety of responses.

I'll start by saying that, in an industry that is really much less than 20 
years old, it's expected that there not be a definitive job description for 
a "webmaster". I suspect, though, that originally the term referred more to 
the person responsible for maintaining the hardware/software of the web 
server itself.

[snip ... snip]

As the industry expanded so did the job description, so now you do have 
webmasters who are jacks of all trades.

In my personal experience, and opinion, you're more likely to find these 
do-it-all types in non-profit or small freelance markets where there may 
not necesarily be enough work to justify having more than one full-time 
staff member (or even regularly paid consultant) on the payroll.

[snip ... snip]

I think the main idea you should communicate to your board is that the 
"webmaster" should be a managerial level position with a budget and with 
the authority and ability to make decisions, and to liaise with other

The position should be more of an analytical/planning role than a 
webmonkey/mouse jockey role. If your webmaster is too consumed with 
routine, trivial tasks like troubleshooting staff email problems, then then 
whose steering the website to make sure it's meeting company goals?

The webmaster should have at least a conceptual idea of all that goes on in 
his domain, and should even have some level of competence in the major 
areas. But in the same way that the Director of HR wouldn't roll up his 
sleeves and scrub the toilets if the janitor staff goes on strike, the 
webmaster should not be expected to personally handle every single task 
related to the company's website.

[snip ... snip]


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