Dusting Cobwebs: Or, the Internet is Constantly Becoming Obsolete

Universal Living Wage CampaignI’ve put it off for over a week, ever since I last faced the ancient web site…the ancient software needed to update it. Over a decade ago, I grabbed the best solution available to build a text site for a shoestring nonprofit run by a nationally respected visionary. They wanted fast downloads on already obsolete machines, on dial up systems. They wanted more text than most people could imagine. They wanted it easy on the eyes. They enthusiastically toss things up on it, willy-nilly.

They have no money to update the frame site. I have no time to build my own new site, much less one for them. This site, their activism site, contains precious information. People still go to it, despite its age. Its most valuable commodity needs updating. That has been what I’ve been up to, in the dark hours. Once again, perhaps for the last time, I go to update www.UniversalLivingWage.org.

Over a decade ago, homeless advocate and visionary for social change Richard R. Troxell created a formula for a universal living wage. He needed me to create a link to the HUD Fair Market Rent (FMR) tables, so that people could look at his formula, look at a sample table, and calculate what it cost to live in their own area. It turned out the HUD software was unwieldy; it was difficult to put actual cost of living estimates together. Hence the need for the site, and the tables. He could not afford to pay me for those tables, but he needed them. I built them, most of it volunteer labor. By hand—there was no Dreamweaver available when I started. Thankfully, Dreamweaver eventually showed up, and Dreamweaver 3 made updates and keeping track of over 100 pages much simpler.

You can now go to HUD, type in a city and state, and pull up the FMRs for that area. But nothing is quite like the tables at Universal Living Wage.

All those updates are volunteer labor. Occasionally they could pay me for consultant work, and I was Richard’s window on the Internet, on ebook publishing, on any new technology question he had. I was not in charge of paying for anything, but I kept an eye out, after one of the two sites (for they became both .org and .com, after someone slipped up with a press release) briefly went offline. Yes, an overseas registry can be annoying, but thank the universe for Melbourne. We still use them, both because they are efficient and out of gratitude.

But I am not a web designer—that ship has sailed, for many reasons. I have kept an XP machine alive, through dollars and the talents of several friends, just to hold this site (backed up, but in one place here,) Dreamweaver 3, and Photoshop 6. They are legal software copies, and I remember how to use them…and HTH can’t afford anything else yet. No one has time to ride herd on the many cobwebs that could use sweeping away. But we update those tables.

Now Microsoft says We can’t protect XP anymore. There are too many security holes for the modern Internet. You have to give it up. But what about nonprofits and businesses that simply cannot afford to make a transition? I don’t have an answer for that. I just know that I cannot protect this machine much longer. And I have my own tower of things-due-now that precludes building them another site gratis.

A talented friend created a program that converts the base HUD information into my tables, so I don’t have to build these things by hand anymore. But there are variants in the tables. The Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) FMRs do not automatically show up under every state. They show up under the first state in an MSA. So now I am up there, multiple tables open, flipping back and forth, finding, copying, going to another state page, expanding the table, pasting, saving—please universe, not accidentally copying when I meant to paste, or vice-versa—returning to see if anything else is doubled, tripled, belongs on four state pages…over and over again.

Cities do not show up where you expect them; they may be under the state that is bordering their location. Kansas City is under Kansas, but not under Missouri, so I have to copy and paste. West Virginia shows only a couple of metropolitan areas when I start. I lost count after pasting five more into its MSA table. Thirty-four states share metropolitan areas. We can pretend that our federation means states’ rights first. In truth, in so many things, there’s a reason we must be united states first, not second. Fair Market Rent calculations illustrate that.

I know that this must be the last update. For safety reasons, they must port over to something easier to lock down. Maybe I will get the New England county areas added to the tables…maybe not. But I know people still come here, looking at the tables, discovering that all those years of no pay increases or a 3% cost of living raise has eroded their buying power even more than they thought.

I’m glad I have been able to help, these last fifteen years. But now another solution is needed. I’m trying to win the lottery, but in the meantime? Please use the tables and share them. It’s useful information. And if you would like to help, this is a place where the focus has not changed. Keep millions out of poverty, and raise others out of poverty. There is a way to pay a living wage. We can do it with figures we already gather. To donate to HTH, use this link. You can also support their causes by reading Richard’s book, Looking Up at the Bottom Line: The Struggle for the Living Wage.

Richard Troxell’s message endures. We need roofs over the heads of the homeless. A living wage is the best way for those people, and for the economy.

There will eventually be another ULW site.

But not this site. This one has finally reached its sell-by date.



Dusting Cobwebs: Or, the Internet is Constantly Becoming Obsolete — 10 Comments

  1. I know people who work 16 hours a day at minimum-wage jobs. They cannot support life on this pay. It just does not stretch enough to cover rent and food and transport to the job. This is clearly wrong.

  2. Yes. I’m going to have to leave Austin if I can’t find a decent mundane job soon. Even a temp job of $12/hour cannot get me a one bedroom apartment in Austin in a safe area.

    I remember someone writing in after the site went up. He worked at UT–and told us that over 200 jobs at UT still allowed people to receive food stamps.

  3. You know, I don’t know that he has considered it, Liz. I should suggest it. I have tried to get him to get the local group that does free nonprofit sites into it. But right now he is trying to get the bronzes funded. He wants a tangible symbol of the homeless right down there on Town Lake.

    • Indiegogo or one of the flexible-funding sites, so it’s not all or nothing as Kickstarter is. If he can figure out how much he needs and set up a campaign, maybe, just maybe…