Web Site Excellence Awards

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Jamie Foster with grand-daughter Serafina.

Jamie at the controls of SPC Railway No. 3.

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Profile of a Winning Webmaster

Webman: Jamie Foster
Railroad: Bitter Creek Western Railroad
1st Place: 2004, 2005, and 2006

Jamie Foster is the webman for the Bitter Creek Western Railroad (since 2003), winner of the DiscoverLiveSteam.com Web Site Excellence Award three years running.

He started building web sites back in the 90s with simple text editors (e.g. Notepad) and using dial-up connections to upload files. "If that doesn't train you to be efficient in your code, nothing will!", he said. Jamie's stayed with the simple editor approach to web site construction, preferring software such as WebEditPro and NoteTab Light to fancy WYSIWYG editors like Front Page. "Just give me shortcut keystrokes for dropping in the various tags and I'm a happy man," he said with a grin.

"They say that news is old in 24 hours, so I try to get stories up on the web site either that night or at the very latest the next day. OK, sometimes that stretches to next week, but you get the idea. I think that one of the things that keeps people following the Bitter Creek web site is that they can often find events posted by the time they get home."

"I'm also a believer in the 'a picture is worth a thousand words' approach. You'll see that the Bitter Creek site is predominantly pictures. There's not even much in the way of captions. And speaking of pictures, I've always struggled with whether you post thumbnails that click through to the bigger image, or just show all the bigger images on one page, or click through one big image to the next. I've chosen to have one standard size image on the site that's big enough to easily see what's going on, but small enough to get many on a single page so site visitors can easily see what all went on that day. Making sure you web-icise your pictures (minimum resolution and adequate compression) for web use also helps to speed up load times when the page is mostly pictures. I use Photoshop for all my image handling."

"I've gotten to where I love taking pictures of trains. My camera is a 5-year old Olympus, and the magic on that camera is a 10x optical zoom. It's great for more candid images, and getting pictures 'up close' to things that you can't readily get very close to."

"Who do I think the audience is for the Bitter Creek web site? Good question. The primary audience in my mind is the Bitter Creek family itself. It's fun to go home and relive the day by looking at a few pictures. And the guys and gals can send the links to family members near and far to share what they've been up to. I do my darndest to get at least one good shot of everyone who was there, and hopefully each locomotive/train as well. I figure if the web site is good enough for the gang, then it's good enough for the outside world to enjoy as well."

"Bitter Creek is a private railroad owned by Karl Hovanitz. It is VERY helpful to me as his webman that Karl is clear about the kinds of things he likes to see on the site, and the kinds of things he doesn't like to see. He and all the other regular Bitter Creek guys are very quick to get back to me with information and answers to questions for posting material on the site. That type of support is very valuable! The site also benefits from the presence of several other photographers who can provide me with more pictures, especially when I can't be at the event myself."

Jamie does several railroad-related web sites - click here to see the list.

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