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WIMPs to step in

Internet trade group plans to build websites from ground up for up to four nonprofits during Rohnert Park event open to public

By GUY KOVNER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

The WIMPs are coming out, proud of their acronym, intending to redefine the word for a weak, ineffectual person.

These WIMPs, their name chosen with a sense of whimsy, are the 320 members of Web & Interactive Media Professionals, a trade association for the designers, developers, marketers and other Internet industry workers.

A TOUCH FOR TECH: Melissa Crain and Joshua Simmons, shown at the North Bay iHub in Rohnert Park, are co-founders of Web and Interactive Media Professionals, or WIMPs. The 320-member Internet trade association is holding its first public event next month in Rohnert Park. (ALVIN JORNADA / The Press Democrat)

The first public event put on by the 2-year-old group is WIMP Gives, described as a “charity hackathon, fundraiser and workforce development event” harnessing the group’s technical savvy for the benefit of local nonprofit organizations.

WIMP members will work in teams during the daylong event to build a website “from the ground up” for up to four nonprofits to be selected by the group, co-founder Joshua Simmons said.

The public is invited to watch the work “to see what goes into building a website,” said Simmons, a website developer and CEO of Bluebird Interactive in Rohnert Park.

A tech-support booth will offer free assistance on computer and Internet issues during the event from noon to 6 p.m. April 6 at the Sonoma Mountain Business Cluster, 1300 Valley House Drive, Suite 100, Rohnert Park.

Admission is free; live music and judging of the newly created websites will be from 6 to 7 p.m., followed by a mixer with music by a disc jockey.

Nonprofits interested in getting a site built at the event may apply online at gives.beawimp.org. The application deadline is March 15.

Simmons said the applicants should be organizations “with a real need” — in other words a small budget — for improving their Web presence.

Nonprofit organizations that are not selected for website development are encouraged to attend WIMP Gives, where they may get connected with Internet pros who can help meet their needs, he said.

WIMP, founded in April 2011, also hosts meetups that are open to the public, as well as networking sessions and a Facebook group. Group events are posted on Facebook and Meetup.com

The organization’s mantra — “Ask a person, not a search engine” — reflects its intention to bring human contact to a realm that largely exists on the impersonal Internet.

“We are taking the word back,” Simmons said, regarding their choice of acronym.

Melissa Crain, the other co-founder of WIMP, is a website designer and professional photographer who runs a business called New Skin Media.

Crain said it was her “crazy idea” to stage an event based on one-day website construction.

In future charitable website-building events, WIMP hopes to team up with Santa Rosa Junior College students who are learning Web development skills.

You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.