Fitzroyalty

Hyperlocal news about Melbourne's first suburb: Fitzroy 3065

Business On Smith Street (BOSS) traders association

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The Business On Smith St (BOSS) traders association was formed in 2005, according to this Age article that describes it as a new organisation. It maintains an extremely low profile and rarely engages with the public. A business lobby group may see its primary responsibility as influencing local government in its favour, but I think it is a fundamental public relations failure for a representative organisation to ignore the customers – the residents and visitors – who purchase goods and services from its members.

I’ve been distinctly unimpressed with BOSS since I first encountered them in relation to a 2006 photo competition where the entry conditions were designed to alienate artists from their copyright and intellectual property. The competition has not been held again.

In 2007 BOSS was primarily concerned with the issue of law and order and public drinking on Smith St. I agree that this is a serious issue, and like many locals I am sick of being confronted by drunks and junkies of all ethnic backgrounds, but BOSS does not seem to have done much about the problem apart from complaining about it.

In July 2008 BOSS obtained a $6000 grant from the Yarra City Council to build a website. In January 2009 I contacted Councillor Steve Jolly and asked if he could find out about progress on the site. It was reported back to me that the Economic Development unit of Council entered into a written Agreement with BOSS regarding the site and that BOSS will have the website published by June 30 2009. The Council advised me in January that the site is expected to go live in February / March 2009.

It’s now April 2009 and the site still has not been published. The deadline is closing and I think this issue deserves greater scrutiny.

I am unhappy about the dubious politics and waste of money implicit in this arrangement. No organisation needs $6000 to publish a website. It can be done for a few hundred dollars in setup costs and some initiative and creative flair. Hosting costs about $100 a year and domain name registration is very cheap. You may need a few hours from a designer or coder to create some banner images and do some template or theme customisation, but not $6000 worth.

Particularly not $6000 worth of ratepayer’s money. What have the ratepayers of Yarra received for their $6000 investment? Nothing. I plan to seek further information from Council detailing how the money was or has been spent.

I called the president of BOSS in the process of writing this article, and he told me the site would go live in about 6 weeks. It will contain basic information about all traders on Smith St (I’m not sure if this means all businesses, or all BOSS members, as the two sets may be quite different) with more advanced features to go live at a later date. Scope creep may be responsible for the extended deadlines, but I don’t think this can account for such a slow publication schedule.

No organisation should take nearly a year to publish a website. This is a fundamental marketing and public relations failure. I’ve published 5 new sites in my spare time already this year: Fitzroy and North Fitzroy local news, Collingwood and Abbotsford local news, Carlton and North Carlton local news, Brunswick and East Brunswick local news and the Inner North (Clifton Hill, Northcote, Thornbury, Fairfield and Alphington). It’s not that difficult, but it requires organisational skills (which is something that money cannot buy).

BOSS needs to start engaging with the community in and around Smith St. It should start by explaining its purpose and clarifying its agenda. It currently does a very poor job of representing business owners in and to the local community and does nothing to contribute to public debate about local issues.

8 comments

  1. I’ve recently watched from afar as another member-based organisation did the same thing as BOSS, spent fuckloads of time and government grant money on building a schmick but completely pointless website that still, after almost a year, isn’t fully functional. This website replaced a previous website that was basic but did the job. Someone has been paid to manage this process, as well as the web team being paid to do the work. It’s so pointless and frustrating. Worse, it’s basically the only thing the organisation has managed to do the entire time it’s been running. I can only dream of the many ways that time, effort and money could have been deployed to do something that is actually meaningful and useful to its members.

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    • I completely agree Lisa. It would nice to be proved wrong once the site goes live, but I think it’s unlikely it will be useful.

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  2. Their totally lame website is now live at http://www.smithstreet.org.au/. Verdict? Craparama.

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  3. Just saw the Boss website. they spent 6K on that? They could have done better for much cheaper IMO.

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  4. Someone is rubbing their hands with glee after making an easy 6 k off ratepayers’ backs. Who would even succeed if they were to issue Yarra with a challenge to justify this farce?

    I have always said that there is no accountability within the City OF Yarra, it goes for this and a multitude of experiences I have had the misfortune to endure. City Of Yarra sucks

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  5. The history of Smith Street’s traders’ groups is not very interesting but in the early 1990’s I set up TASS – Traders Association of Smith Street.
    Me and Sarg from the Smith Street Barbers Shop got organised and hassled the then Cities of Collingwood and Fitzroy (pre amalgamation) to do something about people dying from heroin.
    We threatened getting Hinch involved and then there was a big drug bust and 16 Asians were arrested.

    Then the state government found some money for the classic Melbourne street party. It was a monumental flop.
    After that nothing happened except the heroin went somewhere else and not too far away.
    Smith Street has not changed much in 20 years – thank god.

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    • Thanks Chris for this background information. The relationship between traders and BOSS and the City of Yarra seems very different now. Traders simply don’t seem to have the organisational ability to match council bureaucracy. And they were totally ripped off by the developer of their rubbish website.

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