Following the end of World War Two the austerity measures which had been in place throughout the war years remained, causing considerable hardship for the British public. This austerity also caused hardship for British business, partly due to legislative restrictions which were slow to be lifted, and as they found it difficult to get hold of the materials needed for their trades.
Once such industry adversely affected by belt-tightening was upholstery – the makers of “small furniture and soft furnishings”. Finding it difficult to continue their craft, they banded together to form a group that would represent their interests: the Association of Master Upholsterers and Soft Furnishers (AMUSF).
They felt the need for a group voice and mutual support to tackle the difficulties this [post-war austerity] caused and, in the highly regulated environment of the time, to ensure that they could influence local and national government in the framing and enforcement of laws which affected them.
In the years that followed they were successful in garnering support, and in influencing government to ensure that the conditions under which they carried out their trade were beneficial to both tradesman and consumer. A booklet written in 1967 chronicling the first 20 years of the AMUSF states:
During the first year, no fewer than 9 branches were formed over a wide ares from Northumberland to the South Coast.
The Association continues to this day, and their member directory lists over 250 member businesses.
Everyone else has got one, why don’t we?
Membership of a trade body like the AMUSF is considered a normal part of life in many industries. You’d be hard pressed to find a doctor, nurse or teacher who isn’t a member of one industry body or another. For industries such as healthcare or education this is understandable: having an official organisation to call on is very helpful for professional development and advice. In engineering, too, there are dozens of unions, institutes, associations and societies you can join. So many that there is even an organisation called the Engineering Council, which grants licences to professional engineering institutions.
And there are hundreds if not thousands of industry bodies just in the United Kingdom. If you’re running a dating agency you may well be a member of the Association of British Introduction Agencies, or if you manufacturer carpets for a living then the The Carpet Foundation is where you belong.
What about hairdressers? Don’t worry, there’s the Hair Council who have your back. There’s even a Direct Selling Association which represents direct sellers and aims to ‘develop best practice and the highest level of business ethics in the industry’. There really is an industry body for everything.
Except the web. Don’t get me wrong; there are associations for designers and software professionals, project managers and testers. There are organisations that purport to represent technology workers, but none that I would consider of the web. Open; transparent; representing the huge diversity of people whose livelihoods rely on the web – run by the same people who build the web.
This is the time we needs such an organisation the most. When Western governments are surpassing repressive regimes in their intrusive data collection policies and attitude to personal privacy. When decisions about online security are being mismanaged at a huge scale. When the very legal framework which underpins the work we do and how people use it is being thrown up in the air by Brexit.
Far be it for me to go on a political rant (sorely tempted though I am) – surely it is at least time for a knowledgeable voice to speak out against the constant stream of bad information, misunderstandings and misleading statements from our politicians and leaders. Now, thanks to a bunch of people having an idea over some drinks, there is.
The Web Matters
Web Matters is:
Web Matters is a new, independent, member-driven industry association for those who create and work on the open web.
There’s no high bar to jump to get in, no exams to pass. If you consider your work to be ‘on the web’ then this is a group for you.
We are developers, programmers, designers, and business owners across all languages, platforms, roles, and years of experience.
If you’re thinking that sounds a bit like Open Source software development then you’re right – it’s meant to. Everything is being done in the open, from writing a manifesto to the website code itself to the discussion forums, transparency is being built into the DNA of Web Matters.
This truly is an industry body by web people for web people. It’s not there to pamper to millionaire start-up playboys in London, not designed for huge agencies and Fortune 500 companies to hold golf tournaments. It’s for the freelancer, the small business owner, the web developer in a medium sized business, the agency designer, the tester, the project manager, the business analyst, the UX designer, the API developer, the mobile app wrangler. Anyone for whom the web is their craft, and therefore for whom legislation affecting the web affects them. Your membership belongs to you, irrespective of which company or client you’re working for. We’re putting web people at the heart of Web Matters.
At this moment there are millions of people online – booking holidays; viewing new baby photos; looking up information about healthcare; chatting with friends; searching for a new job; considering a purchase; researching for an exam; playing games. We’re the people that build the world they currently inhabit. A world of global data flow, of millions of miles of cables transmitting gazillions of zeroes and ones. A world with layers of complexity they don’t see, but which affects almost every area of modern life.
The web matters. And it’s time we stood up for this medium which is both shaping and being shaped by the current political and social landscape.
We need you as much as you need us
Let’s return to the AMUSF. The pamphlet chronicling the first 20 years of their organisation, written way back in 1967, says:
For any enterprise to succeed, it must have enthusiasm, perseverence, adaptability and vision. Enthusiasm among all involved from the head down to those who have a minor though very necessary role. Perseverence is essential; no matter how carefully a programme is prepared, there will be difficulties in giving effect to it. This will always apply but particularly in this era in which Governments interfere with the activities of the ordinary citizen, possibly to a greater extent than ever before.