The Invisible Web Master

Flute making and the internet

Shop Notes Blog

I receive a lot of compliments on my website. This has been true for about the last eight years, actually, and it still pleases me to hear them. These compliments go all the way back to the moment when I gave up my own attempts to manage the site using some fairly simplified design and editing services and handed over the reins to Jared White (pictured above).

I’ve been on the internet, as a flute maker, since 1998 and at that time there were not a lot of flute makers with an online presence. But the internet was exploding and pretty much all businesses large and small had begun to recognize that they had better get online or go extinct.

My first website was about as simple as they came back then, and I built it with the help of my retired father (former computer programmer from way back) who figured out how to do the HTML code. By today’s standards it was barely functional. Making changes was slow and tedious, and as a result the site remained static for years.

About six years later, a family member suggested that I update the site and try one of the many new website building/hosting services that were out there, and which were designed to make it easy for the layperson to have a functional website. I followed the advice and spent the next five years with a much better website, but it still had a very amateur feel to it. I decided the time had come to raise the bar a bit.

Along the way to this decision, I had made the acquaintance of a young web designer named Jared White. I met Jared through his mother who was a flute customer of mine. Apart from being a gifted musician, Jared was also a self-taught computer programmer who virtually grew up from childhood writing code and working with computers. By the time we met in his early twenties he had been doing professional web design for some years, and I approached him with the idea of building a new website that I had conceived with my friend Jeff Ball, a noted performer on the Native American flute. Jeff and I had envisioned creating an online resource for flute players that would combine a chat forum with a variety of other features, such as a multi-author blog, user-powered music sharing (with embedded MP3 players), a classified ad service, teaching resources, and more. It was pretty ambitious for 2006, since it was all to be integrated and require user registration and lots of automation. Over the next few years, with Jared doing the heavy lifting, the site took shape and continued to evolve. It was called The Flute Portal and it enjoyed a bit of a heyday, offering features and function that were not available elsewhere. But social media such as Facebook began to take over the internet and draw away the user base of the site, so I eventually sold the site. It has since been preserved as a sort of archive, stripped down to just a basic version of the original forum with no other features.

But going through this process with Jared cemented an ongoing friendship and creative collaboration that exists to this day. During the period in which the Flute Portal was online, I approached Jared about building a custom website for my flute business. My timing was good, because he had advanced so far in his design work and programming skills that he had literally created a new web publishing product called Mariposta, and my next website was built on this rather snazzy-looking platform.

We worked together and my site evolved over the next few years as the Mariposta platform evolved. But there came a time in late 2017 when I decided I wanted my site to be taken to the next level (and I wasn’t totally sure what that was), so I approached Jared again. He suggested that we build a new site using the open source frameworks of Jekyll and Ruby on Rails. This time I took the bold leap of simply putting the entire project in his hands. He had become a seasoned web designer and his company, Whitefusion, had already amassed a portfolio of very impressive work. So rather than try to impose my own design notions within the confines of the platform we had been using, I threw the ball to him and said “run with it”.

The result is my current website, which has proven to be elegant and functional, and which continues to inspire my customers to comment favorably upon it.

I’ve had some valuable collaborations with other flute makers and musicians throughout my career, but one of my longest, ongoing collaborations is nearly invisible. We take so much about the internet for granted. Having a website is such a normal thing that we rarely give it a second thought. But having a really great website can be an artisan’s most impactful tool, because it is the window through which the world views our work. My work with Jared has really shown me the value of having a knowledgable and talented collaborator to make my work visible.

And interestingly enough, I’m not just a fan of Jared’s web design work, but also of his many other endeavors that are equally impressive. He vlogs on YouTube, hosts a weekly podcast that is hugely entertaining, composes and records some amazing music, and is also a gifted and thoughtful writer. Additionally, he is an outspoken advocate of the open web, working toward the goal of protecting individual privacy and autonomy on the world wide web. You can learn more about Jared by visiting

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Published Tuesday, May 28, 2019