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All,

Please comment in-line below. Thanks!

Jed

Part A: Unresolved Issues (as of 10/19/08):

1 Online Payments

  • Moving forward, should these be handled by local conference coordinators or should this be integrated into the site?

Gary: I will definitely defer to Jennifer on this. For as long as we organize conferences in the way that we do now, it sounds as if everything needs to be linked here.

Jennifer: They have to be integrated into the site and same for membership payments question below. When we first talked about the website changes, i mentioned that I would arrange this and coordinate with Jed/Simon to link the resulting payments process (using the site's agreed redesign in look and feel etc) with a process that will give the office the reporting functions needed to do memberships, journals and mailing lists. Changes to membership can be done online for those willing to do so, but that has to link to output/notificaton to me that I can use to run the membership and office, since that is not only an online function but also still a “paper” function. I never had that ability with AMember.

The system for payments has be controlled by the office, not an external function. It is not possible to have the access to data if a third party does this. Madison would not allow me access to their system apart from a report page that did not list (and could not list because “the report would take too long to process”) all of the data about people that I needed to keep track. We had a small conference this year so that problem did not register with too many people.

[The data from the online payment function needs to be accessible to the office so that those registering can be matched with those coming into the Journals site with submissions as a check that people are not being missed either in registering but not completing submission of paper, or vice versa. i lost that this year and the responsiveness of Madison office was not sufficient to keep up with my or member's queries…]

Also, with regard to needed info, I requested even the first draft financial statement and was promised that by end of August but am still sending emails to get this data. It's now promised next week. But I need that information eg to start sending out mailings for next conference; knowing who of existing membership attended Madison so they dont get the CD from the conference, and which form of renewal letter they get…if they were at Madison they only get Journal renewal form etc etc…all processes no-one else is worried over and really doesnt need to be, but it does mean these requirements are a must for a new online system and have to be listened to. That is why I am working directly to get this done in time for December.

Simon: Based on Jennifer's note, it looks that this issue should be at the top of the priority list, and it deserves our coordinated focus to get it right.

David: There's actually two functions in question: (a) memberships (for people who haven't attended the meeting in the year preceding), and (b) conference payments.

Amember definitely didn't do the job, so the question is whether the payment module in Drupal works. From experience for the Tokyo meeting, the linkage between Drupal and Worldpay works. We control can control the whole process. From there, it's a question as to whether we WANT to control the whole process. That's the call of the VP of Administration.

We haven't enabled the membership functions online, because Jennifer has them working on her Mac, but my understanding is that the program only runs under OS/9 (and temporarily under emulation on OS/X. (I'm not sure, I've never seen it!) Running memberships on the web has the advantage that it's accessible anywhere. Running memberships on a local computer is a lot snappier, if there is a lot of data entry.

We have CiviCRM running on top of Drupal. That is designed specifically to manage not-for-profit enterprises like the ISSS. We haven't taken full advantage of it, because we've never set up the business processes for it. It's an open question as to if we should, and when.

Jed: (11/12/08): Jennifer, as Simon said, this seems to be a priority item. Let us know how we can support you in moving forward with this initiative.

2 Adding New Menu Items (e.g., "Systems Education"

  • Chicken-and-egg issue: should we add new menu items before having some/ample content to put in those new sections?

Simon: If we add sections, I think it's OK to do so even if the content isn't fully fleshed out. Then we'll be able to see where the gaps are! The Sonoma audio is up (same with Tokyo and Cancun) at http://isss.org/world/en/audio/by/album.

Gary: It's probably better to build the skeleton for what we want so that people can see what's intended. Rather than putting just “in progress” on blank pages, we could describe very briefly what's hoped or intended for that page / item, and how members might contribute to it. We should probably also consider some kind of principles of coherence for what gets added and what does not fit the site.

Jennifer: You could begin with links to recordings we already have…Debora spent $1500 on edited tapes of Sonoma that could be loaded straight away…and those could be accessed as well for payment? If people had to become members to get access to this level of information, then that could be the payment required…or there may be room for additional payments if something is of a higher value.

David: My suggestion is to add new menu items (structure) only as required. One of the major reasons for moving to a system with dynamic content such as Drupal was that content evolves easily. The web pages – save for those specifically earmarked as a page in a book – are all in a flat (non-hierarchical) structure. When the ISSS web site was static web pages, hierarchies made sense. However, as the web site has grown, hierarchy makes less and less sense. People now go to web sites via Google, via through home pages and hierarchies. (Trust me, I rarely go to the home page on either of the intranet or Internet of ibm.com any more. It's faster to search).

There's little value in having a page without content showing up on a web site. It makes the creator look dull, and only puts more pressure on the writer to get things done. It's lower stress to just introduce the revisions naturally. The menu items are no more permanent than anything else on the web site. They can be added or changed according to the needs at the time.

Jed: (11/12/08): I am in favor of creating near-empty “buckets” (i.e., pages with no content, save an introductory paragraph on what goes on that page) that can be filled with new content; doing this will in effect create a space and serve as gentle call-to-action to folks in the community that we need content to fill those pages.

David: (11/19/2008): Jed, I'm glad that you're taking initiative with this. It's unclear to me whether you're now talking about content on Drupal (ISSS World) or Dokuwiki (Projects ISSS). If it's the former, then not everyone would have edit access. If it's the latter, then the appropriate content providers shouldn't have an excuse to not contribute or revise content.

3 ISSS World User ID

  • Does the current system of having Jed & Simon as ID gatekeepers work and/or make sense? Is there a better way to do this?

Gary: I'm not sure how to answer intelligently without understanding more.

Simon: All we're doing is manually filtering out the spam entries. This process will change if ISSS World ID becomes directly tied to membership status and the membership database.

David: The number of userids on the ISSS web site can (and probably always should) be larger than the number of ISSS members. The web site is a good place for users to try out privileged functions (of which we really should have a few more), as casual users. Having an ISSS World userid should be seen as a potential mental commitment step for a novice to consider becoming an ISSS member. Ideally, the announce list should be refreshed with userids who register for ISSS World. (Mailman is smart enough not to duplicate an e-mail address already in the database).

There's an additional reason for manual approval of ISSS World applications. It's being a good citizen of the Drupal community. There's an enablement function (that we haven't turned on) where a person who has a userid on one Drupal site will automatically be granted access to all Drupal sites. Thus, if we let spammers onto ISSS World, they can spam elsewhere.

When I had the role of VP of Communications, I would check the list of new ISSS World userids in the case that someone interesting had signed up. I would sometimes send an e-mail to the person to check out his or her interests. I didn't do this for everyone, but making the personal contact makes a difference for some people.

While having multiple userids on multiple systems is annoying, it's workable. I think that the intersection set between ISSS members, ISSS World userids and Journals ISSS userids is rather small.

Jennifer:

Jed: (11/12/08): Let's leave the current system in place for now on this item.

4 Blog posting rights

  • Who should have the right to post blog entries? To whom should this right be restricted and who is authorized to grant new rights?

Simon: Posting rights within the main Drupal site should be limited to the board, and to SIG chairs for the SIG sections. Otherwise I think we find ourselves in a situation where we are setting (and enforcing) standards for blog content. Members who want to blog can easily set up an account at wordpress.com or blogspot.com and shape content there.

Gary: I'll follow Simon's lead here. Blog postings on the site are going to be interpreted as “official” organizational positions of some form or another by readers. Comments can be handled as deemed necessary.

David: Blogs usually an expression of an individual's personal opinions. We're really using the blog function in Drupal as a News function. I have posted some content under my own name, but the news content (e.g. notices sent by others) I posted under the News userid. It was a personal call about whether I thought members would or would not be interested in seeing such news. Adding news content to a web site is more visible than sending something on the announce list, but probably less annoying to everyone with overflowing inboxes.

I think that posting News should be limited to officers of the ISSS. The membership trust enough to put us into the positions … so we should be prudent in using those privileges.

Jennifer:

Jed: (11/12/08): Let's keep blog postings and news postings limited to the ISSS Board Members and SIG chairs. But, let's encourage people to contact me with submissions that I will either just post or, if controversial, will circulate among one or two other members of the board for input before posting.

5 Blog posting: an alternative

  • Should we post re-purposed systems-related content (papers, etc.), with author permission, instead of blog entries? We could call it “Featured Articles & Papers” instead.

Gary: I don't think that this should replace blog entries (assuming that we have people with the time and interest to create them), since blogs should represent the most current issues. We should work to provide the highest quality content that we can, though, including existing papers, etc., on the site.

Simon: I think a better place for this is within the SIG structure.

David: You're speaking more about editorial content than the News items that I mentioned to question 4. I agree with Simon that the best editors should really be SIG chairs, but it really depends on whether than individual is web savvy or not.

On real blogging content from the systems community, I've been advocating that we should do this at the level of the IFSR rather than just the ISSS. Since the ISSS is a member of the IFSR, we get more critical mass from a larger number of people around the world. I think individuals who want to blog can do so on their own sites. We should then ask them for permission to republish content appropriate to our audience.

I have two blogs, because I have at least two audiences. On my professional blog, not everything is systems-related, so everything isn't appropriate for cross-posting. I think that the IFSR could become a good aggregator and republisher … but it will require (a) enough bloggers really writing content around the world, and (b) an editorial board who is sufficiently persistent to keep up with content. (Personally, I blow hot and cold. When my travel schedule goes up, the number of blogs that I read and write fall drastically. My life is all about backlog).

Jennifer:

Jed: (11/12/08): Two suggested actions: 1. Let's create a place within each SIG page on the site for “Republished Articles”; 2. David, I like your idea about concentrating blog activity at the IFSR level and then link to it from the ISSS site; let's get together an editorial board, with Gerhard's help/approval - we could set up approval rules like “if at least 1 of the 5 members of the editorial board have approved the submitted blog content, it can go live” (i.e., a redundant approval system). Let me know how I can help push this through.

6 Aesthetics

  • Should we revamp the look-and-feel of the site to make it more appealing and user-friendly? Who should be commissioned to do this work?

Gary: The site should reflect the image of the organization, which makes this a larger issue.

Jennifer: Yes…I would suppose a proposal development and bidding process for the work would happen?

Simon: Now that we are on Drupal, changing the look and feel is exponentially easier than it was when we had to manually edit every single web page. To change look and feel under Drupal, all we need to do is upload a new Drupal “theme” to the server and activate it, and there are hundreds of themes (http://drupal.org/project/Themes) to choose from. The real work comes when we need to modify a theme to meet our needs. There's also the issue of trying to make the non-Drupal sections look like the Drupal theme (some of the existing site is pretty slick in this sense, when you click the Projects tab at the top of the page, you probably wouldn't guess that this is actually outside Drupal!). One thing on my to do list has been to do the same to the Journals site.

David: Up to this point, aesthetics has taken a lower priority than function. The one time that we did pay for aesthetics was in the revision by Alex. There's a lot of decisions to be make on web site style, and it costs more to have a web designer outside of the ISSS volunteers.

The direction that we've taken in the last few revisions of the web site has been free software. I remember at one point, I asked Jennifer how pretty should thought the web site should be, and she said “Pretty, but not too pretty. Functional”. The web site should reflect the organization, and the ISSS isn't the spit-and-shine type. In comparison to other systems organizations (e.g. UKSS, IFSR), our web site is doing well. People know that we exist. We continue to get relatively high ratings on Google – a lot because we've been around a long time, and a lot because our content changes so the web site isn't dead.

I support improved aesthetics, but personally, am unwilling to pay for it. (I have a really strong belief in the open source community). If the choice came between paying a web site designer for improved aesthetics and subsidizing promising students with funds so that they could come to an ISSS meeting in person, the student would win every time.

I believe in the long term, and I believe in volunteerism. I know that both have limits, but some of the darker days in the ISSS were when expectations were set about who got what. Even if we pay for a new web site style sheet (as Simon has suggested), it won't be forever. My understanding is that Simon has already hesitated on moving from Drupal 5 to Drupal 6 because some modules will break when we migrate up. (I'm already seeing discussions of Drupal 7, so a plan for moving to current levels should also be considered).

If you really want web work done, and are willing to stay on the Drupal platform, it's possible to go over to drupal.org and post a “bounty”. On the other hand, you could go over there and ask for volunteer, and you might get one. In either case, the style sheet may break when we upgrade Drupal.

Jennifer, November 4, 2008: We have never had free software, there has always been a minimal charge for most items. And you should not forget the time a volunteer puts into the work with all of the issues of volunteering that comes with…daily life in general gets in the way all the time. I don't like the current front page design with the blog entry dominating. As you say, I am interested but not overly so in the design of, especially, the front page, because that is not where my skills lie and I know that, but the aesthetics is not only about being “pretty”, it is about how it fits for people and their use of the site. And we do not meet that, especially on the front page. I agree a volunteer would be wonderful for the finances of the organisation, but something/someone has to make us look more than we currently project. Also, What you say here does worry me about upgrading through versions of Drupal. We should be upgrading as best practice to be more secure and to have options available as the open source knowledge develops. If this is going to cause us a great deal of time and effort to be fixing things we need to look at this as to what platform is the best and most stable way forward given our limited resources.

David's responses to Jennifer's comments (11/19/2008): Actually, we haven't paid for Drupal, Dokuwiki, CiviCRM nor Open Journal System. They're all “free”. If we had (programming) expertise, we would contribute back to those communities. At minimum, participating in their forums enables those with less experience than ourselves to benefit a little bit.

Upgrading Drupal (or any other package) in the open source world is a judgement call. We go from a system that we know works, to one that probably should work … but if it doesn't, a modular structure means that it's unlikely other web site would have the exact same configuration. Some plugins aren't updated as quickly as the main code base, which means (a) we wait until all of the plugins are tested and we're downlevel on the main code; or (b) we upgrade the core code base, and disable functions that don't work. We really don't want to get into a situation where we upgrade and then have to revert, because few reversions really get you back 100% to where you were before.

Jed: (11/12/08): We definitely, definitely need to revamp the site from an aesthetics perspective. There is no question in my mind. The question is only: how do we get the resources? As Jennifer said above, even those of us who are volunteering are “costing” the organization because our work is valuable (in monetary terms, no less) and anything we choose to do with our time for ISSS comes at the opportunity cost of not doing other things for ISSS; in the case of redesigning the site, I think we need to bring in a paid professional who is an expert at site design. Let's start a bidding process. I have one company that I use, but we should open the process to 2-3 companies. Who can you recommend?

Simon: (11/12/08): You are looking for a Drupal theme designer. We are hopefully not considering moving away from the Drupal content management system. Regarding the upgrades, I upgraded Drupal this weekend and we are now running the latest version.

David (11/19/2008): Jed, you might want to consider contracting someone local, because it's a relatively small job, and face-to-face contact might help you decide whether you're really getting someone professional, and then followup if there's any issues. The group at http://groups.drupal.org/austin doesn't seem as popular as http://groups.drupal.org/toronto . I went to one Toronto meetup. It was an interesting group, as Drupal seems to be a favourite of not-for-profit initiatives, so there weren't any corporate interests there.

  • Should we create a revised logo for the site? Who should be commissioned to do this work?

Gary: Especially related to Tom's issues, I think yes.

Jennifer: Yes…I would suppose a proposal development and bidding process for the work would happen? I have an idea using the expanding grid as a background with the integral on that grid. I can email a scan separately or will try to upload here… this would also get around any copyright issues from Tom.

David: This is less work than your aesthetics question, but has a much longer history. I think that it's been a discussion point every year for at least 5 to 6 years. There's two choices: come up with a completely new logo, or redraw the existing one.

We've never had follow-through on a completely new logo. Someone would need to lead a committee to do the review, and we've never had an effective logo review committee.

On redrawing the logo …. That would seem to be straightforward, but hasn't been. The question is then, which logo, since there have been many revisions.

I agree that the work should be done, but it's a matter of priorities. The logo has fallen off the list of things to do, year after year. That doesn't say that it shouldn't be done, but it does give an indicator of the revealed preferences (and time constraints) for the officers of the society over that period.

Simon:

Jed: (11/12/08): The logo design, like the aesthetics of the site, is very much a priority. Let's get a logo committee together (they can also be the aesthetics committee). Beyond those on this discussion board, to whom else should we extend an invitation to join such a committee? SIG chairs? Others?

David (11/19/2008): Actually, you can leave me off the logo review committee. I would have an opinion, but know that I don't have a strong aesthetic sense in this. I think that you just want to get a few people who are artistic. They don't need to be board members.

8 The need for a "Disciplines" page

  • Does adding such a page provide important context for the ISSS-uninitiated, or does stating the disciplines somehow limit the Society's implied scope, purpose or meaning?

Simon: Again my two cents are that the SIGs should be the organizing framework here.

Gary: I don't think that we have to try to cover or describe all systems possibilities. Most importantly, the site as a whole should reflect a unique identity for the ISSS (which may require some deliberation about how specifically that should be to von Bertalanffy, or the broader ideas of the founders of SGSR, etc.) I also agree with Simon, though, that it should reflect the interests of the SIGs as they evolve - and we should acknowledge connections to organizations such as the System Dynamics Society, the American Society for Cybernetics, and our membership in the International Federation for Systems Research. But the most critical issue is the identity of the ISSS.

Jennifer: I suppose it could come with a disclaimer that it is being constantly changed and added to? That what is there should be expanded and those with input in new areas should feel free to be involved in expanding this area…

David: Arrgh, we've lost a page! The link at http://isss.org/world/en/special_integration_groups to Special Integration Group Purpose is dead! We used to have a page that described what a SIG is, written by G.A. Swanson, and I can't find it! The closest I've found is really old page at http://isss.org/sigintro.html .

Systems thinking is often portrayed as anti-disciplinary (i.e. anti-reductive) thinking. Thus, disciplines is the wrong word. I might have put words in your mouth to say that interest would be a better word, but the missing page specifically says that SIG means Special Integration Group, not Special Interest Group.

In theory, the Units (i.e. Chapters and SIGs) are (and should be) the organizing units of the society. If a new members comes, he or she will want to contact someone (a) who is regionally nearby or (b) has a knowledge set in the domains of interest.

The direction that we had set for content from the SIGs and Chapters was pages on Projects ISSS. Of the units, the only one that has really taken us up on this has been ALAS. I sat with them in Cancun and put the initial content on their page, and they've since picked it up from there. (Really. I don't read or write Spanish!)

The repointing at the SIGs may suggest a direction for your role as VP of Communications and Systems Education (if you wish to take it). The web site is one part of the role, but the technology is only enablement for the organization. Maybe the SIG chairs need more hand-holding in doing content work (e.g. writing on wiki pages). It could be that I was too intimidating (or antisocial) to engage SIG chairs. It sounds like it needs to be redone.

Jed: (11/12/08): I agree with the general sentiment you all expressed: let's use the SIGs as the organizing principle here. I don't like the term “Units” because it sounds too generic and no first-time user will have any clue that it refers to the SIGs/groups/disciplines within ISSS. Alternatives could be: a. Organizing Units; b. Groups (sometimes simple is best); c. Areas of Interest; d. Special Integration Groups (spelling it out makes more since to the un-initiated)

David (11/19/2008): Jed, I like “Groups”. A SIG is a group, and a chapter is a group.

9 Systems primer on "Systems Education" page

  • Who should write the new Primer? Should be break the project up into modules with different contributors? Can we re-use existing materials for some modules?

Gary: This has been an incredibly long-standing question - and problem - now compounded by Tom's issues. If we can't even introduce the concept of systems, though, it will leave prospective members and students wondering. For now it might be good just to have a brief bibliography of books and papers that represent the foundations of systems thinking (back to SGSR and the Macy Foundation conferences.)

Simon: Again the SIGs?

David: I think that the approach has been right, but the execution has been inconsistent. Tom had just done the Primer under his own initiative, and it made sense for him to be appointed as the chair of a SIG. The most practical way forward is to find a new SIG chair. He or she can enlist a community to (a) write content, or (b) edit content.

I would hesitate to predefine the modules, because the quantity and quality of content varies with the people involved. You might have to make the case to do something different from Wikipedia, or else the SIG chair could actually work on content on the Wikipedia site itself. When Tom started the Primer, Wikipedia didn't exist. The idea is that Wikipedia is supposed to be the simplest, most basic content written from a neutral point of view … which could be what the Primer is supposed to be. (I think that the Primer started that way, and as contributors fell off, Tom became more opinionated).

One challenge that hasn't been fixed – and where the existing Primer is weak relative to Wikipedia – is on clear citations and cleared references. Tom isn't an academic, and wasn't rigourous about citations. I believe Tom when he said that Bela Banathy gave him verbal permission to post content on the web site, but when a researcher comes to ask us about the original source, all we can provide is hearsay.

Jennifer: November 12, 2008 I am really interested to see who comes forward on this one! I am cynical but with some historical justification!!

Jed: (11/12/08): Why don't I extend a request to all SIG chairs to write a one-page primer on their SIG that we can post to the site? That will be a start, and we can always add more later. Again, once we create the “bucket” or space, people will have more of a propensity to fill it in.

David (11/19/2008): In my role as SIG chair, I had to check http://projects.isss.org/sig_on_systems_applications_in_business_and_industry . There's less there than I thought. The page is linked at http://isss.org/world/special_integration_groups . You're going to have to chase me to fix this up!

10 Membership page access

  • Should we create two levels of access for the Membership page, as Jennifer has suggested?

Gary: I think it's helpful to have general information available to everyone - with the society acting as something of a public resource for anyone interested in systems - but with additional resources available only to members so that there is some incentive for joining. We might even consider a first-year, website-only membership at a low fee ($25 ??) as a way to get people through the door, so to speak.

David: I don't believe that two levels of membership is an effective idea. It increases administration, and deters participation. The cost of an ISSS membership is really very low, compared to other professional societies (e.g. the ACM).

An interesting test would be to have a $0 membership that had to be renewed annually. If that is implemented, then we could decide at a later date what the right level of fee would be. Having to track renewable memberships is not a trivial task, though.

Jennifer: November 12, 2008 Ah…following from Jed's 3 level proposal … this will need a little more thought for implementation. The zero level yes register on the site and you get that news, pretty easy, but the $30 one you need to link permission to see the contents of the published Journals site for conference CD content. At the moment, as a publication that is open to everyone. But it is a Journal with an ISSN so it could be closed to requiring a subscription to that..that would work. Or do you mean send them a CDROM itself? That's adding work, and that is a benefit for full membership. Permissions wise also, there are two different passwords at the moment for Journals and ISSS world? Those would have to be linked together? We should do a bit more brainstorming on what could be in each category, but it may be easier to have just the two levels. Free just register so we know who you are for future mailshots etc, and then full. With the other option of those registering for the free one could purchase specific products on offer on the site.?

Simon:

Jed: (11/12/08): Let's create three membership levels: a. Basic (Free) (get access to an e-mail newsletter, general announcements); b. Associate ($30/yr.) (access to the General Systems Bulletin and past conference CD); c. Full

David (11/19/2008): Let's make sure we've got everything right. Full members get SR&BS, and the Bulletin. Do they get a conference CD if they don't attend the meeting? Then associate members would get a hardcopy Bulletin mailed to them – they're currently available for free on download – and a physical CD of the proceedings – which is a collection with an ISBN/ISSN, as opposed to separate articles as available on Journals ISSS. It feels like the natural audience for this type of offer is (a) people over 40 years old who still think physical, and (b) libraries who might then scan in the content for electronic distribution. Is there really $30 of value there?

Part B: Jed's Suggested Next Steps

1.

  • I respect the history of the site as David has shared in such detail, but we need to transcend the history of the site's development in favor of what user will find most useful today; the guiding principles should be:
    • a. maximum usability
    • b. better-looking site from an aesthetic perspective
    • c. promoting new membership by focusing upon: i. conferences, and ii. educating people about what ISSS is about/represents
    • d. right mix of content admin rights, striking the proper balance between control/content quality and accessibility

Gary: Yes, I like this list of priorities, Jed.

Jennifer: Agreed.

Simon: Makes sense.

David: I disagree. I think that © and (d) should be prioritized over (a) and (b).

The ISSS is a social system, with technical components. You can improve the technical components – (a) and (b) – without improving the functionality of the society. Of the 50-plus years that the society has been in place, 40 of them were without a web site. We now have a web site, which could always be improved, but it's a matter of priorities.

In the list, I think that you've missed participation. Some of that is covered in (d) as participation in an online community, but we also want engagement in the real world. The web site may play a part in that, but the number of mentions that Simon (sorry for picking on him) has mentioned as SIG issues suggests organizational issues, not technical issues.

The priority comes down more to your perception of your role as VP of Communications and Systems Education than the web site. We have a webmaster, who is Simon. Simon has been comfortable with managing form and style of the web site, but is not comfortable with content. Points (a), (b) and much of (d) can be handled by Simon, but he can't engage with members or potential members of the society in a way that an officer can. At http://isss.org/world/administration/bylaws, read sections 4.6.3.8 and 4.8.5 . (I will freely admit that I'm not fully living up to my current role, and didn't fully live up to the Communications and Systems Education post when I was VP there!)

Jed: (11/12/08): An appealing look-and-feel is essential to getting new people interested and keeping current people more involved throughout the year.

2.

  • Add a “About Login Info” section to explain the various logins for ISSS World (Drupal), Projects ISSS (Dokuwiki), and Journals ISSS (OJS); should cover:
    • i. who may register
    • ii. what registering allows one to do
    • iii. how/where to register (including links, as necessary)

Gary: Yes, unless all pages / contents / sites can be accessed seamlessly through one login, we need to have clear explanations and instructions.

Jennifer: Yes, and move this off the top of front page?

Simon: Yes good idea. But there are only two sets of logins (ISSS World and Journals) - not three as mentioned above.

David: It feels like a bit of overkill to put that information on a menu bar or a quickpath. My suggestion is to create a page with that information, and then add a link under the login areas. (Simon has done this on Journals ISSS, warning that it's a different ID). I'm not sure whether this explanatory page should appear somewhere under a hierarchical tree (e.g. Administration), or where on the site map … but you can work that out.

Jed: (11/12/08): I'll put this together. May need others' input as to the details.

3.

  • Need to address the issue of online payments for memberships

Gary: Again, I'll defer to Jennifer…

Jennifer: They have to be integrated into the site and same for conference payments question above. When we first talked about the website changes, i mentioned that I would arrange this and coordinate with Jed to/Simon to link the resulting payments process (using the site's agreed redesign in look and feel etc) with a process that will give the office the reporting functions needed to do memberships, journals and mailing lists. And that changes to membership can be done online, but that has to link to output I can use to run the membership and office needs since that is not only an online face but also still a “paper” function.

Simon: As mentioned above, sounds like this should be the top priority.

David: I think that this is a straightforward technical issue that you can take offline with Simon. The essential question is the strategy to deal with moving from a downlevel version of Drupal versus requirements for CiviCRM, and the modules already implemented. You may have to give up some functionality, or get more deeply involved in development in updating a module. This could be a case where you should enlist Flemming, or even pay him extra if there's a lot of work. (Paying to have some code written, and then contributing it back to the Drupal community isn't a bad thing).

Jennifer, November 4, 2008: NO. it is not a straightforward technical thing, and giving up some functionality probably means I get to do more manual label writing in the office!!! The membership process involves all of the membership activity that I manage over the year that could not be managed using AMember. CiviCRM was not taken forward because you thought AMember was better and Amember was useless to me. I laid out all of my requirements for membership management in the office and AMember was implemented in spite of not being able to give me the data I needed to tell what journals to order and when to change where they went to! And I do not have a cobbled together system at the moment. I use an Access database (yes, horror, Microsoft) that runs on a PC, and has done for nine years, not an OS9 mac, which actually does not exist. What I need is an online data gathering interface, that updates my office system seamlessly and that is what I will get from RegOnline. The payments gathered also come directly to the office, unlike conference planning systems like Madison, so I would not be waiting 6 months to receive our money. Whether online or manual, for the past several years now, the conference database I use has been structured to transfer directly into the membership database, no manipulation required. This is what I want to take online to an interface that then downloads to me. Then I run the queries and send the Journal orders, run labels for mailings etc.. THIS is what I plan to continue doing with an online registration system that is proven. It is what I had in Madison but with this one I will also have control over the database at all times, and control over the finances. At the moment, I do not trust our server to store this information online. We cannot risk a non-secure database, especially the storing or processing of financial or even “just” people's identity. In other discussion here, the cost and time of creating a logo, or new web design has been an issue, that we should not do it because it would need time and money etc …changing CiviCRM to do this, with the proposed additional programming, is also asking for resources we don't need to commit, and it may or may not work, and I doubt its security. I do not want another AMember process that has been a wonderful challenge to program but is frustrating to users. I need the discretion on this process because I am responsible for the outcome and I cannot give the extra time to work through debugging another system. I would really ask to take this part offline between me and Simon and Jed. Simon has said that when I have this in place I can link to the membership or conference pages. And this will link to a design that Jed takes forward and I just feed into that. These are our areas of responsibility.

Jed: (11/12/08): See my comments relative to similar question posted in above section.

David's response to Jennifer (11/19/2008): On ..

  • Jennifer said: CiviCRM was not taken forward because you thought AMember was better and Amember was useless to me.

I think that there's some confusion here. I thought Amember was a disaster, but it cost under $200 when the next best alternative was $5000. AMember was developed in the days when we still had static web pages, before we adopted Drupal. We ran AMember at the same time that I was running phpWebSite, which was not successful.

CiviCRM has a significant list of organizations at http://wiki.civicrm.org/confluence/display/CRMDOC/Case+Studies . That being said, we were relatively early with CiviCRM, and they're now up to v2.0. At the same time, I think that our development organization probably doesn't compare with those.

The best alternative may be to find an intermediary to handle the online registrations. I looked at http://www.regonline.com/ , and it looks event-oriented rather than membership-oriented.

The last time we had payments working on Drupal was 2 years ago, for Sonoma. I was using the ecommerce module at http://drupal.org/project/ecommerce . Now, if I look at http://drupal.org/project/Modules/category/55 , and I remember Ubercart was just starting up in 2005. In addition, I remember that CiviCRM could only handle donations, not payments, but they now have CiviEvent at http://civicrm.org/civievent .

I'm not saying that we should necessarily go the direction of managing our own payments again. It worked at Sonoma using the Drupal ecommerce module, but since it's a module, it adds more complications to managing the whole web site.

4.

  • Change “About ISSS” to “About”

Gary: Labels just need to clearly reflect the content, but to the degree that there are familiar web protocols we should try to incorporate those.

Jennifer: or Who we Are, does just 'about' say enough?

Simon: I think this “About” section should describe (a) the ISSS, (b) the website and what visitors and members will find here, and © the logins (ISSS World and Journals) as mentioned above

David: Okay, the label should be whatever makes sense. The content is the question. On the original static ISSS pages – particularly when Debora was president – the history of the ISSS (and the picture of Margaret Mead) was at the bottom of the home page. That was before we had rolling content on the front page, so the history of the ISSS was probably only one page scroll down. Margaret Mead is now 4 page scrolls down, so few people are going to get down there.

The choices are (a) to remove content from the front page (i.e. uncheck the Promote to front page checkbox), or (b) reduce the amount of content for each entry on the front page to a minimum (as a teaser).

If the history page is longer, the teaser can appear as the bottom entry on the front page (by making the date the earliest), and can be linked to the full page expansion.

Jed: (11/12/08): I like Jennifer's “Who We Are” as a label. On the content: I like David's suggestion of reducing the “About” content on the HP to a minimum.

5.

  • Remove “About ISSS World”

Gary: Who is the real audience for this information? If it's not important for a general audience then it should be moved to an appropriate place.

Jennifer: add it to a history page?

Simon: Add to the new expanded “About” page

David: This page is an artifact of the transition from a static web site to one with a login password. The very best solution would have been to put Drupal in the root directory, but that would have destroyed the old content, so we put Drupal at http://isss.org/world , and left the old content there.

If you really think that the old content is dead, you could ask Flemming to remap Drupal to the root directory. Then, anyone coming http://isss.org wouldn't have to be redirected to http://isss.org/world. It's your call. (I think that Google still accesses some of the old pages, even though we don't index to them any more.

While we're at it, you could also change the “Welcome to the ISSS World Web Site” content that is sticky at the top of the page. This is also an artifact from the transition to a new web site, and probably unnecessary now. The assumed path is now that someone comes from Google to a random page on the ISSS site, likes what he or she sees, and then hits the home button because the ISSS is unknown to him or her. What would you want to tell someone who doesn't know the society?

Jed: (11/12/08): Simon, could we ask Flemming to remap the “World” (new) site to www.isss.org as soon as he can?

Simon: (11/12/08): Yes, I will ask him.

6.

  • Change “Conference” on main menu to “Upcoming Conference,” then add “Prior Conferences” and “Future Conferences” links to Quickpath

Gary: I think that it is helpful to have all of the conference information in one area, but we definitely need to highlight the current / next conference dramatically, so that it's obvious what we want viewers to pay attention to. And in that one area about the current conference, viewers should be linked to everything they need to know about getting involved: registration, costs, paper submission, SIG info, conference site, contact info for questions, etc. and etc.

Jennifer: it's extra work but could it be “year” of the conference as the tab title: e.g 2009 Conference?.

Simon: In the header of http://isss.org/world/en/conferences we can see all the conferences going back to 1998 (and their locations!) I don't think we'd want to lose this.

David: We're now playing with screen real estate. Simon had to shrink the tabs in the original design to make room for the current set of titles. I'm afraid that “Upcoming Conferences” in the top menu bar is so long that you'll have to remove one of the other tabs.

I think that it's clear. Anyone that selects “Conferences” on the home page will have a list of all conferences on the following page. It's a subtle but important signal that we've been on the web for 10 years with conferences. (It's even more impressive if we underscore that the society is over 50 years old).

The current problem is that Brisbane 2009 is missing from the Quickpath. I believe that the city and date make it clear that it's the next year's conference.

Beyond that, I don't think that you want to have a “Future Conferences” tab, because it only puts unnecessary pressure on us to create content. We haven't yet decided on the next venue (although Waterloo 2010 is a leading candidate), so the page would be unnecessarily blank. When we put Waterloo 2010 on the Conferences submenu and the Quickpath, people will understand what that means.

Jed: (11/12/08): Let's have two tabs: “2009 Conference” (or whatever the next conference is) and “Conferences” (this will include all past, as well as 2009, as well as the next two in the future)

7.

  • Keep “News” (not “News and Bulletins”) in menu bar; consider setting up an e-mail address to allow people to submit requests for news item postings by Simon/Jed

Gary: I think that “news” works fine, but whatever we put there should be timely, and follow some sort of theme about what is to be included.

Jennifer: yes. i'd be willing to help with this as well whenever i get conference notifications…or just send them to simon or jed if you like?

David: At the moment, the Quickpath reads News. If you hover over the field, there's more detail that may or may not be appropriate.

If you want to create another userid for news, that's your call. However, (a) people will continue to send e-mail to different IDs, so you'll still have to manage all of them – I'm still grappling with the number of userids that Jennifer has, and know she hasn't killed all of them!; and (b) the format of the submitted news will vary, so there's often touchups required.

If you want to delegate reformatting to Simon, I think that he would be okay with that. Choosing content should really stay in the authority of an officer, though.

Simon:

Jed: (11/12/08): Let's keep the “News” the way it is now (as “News”). On the page I will create that explains the different memberships and ways to sign up for access to the site, we also need an e-mail list for:

a. Submit a news item for consideration b. Submit a blog entry for consideration c. Request a userID (etc.)

David (11/19/2008): On submitting content … I see a “Contact” module on Drupal that isn't turned out. That isn't an e-mail address, and may or may not reduce spam. (I still get spam from the comments fields on my blogs).

8.

  • For “Publications,” consider using the “Anticipatory Systems” book as the first go

Gary: (Is this redundant with item 9?)

Jennifer: yes, also have some existing pubs like the bulletin pdfs and also links to the hard copy available from Curran. That arrangement needs to stay as an ongoing contract with them.

David: The selection of publications requires an entirely separate discussion. We should start an entire new wiki page for that!

I'll admit to continuing to duck the publications issue in my role as an officer. I haven't wanted to explain why some publications appear and other don't. As an example, why Robert Rosen first, and not Michael C. Jackson (as the current editor of the most prestigious journal in systems) or Russell Ackoff (as the elder statesman who has still attended meetings), or Timothy F. H. Allen (as the current president, and an active researcher).

My answer was to provide the wiki, and let people post whatever they thought appropriate … and have a trail so that the contribution came from a legitimate party who may or may not be an officer of the society, but certainly isn't speaking for the society as a whole.

If you're really willing to take on this role of gatekeeper, you'll be taking it on for the whole society … and I'll gladly forward all inquiries to you.

Simon:

Jed: (11/12/08): I think we should allow anybody who wants to sell content (professional papers, CD, DVDs, books only) to do so; each item can be set up as either “Donations Accepted” or “Purchase.”

Jennifer November 12, 2008 New comment on Jed's suggestion: if people put things up and sell them on our website, and linked to a similar suggestion below about selling other publications, would this mean an admin function of collecting for those people and sending them the payments out of our accounts? Have to think about that…it is then not necessarily getting into the fulfillment business because its being downloaded and not hard copy being sent, but dealing with the payments or taking our cut of the process would have to be worked out.

9.

  • Offer “Anticipatory Systems,” as well as “Annual Meetings Proceedings” and “Retrospectives” on “Publications” page; could be for-pay, donation-based and/or free on a case-by-case basis

Gary: So are these intended to be things that could be purchased through the website? If so, is Anticipatory Systems being reprinted (I had some discussions with Judith Rosen about that, but have heard no followup recently) or are you suggesting that we offer the $250 version that Judith had done earlier?

Since we don't take copyright even for ISSS conference papers, and have no official publication stream (other than the conference proceedings) it is an area where we should probably consider linking to other systems organizations and their materials.

Hadn't Lynn Rassmussen set up something regarding an Amazon.com account, where we would make a small fee for each book purchased by way of the ISSS site on Amazon?

Jennifer: yes…Bulletin and past CDs currently cost $30. The version of the bulletin online that people can currently just download does not contain member information; that is only in the printed version and each version has its own ISSN number because of that and the difference in the way they are displayed ie on line and in print.

David: I really hate intellectual property law. In my day job working with clients in Media & Entertainment, the question as to business models and piracy (or fair use) is enough to keep many lawyers busy.

Of course, we should sell conference CDs on the site. We already sell them at conferences.

Selling books is another thing, though. Lynn Rasmussen did start a discussion on this, but quickly got into the quagmires of who gets on the list and who doesn't. I understand that a lot of people provide links to Amazon as a way of getting kickbacks, but (a) have we decided that the ISSS should endorse Amazon and not endorse Barnes & Noble and Borders … or publishers directly; and (b) are we really serving only American interests and not international ones? It's an international society, so are we going to discriminate against Chinese authors, when the number of Chinese speakers outnumbers the number of English speakers?

You can (a) take this to the board for discussion, or (b) get authority from the VP of Administration to move forward. I'm not sure which path is most appropriate.

Simon:

Jed: (11/12/08): I am not talking about being an affiliate for Amazon or BN. I am talking about posting content that was “donated” by the person who has publication rights to that content for the benefit of ISSS and its members. The stipulation is the ISSS has to receive some substantial portion of all income (negotiated on a case-by-case basis with the pub. rights owner), although of course the author/pub. rights owner should receive a percentage, as well. I think we should start with only CDs, downloadable videos/CDs, and eBooks (PDF files). We don't want to get into the fulfillment business.

Jennifer November 12, 2008 Lynn was going to look into this, but has not been able to do so. I have registered us a while ago on the amazon.co.uk site, and it was easy enough, but we did not go further in actually developing the list of publications to then link through to amazon. see comments in section above (8) about just needed to get the process straight about collecting and distributing money for things to other authors?

10.

  • Offer editorial descriptions to “Systems Links and Resources”

Gary: Since there is no way to create an exhaustive list of these, we should again focus on the connections that we have with other organizations (IFSR, ASC, SDS, etc.) and with online resources that we consider credible for further research and information.

If we open it to members to link personal web sites and blogs, I'm not sure where that ends.

David: Again, I've ducked this. The proper governance is to have a review committee, which is too much work. Giving people access to the wiki at Projects ISSS is as far as I would go with this.

Jennifer:

Simon:

Jed: (11/12/08): Let's not move into a state of inaction on this for fear of giving someone a bad or undesirable link. I would rather have lots of links than not enough/none. Our site should be viewed and used by members and non-members alike as an information resource for anyone interested in systems thinking/approaches. Why do we need a committee to offer links to other resources? I think a good, clear disclaimer posted on the page will suffice. Links should have short descriptions, though, as a requirement for being included on the page (not just the link).

11.

  • We need to tap a person or multiple persons to write a new “Primer” to be featured on the new “Systems Education” page; likely breaking it up into modules with multiple authors

Gary: (see previous comments about the primer)

David: If you're going to get a new SIG chair, that would be appropriate. Just be prepared for you and that new SIG chair to deal with Tom, if/when he returns.

Jennifer:

Simon:

Jed: (11/12/08): Tom has no official position with the organization and we do not need to be afraid of what he is going to say or do (break our legs?). He can still have his primer on the old ISSS site. (Note, however, that we need to migrate the World site to: www.isss.org, not www.isss.org/world. This is the ISSS's URL, not Tom's.)

David (11/19/2008): Actually, Tom is still an official ISSS member, and he attended Madison. He hasn't stepped down as chair of the Primer SIG, so we should follow due process if we're replacing him.

12.

  • Instead of “Blogs,” consider creating a page of RSS feeds to other systems blogs

Simon: This makes sense - the ISSS website as an aggregator of content

Gary: Unless we have an official list of writers with rotating deadlines, this is probably the most realistic.

Jennifer: this would help if it was difficult to keep up a regular blog by someone in isss, which could be unless that person was lucky enough to not have that much else to do!! it could also perhaps pick up notices of changed pages on our site? then we would look active on it as well?

David: There's no technical barrier to aggregating other content. I'd like to see the list of blogs who you would consider subscribing to. (Some may need feeds by category or tag, because they blog about their personal life as much as system content). In addition, please suggest a list of reviewers.

I don't see the value of aggregating the content of others, because I use a newsreader and would go direct to that content. The reviewers could point to interesting articles, which could be useful (or redundant, if they don't continually find new bloggers).

Jed: (11/12/08): Most people don't know how to use the newsreaders that David uses. And, even if they do, they don't know where to go to find the content to subscribe to anyway. Most of the value of being an content aggregator comes from doing the work of finding good content resources in the first place, not the link itself (although the link also helps!). David, I think you would be an excellent candidate for being our resident aggregator for systems-related blog content that we could link to. Any interest?

David (11/19/2008): No, I'm not interested in becoming an aggregator in that way. I'm conscious of things that we do in ISSS as a group (e.g. the Connections Conversation all get documented on isss.org) versus the things that I do as an individual (that goes on coevolving.com or Facebook). In “Tipping Point” language, I'm a maven, not a connector. You really want a connector.

13.

  • In place of “Blogs” feature, let's create a “Featured Articles and Papers” page that republishes the content (with author permission) of designated luminaries.

Simon: Who maintains? Let's put this in the SIGs

Gary: A middle ground is to ask each SIG to be responsible for one entry per year, and do these once per month - but we still have potential copyright issues (if we use previously published material) and it's unfortunately pushing the limits of how involved SIG chairs have been recently.

Jennifer: …and publishers' permissions. if it is in a journal they will have copyright rather than the original author.

David: Please suggest the reviewer/editors involved, and describe the list of expectations that they're willing to sign up for.

Jed: (11/12/08): See my comments above. Should go to the “Special Integration Groups” pages.

14.

  • For fake sign-ups: we can add a registration check feature that requires a human user to read and input image-based characters on the screen, thereby filtering out bots who sign up fraudulently

Simon: I've just added a Drupal module requiring users who are registering for an ISSS World ID to answer a math question. This should significantly reduce our spam ID requests. I've also deleted the spam ID requests we already had in the database.

Gary: Anything that works…

Jennifer: definitely!

David: It sounds like Simon has already handled this with a math Captcha. I'm a fan of Recaptcha at http://recaptcha.net/, and there's a module for Drupal available at http://drupal.org/project/recaptcha .

Jed: (11/12/08): Great, thank you.

15.

  • Note on the difference between “Affiliated Organizations” and “Systems Links & Resources”: the AO link would include a paragraph and logo (where applicable) of each, while the SLR page could link to not only orgs but also publishers, software, online tools, blogs, etc.

Gary: So the AO section would be a separate area of the site? Or we would just provide a different designation and additional information for AO's? (I would lean towards keeping it simple.)

Jennifer: ok

David: I'm actually more comfortable with the current system of having relationships renewed year by year with the conferences. It reflects vitality. (If you want to see dead, look at the list of contacts for regional chapters in the annual bulletin. A lot are there for historical reasons, and haven't been strong promoters of the ISSS for some time).

I've already expressed a dislike for endorsing others without reason. The links speak for others. (By the way, I don't think that I've ever linked the ISSS site to my blog at http://coevolving.com , although I do link coevolving.com to http://isss.org . If others get linked, do I really want to rethink this?)

Simon:

Jed: (11/12/08): Again, with sufficient disclaimers in place, we are not endorsing anyone. That is the beauty of not only the proposed idea here but of the Internet itself. The idea is: here's a whole lot of content at your fingertips (in fact, more than you could ever consume in one lifetime), but as to the quality or relevance of that content, that is up to you to determine for yourself. Consumer beware.

16.

  • Note: I definitely plan to include both the menu tabs and Quickpath on every page of site, not just on the “Home Page” (to answer Jennifer's and David's comments about this)

Gary: yes, that's good

Jennifer: great

David: The menu tabs and Quickpath are all managed by Drupal. They can change dynamically, according to the context.

Simon:

Jed: (11/12/08): Finally, an easy one we all agree on!

17.

  • Information on the old/existing “Units” page would be integrated into the “Systems Disciplines” page; we need to create some degree (or complete) alignment between the SIGs and the disciplines represented here

Gary: I think that we need to change the name of this tab / area, and include only official SIGs and other topical groups (for which papers have been presented at conferences) which are active. I understand the need to label a pretty general category of groups, but “units” doesn't draw me personally to thinking of SIGs. Within that area, we do need to include the distinction between SIG chairs as voting members of the society, and others who are not - along with criteria for forming a SIG.

David: As I expressed above, you shouldn't use the word disciplines, as systems are the anti-discipline. I don't understand the need for alignment, because the systems of interest evolve over time, in unpredictable ways.

Jennifer:

Simon:

Jed: (11/12/08): Should read “Special Integration Groups.” Also: we need to find a way to monitor which SIGs are active and which aren't. Maybe each one (in order to remain active) needs to submit a statement each year (3-5 months pre-conference) with a list of approximately how many members it has, the SIG's purpose, plans for the conference, etc.

Jennifer November 12, 2008 Yes, well….Carl has been trying to get this done for many years. I have occasionally been able to gather some reports and make a list of who did and did not report activity for the year in the Bulletin that goes out. Reason for doing so is that this is in Bylaws as a requirement for SIGs to remain active in council membership. If they do not report activity each year and for two years do not organise a stream at the meeting, then they can be decommissioned by the Board. We will have a board meeting shortly I think….beginning Dec and there are 3 sigs that should be considered for sure in this process. We have the authority to monitor SIGs as you suggest, we just need to enforce it more strongly, we are too nice at the moment I guess.

18.

  • Site needs an aesthetic revamp; currently it is a bit dry looking; still, new site needs to retain a professional look-and-feel

Simon: see above re Drupal themes

Gary: Again, I think it most importantly needs to reflect the organization itself.

Jennifer: agreed

David: I agree only at zero cost (as I've expressed above).

Jed: (11/12/08): We need to do this and it won't be free.

19.

* We should design a new logo

Gary: (see comments in previous section)

David: If the VP of Administration concurs, you have the authority to do so. Let us know when you need something from us.

Jennifer:

Simon:

Jed: (11/12/08): I am checking with Jennifer about how one procures funds for items like site design and logo design.

board_discussion.txt · Last modified: 2015/01/31 23:55 (external edit)