Website Discussion and Features
Transition and Rework
After many months of transition, our website is again back, fully functional. I’d like to now discuss some of the sections and features and benefits. When this was first created, the prime task was to offer both visibility and privacy, each in their respective areas. We ultimately accomplished this with a log-in system, whose detailed information can be found here, or by simply typing the word, login, into the search spyglass at the upper right of every page.
At initial issue were two prime areas of malfunction: One, the complexity of the site, with its many modules—the various areas, calendar, login, membership, security, and more, had acquired some broken files. This is often routine as vendors upgrade their programs, and old versions cease to work, but was compounded as it was a challenge initially to find the set of modules that “played well together” in the first place. So when one or more broke, it ultimately took an entire-site rework. The other issue was the incredibly slow speed of the site. Part of this was a function of the multiple interacting modules; and part was the speed of the server.
A server is where files are stored. Some disk, someplace. Anyplace. This is commonly mis-phrased now as “the cloud”, but in reality, it’s simply on a whirring disk in some industrial location. For the technically-minded, one can host a website from their own home; the issue is the 24-7 delivery. And thus the industry. But our disk was slow, and everything on the site took forever (in web-patience terms, at least.) So the task was to move all those files to a new, more robust location. This took about two months of meticulous file moving and checking, and is finally done. (Not without its pains, but done.) Then the program repair began.
Structure and Features
Principally, I want to talk about the structure, and particularly the features, many of which you may not be aware of. As mentioned, there is a log-in requirement to see the full site. Indeed, the site fully renders to anyone who goes to the domain—and the prime purpose of this aspect of the site is to draw non-members to evaluate us, and join. So you’ll see that theme throughout the surface pages. But once registered and logged in, various areas of the site begin to open up that were previously hidden. Perhaps the most important is our monthly calendar. This was the issue whose privacy concerns were voiced over a decade ago: how to provide info to members, while hiding personal addresses, phone numbers, etc., from any web visitor.
For those who are unregistered/unlogged, a calendar will show, whose verbiage describes it as our “Public” calendar. On this page will appear any function where we, the hosts welcome the general public. But once logged in, the full calendar of events opens up, rendering on desktop to mobile device. Clicking on any event will bring up its full information, often including a helpful venue picture. AND, within this area is a neat little feature that I personally love—Add to Calendar. Clicking on this within the listing will allow you to “subscribe” the full calendar’s ongoing events, directly to your computer’s calendar function. In my case, I chose “Apple”, and it opens up to accept/deny the checkbox addition of the Mensa calendar to my computer’s calendar. Any event subsequently added to our website’s calendar then automatically shows up in my daily calendar—easy to keep on top of what’s happening, complete with information, times, RSVP and other info, plus links back to the original calendar. Very, very handy. (For those who may wonder, this works also for the Public people as well, but only yielding the Public events.)
The second general area that changes is the Members Section. It too will reveal general-to-public information (and invitations), and once logged in, a variety of other areas of Chapter interest: Members’ blog contributions, a calendar synopsis, and—my favorite—a listing of local SIGs, or areas of common interest among members.
Local SIG and Contact Page
This last area is the one I most want to spend time on in discussion, for what it provides to the chapter. (And if you’ve read this far, thanks; you’re my peeps.) It began as a listing of those who’d related to various sections of chapter interest: Arts, Dining, Social, Giving Back, and Age-related activities. The page is currently visible to the public, as I need to leave it such for one of the module vendors to troubleshoot, but this too will soon enough be behind login.
On this page, you will see a pair of buttons for each area of listing. If you care to add your name to that specific group, you simply type your name and email and hit “Add my name to this group.” It comes to me as a manual function to do, but ultimately will add your name to the list, left, and the email engine behind it all. —Which brings me to the other, significant feature: the button “Email this List” which opens up your email client, and will blind-email all members of that group. Let’s say you felt like having dinner out with your Mensa friends. Suggest a restaurant and time, and hit the Email List button. Though you do not see the email addresses of those people on the list, it instantly will go to all of them. IF they choose to respond, THEN you may see their own return addresses. But hey, we all volunteered to be on that list anyway; it’s just a security feature. FYI, if you are in the list, it will instantly go; and if not, it goes into a manual, moderating holding place until approved: if you want instantaneous, join the group, otherwise plan on additional communication time.
Vibrancy and Immediacy
Now, the benefit of all of this is the immediacy that this brings to the group. And honestly, I don’t know of any other chapter in the nation that has this benefit. Our newsletter has a closure date of the 10th of the prior month, so calendar items are pretty stagnant by the time things get to us. This has quenched most on-the-fly activities that people feel spontaneously interested in; and this enables the ability to instantly gather a handful of people to any event that you care to do. As you might imagine, this really enables the group to meet and bond, side stepping the more static nature of our events. The chapter has the ability to come instantly alive on this one, in any of a number of personal interest areas.
In honesty, though designed some time ago, the feature was never really used. This was partly because the modules were recently broken; but more because few people really knew what this would accomplish in real-life terms. With this discussion, and a greater set of eyes participating, this has unbelievable potential. Arts, Dining, Social, Age-related; everyone can hang with their tribe. —Oh, and on this count, one more item of note: for the Age-related Youth category, for additional privacy reasons incumbent to this group, IF you’ve registered as over 18 (thus the registration question), you will see only the name list showing first name, last initial. IF you are truly a Youth member (having checked off “under 18”) this will open up the full name list to you in that you may better find your friends. I hope to soon see this feature used by this group in Youth-related events to some. —And to all the others, as well.
But all of this requires site registration and login upon visiting for these features to open up. And that requires “eyes” on the website. So we encourage you to visit the website, if you have not, or if it’s been awhile, and work your way through the site. Register, and allow a day or so for approval to manually match you as a Mensa member.
As always, feel free to contact me with any of the tech questions related to this, or other areas.
—Don Chinnici, Webmaster