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cubdadinnj

Troop web site -- frustrations! guidelines?

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(no longer a Cub Dad -- now on the troop commitee as communications chair - as of this week!)

 

Our troop first started the process of a building a web site over 2 years ago -- no site is yet up. There is much frustration in the troop about this.

 

The 2 guys who took responsibility for this are highly tech savvy, veteran scouters, ASMs.

 

But (IMO) they are so hamstrung about security, and what content is private vs public -- they have not been willing to let anything go up on the web yet.

 

I think "their" whole site is over engineered with security and layers of technology that no one, except them, might be able to understand. In addition, both of their sons made Eagle several years ago, and they are becoming somewhat more removed from troop activities. So who will know how to administer or maintain this thing in a couple of years?

 

And I am very uncomfortable with these guys interpreting the "guidelines" for what the BSA says about sites, and then being responsible to implementing the security and maintaining it.

 

In terms of a web site -- my preference is to go with one of the tech companies that does this for other Boy Scout troops. That way the technology, platforms, security, etc are not things we need to maintain

 

That said -- as best as I can tell, the national BSA site does not appear to have "troop site guidelines" -- what I read is quite minimal, and rather pushes this out to the district or council.

 

But our district does not appear to have any guidelines at all!

 

So -- what is a well meaning troop to do, about putting up an attractive, useful site -- that is adequately youth protective and for private items, secure?

 

Lastly -- at some point I think we need to pull the plug on the internally developed (but not released) site -- that will not be a fun conversation -- because these ASMs are truly great guys. But they and the troop will be better served having them deal with program -- and not as web masters. How the heck do we do that?

 

Thanks.

 

 

 

 

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When my son's troop decided to create a web site, a adult was appointed to oversee the project, a fellow who is a mangager of software weenies in his real life. The Scout who was supposed to implement it was a very tech savvy kid, actually made money designing website BUT he wanted to do it his way.

 

This was back in the day when most people still had dial-up and this kids site had every imaginable bell and whistle that could be added to slow down the loading and navigation of the site. He refused to take direction to make the site friendly to the non-geeks of the world.

 

No other youth cared enough to take on the task so the adult wound up designing the site. It is very simple, easy to navigate site with the calendar, forms, equipment lists, contact inforation for the adults and lots of pictures. Sadly, very few hits occur on the site.

 

People say, "I need the permission slip for X" Did you check the web site? "noooooo."

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Alot of times, well meaning tech weenies jump at the opportunity to build a site for their troop. They want to use all the gadgets and dodads that they can't at their company job. They create a monster nobody wants to use and nobody else can support.

 

We moved from a unique troop website to a yahoo group. Nobody wanted to keep the website updated and everything we need to publish, we can do on yahoo groups. Message boards, file publishing, photos, calendar, polls.

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The biggest things are that you should not put youth last names, addresses , phone #s, etc, in public view. I would also not put a calendar of upcoming events in public view. You can post where you have been, but I would caution against saying where you will be, and when, in the public view.

 

Other than that I know of know other suggestions or guidelines from the BSA.

 

 

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BSA has "advice" for those with personal or unit web sites:

http://scouting.org/webmasters/units.aspx

 

They suggest you contact your council for specific guidelines. I don't know if all councils have developed these.

 

As to continuity of the site, I would argue for using one of the template sites. I know our pack site is sorely out of date, because we're short on tech people right now. If we had one of the template type sites, we could update it much more easily.

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Isn't it odd --that there must be 10's of thousands of web sites for Cub Packs and Boy Scout Troops -- and there is no little guidance from the BSA.

 

In our troop there some don't want to have pictures or even a troop calendar on a public site -- others think that as long as the pictures have no names and the calendar no specifics "eg = "Campout" not "Campout at XYZ Park" its ok. (I fall in the latter group).

 

THANKS --

 

Pete

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I'm one of those tech weenies... Our site does have a layer of security, but it's pretty simple. Each family is given a login and they can see their advancement reports (from troopmaster). Other secure information is a troop roster, points of contact, and details for upcoming activities.

 

On the public side is our calendar, links to sites the scouts may find useful, pictures from some activities (no names), and forms. The calendar may say "Backpacking at Red River Gorge", but that doesn't tell you a whole lot.

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cubdadinnj,

 

Like all of us, you've had a person or group of people volunteer to take on a task and now it is getting nowhere, but I gather from your email that they haven't actually quit. If they quit, then you could at least pick up the ball and run with it yourself or hand it off to someone else.

 

So, my first advice is to deal with the fact that you have a couple of volunteers who aren't making it happen. Until then, the rest is moot. Security sounds like an excuse. You can make one, some, or all pages password protected. It doesn't take two years.

 

 

Be polite but upfront with them. Maybe they are no longer interested in doing this and just need the chance to say so.

 

Or if they do want to press forward, set a deadline. This is tougher in a volunteer organization than at work, but try to extract a deadline out of them. "Can we have a front page with our troop number and one picture up by the end of the month?" Build from there.

 

I'll post another response about website content in case you end up starting from scratch.

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cubdadinnj,

 

I run my troop's website. It is a great resource, but you are right about there being pitfalls. I'll leave behind the security concerns that have dominated the posts so far and give you some other advice.

 

1. Start small. Add later.

 

2. Think hard about what you need there. Just because you can put something there doesn't mean you should. Assuming you have other forms of communication (patrol leaders making phone calls to their members, announcements at meetings, troop emails) you don't need everything at the website.

 

3. Some content on your site will be "static" meaning it will be unchanged for a long time, and therefore low maintenance. "Dynamic" content can become a hassle to keep updated. Think carefully before filling your site with a lot of dynamic information. What is exciting when you start a website becomes a chore in a few months.

 

4. Remember that websites are a passive way to get information to people. Phone calls and email push information, but with a website you don't know if people are going to go and pull the information. Websites have their place, but only for some types of information.

 

5. My troop uses a weekly email as part of its communication plan. One way we use the website is to avoid attachments to the email. Spam filters go crazy if I send an attachment, such as a map, flyer, permission form, etc., to a large group. So, I put the attachment on the website and put a link in the email.

 

6. Keep the content simple for the visitors. Some people who visit the site still use dial up and old computers. I don't have any fancy graphics.

 

7. Keep the technology simple for the webmaster. I'm not a website designer or programmer. Most of the pages are made using Microsoft Word, (saving the files as .html instead of .doc). Most professionals would sneer at that, but it works for us. So, I could teach someone else to update our site if I want to hand it off.

 

8. I found a local business who has their own website on their own server in their office to host our website. My troop's website, with our own domain name, is on their server, so I don't have to pay for a hosting service. They even paid for the domain name registration.

 

Good luck.

 

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cucdadinnj writes "Isn't it odd --that there must be 10's of thousands of web sites for Cub Packs and Boy Scout Troops -- and there is no little guidance from the BSA."

 

And yet, in the post immediatley before his Infoscouter gives a link to the official BSA site with all kinds of recommendation for unit websites.

 

What else do you want the BSA to do? Remember the BSA's role is to develop and help control the BSA PROGRAM. They do not develop or control phone trees, newsletters, e-mails, OR web sites. They gave suggestions but if you want rules or guidelines from them on a topic that is not a part of the program then that will likely not happen.

 

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I manage two websites, the district:

http://www.valley.bsa-sjac.org/index.htm

 

and the troop and crew:

http://draftscouts.org/

 

I use Google Calendar and Google Docs. You can give access to the Google stuff to a group of folks and they can edit it themselves. My DE was going crazy sending me updates to the units and leaders list, so I went to Docs. It works just like Excel and she can update it whenever there is a minor change; she no longer keeps a separate spreadsheet.

 

The calendar is also easy to update, and if you look at the unit site, you will see we have the district calendar imported as well.

 

The big thing is to find out what content your audience is expecting. I was the roundtable commissioner when I started the district site, so I was able to solicit some good feedback. Features that went unused were dropped, and I improved the stuff that was used. Calendars, event information and contact information are pretty much what they wanted and they are all linked from the home page.

 

Ed P.

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Bob White - I wasn't clear -- yes the BSA has *some* guidelines, but, at least for someone like me who is concerned both with content as well as implementation, its not very specific on either.

 

http://www.scouting.org/webmasters/units.aspx

 

To me, this emphasizes "proper Scout decorum", youth safety, and legal (don't steal content!).

 

This puts us, as a unit (absent local district or council info), in the position of interpreting and making determinations about specifics - e.g., level of detail provided on a public site, about calendars, troop functions, etc., what is the right tone and look for the site, what do we think/believe equals youth safety, and other than using permissable logos & RSS feeds, what about content?

 

In some ways this is no different than using traditional means of communications -- except that the potential audience is much much larger and completely uncontrolled, which amplifies the importance of doing this right. (for the unit, district, council, BSA, and, the CO).

 

Thanks for the discussion --

 

Pete

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Our troop uses Yahoo Groups. It sets up in seconds, has calendar, security, announcment sections, restrictive memberships, etc. Anyone can maintain the page with a minimum amount of tech savvy.

 

Stosh

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check out our web www.troop165bsa.org

 

Our council may have some guide lines but frankly they can't keep thire site up to date more or less monitor any body else. I have been using the troop web site for over 4 years and never had any problems (not to say none will never happen). The hardest thing is to get folks to use it as a tool, I don't know how many times I've said "It's on the web site" anyway just my point.

 

Edited by: Eagle Foot

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