Encouraging Members to Use Unit Websites

Share discussions around the Classic Local Unit Website (LUWS).
richardkmiller-p40
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ward blogs might be nice

Postby richardkmiller-p40 » Fri Jan 26, 2007 9:28 am

I think it would be nice for the unit websites to include public facing blogging software. Each ward could call a ward blogger (this is an idea that David Frey of MormonConvert.com has espoused.) The ward blogger wouldn't make pronouncements of doctrine but rather would take notes on sacrament meeting talks, classes, etc. This would be a way for shut-ins, the sick, or ex-missionaries that served there to get a feel for what's going on in the ward.

kristacook-p40
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Frustration over ward leaders inaction

Postby kristacook-p40 » Fri Jan 26, 2007 9:38 am

I discovered the unit web sites early on and have been very excited to see them really used. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The Bishop does not seem to consider it important. What is really frustrating is that all the necessary information gets done in hard-copy but only a handful of people have access to it. The schedule for lessons in RS/Priesthood gets glued into all the new manuals at the beginning of the year, but never put online. Our ward has a leadership listserv on Yahoo but the email listservs on the official unit site are ignored. The Enrichment Counselor has her own email listserv, of sorts, where she emails the sisters about the upcoming Enrichment information. It was depressing to discover that I was not on it. There is never any news/information posted online, it only circulates around the ward leadership. This is horribly alienating. I missed the ward Christmas party because I wasn't at church and no one emailed me a bulletin.

This is a serious problem in our ward because we have a lot of members (including my husband) who work in prisons, state hospitals, law enforcement and health care. Many of our members must work on Sunday. If they do, they are completely out of the information loop. I don't think our ward leadership fully understands what it is like to be in our position.

I remarked once, to the Bishop, that I use the web site to find current phone numbers for ward members. He told me it wasn't accurate and they have a separate ward roster that is accurate. I'm left wondering why they have a separate effort which results in duplication and confusion.

Being called to do the weekly bulletin resulted in my always knowing what was going on. Now that I have been released, I am completely in the dark. If the information was in the ward web site, I would have no complaints at all.

We recently got emailed an extensive Excel Spreadsheet compiled by one of the Stake Clerks that had all ward's leadership, contact information including emails, and a great deal else. It makes me wonder why it couldn't go on the official web site. This was compiled entirely separate from it. Browsing through the email lists it is obvious that a lot more people are online than have activated their emails/contact information on the unit web sites. It is very clear that a lot more people could make use of the unit web site than are presently doing so. However, with no information on it, why should they?

While I was doing the bulletin weekly, I mentioned to some leaders that everything I compile could easily go on the web site and probably should. My remarks don't seem to have made an impact. A recent positive development is that the sister preparing the bulletin now is married to the ward clerk who, I think, is responsible for the web site. This arrangement seems ideal. I hope this results in more development.

Before discovering LDS Tech and registering, I had decided that there really needed to be some sort of tutorial for ward leadership about how the unit web sites are intended to work and how they can help people perform their callings better. Some of the posters on this thread appear to have come to the same conclusion. The church has already created some interactive tutorials for other things, I think they ought to create these tutorials for ward leadership.

Many ward leaders are middle-aged to elderly men and they often aren't as tech-savvy as the younger people. They simply don't fully understand what these web sites can do for units and how they can assist people in their callings. I'm wondering if such a tutorial could be prepared for something like the Worldwide leadership training and placed online. I'm concerned that if the unit web sites, and even all the lds.org for that matter, gets more sophisticated its going to look even more complex and daunting to elderly church leaders making them less likely to plunge in and learn its uses.

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thedqs
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Postby thedqs » Fri Jan 26, 2007 11:07 am

kristacook wrote:I remarked once, to the Bishop, that I use the web site to find current phone numbers for ward members. He told me it wasn't accurate and they have a separate ward roster that is accurate. I'm left wondering why they have a separate effort which results in duplication and confusion.

We recently got emailed an extensive Excel Spreadsheet compiled by one of the Stake Clerks that had all ward's leadership, contact information including emails, and a great deal else. It makes me wonder why it couldn't go on the official web site. This was compiled entirely separate from it. Browsing through the email lists it is obvious that a lot more people are online than have activated their emails/contact information on the unit web sites. It is very clear that a lot more people could make use of the unit web site than are presently doing so. However, with no information on it, why should they?


All the information that is on the website is the information in the Church's membership databases. So as long as the membership records are being kept up to date so is the website membership info.

kristacook wrote:Many ward leaders are middle-aged to elderly men and they often aren't as tech-savvy as the younger people. They simply don't fully understand what these web sites can do for units and how they can assist people in their callings. I'm wondering if such a tutorial could be prepared for something like the Worldwide leadership training and placed online.


I agree that it would be nice to have a quick training that can be access by the leadership on-line. I have seen this problem in other places too. On my mission (Brasil) I had the oppertunity to train almost every ward clerk in every ward I was in on the use of MLS, a great solution to this is if they could have had a on-line training video or something.

kristacook wrote:I'm concerned that if the unit web sites, and even all the lds.org for that matter, gets more sophisticated its going to look even more complex and daunting to elderly church leaders making them less likely to plunge in and learn its uses.


What I think the church is going for is to make it more sophisticated tech wise, by make everything very easy to access. As in some other threads around here, everyone is coming up with suggestions on how to make it better. Any idea is welcomed.
- David

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Postby russellhltn » Fri Jan 26, 2007 11:57 am

thedqs wrote:Do you know the size limit, and also can we use other doc types or just PDF?


Clicking on the little blue question mark just above the attachment section I get:
Requirements for an attachment are as follows:

File format: .doc, .pdf, or .xls
Max file size: 1Mb


I attempted to upload a larger file, but got an error message, so I believe the quote about the size limit is still accurate. (I like to verify things. :D )

Personally, I suggest sticking with PDF. Not everyone has MS Office or a free viewer installed.

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Postby russellhltn » Fri Jan 26, 2007 12:03 pm

kims wrote:I am also a ward website administrator, newly called. One of the problems I've run into (so far) is that people have forgotten passwords or user names, and no one here knows how to restore them.



For the lost user name, go into Admin mode (green screen) and go to "Registered Users". There you can look up that person's User ID.

As for Lost Passwords, the link is on the Login screen. The members reset their own password by using the same information they used to create the account (membership number and confirmation date).

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Postby russellhltn » Fri Jan 26, 2007 12:12 pm

thedqs wrote:I think that this is one of the purposes of this site, to keep at least the tech community informed.


It will work getting the message out to the propeller heads. What's needed is to get it to the folks who actually admin the site.

What I'd suggest is adding a "What's new" to the main admin screen. It can go just below the "You have 5 submissions needing approval". That way it's right there to greet the admin every time they log in. Hopefully it would be in reverse chronological order is new stuff is at the top. Minimal work for the developers, maximum benefit for those who need it.

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Postby atticusewig » Fri Jan 26, 2007 1:52 pm

RussellHltn wrote:What I'd suggest is adding a "What's new" to the main admin screen. It can go just below the "You have 5 submissions needing approval". That way it's right there to greet the admin every time they log in. Hopefully it would be in reverse chronological order is new stuff is at the top. Minimal work for the developers, maximum benefit for those who need it.


What would aslo be useful would be for them to
create a changelog for the users. Something like,
"Since you last logged in, the admin has posted
this event to the calendar.on Feb 9th, updated
the following News/Information item, and added
4 lessons to the leasson schedule".

Of course, if they were really ambitious, they could
also list membership record changes - such as
4 new members to the ward, the Smiths and the
Bakers have new phone numbers, and so forth.

To make it less obtrusive for those who logon only
once in a while - it could show the 5 most recent
changes, with a link to the rest up to some specified
period.

As an admin, I could create my own
changelog as a news / Information, but it would
be nice if it were automatic.

Atticus Ewig

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WelchTC
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RE: Frustration over ward leaders inaction

Postby WelchTC » Fri Jan 26, 2007 2:00 pm

Let's not speak negatively about problems you may be experiencing within your ward or stake and with your leaders. Each of us are asked to either sustain or not sustain our church leaders. We have that right. However, discussing irritation or frustration over the actions of our leaders does not benefit anyone in these forums and is certainly not in keeping with the technological nature of this forum. Let's assume you are a new member or someone who is not a member of the Church and you start reading some of the posts within this forum. What would you conclude? Remember that each of us has our faults and weaknesses. We are to encourage and taught to build each other up, not criticize and tear each other down.

Let me give you an example. Here are two ways to state the same problem.

Example 1:
We currently do not effectively use the stake and ward web sites within our ward. We would like to be better at that. Here are 3 things we did to improve the problem. ...

Example 2:

We have a ward that is not very computer savvy. Because of this no one signs up for the ward web site. Our clerk is of no help either. Here is what we did to improve the problem. ...

You get the idea. Example one states the same problem but with a much more positive light.

This post is not directed at anyone in general. I want to encourage ideas how to solve problems but these forums can not turn into a place where people vent their frustrations under the guise of technology. It is a very fine edge that we are walking on. Please keep your posts to technology solutions and ideas and not on gripes.

Thanks for your support and understanding.

Tom

kristacook-p40
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OOPS! Didn't mean to spark a flame war . . .

Postby kristacook-p40 » Mon Jan 29, 2007 10:24 am

From the concerns expressed by Tom/Administrator and some of you in other posts, it would appear that you think I'm implying that church leaders are not doing their job and/or I don't sustain them. I'm sorry if I conveyed that. Perhaps my frustration came out a little strong. I'll put my concerns in perspective. Let me give you some background. My father was always in leadership positions that planted him firmly within the ward communication loop. He died in an accident. Overnight we went from being in the communication loop to being on the periphery, and I’ve remained on the periphery ever since. My mother never remarried. I married late and was single for some time. My husband has worked evenings and Sundays for a long time. All of this has made it extraordinarily difficult to find out what is going on in the ward and when activities are.

This has resulted in my being very concerned about other members on the periphery, trying to assess their needs and helping them in whatever way I can to feel a part of the ward, involved, needed, wanted, etc. So many sisters I have visit taught have expressed feelings of being on the periphery – especially regarding information.

My education and background (which is extensive) is in public administration (management in government) and now library and information science because I am pursuing an M.L.S. Librarians have always been interested in people’s “information behavior” – how they seek information, how they use information, what information sources they trust and cultivate, etc. In one of my classes, we researched categories of people and explored their “information behavior”. My topic was managers – very relevant to my background. Others had topics like teachers, engineers, lawyers. Each of these groups have different “information behaviors.” Age and gender categories are also important.

The intent in studying these various groups is to be able to design information systems that will be relevant, useful, easy to navigate, etc. This isn’t revolutionary, businesses try to identify their market and design their products to fit the needs of their target group.

In government this is crucial, because their “audience” or “market” is every single citizen. Government web sites, for example, must be usable to everyone in every conceivable category – old, young, color blind, disabled, those with slow internet connections, etc. Usability and accessibility is extraordinarily important. The web site http://www.section508.gov/ is devoted to it.

The point I meant to make, and the point I thought I was making, was that elderly, male priesthood holders in leadership positions are not using the church’s electronic tools. Instead, they are setting up auxiliary systems that result in duplication – with some unfortunate side effects like marginalizing the periphery members. As tech professionals designing these tools, I thought that would be valuable information. Somehow the target population has not discovered, not utilized, etc. these tools. Somehow their information behavior is not consistent with expectations. There is a disconnect somewhere that needs to be fixed. They are setting up their own tools to address the same problems that the church's electronic tools seem to address so well. I don't understand why. The only thing I can think of is that they don't fully understand the church's electronic tools. Does anyone have any thoughts/experience with this?

Usability studies are very interesting. What usually happens is that designers and managers discover that the real life users are approaching the technology much differently than what they had anticipated. It’s usually very eye-opening and humbling -- often requiring massive reworking in order to truly serve the needs of the desired population.

A fellow M.L.S. student of mine is a computer professional and works for the church, in fact I think he always has. He related some stories about when they studied real-life users using their electronic tools. One story was particularly amusing and interesting. During the interview following the user’s experience, the user said he liked the software and it was pretty easy to maneuver around, but he didn’t like the computer calling him a dummy. The official asked him to show him where the computer called him a dummy – The user pointed out “ddmmyy”.

I think back to when I was single and called as the single's rep. for wards and stakes, tools like the church is now providing would have made my calling so much easier. It is really gratifying to read about concerns like adding pictures to the member directory. It means others are attempting to use the more sophisticated tools the church is providing us with. Here in a far flung ward in western Kansas we often struggle with more basic issues. Our Bishop announced yesterday that he just got a new job and will be gone after church next Sunday, but the Stake President still wants him to serve as Bishop for a while -- long distance. Maybe this could be the catalyst that results in more utilization of these tools.

Since the Excel spreadsheet the Stake Clerk compiled has numerous emails/contact information from people who have not activated their church login access, I have to think that there is critical mass necessary for the electronic tools to be used successfully. People are certainly online, they just aren't on our unit web site. Elder Christensen's article "My Ways Are Not Your Ways" in the February '07 Ensign addressed some really interesting issues. Our Bishop leaving is the last of the seasoned leadership in our ward. We lost them all, almost overnight, including my husband and myself since my husband got a new job and we just sold our house. It would seem our ward is poised for the new and exciting developments Elder C. is talking about. I hope so.

Again, I'm sorry if my frustrations sounded a bit too much like criticism/complaint. I get so excited about what the church does. I was heavily online before the church's web site ever debuted. I enthusiastically explore each new development. Things just keep getting better and better. The Relief Society President called me up recently and asked me if there was a way she could find out if the church had a branch/ward building in a little town in New Mexico -- apparently her daughter was moving there. It wasn't hard to help her. She admitted she hadn't gone past the first screen of the church's web site and lavished praise on me for helping her calling me an "expert". I didn't feel particularly worthy of the title. It just reinforced the idea that our leaders haven't yet discovered all the wonderful electronic tools. In my prior posting, I suggested that the church could prepare intereactive tutorials, maybe for the World Leadership Training. Is there anything we ordinary members can do to help bridge this learning curve? Does anyone have any ideas?

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WelchTC
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Postby WelchTC » Mon Jan 29, 2007 10:28 am

No flame wars were started...more of some misunderstandings. Thanks for the clarification and follow-up post. You bring up some excellent points that we as a community can try to figure out solutions for.

Thanks,

Tom


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