Monday, August 6, 2007

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword.... But not the computer!

Sorry for the delay in getting this post up and running. Things have been busy with work and life. Also, I've been living at my summer cottage, where there is no internet. I'll try in the future to be more prompt with my postings. Here we go.....

Many of my ideas for running a better lodge focuses on introducing new technologies and organizational methods to the lodge and its officers. Although all offices and positions in the lodge need updating, no officer is in greater need of a makeover than the secretary in most lodges. In many lodges, the secretary has been a fixture in the lodge for many years, if not decades. I have seen lodges whose secretary has been in this office for more years than the sitting master has been alive. This is a double-edged sword. These brothers bring a level of experience that is unparalleled within a lodge. However, for all that the typical secretary has in experience, they usually lack in dynamism.

Many lodge secretaries still use manual typewriters, abhor email and believe that the Trestleboard is the only means for mass communication. I have seen many new brothers scratch their heads in disbelief at the methods we use still for record keeping, communication and organization. I have stated in previous posts that I believe that we can adopt new methods and tactics without changing the core of masonry. This is one of those situations.

Some masons have turned to the internet to fulfill their need for brotherhood between stated communications. If you're reading this blog, then you're probably one of them. You crave knowledge and are using the tools of today to fulfill this craving. The search for knowledge and betterment is at the core of Freemasonry. Any means by which you search for these virtues are a good tool and the internet can be very useful.

So how can the internet help the lodge secretary? I'm going to name ten technologies the lodge secretary can use, however there are countless more that can be beneficial. This post will have the first five and the next five will be on the next post. Let's begin!

  1. Email - This is by far the most important innovation that the internet has brought, which can help the Masonic lodge. In the past, Lodges had phone trees to help propagate important information in a manner that didn't necessitate one person calling three dozen brothers. The phone tree would work like this, the WM would call the SW, JW, Tres and Sec. These four brothers would then call four more designated brothers. Then those brothers would call four more. However, if a brother down the line couldn't be reached or had some additional piece of information important to the purpose of the call, more time would be wasted going back up the tree so the WM would know. Now, if all the officers and regulars had email, then mass communication is easy. Write one email with multiple recipients and click send. Quick and easy. Email has changed the world, now it should change our lodges. Email has many uses and I could write several posts on email with ease.
  2. Wikis - Wikis are quick websites. In fact, wiki is the Hawaiian word for quick. These quick pages are great for collaboration. Many people can log in and make changes to it. Records of these changes are made so that a user can follow the "state" of the wiki and see what specific people changed. The added strength of wikis are that they are extremely ease to create. If you can type, you can make a wiki. The formating is either extremely easy to learn or has a WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) interface. Wikis can be used by a lodge to collaborate on a project. The plans for the annual BBQ can be thrown onto a wiki. The list of parts for the next MM degree can be put on a wiki. The uses are endless. Here's a site that I use for my wikis, it's free and easy There are many other wiki sites and software packages.
  3. Web Calendars - This one is a no-brainer. Putting your calendar on the internet so many people can see it. Each officer in the lodge can have a calendar. The lodge can have a calendar. The fellowcraft club can have a calendar. The lodge website that my lodge has through our Grand Lodge has a calendar that syncs to the GL calendar, so that brothers from around the state can find degrees and events in one place. There are many software packages for online calendar, again most of them are free. Here are a few Google Calendar, Yahoo! Calendar or iCal.
  4. Video Editing Software - Recording an important event and sharing it with brothers who were not present can be extremely important. My lodge has several presentations on Masonic topics throughout the year, but some brothers can't make it to all stated communications. Why not record the presentations and give it to the brothers on DVD? Installations, Awards Nights and Ladies Nights can be recorded and shared with brothers, friends and family. Software like iMovie and Windows Movie Maker comes bundled with home computers
  5. Instant Messaging - Ever have a quick question for one of your officers? Then instant message them. Instant messaging and texting has become extremely important in todays world. It's not just for teenagers and internet romancers anymore. Many fortune 500 companies swear by it. IMing is a way to communicate with someone and not completely monopolize their time and energy. You can send a brother a question while at work and not have to worry that you are interrupting their workflow. A text message at dinnertime is far less obtrusive then a phone call. Not to mention that IMing and texting can be one-directional communication. You can send a message that does not require a response, just a note or a notification. Try doing that with the phone. Once again their are many free programs out there that are great from IMing on the net. Aim, ICQ, mIRC or Google Talk. Text messaging is primarily through your phone and has a cost associated with it, but plans are usually inexpensive.
Tune in for my next post where I will go over my next 5 technologies that can benefit the lodge and its secretary. Also be sure to leave some comments about any ideas that you have or experiences that you have felt helped or hurt your lodge.