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.


Traveling Man said...

When contemplating a computer for the Lodge, not much money needs to be spent.

If an older model is purchased or donated, the Linux operating system can be installed. (Since the software is free, there is additional savings for the Lodge)

To cut further costs, can be used instead of Microsoft Office.

I'd be happy to send you the details if you would like.

Traveling Man

Charles Tirrell said...

I definitely agree that Linux is a great option. Although, I don't currently run a home computer on Linux, I have in the past and enjoy the cost and low hardware needs. My current laptop runs OS X, so at least its a unix-like OS and I can still access the terminal and perl complier when I need to :)

A Linux box is a good idea for a lodge that has a computer competent brother who can handle the more complex configurations that it requires. For those lodges that don't have someone who knows Linux, its not all that difficult to learn. For those that don't feel comfortable with learning a new operating system Mac OS X is quite user friendly. I would highly discourage Windows Vista, its not worth the hassle or costs. Windows XP is still to prone to viruses for me to recommend, although I have a desktop and a laptop running XP. But I think will be turning my desktop into a linux box once I get a new Mac desktop for my wife to use at home.

Although for the price (free) you can't beat most of the software written for Linux, you can run into a software void in regards to some types of software you're looking for. But Linux market share is growing and with it more commercial-like applications.

Bro. Francis Dryden said...

Dear Charles,
I thoroughly enjoyed your blog on The Pen is Mightier than the Sword... But not the computer!" but typically the response comes back stumbling back to your blog of June 7th/07 called Dues that don't... anymore where the respondent gets right into cheap or cheaper!
I have been Secretary/Treasurer of my Lodge for nigh onto 14 years now and have always had a computer (my own) and charged the Lodge once in a while for some ink for the printer. I have also provided a Toll Free telephone number (my own) for any member to call me from out of town... the number is published in the Summons every month. Seven years of work has been spent getting about half of our members on e-mail for the Summons... this saves the Lodge about $1,000 a year. I am now gaining support that our Lodge as of January 1, 2009 (one year's notice) will no longer mail Summonses and we will provide an e-mail address and instructions for use to any member. Some have screamed they will NOT BUY A COMPUTER to which they are informed they do not have to as they can go to their children's, their neighbors, the Public Library or a cyber-cafe to use one. They then ask, " Are my dues going to go down because the Lodge is getting this money?"... I needn't repeat the response to that query.
The long and short of it is Charles, that it seems that most Freemasons wouldn't pay a quarter to watch an earthquake!
Our Life Members (automatic at age 80) are forgiven their Lodge dues but continue to pay their Grand Lodge assessment and the rent for the Lodge room (about $80 per year)... the extra Lodge overhead is split among the membership with no arguments from them.
Our membership knows fully about the finances of the Lodge and although they also know they can go to any other Lodge in the province for less... they don't!
Our suspensions for none payment of dues are something else though because this is regulated by Grand Lodge... our members cannot be suspended until they are at minimum 2 years in arrears. The Lodge has to pay their Grand Lodge assessments, their rent (all per capita) and of course send them a Summons the entire time (for some reason the non-payers are invariably NOT on-line). To counter this we levy a $10 surcharge per quarter (all the way out to the 2 years if necessary) on all arrears... this provides in excess of $1,000 per year and covers our losses for suspensions.
I personally would much rather have 30 or 40 members who come out regularly rather than 100 of which only 20 to 25% come out at all. The parties that choose to collect their various assessments on a per capita basis should be the ones out getting new members to support their "habits".
I enjoyed your blog and shall continue to follow it... thank you for your thoughts.

Charles Tirrell said...

Hi Bro. Francis,

I enjoyed the insight into your lodge experience. It seems that there is a huge difference between how business is run in your lodge and how it is done in my lodge. However, much of the same aversion to new technology is similar.

I wanted to give you a bit of information on my lodge, to see some differences. Currently, we have about 160 members. Our average lodge meeting has between 15 and 25 members show up, most of which are officers. Of our 160 members, 1/3 are 50 year members, meaning that they are exempt from all dues (this is mandated by our GL). There is no exemption from dues strictly on age, only on years of service. Our dues right now are $70. $50 goes to GL and $20 goes to our lodge. So our lodge has a yearly income of about $2000 from dues. Our rent is about $8000 a year and we have no separate fee for rent. So our dues only covers 1/4 of our rent. Our primary form of income is interest from our investments. We're literally, living off the fat.

Our current officer line is very young and thinks that it is crazy that dues are so low. This year we plan on raising our dues significantly, by putting in place a reduced dues rate for brothers over 65 to account for fixed incomes.

Frankly, masonry in my lodge and jurisdiction is way to cheap and we need to go up in our dues. Brothers expect us to stay at the same rate that we charged in the 1950s yet inflation has decreased the value of money 4/5.

Thanks again for the input Bro. Francis. I'd love to hear more of your experiences. From what jurisdiction do you hail? I'd like to know for reference. Have a good one :)


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.