Monday, September 10, 2007

The Pen is Mightier than the Sword.... But not the computer! - Part 2

In my previous post, I wrote about new technologies that would help a lodge with it's organization and workflows. The five technologies I wrote about were
  1. Email
  2. Wikis
  3. Web Calendars
  4. Video Editing Software
  5. Instant Messaging
In this post, I will continue with this subject, listing another five technologies that can be used. Although I specifically mentioned that these technologies would benefit the lodge secretary, they can really be used or implemented by anyone. Let's begin again :)
  1. Paypal - The younger generation barely uses checks anymore for personal finance. The internet and most businesses are based on using credit and bank cards. However, many lodges still only accept checks and in many cases take weeks or months to cash them. Some people believe that to do business by credit card, you would have to invest in a credit card machine and huge numbers of hours learning how to deal with cards. But, this isn't true. Since 2000, Paypal has been a cornerstone in internet credit card transactions. From individuals who wanted to auction something minor on Ebay to large businesses, many people and organizations have used paypal to move money from one place to another, with just an internet connection and a credit card. Why can't a Masonic lodge do this? Want to pay your dues? Go online and pay them with a Visa or Mastercard. The receipt for dues can then be emailed and the dues card will be waiting for the brothers at the next stated communication.
  2. Digital texts - Books! Most lodges are full of them. But they're old and delicate, so they're not allowed out of the lodge building. New masons have to either stay for hours at lodge reading this texts, buy their own or be relatively uneducated about the fraternity. Now, there is another answer. Digital texts that can be viewed in a wide-range of formats. Since much of freemasonry's texts were written prior to this century and all works published in the United States before 1923 are in the public domain, many Masonic texts have been converted to digital form and are freely available on the internet. Here are a few sites that offer Masonic texts for free: Sacred Texts, Project Gutenburg or Pietre-Stones. Many of these texts can be read on the computer or printed, but now many of them can be sent to your cell phone or PDA and read on the go.
  3. Websites - 1990 was 17 years ago. That makes the World Wide Web 17 years old. There are high school seniors and college freshmen who were born at the same time as the internet. Future masons around the world do not remember a time before the internet. Yet we still have lodges without websites. I don't think I need to make much of an argument for this one. Lodges need websites. Plain and simple. Many web technologies need a central access point, where brothers, friends, family, cowans, evesdroppers, prospective members, anti-masons can get information about that particular lodge.
  4. Digital Images and Scanners - As masons, we like our history. Each lodge has its own rich history, filled with lodge buildings, past masters, degrees, dinners, parades, visitations, etc. With each of these aspects of a lodges history comes handouts, photos and mementos. These are precious items that many brothers in the lodge should experience so that they may learn about their lodge history. But, often precious items are delicate and can't be freely given out. With digital images and a scanner, these documents can be recorded digitally and given out in mass quantities. Now all the brothers of a lodge can access those old minute books, past masters photos and degree handouts. Jewels and Banners can be recorded by camera and posted on the webpage. There are even free photo sites that will host all your photos, allow you to share them and allow prints to be ordered of them.
  5. Blogs - Last but not least! Blog is short for Web Log and if you haven't noticed, you're reading one right now. Blogs can have many purposes. Minutes can be posted on blogs. Officers can share their experiences with other brothers. Ideas can be posted and other people can comment on it. Go to Blogger and try making your own. Like most web technologies, it's free and easy!
There you go, ten great technologies! Most of these are simple and easy. Most of them are free and come in many verities. These ten techs are just the tip of the iceberg, the internet and electronics stores are filled with solutions to many problems facing your lodge. The key is to actively seek them out and have an open mind. Since I've spent so much time on the high tech solutions in the past two posts, I think my next post will focus on the low tech solutions that can help a masonic lodge. Paper and pens still have a place in the Masonic lodge and we'll talk about where that someplace is.

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