From US Social Forum Wiki
2007 Memory of Local Technology Experience
- Deciding on the best practice for registering potentially 20,000 people was quite difficult. I think the final system worked extremely well, and I recommend the Detroit group utilize that method. There is documentation somewhere about the process.
- Having a system in place to manage both mailed in registrations and online registrations seems quite important. At times this became a site of uncertainty and confusion in Atlanta. Deciding on a method ahead of time might be prudent.
- When I was working on the database, it remember having some difficulty because I did not have access to all of the necessary information. I find it important for the person managing the registration database to have full access to all the related technology. This might require some training, but in the end, I believe this will prevent a number of issues, not the least of which being the demands on other members of the ict.
- (CL) I remember problems with the registration process and database. One was the problem caused when someone wanted to pay for multiple people at the same time. I think we had something where if it was more than 3 people you had to follow a different process. The info for registrants 2 and 3 weren't in exactly the same fields as registrant 1. I think this caused some problems.
- (CL) There needs to be a process for allowing the local organizing committee in say, Cleveland to be able to email all registrants from that area in advance and after the fact, but without passing along lists of email addresses and other contact information. This was not possible.
- (CL) The method of sending large email blasts involved piggybacking on a system owned by the AFSC, but as the date approached this became a problem. Alternatives were used at the last minute, including a few blasts using Salsa (Democracy in Action.)
- (CL) The registration payment involved using PayPal. My understanding is that this solution was NOT chosen from among other alternatives in a considered manner, but as a last, hurried resort. Whatever we end up doing, I hope it does not include using PayPal.
- (CL) One of the problems in getting more people to use the systems we had in place is that the learning curve was steep. As we evaluate systems, one of the criteria should be ease of use and existing training resources. That could mean asking non techies to try using different systems as a test group, and asking them what was easier, and taking that into consideration.
- In Atlanta, the volunteer coordinator ran into some serious problems getting volunteer names and contact information. I recommend a streamlined, well thought out model for generating a volunteer list. Particularly, I think the volunteer coordinator should have real-time up to date access to this list.
Creating The Workshop/Presentation Directory
- I remember some issues with linking registrants who were presenting with their workshop link. This is a vague memory, so I cannot speak to it very well. What I do wonder is if there might be some good technological solution for creating the printed document. This organization, Floss Manuals has a free software option based on twiki that automatically converts wiki pages into a PDF book. I wonder if this, or something like it, might be worth considering for the paper publication of the workshop-presentation directory.
Acquiring Computer Equipment
- Find an Aaron and a Barry. Perhaps Aaron could write something up on this.
Fears of Free Software
- This one I think cannot be overstated. The thing I learned most from the local Atlanta experience was how much most of us fear technological change. I [Ross] personally believe that we should do everything possible to have the local actors start using open-source alternatives. I think the easiest first step is Open Office. If we can encourage this change, I think the fear of free software can be ameliorated quickly as Open Office is so functionally similar to other office suites. I also see this as important so the local actors can read attachments in standards compliant formats.
- (CL) I would like to encourage many behaviors, and technological change and adoption of open source software is only one set. It is tempered by other things I'd like to encourage - embedding more input into decision making (say, around selection of workshops, determining room size, etc.), more and better outreach, more and better grassroots fundraising, etc. This is to say: we should be encouraging use of open source software, not mandating it. I'm here to serve the overall success of USSF2010, and that might conflict (at times) with the goal of using USSF2010 as a way of supporting certain ideological principles. Even if I agree with them!