AAUW NC Annual Meeting

I’ll be attending the AAUW NC annual meeting as the past-president of AAUW NC, president of the Tar Heel branch, AAUW NC web manager, general communications consultant, and a member of the Leadership Corps.? I’ll be giving a workshop on using technology to improve efficiency and effectiveness, an update of a session I’ve given a few times before. I’m planning to talk about

  • Member services database
  • Membership payment program
  • Site resources for branch web sites
  • How branches can start using social media to expand their communications

I’ll also be participating in the branch presidents council meeting and the full annual meeting to help pass a resolution against the amendment in “defense of marriage” (and attack on families) that will be on the NC primary ballots on May 8.

The meeting is March 30 and 31 in Burlington, NC.

Leadership Corps

Hi, all. I’ve been recently appointed to the AAUW Leadership Corps for 2011-2013. I haven’t been through the orientation/training yet, and this is a new AAUW structure (formed in 2009) so it’s possible what I hope to accomplish and the way the corps works won’t match. But for now I expect my focus to be:

  1. Help spread the word about the success of the AAUW Tar Heel (NC) Branch. I discussed this at the AAUW Convention Workshop on Alternate Leadership Structures (see the workshop handout which includes two pages on the THB). I believe that each state would benefit from starting such a branch (or, perhaps, reconfiguring an existing “online branch” to more closely match the THB model) to support those members who live far from all geographically-based branches or for whom the nearby branches aren’t a good “fit”.
  2. Continue my 15-year effort to improve adoption of technology to advance the mission of AAUW. In 2001-2003, as a member of the AAUW Program Development Committee, I’d hoped to initiate publication of a “Technology ToolKit”. The world has changed a lot since then, but there is still a possibility of AAUW providing a framework to help members scale technology challenges for the benefit of AAUW and other aspects of their lives. This has been a multi-faceted journey, and I hope, in particular, to learn more about the new Site Resources program that AAUW is launching to support branch/state web sites and how I can support the members taking advantage of this.

I look forward to talking to many of you over the biennium.

Distraction Free Writing on WordPress.com

As you may know, I support some sites on WordPress.com, e.g. the AAUW Tar Heel Branch. (And I just threw out a Facebook comment that maybe it’s time to start an AAUW Facebook group of volunteers devoted to supporting the branch/state sites that are using WordPress, whether WordPress.org or WordPress.com.)

I don’t usually comment on WordPress upgrades here, but the latest upgrade on WordPress.com is of particular interest — and I just got back from WordCamp Raleigh, so such issues are, perhaps, more top of mind than usual. (The upgrade is a preview of what’s coming in WordPress 3.2 for WordPress.org users.)

The WordPress team has done a fabulous job, as usual, but there’s one feature I’d like to write about – partly to help me understand it better.

This version of the software has changed the “full screen edit” mode to one that supports “distraction free writing” (again, see either the WordPress.com or WordPress.org discussion of the upgrade).

Well, I can see the point for blogs, and I’m sure I’ll get used to it eventually. But since I’m always distracted when writing — and posts are often short enough that often I don’t bother to open the full-screen editor, the new environment seems a bit too stripped down for me. In particular – what happened to the toolbar?? Who decided to delete most of the buttons and go to keyboard shortcut based formatting? Yes, if you click the “Help” icon you get an actually helpful table of keyboard shortcuts, e.g.

Alt+Shift+Letter Action
n Check Spelling
j Justify Text
d Strikethrough
u o List
o 1. List
q Quote
g Full Screen
p Insert Page Break tag
e Switch to HTML mode

How many people expect real help to be behind such an icon? How does this change my elevator speech, “If you can send an email message with an attachment you can write a blog post since the edit screen looks so familiar.”? Of course, some people will never find the full-screen edit button and others may welcome the keyboard shortcuts. Is this a subtle push to keep the style sheet in control of the formatting? That may very well be a good thing (as you see, I’m writing to come to an understanding), but it’s still an odd cultural shift.

And, yes, the full screen editing for HTML mode is fabulous! (For me, anyway — for my users, not such a big deal.)

Side note:

There was a question in the final session today about WordPress as a CMS vs. a Blogging Platform. The answer was, as I recall, the equivalent of “yes.” Of course WordPress is very flexible and it’s both, but the “blogging” roots and mindset are pretty deeply embedded. It’s still the best for my applications, and I’m willing to fight through some oddities and annoyances even if I’ve got more complicated information architecture and access control issues than a typical “blog”. Just hoping I can bring along my friends.


More on amendments 6 and 8

I had an exchange this week with a member of the staff that got me thinking again about these proposed amendments that would have the assets of a disbanded branch/state go to “AAUW [or an AAUW-affiliated entity designated by AAUW]” instead of “an AAUW entity”.

The short version is that sometimes the staff falls for “inside the Beltline” thinking. My conversation was about a decision that had been made based on information needed by the staff. When I pointed out a change that would make the information much more helpful to members, the comment was “I hadn’t thought of it that way.” I think that’s the crux of the problem with these proposed amendments.

In the bylaws the members approved in June of 2009, the language that assets go to an “AAUW entity” was, I think, understood by the majority of voters to mean that the assets could go to AAUW, the AAUW Action Fund or any of the recognized “affiliates” of the national organization (i.e. branches and states).

But then in the fall of 2009 the affiliate agreement came out with the language changed from “AAUW entity” to “AAUW”. This changed the wording in the bylaws, but, from the point of view of the lawyers who drew up the affiliate agreement, evidently wasn’t a change because to them (with “inside the Beltline” thinking) the only “AAUW entities” that they “saw” were AAUW and the Action Fund, so why not make things simpler and just say “AAUW”. I’ve no idea how many branches have yet to sign the affiliate agreement and whether this language change is a sticking point for any of them. I made my peace with the change since it seems clear that a functioning branch can allocate its assets before it disbands (and sends only the final check to AAUW).

Anyway, I am in favor of these amendments for pragmatic reasons

  • They bring the bylaws in line with the affiliate agreement, so no one is confused about what they signed.
  • They set things up for a new round of amendments in 2013 that, I think, would honor the voters’ intentions in 2009

This new round of amendments could include language like

  • In the event of the dissolution of the branch or the termination of its affiliation with AAUW
    • a vote of the branch shall govern the distribution all assets of the branch to AAUW, the AAUW Action Fund, or a duly recognized affiliate of AAUW, or
    • if there is no affirmative vote of the branch to determine what organization will receive the assets, abandoned assets shall revertĀ  to ownership of AAUW.

Of course approving language like that in the bylaws would require a corresponding change to the Affiliate Agreement. It should also be clarified in the documents provided to branches that are preparing to disband.

Some say “defeat these amendments and get it right next time,” and while I hear that argument, I think the inconsistency between the bylaws and the affiliate agreement is confusing. Making the change to be “AAUW” makes it clearer that a change will be needed to ensure that what the delegates intended in 2009 (and what is, no doubt, common practice as branches disband and deliver their assets to a neighboring branch). We have no forum to propose changes to the affiliate agreement, but since the affiliate agreement should conform to the bylaws, let’s remove the obviously unclear language “AAUW entity” from the bylaws so we can propose new, clearer, language for 2013. And while this may make no practical change (again, a functioning branch can distribute its assets before it disbands), it just makes things simpler if the final check as the account is closed can be made payable based on the wishes of the branch members.

This article clarifies comments made in an earlier post on these and other proposed bylaws amendments.