April 2007 letter on Website development

The potential of the Internet and our new website is no doubt on the minds of many of us, and I would like to raise a few thoughts for consideration in hopes that they might clarify for us how to approach this new phase of our group work.

First, it might be useful to review a bit of history, just for perspective. In the beginning, and for at least the first fifteen years, there was only one headquarters. London opened an office in the mid 1930s in a house in Tunbridge Wells, but the advent of the War made it necessary for many years to conduct the work through co-workers in a number of different countries. The translation of the books made it possible to expand the Arcane School training into more language sections, and eventually – in 1952 – to open the Geneva center. Even then, Geneva was administered under New York’s charter until 1987 or so. And to remind ourselves, the work in Latin America was independently administered from Buenos Aires until 1993, when it was transferred to New York. All of this background, which I’ve tried to sketch out briefly and only in so far as I understand the history, is to point out that there haven’t always been the three headquarters, and those three headquarters haven’t always functioned in identical ways. Yet, because we do function now through three headquarters, it can be a kind of line of least resistance to think of the work as a kind of pie cut in three pieces. In some respects, this is inevitable, but when it comes to the website this could create unnecessary problems.

Ever since we made the decision ten years ago to discontinue the two independent websites of London and New York and combine efforts, we’ve made steady progress in creating an increasingly unified presentation of the work, and I hope we can continue to strive towards that goal, rather than continue to present the work as an amalgam of three headquarters’ efforts. That’s how we started, but we don’t have to continue with that three-part focus. As an example of what I mean, the general mailing sent out by the three headquarters is in all important respects identical, the only truly significant difference being that of the various languages. The conference is one conference in three phases, not three separate conferences. There is a worldwide date set for the Festivals and World Invocation Day. So there doesn’t seem to be any need to post the three general mailings on the website for public view. Instead, the general letter could contain links to the various documents—the program, meditation practice, Festivals flyer, etc., and these would all be in their appropriate spots on the website but not gathered together as a general mailing linked to one headquarters.

The new content management system of EZPublish offers us the opportunity to present the work in a more unified way, and in order to do this, we need to think about the work and the website in particular in a more unified way. It also means transferring our thinking from paper documents to an Internet presentation. If we think that co-workers might want to print a document from our site, a printable version is implemented simply by entering a print command; it isn’t necessary to have a PDF version available to get a nice clean text. We offer all our literature at no charge, so why do we think it’s so important to offer a PDF of the actual print master—a document in print layout showing, for example, page 2 next to page 7. An example is the key document and concept “Energy Follows Thought”, which is tucked away in a section of Triangles called “Literature Downloads”. Then, if you click on that, you still have to work your way through several more layers to actually see the document EFT and then you have to read it in a format in which pages fall in the following order: back cover, front cover, pages 1, 2, 7, 6, 3, 4, 5. I must miss some central concept because I don’t understand why this key document isn’t simply on the site, ready to read on-line without having to discover it, then work your way through multiple layers to actually see the text, and then find that it isn’t in an easily readable version, either on-line or in print.

I’m dwelling on this example because I’m concerned that our website is becoming a bit of a jumble, and surely none of us want that. This is why I hope that we can appreciate the need for one person to function as the webmaster. This means not only drawing upon Daniel’s technical expertise, but also allowing him – after giving him your point of view – to make the final determination about how the site will be administered and how it is to be integrated: where various postings should be placed, and in the kind of format/presentation they should take, in all areas of the website. I believe this responsibility should lie with the webmaster for all areas of the website, to assure an integrated approach. In his work with the website over the years, Daniel has developed a really comprehensive overview of our work as well as a good sense of how the website can best present it. So I hope we can all agree to continue to present our ideas – preferably in the headquarters forum site where we can all participate in the group discussion if we want to – but allow Daniel, in consultation with me when necessary – to have the final say, and to really release our ideas after we have expressed them.

In many ways the Internet is the perfect medium to convey the worldwide outreach of our work. It offers an opportunity to express unity of vision and goals in the midst of diversity of methods and responsibilities, in a way that isn’t possible through the paper mailings from three headquarters, and I hope we will constantly strive to deepen our understanding of this and take advantage of it. In addition to the unified nature of the Internet in general, the EzPublish system enables our website to present the work, which is quite varied in opportunities for service, in a much more integrated, cohesive manner and in multiple languages. I really hope we can all come to appreciate the benefits of this system and make the most of its positive aspects, and not give undue focus to any perceived limitations.

With love to all of you,

Sarah