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there is a reaction

March 16, 2016 10 comments

GL-TN-Response

The Grand Lodge of Tennessee, the other major player in the situation currently unfolding in US Freemasonry, issued their response to the suspension of fraternal relations by the Grand Lodges of California, and of Washington DC.

It might be cynical thinking on my part that instead of posting these as they come, I should have a page that has the list and we could keep adding to it.

 

A backwards glance

January 13, 2016 1 comment

I started 2015 with every intention of getting at least one post a month up, and I actually did pretty well, only faltering in the last two months of the year. But I averaged more than one a month, so I’ll call that a win.

Last year was an interesting one for me. I completed my York Rite degrees, and even though I haven’t written much about them (okay, almost nothing, really), I can’t stress enough how they were worth waiting for, and that any Craft Masons who have an interest in the history or ritual of Freemasonry should definitely look to their local Chapter for the next leg of their journey.

Writing about that reminds me that I really haven’t been active in any of those bodies lately, owing in part to some work commitments, and to some more recent and unanticipated family commitments. I suspect that one of the reasons we see so many retired guys in the Craft, and more in the York Rite is because it’s difficult for younger guys to make the time to get involved in all the different aspects.

Freemasonry in Connecticut is beginning to settle down from the last few fractured years, after a major turnover in our Grand Line. The bigger lesson in all this has not gone unnoticed by Grand Lodges in other jurisdictions: progressive Grand Lines may be the easy way to go, but they are only as progressive as the will of the Craft allows.

We had some interesting things in Freemasonry, too, at least, in the online world. Facebook alone had several hundred conversations on which way you should wear your ring, and the topic shows no sign of slowing. Also popular on social media were discussions about Masonic bling, with the designs of our working tools becoming more stylized and less traditional looking — a trend that some people aren’t completely happy with.

And speaking of online Masonry, I’m glad to see that our Grand Lodge has thought to get a virtual lodge started; it won’t be the first, but hopefully this will be a trend that will become more common, and will be one more way for brothers to connect, who would otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance.

WBC hates gay Masons

The Westoboro Baptist Church found itself in a quandary when they realized that it was the Freemasons who were outlawing homosexual behavior.

Many of the  brothers in the online community — most of them tending to the younger side of our membership demographic — were disappointed by the actions of the Grand Lodges of both Tennessee and Georgia. Tennessee, which had on their books a prohibition against homosexuality, saw proceedings against a member — a Past Master with a good record — after he posted photographs of him and his (male) spouse after a wedding ceremony. Georgia, not to be outdone, saw the outgoing Grand Master send out an edict which made both homosexual activity and “fornication” offenses subject to Masonic discipline. The real outrage (again, online) happened after the Grand Lodge of Georgia had their annual communication and passed that edict into Masonic law.

The last year also saw some nice activity on some blogs and podcasts. Whence Came You, The Masonic Roundtable, and The After Lodge Podcast were particular standouts for group podcasting, and show no signs of slowing down. On the written side, I’m glad to see that The Millennial Freemason and The Midnight Freemason still turning out thoughtful pieces, and have been joined by a new Mason on the block, Fresh from the quarry.

Naturally, I have these and other fine resources listed at Ashlars to Ashes. Go visit some of them.

Before I wrap this up, I should note another new blog that appeared at the end of the year: The Past Bastard, an Onion-ish site for humorous pieces and satire. Well, I certainly hope they are satire, although after reviewing some of the activities of real Masons from the last few years, I’m beginning to think that the line is becoming very thin, indeed.

Grand Lodge of Connecticut Goes Virtual

April 1, 2013 Leave a comment

Like a lot of my fellow Masons, there are times when I get really busy with work, family stuff, work, personal health care, work, projects around the house, and work. In the last few years, I have often missed lodge meetings because I’m working until 7 or 8 pm, or because I’ve needed to do something with the kids, or because some other matter has cropped up that I can’t take care of at any other time. I’m sure that this happens to other brothers, too.

That’s why I’m thrilled by Maso-Net, the new program that will be introduced by RW Simon LaPlace, the incoming Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, that will allow busy Masons to attend their lodge meetings virtually, at their own convenience.  I don’t want to spoil the surprise, which he is expected to announce at his installation as Grand Master during next week’s Grand Lodge Annual Communication, so I’ll just mention some of the highlights of the program.

While there have been online Masonic communities of Masons since the before the internet was available to the general public, they have generally taken the form of text-based message boards. Maso-Net will be completely different in that it will allow lodge members to actually see, and in some cases, attend a lodge meeting in real time.  To accomplish this, Mason-Net will have several components. One will be a Skype-like interface that will connect members directly to a lodge. Participating lodges will be outfitted with a large screen TV on the North wall of the lodge room, with a corresponding webcam positioned in the Northwest and Southwest corners. Maso-Net Members will sign in and be presented with a view of the lodge room that includes the Master’s chair, and the screen will allow the other members to see who has signed in. Maso-Net members, though their own webcams hooked up to their computers, be able to attend the meeting and follow along with the proceedings without missing any of the details. Amplified speakers near the TV screen will allow them to speak during meetings as if they were in attendance.

RW LaPlace initially conceived of this as a way to reach out to older brothers who were unable to attend because of health reasons, but the idea quickly gained ground among the Grand Lodge technorati who, accustomed to live webcam meetings, saw this as a way to keep existing brothers involved. As a Maso-Net member, a brother could work late, and take a dinner break to attend lodge. Users with smartphones (apps for iPhones and Android phones running ICS or better are already being developed) will even be able to attend while on the road, although they will probably need at least a good 3G data connection.

A real advantage to Maso-Net meetings is that a WM will no longer have to worry about a last-minute cancellation on a degree night. A brother assigned to a particular lecture will no longer have to cancel if he’s away on business; the Master of a lodge would even be able to open if he’s out of town. Imagine an older brother delivering the working tools lecture to his grandson from the comfort of his own home — in Florida! Or imagine a District Deputy being able to attend a different lodge meeting every night of the week, and not spending a fortune on gas and car expenses.  This aspect of the program is certainly a way that the Craft can take advantage of new technologies.

Another interesting component to Maso-Net that RW LaPlace is expected to announce will be the ability to sit in on lodge meetings at any time of the day or night by the use of streaming technologies. Participating lodges will begin recording their meetings and using broadband connections, begin uploading those meetings to the cloud. Maso-Net members will then be able to find a lodge meeting and replay it. Members will be able to pause the recorded meeting for a break, or even better, skip through the boring parts.

Still unannounced is just where the video recordings will be stored. The Grand Lodge of Connecticut has its own servers, but as more lodges join the network the data storage itself  would become unmanageable, to say nothing of the capacity for streaming a number of different meetings back to the members. Early reports have suggested Youtube, perhaps a dedicated channel as the perfect storage & replay solution. Obviously, the concern was raised that anybody could view a lodge meeting on Youtube, however, the counterpoint was raised that any non-Mason who viewed one lodge meeting was unlikely to make it a habit of viewing many more. I suspect that talks are underway with Google about the possibility of a private Youtube channel. Another advantage of this would be the ability to upload sections of various degree ceremonies in order for lodges to watch them for the purposes if ritual instruction.

There are other aspects of Maso-Net that will be made public after RW LaPlace takes office. About a dozen lodges will be part of the initial phase, and RW LaPlace will probably announce which ones have been selected after his installation, with more participating every month. Brothers interested in signing up to be a Maso-Net member are encouraged to talk to their District Deputy, who should have the contact information.

As a busy Mason who has been having a hard time getting to lodge meetings lately, I’m happy to see that Connecticut is on the forefront of bringing Freemasonry into the 21st century. Kudos to soon-to-be MW Simon LaPlace, and best wishes for an exciting year in office.

Face Off!

May 3, 2009 Leave a comment

Grand Lodge of Connecticut on Facebook

Last week, our Zeta-Reticulan  overlords protectors decided that it might actually not be a horrible thing for a few of us to put up and manage a Grand Lodge of Connecticut Facebook page.

No, the End Times aren’t here.

I wrote a few weeks ago that our Grand Lodge is rather progressive with regard to using the internet for promotion and communication; a Facebook page is something that a few of us have been discussing for a while, partly because so many of our members already have Facebook profiles and use it for a combination of family, work and social interest activities.  The page is not meant to replace our own Grand Lodge website – it’s simply another way for us to reach our various members, and for them to share relevant news and information.

The page features some basic information, group discussions (not that anybody has started one yet), and is open to pretty much anyone who has an interest in Freemasonry. We just started it this week, so content is a bit sparse, and probably will be until we find our way with it.  I expect that we will be posting more information about general events around the state.

If you are one of my 27 or so Connecticut readers, I urge you to sign up for Facebook and link to the new page (in Facebook parlance, one becomes a “fan” of a page), and please feel free to pass along any ideas for content or features.

Masonic Media: Secret messages in commercial broadcasts

April 15, 2009 2 comments

I thought that the X-Files and its short-lived spin-off Millenium was the last major attempt by Freemasons to pass instructions coded into broadcast media, but as I was watching television the other night, I saw what can only be a resumption of those messages.

Amateur students of Masonic Konspiracies have most likely missed the commercial  tie-in of Burger King and Spongebob Squarepants, but it did not escape me that this is a blatant attempt to pass along coded messages, and perhaps to insinuate the hidden Masonic agendas into our youth culture.

For those who may have missed the commercials, they are an ingenious method indeed; most adults would not bother to watch commercials aimed at pre-teens, and what could be a more innocuous cartoon than Spongebob? That’s the genius of the plan.

But think about the character itself: Spongebob Squarepants is a square-shaped creature, a geometric shape to which Masons frequently refer. The commercial features the rather creepy Burger King. The term “King” is too obvious for me to reference, and I won’t go into the minutiae about how “Burger” refers to the German-Austrio Hapsberg royal house. But the tie-in itself obviously references an alignment of the Freemasons – who have notably been allied with the British House of Windsor – with other members of the European royal houses. It’s not clear if the Freemasons are severing their relationship with the Windsors, or if (more likely) there is to be a merging of the lines in preparation to a One World Order.

I’m sure that there is no need to mention that the original Illuminati were from Austria.

And it wasn’t lost on me that using “rap” music was an intentional signal. Masons frequently use “raps” of gavels in their secret ceremonies, and by co-opting an old tune by “Sir” (another clue about royalty!) Mix-A-Lot was meant to catch the attentive ears of brother Masons in the English-speaking countries.

The commercial features a number of otherwise shapely young women dancing to this “rap” music, all of them wearing square-shaped boxes in their pants, which they display – indeed, call attention to – by their rhythmic shaking. Once you look past the overtly sexual innuendo, one realizes that they are shaking their “booty”, a reference to the riches to be gained by controlling the world’s monetary supply.

Man, those pants are "square"!

The Hapsburg-Illuminati “King” symbolically inspects the trustworthiness (i.e., the “squareness”) of the offer of a merger for  economic gain (i.e., the  “booty”) proposed by the rapping Freemasons.

A secondary reference, though, is that “booty” is a term associated with pirates; pirates have been in the news lately, and alert konspiracy researchers will no doubt be aware that Freemasons may have descended from the heretical Knights Templar who escaped the purge of 1307, many of whom were rumored to have taken ships and plied the Mediterranean and southern European coasts. These ships were known to have sailed under a flag on which was a picture of a skull with crossed bones – a gruesome image with is still referenced by Freemasons even today.

And in case there are still some doubting Thomases, the 30-second commercial is really just an edit of a much longer, 2-1/2 minute message that is being broadcast through the YouTube medium. I haven’t had time to decipher the entire code, but I have managed to secure a copy of the text, which I have verified by listening to the commercial a number of times. I would appreciate any help or insights from other Masonic konspiracy experts in further deciphering what appears to be a message of callipygian importance.

I like square butts and I cannot lie
Squid and Sea Star can’t deny
When a sponge walks in, four corners and his pen
Like he got phone book implants, the crowd shouts

All the ladies stare
Dang those pants are square!

Swimming through the seaweed tangle
Is a butt with sharp right angles

Now Sponge Bob, I wanna get witch-ya
‘Cuz you’re making me rich-ah
Underwater, we keep it grungy
‘Cuz everybody knows that ‘He so spongey!’

Ooh, Rumplespongeskin
You dance, but your hips don’t bend
So groove it and move it
If you got caboose, then prove it

Sponge Bob is dancing
And Squidward is glancing
He’s hatin’… wet
He’s got Sponge Bob runnin’ his set

I’m tired of all these chairs
They don’t accommodate these squares
Take the average box tell him that
You gotta have square back

Mr. Krab! Yeah!
Patrick! Yeah!
Has Sponge Bob got the butt? Oh yeah!
Then shake it, now shake it
Shake it, now shake it
Shake that cubicle butt

Sponge Bob got back

Naw, dude, I said cubicle, not booty-ful. Don’t trip.Yeah baby, when it comes to sea life, curves ain’t got nothin’ to do with Bob’s selection.
2 by 2 by 2 square trousers, working that black belt, looking like dotted lines.
That’s how Sponge Bob like to rock them threads baby.

A word to the DC sponges who wanna get wit it
And watch Sponge Bob kick it

I gotta be straight when I say you gotta scrub ’til the break of dawn.
Bob got it goin’ on
Been known to rock him a thong
Them round butts won’t admit it
But they’d wear that gear if they could fit it

You can draw his body on paper
His waistline really don’t taper
Your girlfriend wants to squeeze him
Wanna push his pores and tease him

But Sponge Bob ain’t gonna have too much of that squeezin’
You other sponges don’t want none …

…unless you rock square buns!

To the new sponges in the magazines
You ain’t it Miss Thang
We rock them cubes, gals and dudes
Put it down at the goo lagoon

Some other box must get jealous
At the moves that come from square fellas
See Bob and they wanna get him
But Sandy Cheeks she won’t let ‘em

If you happen to wander on land
And you wanna be a square butt fan
And drive the crew right to Burger King
And give that sponge a ring

Sponge Bob got back!

It’s difficult to understand just what this message means. I’m counting on everybody reading this to share their insights so that we can figure it out.

Connecticut and Rhode Island to merge Grand Lodges

April 1, 2009 1 comment

News item: Connecticut and Rhode Island to merge Grand Lodges

Special to The Hartford Times
Farmington:

Citing a budget shortfall due to a lack of membership and the bad economy, and the resultant inability to fund various programs, the Freemasons of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut, and those of the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, jointly announced at the Grand Lodge of Connecticut’s Annual Communication their intention to merge into a single entity: The Grand Lodge of Southern New England, A.F. & A.M.

The news was first announced earlier this week at the March 30th Connecticut Grand Lodge Annual Communication in Farmington, and will be officially announced in Rhode Island very shortly.

“It seemed a perfect opportunity,” said William Rogers, spokesperson for the former Grand Lodge of Rhode Island, “Attrition from old age, death, and retirement have reduced our numbers to a quarter of what they were back in the 1950s. Likewise, mergers and lodge closings have reduced our lodges to about two dozen. It’s becoming an administrative nightmare.”

“He’s not kidding,” said Thomas Ludlow, the Grand Master’s representative from Connecticut, “We have fewer lodges and fewer brothers, but we somehow have a growing number of officers and district officers. In business parlance, you might say that our workforce is shrinking, while middle management has become bloated. So, we’ve decided to merge our Grand Lodges and make some long-overdue staffing cuts.”

Ludlow went on to describe the cutbacks: “The first positions to be eliminated will be the District Grand Lecturers and Assistant Grand Lecturers,” he explained, “We’ve outsourced ritual instruction to college students who are making Youtube videos, which we will then embed on the Grand Lodge website. Anyone who wants instruction can just watch the videos.”

Rogers agreed. “You’ll be able to download those videos to an iPod or Zune, your iPhone, or a netbook,” he explained, “and then you can watch as much instruction as you can handle during your free moments. In traffic, in the bathroom, on plane trips – it’s perfect. There won’t be any excuse for people not to be more improved in their ritual workings.”

Other Grand Lodge dignitaries will also be downsized, said Rogers. “Do you know we’ve managed to acquire more District Deputies and Associate Grand Marshals than we have lodges? These guys are tripping over each other, and we can’t find anything more for them to do. It’s time to start consolidating our resources.”

“Same thing with all these Grand Line officers,” agreed Ludlow. “You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a couple of Grands or Past Grands. There’s way too many of them nowadays, and we figure that nine or ten guys should be able to cover the two state area more than adequately.” When questioned about how well the two states could be covered by so few Grand Officers, he responded. “Hell, lodges in those big square states out west sometimes don’t see a Grand Officer for years; our lodges have gotten spoiled around here. We simply can’t afford to have District Deputies showing up at every other meeting anymore.”

Both spokespersons noted that rumors about spinning off one of the districts into New York were merely persistent, but unfounded rumors. “Those rumors pop up every few years, usually right after we raise our Grand Lodge dues,” explained Ludlow.

Noting the progressive nature of the plan, interviewers asked about whether other states would follow suit.

“Massachusetts has taken notice, and we’ve already begun talks to include them on the merger, but they’re funny up there. News in Boston doesn’t reach the Berkshires for years, if ever,” explained Ludlow. “Besides, we don’t want to wait too long on this – our two states have been ready to merge for a couple of years now. But when Massachussetts is ready to merge, we’ll already have the infrastructures in place for them. The way we see it, it’s not a question of ‘if‘, but of ‘when‘.”

Do any other states have an interest?

“New Hampshire and Vermont are going to be discussing the topic at their next Annual Meetings,” said Rogers. “We sent some dogsled messengers up to Maine back in December, and we’re hoping to hear back from them by spring, when they get the power lines back up.”

Both Grand Lodges will close for July and August, during which time they will be packing and moving. No word yet on the location of the new Grand Lodge building, but speculation is that it will be one of the old University of Connecticut agricultural buildings. “I can’t confirm this,” said Ludlow,” but it’s definitely one of the possibilities. Obviously we’d like someplace centrally located. Since most of the people living west of the river think that UConn is in Rhode Island anyway, it seems like a good spot; it’s equally inconvenient for everybody.”



Lily work, Social Networks, and Pomegranates

March 20, 2009 Leave a comment

 

Here’s an interesting question: Are our modern Grand Lodge websites already obsolete?

At a committee meeting that I attended recently, the subject came up that some of our brothers were posting notices of lodge events on Facebook, which causes a problem for those brothers who aren’t connected to any of the dozens of social networking, blog-friending, or instant messaging hosts. The bigger concern, though, was that these events were not being published on the regular lodge web calendars.

This struck me as strange, because Grand Lodge of Connecticut has a fantastic web site, with hosting space for each lodge (each with their own domain), plus a web forum , and (and this is the important part) an easily updatable calendar that can be used as an event search tool. For example, as  District Grand Lecturer, I like to visit lodges that are having degree work. Going to the Grand Lodge calendar allows me to search on, say, EA degrees, only in District 5. This presents me with a list of the lodges doing an EA degree anytime in the next few months.

At least, that’s what I would see, if the lodge bothered to update their calendar.

I’ve written before that the reason I started blogging was that when I was Master back in 2006 I wanted an easy way to announce events, and at the time the then-new GL web site was pretty much hosed. Events were lost, half the people didn’t know how to use the controls, and the few lodges that cared enough to dress up their site a bit from the cookie-cutter template were constantly frustrated by frequent updates which would wipe out their changes or enhancements.

Fortunately that aggravation is long past; the website is much easier to use, and good features and enhancements have been added over the last few years. Changing your lodge home page is painless, and you can add lodge forums, photos, newsletters, etc. You know, just like a real organization should have.

Which brings me back to the subject at hand: Why would lodges – that is, lodge officers – with their own website and calendar functions turn to Facebook (or any of the other social networking sites) in order to pass along information?

I wouldn’t bring this up if I didn’t already have an opinion, of course.

I think it’s simply a matter of convenience and available technology. Web sites are so last century.

Yes, Joomla and Drupal and their various plug-ins have made large sites much easier to set up and maintain. The problem, though, is that you still have to actually make a point to go visit them.  While you might forget to visit a website to check for updates, there’s almost no danger of missing information on a social network, unless you overlooked it because of the sheer number of other updates you might be getting.

Facebook (for example) – especially with the Twitter application – allows you to customize the flow of information so that what you’re interested in comes to you, via your cell phone. Or your Crackberry. Or your email inbox. I can well understand the appeal, especially to those who pretty much live in front of their PCs; it’s definitely easy to send off an email or event notice to your named group, mention a few key details, and follow up with a little bit of chatter; the notices will have links to the events, and anyone getting automatic updates can immediately click the link (should they so desire) or forward the event to their online calendar.

By those standards, I feel like a moss-backed old turtle when I use my cell phone to send an SMS to my update my Google calendar, or to make a blog post via sending a multi-media message to my blogger address.

I understand the concern about lodge members – and not to be stereotypical, but it’s generally the younger members – Tweeting and Facebooking event details and updates. It inadvertently bypasses those who don’t live or work in front of a PC all day, or those who don’t care to immerse themselves in the Web 2.0 media stream. Entire events can be brainstormed and planned online in a matter of a couple of days without any need to meet in person. While it’s great for moving things along, the movers and shakers need to make sure that they aren’t neglecting the older members who have barely managed those wireless telephone thingies that all the kids have nowadays.

Interestingly, I’ve had exactly this conversation in the past, but in the context of static websites and emails being too “high tech” for the older members. Tempus fugit, eh?

Another concern that arose about the social networking sites seems to be the idea that it decentralizes the information, so that a) pretty much anybody (Masons or not) can see it, and b) the people who need to be informed – or at least, who think they need to be informed – might not get the information.

The validity of the first point seems a bit over-stressed, what with Dummies books, Idiots guides, dozens of personal blogs, and an almost weekly mention of the secret inner workings on the cable tv channels. Most Masons hip enough to be using Facebook are probably savvy enough to know what they should or should not be writing for public consumption anyway.

But the second point illustrates the constant tug of war between those who understand the need for some kind of central repository for information, and those who tend to adopt new tools,  techniques, and strategies when the need arises.

Obviously, having some central facility for knowledge and information is important to the success of an organization. In fact, I’d say it was inherent in the term itself. People who are in positions in which they are responsible for organizing and overseeing other people or projects really do need some way to get the information easily.

The problem with the “keep it in the house” attitude is that the structure itself often becomes more important than the contents and accessibility. Everybody involved in some way wants to have input on what kinds of and how much data should be stored, who can access the data, and how it should be managed. Then, add in those people who can’t or won’t figure out how to use the existing tools, and you have a situation in which only a few people will actually be using the tools on a regular basis. Eventually, the tools sit unused because they have limited usefulness.

There will always be pioneers and early adopters, people who will use new tools, or perhaps invent new uses for old ones. Such people drive the forces of innovation that allow us to progress as a society, whether it be to profit from more productivity with the same amount of work, or to have more leisure time, allowing us more opportunity for rest and refreshment. The early adopters also help to weed out those tools that aren’t useful, thereby saving the rest of us from wasting large amounts of time and energy.

Early adopters, however, often forget that not only are some people lagging behind a little bit, but that there a lot of people who aren’t even in the same race. Our lodge has at least one Past Master who insists that we send out postcards for major events so that people can hang them on the refrigerator as a reminder, and he is not amused to hear that newer appliances are connected to the internet so that one’s Google calendar can push the reminders to the door at the appropriate time.

I once told him the joke about Java once being something you’d find in your coffee mug instead of your cell phone.

He didn’t get it.

I’m not suggesting that the more static websites are no longer relevant, of course. We will always have a need for safe repositories for the archives of our Craft, and that includes a place to keep handy and useful information. I know that more US states over the last few years have taken the time and resources to create very impressive websites, although from what I can see, most of them are still merely online pamphlets explaining a bit about Freemasonry, and giving a few phone numbers and contact details. A good example is the site of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts: they have a beautiful Flash-driven website that offers some announcements and contact information, along with information about the fraternity; but there is no way to find anything about the lodges themselves, let alone a local calendar, unless that lodge (or a well-meaning member) bothered to put up their own web page. 

Indeed, a few minutes of searching on the GL Massachusetts site shows that most of the lodges themselves don’t even have their own web pages, and those that do are a mishmash of 1990s style Geocities pages to more modern, media-laden websites. A perusal of the web sites of other Grand Lodges around the US shows that this is rather typical; I’ve seen a lot of Geocities and AOL personal pages hosting lodge websites, and while I admit that it seems I’m bit of a cyber-elitist, the more distressing part is that if my random surfing is any indication, the vast majority of lodges in the US don’t even have a website. In contrast, GL Connecticut gives web space to each lodge with a hosted dot org domain name, and the calendar for each lodge is tied in to the Grand Master’s calendar, so that once an event is entered, it can be searched from any other lodge calendar. Each lodge website is built on a Joomla template, allowing (if the lodge can find somebody to help them) plug-ins for picture albums, forums, and other little applications. 

I can imagine some brothers from a few of the less tech-blessed jurisdictions wondering why anybody would resort to some outside service, considering what we have for web tools. We’re probably just spoiled up here. 

With two-thirds of our population using broadband internet connections, and the merging of SMS/text messages into most of the social networking and micro-blogging services, it’s probably unreasonable to expect connected and tech-savvy Masons not to use them for communication, especially since they are probably already using these features for communicating with family, non-Mason friends, and work mates. As one of those aforementioned connected Masons, myself, I readily admit that I like the idea of being able to jump in and out of a conversation that might take place over several days. I find that the more I use Facebook, the more I enjoy the variety of features, and over the last six months or so, I’ve been using it more and often, to where I’m checking it several times a day. At least half of my contacts are Masons from around the globe, most of whom I know from the various web groups to which I subscribe, but I’m discovering more family members and old friends every month. 

Ironically, despite the subject of this article, very few of my own lodge brothers use Facebook. They’re probably too busy with their personal WoW and Counterstrike servers.

As to the issue of some brothers using Facebook instead of their lodge websites, I think that first of all, any brothers that are taking advantage of new technologies to keep in touch should be applauded for their ingenuity. That said, perhaps those same brothers, being more tech savvy, should actually be the ones in charge of keeping the lodge websites updated, since they are already spending at least some time passing around event details; five minutes to access the calendar really shouldn’t be much of a stretch. 

And that said, despite the fact that we probably have one of the best Grand Lodge websites in the US, maybe we need to look at some enhancements to make it even more accessible and usable for the technorati, and eventually for everyone else in the future. For example, RSS readers are now ubiquitous – not only are there a dozen popular readers for your browser, you can find them built into some email clients and Firefox browser extensions. Perhaps web calendar updates could be aggregated and syndicated for subscribers. Better, could the calendar updates be emailed to a subscriber list? Masons interested in the events in particular lodges could subscribe to the calendar updates, which could (perhaps) be filtered for event type. 

But what about information flow in the other direction? The answer might be already available in the form of microblogging : There are a dozen well-known microblogging platforms (such as Twitter or Jaiku ), most of which will accept input from PCs, IM clients, or cell phones/SMS. Installing a Twitter application on a lodge website would allow any of the members to post not only event details, but comments about the event, and even pictures. It might be difficult to figure out how to capture a Tweet and put it into usable for in order to make a direct calendar update, but it might not be a good idea anyway, as you would need to control access to prevent adverts and spam. 

Certainly there are a lot of options here, and there’s much to think about. I’m sure that our GrandLodge IT guys will enjoy having a word with me at our upcoming Grand Lodge Annual Communication at the end of the month. If any readers have something to add, please feel free to leave a comment so I can pass it along to them. 

 



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