Stephen A. Balke, GGR
Technology Committee Chair
As we near the mid-point of this Triennium, we are starting to see the fruits of many Companions’ labor on our technology platforms! This has been an arduous adventure in resetting and moving forward on several levels as we move forward and find more macroscopic requirements as we have advanced.
We started with several MAJOR project ideas:
|Website Update||Electronic Newsletter||Learning Management System|
|Standardized Branding||Trouble Ticket System||Central Project Management|
|Centralized Online Datastore||A “GGC App”||Digital Voting|
Many of these projects are still in the “Discovery” phase, due to resources and scheduling. However, we have made the most of people’s availability and strengths to make some great strides. One of the complexities involved is that several of these projects overlap with other initiatives.
Now Our Web Presence(s)!
GGCCMI.org– Our web presence of several years, the domain name will be redirected to the new domain name and eventually may be used for internal purposes. During the first Cryptic Year, we initially rebranded the site, put up specific applets for ordering items, translated the website into seventeen languages, integrated the newsletter articles, and leveraged the website to grow our mailing list. This absolutely set the stage for our current progress. Some of the highlights of contributors included:
- RPC John Bridegroom – Created the branding and initial imagery of the new website.
- MIC Daniel Hanttula – Implemented an internal translation of ALL pages, contacts and lists into 17 languages.
- IC Rod Wagoner – Implemented the entire system that automatically catalogs and presents news.
- MIC Bill LeVeque – Provided user support for logins and access.
- MIC David Witte – Managed the mailing lists provided for internal communications.
CrypticMasons.org– Live as of today, the new face of Cryptic Masons International. This is going to increase our ability to communicate our web address to Companions, increase our SEO (that’s geek-speak for world wide web noticeability), and provide branding continuity for future efforts.
- Some of the lessons learned from the activities of the year, as well as some of our stumbling blocks, have provided the current accomplishments and our next steps. Well over 300 hours can be documented by members of the Committee who have contributed to the functionality of the site. This stage of the maturity of the site reflects:
- We kept the automated news section implemented by IC Rod Wagoner – it is working well and provides both the front page and an archive based on the dates published.
- We have retired the internal translations to de-clutter our published items and are working toward an external language translation system that will expand our sites translatability.
- MIC Daniel Hanttula switched his focus and developed an online Marketplace; which has been replaced due to a more thorough needs assessment exposing integration opportunities. The new store includes a single-source online inventory system that will allow for central management, re-order notifications, and automated customer updates. It also facilitates specific ordering procedures for Grand Recorders, College of Preservation Deans, and General Grand Officers – awards for Grand Sessions, rituals, and other Cryptic Masonry items.
- He has also created a CMMRF section for donations, including specific campaigns for CMMRF Day, the ability to make recurring monthly donations, and add campaigns as they are developed and integrating with the CMMRF website.
- We have simplified and are working toward the ongoing process of having an updated national calendar, which is also structured to contain local and jurisdictional events to allow for advertising.
- We are allowing for self-registration on the site, and people can post news and events; which will be moderated accordingly.
- (Internal Process) Automated updates to the contact lists – also providing structure to those pages.
- (External Participation) Ability to on-board vendors to sell their Masonic items.
- (Global Participation) Job Aids for users.
CMMRF.org– Updated to reflect changes using the existing site, but…
- MIC Daniel Hanttula has again taken lead and on February 8, 2019 will be presenting the new site for review to the Board of Trustees in Indianapolis. WOW, I can’t wait for EVERYONE to see what he has done!
Facebook.com/CrypticMasons– Our Facebook page was started shortly before the last Triennial, and has been regularly updated with posts, pictures and artwork. We are leveraging the articles published on the website to create posts – which both advertises our website and increases our audience.
The Weekly Decryption
In January of 2018, we started sending a (semi) regular electronic newsletter that was planned to include information from the General Grand Officers, from Regions and Jurisdictions, about CMMRF, and other items of interest. Like other projects, this was a multi-faceted development that has grown over time and become somewhat mature.
- Officers, Regional Deputies, Ambassadors, and Committeemen – Have contributed and brought news and information to all of you.
- IC Geoffrey Joosten – our “Calendar Czar” helps keep our calendar updated.
- RPC John Bridegroom – changes the artwork header on a regular basis.
- MIC Dayle Schrock – edited the newsletter for approximately six months and helped to keep regular updates published.
Rabboni.org – Our Online Learning Management System (LMS)
Like all great efforts, this has had its challenges. We successfully installed the Moodle LMS, and IC Rod Wagoner uploaded our initial proof of concept. At that point, we assessed the resource with the Education Committee. The immediate assessment by our committee and the instructors from the York Rite Leadership program was that we needed to sets of volunteers: instructors/course creators and LMS specialists. Members of the committee and volunteers are currently taking Moodle’s course for using the system. Unfortunately, our Education Committee Chair – RPC Carle Jackson – has been hospitalized. Our efforts have not been wasted, but we are moving forward more slowly than we would like.
CrypticMasons – and Cryptic Masons International
Several steps have been taken to provide continuity of branding across the entirety of the General Grand Council of Cryptic Masons, International. Adopting “Cryptic Masons” and “Cryptic Masons International”, especially with continuity across email, social media, the website and our published works, is easily communicated and easy to remember when relaying to Companions, Brothers, and even the public.
- The General Grand Master – Approved a dba of “Cryptic Masons International.” We are now able to use that as the “main” name for business transactions.
- We acquired the domain name CrypticMasons.org.
- We adopted Facebook.com/CrypticMasons.
- We are in the process of standardizing stationary, forms and publications emphasizing the naming.
- RPC John Bridegroom continues to provide imagery collateral in support of the effort.
In October of 2017, we published a subdomain website containing a help desk system where Companions can put in a trouble ticket. MIC Bill Leveque customized the application so that it allows for submission of tickets to our Committee. He continues to manage the system, but it has not been fully exposed due to needing to expand the knowledgebase and the consistent changes being made to our platforms… this will start being a valuable communication tool now that we have several systems up and running; and are focused on process management internally.
Several initiatives for common communication and accessible resources have been identified and implemented for project tracking and completion. Currently, several officers and committeemen are using Slack.com – a team messaging and coordination online platform introduced to us by Companion Len Roughgarden – to communicate and keep tabs on projects. Companion Len Roughgarden has also tested ProjectLibre and we are currently working to catch up project documentation with this tool, which is an open source (free) resource. And, more helpful than anything, the Trustees have standardized on a monthly teleconference meeting, which provides tracking for ongoing tasks and work for officers and committees, and planning.
MPGGM David Grindle, while he was General Grand Recorder, performed all but a miracle. He started with nothing for the office and amassed huge historical resources, implemented documentation, processes, and central file resources. EVERY MEMBER now has access to the vast majority of all Proceedings of the General Grand Council, items have started being published online and we continue to have continuity of financial documentation.
This team is focused on leveraging all that has been done over the last decade and ensuring that we don’t lose it; while also implementing automation and optimization of processes. We have been testing several platforms and tools to model all of our processes, document and assess needs, and create secure cloud-based resources for completing our work. Companion Len Roughgarden has started developing the documentation for central data storage and is testing different tools.
Thank you to the Grand Encampment for introducing us to the voting system used at their Triennial. This system is being used by several Grand Lodges and Masonic groups for their conferences. This committee has reviewed (MIC Daniel Hanttula was part of the Committee for the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma), and we believe that this will be our recommendation – likely as a system we rent, either from the manufacturer or in partnership with another organization (such as the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma).
This is not an immediate project, but after we have implemented the marketplace, converged our communication platforms, and completed the process mapping for the office of the General Grand Recorder and implemented projects to date, this will be the natural goal. There are many possibilities.
Starting with the offices and the processes in place, we are modeling each process using industry standard BPMN (Business Process Model and Notation) programs in identifying single data points which can then be stored and propagated back to the business systems. The goal is that there is ONE place for each piece of data – if it is wrong, it is more easily identified; if it is changed, it automatically propagates to every information point; and, if it is needed for a new work flow, it is easily accessed.
If you have read this far, THANK YOU! These Companions have dedicated A LOT of their time, ingenuity, and experience to propel the General Grand Council forward. That said, we have all of these projects (and many more ideas) that could use your help. Those familiar with technology, we need developers and support; those not allergic, we need testers and participants; if you don’t like technology, please let us know how we might produce products viable for you.
As RPC Monty announced, all ideas are welcome and appreciated; all people willing to help evolve our gentle Craft should let him know. Thank you, everyone, for your continued support!