The Newsletter Link

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Peter George
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-09-03
The Newsletter Link

I'm not sure this is the correct location for this topic, but I'll go ahead anyway. As many of you have certainly noticed, the NARGS website now has a link so we can access various Chapter newsletters from one central point. I happen to believe that it is our overall interest to promote this link and get as many chapters as possible to participate, but there are some editors and chapter members who are opposed. I would like to get the pros and cons out here in the open, so we can consider the issues from all perspectives. So let's have a go.

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

Many editors already exchange their newsletters with other chapters.  They are great reading, and present examples of ideas that might be new to other chapters.  Ideas that span an entire range: newsletter formats, photo postings, how others structure their chapter meetings, sales, events, plus all the good plant knowledge shared, etc.

But all this info is sent to, and meant to be sent to, a finite group of people.  Many newsletters contain personal information besides full names, but also emails and phone numbers, address, etc., needed for normal communication within the Chapter.  That, I have to agree, should not be available to the entire world.

One possible way to maybe get around this problem is to make the newsletter section of the website available only to members.

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Booker
Booker's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2010-01-30

RickR wrote:

Many editors already exchange their newsletters with other chapters.  They are great reading, and present examples of ideas that might be new to other chapters.  Ideas that span an entire range: newsletter formats, photo postings, how others structure their chapter meetings, sales, events, plus all the good plant knowledge shared, etc.

But all this info is sent to, and meant to be sent to, a finite group of people.  Many newsletters contain personal information besides full names, but also emails and phone numbers, address, etc., needed for normal communication within the Chapter.  That, I have to agree, should not be available to the entire world.

One possible way to maybe get around this problem is to make the newsletter section of the website available only to members.

From the perspective of a U.K. member and, more importantly perhaps, a former editor of our now sadly lapsed Newsletter (my fault entirely, too little time and too much else to do), I would have relished a central link such as this to influence my thoughts and add a slightly competitive nature to the task ... more interesting examples and/or layouts to aspire to!
I understand Rick's reluctance to spread personal contact details across the web and could imagine some editors being reluctant to post articles that might be 'politically' acceptable within the confines of a local group but might cause consternation or fallout on a larger stage ... but these are both easily edited before submission to the central link and shouldn't cause any problems.
A more understandable concern might be that:- 'instead of the the old argument that members might not join the main society if they get everything they require from their local chapter', this suggestion could lead to local group members who are remote (in geographical distance and/or constant contact) leaving their chapter as they can get all the information they need from the link?
As a Brit, I don't know how likely this might be?  As a former editor I would have loved the opportunity to gain a much wider audience for my output and could have used the increase in readership to inspire and nurture my sometimes unwilling contributors!

Cliff Booker A.K.A. Ranunculus
On the moors in Lancashire, U.K.
Usually wet, often windy, sometimes cold ... and that's just me!

Sellars
Sellars's picture
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-29

The Alpine Garden Club of British Columbia has wrestled with this issue.  A few years ago we decided to put our newsletters on our web site. For privacy, the web version has personal information removed.

http://www.agc-bc.ca/bulletin.asp

There was a concern that members from outside the province may see no membership benefit and discontinue their subscription.  However, overseas members mostly belong for our seed exchange.  Furthermore we felt that the newsletter promoted the club and broader availability may encourage membership.

Debating the NARGS link to chapter newsletters is rather moot as the newsletters linked to are already available on the web based on decisions made by the local chapters. I think the NARGS link is a very positive step. It is useful to see what other chapters are doing and creates a better sense of community.

One great advantage of having newsletters on the web is that Google indexes them so that they become searchable. It makes all that effort to collate and prepare information so much more valuable.

David Sellars
From the Wet Coast of British Columbia, Canada

Feature your favourite hikes at:
www.mountainflora.ca
MountainFlora videos:
http://www.youtube.com/user/MountainFlora

HughGmail
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-07-08

Hello all;

The proposal to add newsletters to a broader conduit was entertained in my local chapter (Rocky Mountain) board meeting this last Thursday.  After much discussion the board decision was to not include the chapter newsletter on the NARGS page.  The primary concern was the exposure of contact information (a very sensitive subject for one of our members).  I did, however, get the impression that a good many of the board members (me included) would embrace linking our newsletters had it not been for the sensitivity expressed by some members.  A secondary issue was the concept that local members consider their newsletters a part of the privilege of being members of the local chapter.

We did discuss the possibility of copying some of our more interesting articles to a webpage outside of the newsletter. If this does indeed become a reality then we could link the 'articles' page to the greater list.

Hugh Mac Millan
Former NARGS Web Master, Moderator
Eriogonum enthusiast
Zone 5+- - Front Range, Colorado (Denver area)

Peter George
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-09-03

When I originally proposed the idea to Grazyna and Hugh McMillan, my concept was based on several issues. First of all, although many editors do share their newsletters, not all do. This past month I reprinted an article which appeared in The New England Chapter's newsletter, which was sent to me by Mark McDonough. I had not received it in the normal course of events from their newsletter editor, and if Mark had not sent it to me, I would never have even seen it, let alone had the opportunity to share it with our members. Having gone through the list of editors I send my newsletter to, I calculate that less than half send their newsletter to me. So the argument that the various editors share their newsletters is not really a valid one. Of course it's quite possible that those editors who don't send their newsletters to me, aren't necessarily going to link them at the NARGS site either.

Second, it is my firm belief that there are hundreds of NARGS members, and thousands of potential NARGS members, who never see a newsletter. The former are simply not members of a Chapter (which includes many of our international members). The latter are the huge number of potential members/former members, who would consider either joining or rejoining NARGS if they saw the vibrant Chapter activity which is reflected in the newsletters. Having a simple, one stop location for these people to access a geographically (and botanically) diverse body of information will give them every incentive to attend a meeting or at least join NARGS for the increasingly interesting and robust Journal and Seed Exchange.

Peter George, Petersham, MA (north central MA, close to the NH/VT borders), zones 5b and 6 around the property.

Peter George
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-09-03

The objection that personal information contained in the newsletters could be a problem is perhaps the easiest 'objection' to resolve. Simply remove the 'personal' information from the newsletter. Our newsletter contains essentially one piece of information, which is the address of our Treasurer. Beyond that, we simply don't have any information listed. I read a lot of Chapter newsletters, and it would an extremely simple and easy process to remove the information and put IT behind a password on the websites. For example, if there was going to be a function at the garden/home of a member, simply direct members to the website for the address and directions.

Today I received the Siskiyou Chapter newsletter, and the first few pages are filled with personal information about members, etc. This includes addresses, phone numbers and emails. Why not simply put that information on the website, and remove it from the newsletter? Then EVERYONE could enjoy the wonderful articles and photographs this most excellent newsletter offers.

Peter George, Petersham, MA (north central MA, close to the NH/VT borders), zones 5b and 6 around the property.

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

This is a very important topic, one that I'm glad that Peter has brought up and brought to the forefront.  Yet, is not an easy topic without a simple solution, but an issue that I believe can be resolved for the betterment of the NARGS experience.

Already, a number of chapters are posting electronic versions of their newsletters (typically PDFs), which in itself, embraces the concept of broadly posting NARGS-related information to the full face of the internet. My own chapter, the New England Chapter, produces PDF newsletters that often contain very specific personal information, such as directions to a garden visit (including home addresses and telephone numbers), which in the broader context could be a problem... probably is a problem.  As one who has been published in several regional and national magazines (Horticulture magazine, Pacific Horticulture, Fine Gardening), I have learned the lesson the hard way, never publish the author's locale any closer than the US State they reside in, otherwise people (some might call them wackos) will show up at your doorstep, it has happened to me.

Maybe what needs to happen, is a cognitive shift to the digital era, whereby chapter newsletter editors publish in such a way to be aware of the eventual exposure to the internet, so chapters could provide such things as garden visit directions or other personal information via a separate email from the chapter's newsletter.  Yes, a bit more work, but it acknowledges the reality of the digital era and some need for personal information protection or separation.

Even with the few NARGS Chapters that have agreed to the concept of centralized links to existing NARGS Chapter newsletter postings, I am already blown away by the value of this exercise.  In the August 2010 Newsletter of the Allegheny Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society, there's a short article by Panayoti Kelaidis entitled "Why Are We Rock Gardeners"; to miss this is a terrible shame, it is short but utterly inspiring.  Then I dipped into March/April 2010 Newsletter of the Allegheny Chapter of the North American Rock Garden Society, and see a photo and short article on John Kabodle's large greenhouses full of Sempervivums cultivars and I'm thrilled to have found it; would have never known had it not been for the specific NARGS Chapter newsletter... I must write to him and find out more, we are obsessed after all.

This is the richness of information, diversity, and specificity of information and resources that makes NARGS membership so rewarding; why not expose the component of society activities and embrace its value.  There are those who feel chapter activity is proprietary and no one's business but their own, but I ask such individuals to consider the larger sphere of information and camaraderie that ties all NARGS members together.  However, one must also recognize that some chapters might still rebuke such consolidation of information for various reasons, and if that's the case, so be it.  Possibly over time, with some precedent exhibited that there are ways to preserve private information but still embrace the benefits of Society knowledge-sharing, other chapters will come around to it.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

Peter George
Title: Member
Joined: 2009-09-03

One of the conundrums facing NARGS is how to position itself as it tries to make itself more relevant, both to individual members and the 30 plus chapters currently alive and well in North America.  In my opinion, NARGS has been a top down organization for quite a while, focusing to a large degree on macro issues that relate primarily to its own existence.  The chapters, for better or for worse, were left to their own devices except when NARGS needed them to assist it in one of its few initiatives, such as the Seedex.  But generally we’ve had a loose aggregation of chapters sharing a general interest in rock gardening and little else.  Periodically a modest number (120-250) of NARGS members would gather at a conference, and since the attendees tended to be the same people, this created an even greater sense of separation between “the NARGS people” and the rest of the members.  The Journal, formerly an accessible, interesting and relevant publication, became arcane and diminished, read by few and appreciated by fewer. And the chapters themselves, focused (understandably) on their own local concerns, and needing to deal with the challenge of building and maintaining membership, tended to migrate further away from NARGS, going so far in some cases as to essentially become general gardening clubs to meet the requirements of their members. I don’t know the exact percentage of chapter members who are not NARGS members, but if I had to guess I’d say that not more than 60 percent of our North American chapter members belong to NARGS at this time.
This foregoing is a preface to the simple (but apparently controversial) proposal to link chapter newsletters here on the NARGS site.  I understand people’s reasonable privacy concerns and their desire to not have their personal information broadcast over the Internet.  Therefore, in my 5 years as a newsletter I’ve systematically eliminated personal information from the publication and made sure that everyone was protected against unwanted visitors of all kinds – at least to the degree that is possible in this world, where information is king and acquiring it a HUGE business. With some modest effort, I believe that every editor can remove the personal information from their newsletter, addressing at least one of the objections that I’ve heard in the past week or so.
The other major objection is that some editors (and chapters) see their newsletters as proprietary, viewing the content as providing a strong motivation to belong to the chapter. I can’t provide any meaningful data that would argue for or against that position, but my own experience is that an interesting and relevant newsletter is a strong part of attracting and retaining members.  Some will certainly use the NARGS website (eventually) to see what is going on elsewhere in the world of rock gardening, but I simply cannot imagine that most members won’t continue to welcome their own newsletters getting to them the old fashioned way. We could probably deal with this issue by simply delaying the posting of the current newsletter for a few days or weeks, thus giving the chapter members a period of exclusivity that may be important to them.
I’ll try hard not to make this a discussion between Mark and myself, and I hope to see other contributions on this topic from others, including editors.  This is a very important subject, and one that will be of increasing importance as technology continues to impact the ways we share and use information.

Peter George, Petersham, MA (north central MA, close to the NH/VT borders), zones 5b and 6 around the property.

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

My mention that some editors already "trade" newsletters was actually meant to be in support of linking, and the value of it, not that linking would be redundant.

I have never been a newsletter editor, but I do have an idea of how much time our MN Chapter editor spends on it.  A lot.  She puts out excellent issue after excellent issue, and we are very grateful.  I'll just take your words for it, that producing a newsletter version with personal information removed is easily done.  It just seemed to me that said removal, and the ensuing rewriting and reformatting would be more taxing. I know our editor enjoys putting the newsletter together, but she is always relieved when it's finished.  Peter, I don't know how you get away with only printing the Treasurer's information.  He/she must be a super man/woman, taking calls and inquiries of all things not related to his/her job.
--------------------------
We do email our members additional relevant information from time to time.  But I assume all chapters are like ours, where for whatever reason, some members do not have email addresses, and must be contacted via telephone or hard copy newsletter update.

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

I believe the new Newsletter link on the http://nargs.org site has already gone a long ways towards showing the possibilities and indicating a future trend; it's all for the best. Not all chapters will necessarily jump on board immediately, but with the combined mindset of publishing newsletters cognizant of limiting personal information (which should be done regardless of this discussion), and after what I believe will be a track record that posting chapter newsletters on the main NARGS.ORG provides added value to the NARGS membership at large, over time chapters may come around to being inclusive with their information... the steps necessary to protect and preserve privacy are not that difficult, the benefits outweigh the negatives.  Let's start in this positive direction, it does not all have to happen immediately.

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

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