Earlier I posted The Church Center website: How many steps to a staff directory? I got a fair number of responses, given it is the dead of summer, a few rather harsh. But mostly they confirmed my sense that something was amiss in having no easy way to type in a staff officer's name, or a staff position, and getting the name, telephone number and staff position of the person from a database of all staff at the Church Center and related offices. Most respondents confirmed the three steps + rummaging about to get to a person and a title and a phone number.
Yesterday Anne Rudig, Director of the Office of Communication, reached me by phone. I have know Anne for some time, she having come onto staff about the time that I came on to Executive Council. She is a very creative and competent person and I value her work.
She wanted to let readers of Preludium know that there is a massive makeover / recasting of the Episcopal Church Center website in the making and she hopes the concerns you and I have will be addressed.
She is quiet aware that some rather simple, and indeed "old fashioned" searches are not made easier by the current website. The assumption that in one or perhaps at the most two clicks one could be taken to a directory of persons working for The Episcopal Church / Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society is one that is quite reasonable, and the new design will include such information in easily available searchable form.
Interestingly, she also said that the new web presence would BOTH carry the essential abilities to find any relevant page in the many thousands that are in the data base but also the ability to present the Church and its work in exciting and evangelically useful ways. The combination is of course what we want.
I want people to be able to find out more about The Episcopal Church in ways that are inviting and interesting. Some of that is already available on pages of the existing website. At the same time I think many of us want "raw" information available at a click. A directory of people is pretty raw.
The pages describing the work of this or that office are already quite informative. The exploratory pokings of an enquirer - what do Episcopalians believe? what social stances to we take? How are we organized? Where can one go to offer to serve? etc are the real issue. How can a site be designed that alternately informs and challenges the reader to new explorations of our church?
Anne Rudig believes the new web presence will address these and other needs and assures us that things are well underway to deal with the various criticisms that have arisen.
I am sort of complemented that Anne even knew of this conversation on Preludium. My sense is the bit of comment out here in Episcopal land on the net was both helpful and kind of a drag. Helpful because all criticism helps to form the nature of the work to be done, a bit of a drag because criticism ABOUT rather then TO an office seems a bit indirect and a drain on creative work.
Having worked on the staff at the Episcopal Church Center - In Higher Education, Mission Personnel and as a Partnership Officer, I am well aware of what a downer it is to hear about criticism of work being done by colleagues, and for that matter by me, and to hear about it second hand.
So, resolved, next time I get ticked off by how long it takes to find information from the website, I will phone Anne directly and then report out my feelings, not the other way around. The good people at the Church Center deserve this.
And resolved too, next time I get ticked off I might just get ticked off and write a blog note first and there it is. That's the value of the blogsphere. And sometimes, when others read it, they respond. You did, and Anne did. There is very little value to writing a blog other than to make sure uncomfortable information is out there. Self-censorship in order to make others or myself comfortable is not of much value in the blog world.
So I resolve to be a reasonable critic, but if the moment calls also an unreasonable critic. That's the way it is when ticked off.
I will be dealing with some of that "uncomfortable" information in the next while - not in reference to the Church Center, but in reference to our understanding of just what sort of interference the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Anglican Communion worthies have taken in life of The Episcopal Church.
But meanwhile, thanks to Anne for her response.