Just as 2015 ended, the SFRA website took a nosedive. This sometimes happens. Unfortunately, this time we were not easily able to recover the site from a recent backup and go about our business. As the Executive Committee and Matt Holtmeier (our SFRA Web Director) looked into it, it became clear that perhaps it was time to give up on our old model of website and look at new options. Like a lot of small organizations, SFRA has depended upon a handful of members with the technological knowledge necessary to keep us online, updated, and secure. Frankly, that’s just not a sustainable model anymore.
We were running a site built on Drupal, with a number of plugins that allowed us to do things like manage memberships, with a custom theme. The company that hosted our site had nothing to do with putting it together. The people who put it together were hired for a one-time job, not ongoing maintenance and troubleshooting. We needed to update our plugins and Drupal to be sure that we had the latest, most secure, and stable versions. Too big of a job for volunteers. And a few months down the road we’d likely need that again. And again.
So we’re moving to a 2016-style solution that will combine all of the technological infrastructures of the organization (well, almost all) in one place. The new site is built around a Member Management System, so we’ll be able to do a number of things we haven’t done before. The jobs of the SFRA Treasurer and Secretary will be made more manageable (that’s an incentive for those of you who might consider holding those positions), and the new site will facilitate putting some things behind a member login. It is very much still a work in progress, as we reconstruct what was on the old site and build new features. A few new things we hope members will like:
A searchable Member Directory. If you fill out your member profile, your fellow members can search for you by shared interest or geographical proximity. Not all of the information you share with the association will be public, though. We want your fellow members to know what city and country you live in, and what your scholarly interests are, not your phone number and street address. The only contact information available will be the email address you list. You can upload a photo to help people recognize you when you finally meet in person.
Member discussion forums. Not meant to take the place of the listserv, but discussion forums provide a more stable and durable way to communicate. You can subscribe to a forum if you want to be notified of new entries. We’ve created a few categories that we think members might find useful, and more can be created as needed. It’ll be a good place to hang a CFP or look for a roommate for a conference.
Research and teaching resources. We had some of these on the old website, but we’re rebuilding to provide members with curated and annotated lists of the most helpful resources for scholarship and teaching.
The new site has tremendous potential, but like any such site, it will only become a community hub if SFRA members make it one. We know that will take some time. We’re all used to an SFRA website that’s fairly static, but the Executive Committee hopes that members will come to think of the site as a place to share information will fellow members, find opportunities for publication and participation, and connect with colleagues from across the globe.