Back in 1977, when the first issue of our branch newsletter came out (originally called The Scottish Ramble and changed to The Blue Ribbon in 1982), it was unlikely anyone would have foreseen the way our communications technology would evolve in the next 33 years. With the rise of the Internet and applications like email, the World Wide Web, and Facebook, we have increasingly found that a traditional paper-based newsletter has a much more limited role. More critically, we have lately been unable to find a member willing to take on the role of editor. (You may have noticed that apart from the AGM-focused issue that came out last April, you haven’t received a copy for nearly a year.) These challenges, in addition to the considerable cost and work involved in producing a paper newsletter, led the board to appoint a subcommittee to consider the future of the Blue Ribbon.
This subcommittee, consisting of Branch treasurer Tom Harries and Branch chair and former Blue Ribbon editor Lara Friedman-Shedlov, met over the summer and also consulted with immediate past-editor, Barbara Cameron. The group’s first task was to clarify the role of the various communications methods the Branch is now using, which include not only the newsletter but the public web site, the Yahoo email list and web site, and the our Branch Facebook page. The group considered several possibilities for the future of the newsletter, including 1) going with an online PDF publication (essentially what we are already doing, but trying to further reduce the number of paper copies printed), 2) an email-based version, or 3) a web-based version based on a blog platform. After analyzing the pros and cons, the group recommended and the board approved the third option. Starting with this issue, which will appear simultaneously in the new format, we will be transitioning the Blue Ribbon to a blog. This will be the last issue to be produced in paper format. Starting now and going forward, you will find the Blue Ribbon online at http://rscdsmn.wordpress.com/ (there will also be a link from the public and Yahoo web sites).
Please note that while the design of the new online version of the Blue Ribbon is not optimized for printing, it is certainly still possible to do so. The board recognizes that some members, current or future, may have difficulty accessing an online newsletter, though the number of people affected are very few and growing fewer all the time. For anyone in this situation, we plan to offer to print and mail the content from the online version on a bi-monthly basis. If you will need this service, please contact the Branch treasurer and registrar, Tom Harries (registrar [at] rscds-twincities.org).
For the vast majority of members, who will have access to the online version, we believe that the web-based format will breathe new life into the Blue Ribbon. Using the blogging software, we will easily be able to incorporate links, photos, and videos. We will also hope that the Blue Ribbon will become more interactive, as readers will be able to comment on stories. In addition, moving to the blog platform will allow readers more choices in how they access the publication. For example, if you use an RSS aggregator like Google Reader, you’ll be able to access the content there. We’ll also be able to easily cross-post certain articles to our Facebook page and our public web site.
Another advantage to the new platform is that it will make being editor of the Blue Ribbon a much easier job — no more need to spend hours formatting the content and little or no time printing, labeling, and mailing. Most importantly, it will easily allow the role of “editor” to be spread among several people who share the task of posting articles and other content to the site. This is where YOU come in!
Tom Harries has agreed to act as overall technical coordinator of the Blue Ribbon in its new online incarnation. We are now looking for members who would be willing to commit to being regular or occasional contributors. Contributions could be as simple as links to websites we believe will be of interest to other Branch members or photos of Branch events, but we’re especially interested in finding people who might be willing to not just post these things, but write short blurbs to go along with them, as well as occasional stories about Branch events, personal accounts of interest (e.g. travel to Scotland or to SCD workshops or balls), and even opinion pieces (go ahead, tell us what you really think about how the ladies’ chain should be danced!). Of course the board, teachers, and committee chairs will also be potential contributors. If you are interested please contact Tom at registrar [at] rscds-twincities.org
We hope you will continue to enjoy the Blue Ribbon for years to come!
NOTE: If you are interested in more information about the work of the Blue Ribbon subcommittee, please feel free to contact Tom at the address above or Lara (lfriedmanshedlov [at] gmail.com). The report of the subcommittee, which includes a chart showing the roles of the Branch’s various communications platforms as well as a list of the pros and cons of each of the three options we considered for the future Blue Ribbon, is available on the Yahoo site.