A General Call for Volunteers

If my calculations are correct, SharperIron is now in its 12th year. That would put me in my 11th year of involvement and, as of sometime this month, my 9th year at the lead.

It’s been a ride, and sometimes I think it’s time I stepped aside. But no, we’re not there  yet. However, life changes have resulted in my having less time to be involved in the same ways I used to be. There is a need for new volunteers and some changes in the division of labor.

So I’m looking for volunteers, with three goals in mind.

  1. Assign much of the front page article selection, preparation and/or writing to three or four content editors.
  2. Assign most of the work of nurturing the SI community to one or two community editors. This role includes user account processing, forum moderating/oversight, our social networking strategy and, if we decide to keep it, the blogroll.
  3. Assign events, advertising, and what I’ll call institutional networking, to a coordinator. Going forward, I’d like to see SI expand and strengthen what it does to help sound ministries of fundamentalist heritage increase awareness of their work, needs, and opportunities.

These new volunteer roles will most likely have an application process, though in cases where I already know the individual’s skills and commitments well, we’ll probably wave it. Stay tuned for more on that.

Needed Skills

With volunteers, the two most important “skills” are always motivation and dependability. Most leaders who have worked in any kind of volunteer-fueled organization would probably agree that any sort of help, however small, is golden if it can be absolutely relied upon.

But the sort of help SI needs does most at present does require some specific skills in addition to willingness and consistent dependability.

Content Editors

  • Ideal: writing skills at a sufficient level to write and/or edit content that is front-page-ready with minimal (or no) additional editing from me or others. (Yes, I say this knowing that my own writing and editing often overlooks typos, stylistic no-no’s, and the occasional grammatical catastrophe. So I’m not talking about perfection here—whatever that might even mean in the realm of Web publishing.)
  • Ideal: technical skills at a sufficient level to use the site’s content prep interface to prepare and schedule posts with minimal assistance. (It’s really not too hard to use, though there will be changes again when whenever the next significant design update occurs. I have the tools now to put together a little training video, so that should make it a piece of cake.)
  • Time: I’m looking for front page content editors who can commit to producing content at a pretty specific interval—but this could be weekly, twice a month, monthly, or even quarterly.
  • Content: in this role, you either write it yourself or source it from someone else, or some mix of the two.

The other roles I’ve mentioned have some specific skill sets as well. The community editor(s) need good people skills/personal communication skills (and, again, high comfort level with Web tech). The moderator role is due for a re-invention under the CE umbrella, but an important—and somewhat rare—skill for moderators here is the ability to simulate a good bit of objectivity in controversial discussions. (That is, ability to set aside personal beliefs and passions on the topic at hand and evaluate the appropriateness of interactions on their own merits.)

The outreach/networking coordinator role (I’m quite open to a better term for that, by the way!) relies on strong people and communication skills as well—but the ideal volunteer would be someone who either has a lot of personal connections or is good at forming them (which almost always means they already have a bunch).

What You Can Do Next

If you’re interested in volunteering or know someone you think should volunteer, send me an email or use the site contact form. “Volunteering” now appears at the top of the Category list on the contact form.

Speaking of email, over the coming weeks, as we move forward with this bit of restructuring, I’ll be renaming my own role. “Publisher” was the moniker I inherited, but it has always seemed a bit unsuited to what I do at the site. I’ll most likely just go with Editor and, accordingly I’ll be retiring the “publisher@” email address soon. The current one will forward to the new one for a few months before it starts bouncing mail back at senders.

Thanks in advance for your help. So many have helped in various ways over the years and most of those who help out now intend to stay involved in one way or another. I appreciate and welcome that.

But I’d like to see SI get beyond maintenance mode and move into a phase of increased usefulness. I believe much of its potential to be helpful to readers, members, and ministries is yet to be realized, and we can move in that direction with some fresh talent and energy joining the effort.

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There are 8 Comments

Ed Vasicek's picture

Aaron, you have blessed so many of us with your painstaking labor at SI, and I am glad you will continue to oversee things.  SI serves an important function; for many of us, it contributes to our identification.  We feel "at home" and like we are "checking in" when we visit the site.

Delegating more to others is a good move.  I wish I could do more, but I think my current level of involvement is about all I can handle. Lord willing, I plan to continue submitting articles and work on the poll of the week (which is sometimes the poll of every other week).  I love SI, and will look with anticipation to see who else can help lessen the load.

"The Midrash Detective"

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Thanks for the encouraging words, Ed. And thanks too for your contributions to the site.

I have gotten a few emails so that's promising. And we'll keep some reminders of some sort going for a while also.

dgszweda's picture

One item we may want to consider is to initiate another fundamentalism survey.  That was what originally started the site, and it garnered a lot of attention.  It would be very telling to do another one that not only repeated the exact same questions, but also added some for relevancy 10 years later.  It would be interesting to see where the movement is going.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Aaron,

I'm a moderator (though these day's that's not a big time commitment), and I'd like to help, but I'm not sure what ways I could do more.  I do have technical expertise, though not in web pages/protocols specifically.  I'm not theologically trained, so not sure what articles I could write.  In other words, what kind of help would be useful from laymen such as myself?  I'm sure I could help with the article prep you mentioned, though how big a help that would be I'm not sure...

Dave Barnhart

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Like the survey idea. The landscape is so different now, though. I think the survey would not garner the kind of natural buzz it did in 2005. So many things made the event and the timing of it unique. But it would be interesting nonetheless. The whole thing could be done now via SurveyMonkey.

We do have a copy of the survey report somewhere on the server though I don't believe we have the raw data. So there would be some work involved in side by side comparisons of responses. But maybe there is a spreadsheet with the data tucked away somewhere as well, or it may be possible to extract it from the report.

... something to think on. Are you volunteering to coordinate/lead that?

 

Dave,

Moderating is going to get some rethinking, but there will still be opportunities there and theological expertise is not required for that.

The technical stuff is difficult to delegate because each effort in that vein (site redesigns) ends up having a big slice of work that is not like the last time around and won't be like the next time so... the work involved in training someone to do it would be greater than just doing it.  (But it may make sense to outsource the whole thing next time around.)

There is, however, some server stuff that you, or anyone with a pretty high comfort level with Linux, Nginx, Mysql/MariaDB could help with. And I do think it would make sense to train some folks in on our unique peculiarities. (a.k.a., things Aaron has most likely set up incorrectly... but that somehow work nearly all time anyway.)

That stuff has always been therapeutic for me but the reality is that I don't have time for all my therapy anymore. Smile

One thing I didn't list in the article is that it would be great to get a bit of volunteer help from a bona fide Drupal developer... or even just someone who has "the spiritual gift of APIs" Wink  ... the Drupal API keeps tempting me to grasp its dark secrets but I usually run out of time before concepts start clicking and then later have to start over. This cycle is pretty offputting. (What I do is site-building, not development, so I can cut and paste code and understand a bit of it here and there but mostly I snap Legos together, so to speak,... I don't make the Legos!)

So if anyone is reading this who really enjoys learning new APIs (Drupal is PHP), there is so much amazing stuff that can be custom built using Drupal modules (which can then be contributed to the community for others to use.)

G. N. Barkman's picture

I thank God for Sharper Iron, and pray for Aaron, Jim, Tyler, and others regularly.  It's the only blog I visit on a regular basis.  I used to visit about five others, but to save time, I only go to SI daily, and to others only when a specific need sends me there.  I know its a lot of work, and I deeply appreciate those who are willing to invest your time and talents.  I'm afraid I have not much of either, that is time or talent, but I pray God will give you the right people to keep this going as long as possible.

G. N. Barkman

josh p's picture

I too am very thankful for SI. It has been instrumental in me figuring a lot of things out regarding fundamentalism. I wish I could help but alas I am technically inept :). 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I appreciate your thoughts, prayers and words of support, guys. It means a lot.

Meanwhile, some interesting things are brewing offline also, so we'll see what develops.

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