What is this?
I attended my first WV-WMD Synod Assembly in 1994. That was only the 7th Annual Synod Assembly. In those days (and for most of our history), the Pre-Assembly Bulletin of Reports was paper, lots of paper. The xerographic copier in the Synod Office would run hour after hour, copying reports, statistics, agendas, lists, and more. Office staff would spend days with reams of white, blue, and yellow paper, assembling mailers that would be posted to each attendee. It was labor intensive and expensive.
Not so long ago, the synod switched to the Portable Document Format (PDF), and the Pre-Assembly Bulletin of Reports became a collection of several downloadable documents, making it, for the first time, generally available for anyone to download it from our synod website. Eventually it became a single digital file transmitted by email and posted on the web. Not surprisingly, the pages were still labeled “blue,” “yellow,” and “white,” despite the fact that they were no longer printed on colored paper.
Now, we are trying something new. Our Synod Office Manager, Barbara Higgins, searching for a way to make the Pre-Assembly Bulletin of Reports more accessible for on-line reading and automatically scalable for different types of devices (computer, tablet, and phone) while preserving the ability to print the entire document easily, found Manula.com. This platform offers the following features.
- The bulletin can be accessed like any website using a standard browser.
- The reader can jump easily from one section to another using a handy table of contents.
- The reader can print any “topic” without having to print the whole document.
- The reader can download the whole document as a PDF for reading off-line or printing.
- It is scalable for different devices.
- It can be updated.
Getting it uploaded was a bit of a trial. A medical emergency in the Synod Office created unanticipated obstacles, necessitating those not heretofore initiated into the arcana that is Textile Markup Language and otherwise unfamiliar with several programs and platforms to climb a steep learning curve. Not everything made it up this year on schedule, but critical items, e.g., the Nominating Committee’s list of nominations with vitae, list of voting members, agenda, and committee assignments did, along with some of the other items. The directories were the slowest items to get posted, given to formatting challenges.
We’ve also had late submissions and changes to the list of voting members. Neither is unusual, and, with the other methods we have employed, once the Bulletin was published, anything that came in late could not be included, necessitating distribution at the assembly, and changes in voting members or corrections, could not be easily addressed. With this platform, we can add those late submissions and make corrections and changes. Learning as we go, however, we have realized that there is problem associated with the ability to change the document: Which document is official? Here’s how we propose to address that question.
- In future Synod Assemblies, the Bulletin as it exists at 11:59 PM ten days before the assembly shall be considered the finalized bulletin except for appendices. Late items, changes, and corrections will still be appended, but they will be appended in the appendices at the rear of the bulletin.
- For this assembly, the bulletin at 11:59 pm, Saturday, May 26, shall be considered finalized. Late items, changes, and corrections, after that point, will be appended in the appendices at the rear of the bulletin.
Why do it this way? In deference to anyone working their way through the Pre-Assembly Bulletin of Reports soon after its official publication, we don’t want to create confusion over texts and contents. Also, for those printing the bulletin from the “whole-document” PDF, any additions in the middle of the document will mess up the table of contents already printed. By appending at the rear, folks can still print early for their reading pleasure and then print only the appendices as they come out.
For those reading on-line
You’ll find Manula easy to navigate. You can use the table of contents (displayed to the left on a computer, in a drop down on your mobile device) to skip from one topic to another. You can also page through one topic at a time using the navigation arrows at the bottom of each page.
To print an individual topic, click on the printer icon at the upper right of the desired topic.
Hypertext links to other documents or websites work as they would on a regular web page.
For those downloading
You can download the entire bulletin by clicking on the download button at the bottom of the table of contents. It will be delivered as a PDF.
Well, there you have it. We give it a whirl this year, and we see how it works.