|Feature Article - May 2011|
|by Do-While Jones|
We have evolved from a local club to a Facebook entity.
Science Against Evolution became a California non-profit educational public-benefit corporation on May 16, 1996. Since that time, some things have changed, and some things have remained the same.
We are not now, and never have been, a religious organization. Our original intention was to form a secular corporation consisting of Christians, Jews, Muslims, deists, agnostics, and atheists who recognize that the theory of evolution is not a credible explanation for the origin and diversity of life on Earth. The purpose of that organization was (and still is) to counter the indoctrination in public schools by proponents of evolution who claim the theory of evolution is scientifically valid.
We set about doing this by mailing unsolicited sample newsletters to every mailing address in Ridgecrest, California, with an invitation to join. We obtained printed mailing labels for all Ridgecrest addresses, and sent out 200 newsletters every month. It took several years to complete the mailing to every address.
We began meeting at the public library on the fourth Friday of every month because that was the only night the library conference room wasnít already booked. Friday night is not a good night for a meeting (which is why it wasnít already booked). Despite that, we did attract a small group of faithful attendees. Because the meeting was on the fourth Friday, we sent out the newsletters on the third Friday as a timely meeting reminder. Later, when the fourth Tuesday became available at the library, we switched meeting nights and started sending out the newsletter on the third Tuesday.
A few years later, the state of California could no longer ignore its budget problems. One of the ways it sought to solve the problem was to raise the cost of library meeting rooms to $50 per use. As a result, we (and many other non-profit clubs in the city) could no longer afford to meet there.
This might have caused the extinction of Science Against Evolution, if not for the Internet. By this time we had a world-wide following with far more members outside of California than inside. Since most of our members have never even been to Ridgecrest, they werenít attending our meetings, so the loss of the meeting room didnít really matter.
Like it or not, we have evolved into a world-wide virtual club, most of whose members have never met each other. It is too bad that our members are isolated because organizations really benefit from social interaction. Consequently one of our members created a ScienceAgainstEvolution.org Facebook page for us. This could either be a giant leap for us, or the dumbest thing we have ever done. Only time will tell.
Meanwhile, our website has remained the same for more than a decade. We routinely get suggestions and offers to modernize it. Here is the most recent one from Jonathon:
As far as expanding on these designs, I've reviewed the elements of your site and have assessed the following:
You'll want to include a newsletter signup area, which will allow users to enter their email addresses. You could then easily send out the newsletter from the website's administrative area. This would simultaneously post the newsletter to your website.
We would want to include a more prominent, but not intrusive, contributions system. I sell software online, so I have a good understanding of establishing credibility in order to increase sales/contributions.
I would suggest that we setup resources to encourage your users to link back to you. Resources such as images, banners and badges. It's also important to establish a†presence†on twitter and facebook, there are plenty of programs that would update these social networks for you automatically.
Your membership form is old-school. We would want to offer an interactive form that would allow your users to fill it out and then be redirected to paypal or some other payment gateway in order to accept payment immediately. We can also offer a downloadable pdf form with mailing information.
One thing that I feel you're missing is a shopping area. I'm sure that you have colleagues that are offering books and such for sale. With the proper agreements with those vendors in place we could place their products on your website for sale. This I believe would help you out quite a bit.
In general, there are so many pages, it would be a tremendous amount of work to reformat them all. We would just as soon stick with the simple HTML commands which permit very fast downloads over dial-up connections, and are printer friendly.
Letís consider the specific suggestions individually.
We arenít interested in developing a mailing list. If people can only get our newsletter by being on a mailing list, they might be reluctant to do so because they fear being inundated by endless requests for money, or having their email address sold, or being badgered into taking Bible studies. Since we donít do any of those things, we donít need a mailing list.
People can use RSS (Really Simple Syndication) to be notified every time we post a new newsletter without us ever knowing about it. Or, they can check the New This Month page anonymously every month to read the most recent newsletter. If people do choose to give us their email, we send out a message to them each time we post a newsletter simply as a courtesy.
Since we donít share our membership list, not even our own members know who the other members are. Our new Facebook page might change that. Members could become ďfriendsĒ with each other.
Our concern with Facebook is that malicious people could get involved, hassling our ďfriends.Ē If the Facebook page has disappeared by the time you read this, that is probably the reason.
Since we donít own any property or pay any volunteers, our only expense is printing and mailing the newsletter. (We would like to eliminate as much of that expense as possible by encouraging members to read the newsletter on-line.)
The main reason for asking for the $15 per year donation is to judge how many people really think it is worth our time to write the newsletter. Since it is a measure of appreciation, forcing people to contribute would be counter-productive to this goal. However, we probably should make it easier to use PayPal to contribute.
The first year of our existence we did sell some books, but the paperwork was such a hassle we quickly gave it up. We have absolutely no interest in doing it again!
It is probably a good idea to make it easier for people to link to our website. We will pursue that. Meanwhile, if you have a personal web page and want to link to ours from yours, please do so.
We have already started a Facebook page. We will see how that goes. Twitter will probably be more trouble than it is worth. I just donít have time to tweet short messages.
One of the few things all politicians agree upon is the need for an exit strategy. In other words, how do you define victory, and what do you do after you have won?
We will have won when the arguments for and against evolution are both taught, and students are allowed to make up their own minds. Thatís enough. We donít insist that everyone reject evolution. We just want everyone to be allowed to make an informed decision. When that happens, we win, and we quit.
On the other hand, if people stop sending us $15 a year, we will take that as a sign not to waste our time, and quit.
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