Friday, October 23, 2009

Internet and AA - group web stie

(Context: for a few days I'm thinking through some perspectives on AA and the internet in preparation for a workshop)

Probably one of the few really "controversial" things my home group has ever decided to do was to set up a web site for our group.  We've never been questioned more about "what is the purpose?" and "do you really think that is OK with our traditions?" for anything as much as this decision.

The decision to try out a web site happened at a group inventory discussion one time when one of our members mentioned that he had a hosting service that he wasn't using as it was originally intended (it was set up for a class reunion that had come and gone) and so there was about 9 months hosting service that was not being used.  So it was available to us for free and we just decided to set it up and use it.

Previously, the same member had set up a trial for us of a "discussion forum" in support of our group conscience.  We'd not used that much but we saw the value and thought if we went to a better forum software package, it might be more useful.

In our Area, one group had a party about nine years ago.  A member took pictures throughout the afternoon and, as a service to the group, registered and set up a group web site and posted all the pictures to the site.  I don't remember for sure if full names were included, but I think they were.  (makes a better story anyway)

Of course, there was much discussion at the ensuing emergency group conscience meeting.  The group then decided that they did want to have a web site but they took down the pictures and set up their site in accordance with agreed upon constraints.

My group's web site really has a fairly narrow scope and purpose.  We use it to:
  1. Communicate meeting times and places to new and visiting folks
  2. Offer directions and parking instructions
  3. Relate, if anyone would care, our group's history
  4. Communicate via a forum
  5. Share speaker audio (mp3's) among members
There is both a "public" and a  "private" forum.  Both the public and the private forum are probably going to die soon due to lack of use.  There are much better forums for their purposed discussions to the general public and our current members seem to not be able or willing to utilize this as a means of communication (it was thought that forum-style discussion would be easier and better than emails).

Even with this limited scope, our group has been accused of "promotion" and being more impersonal in AA.  I guess the thought is that, if someone wants to know something about our group, we should chase them down and tell them about it in person. (?)

Anyway, it's been up about a year now and the major accusations and discussion seems to have died down.  As with so much in my service experience as well as my own walk in this path, the whole hoopla (on a group web site) has been largely overblown (you would have thought we were actively working to kill AA by some peoples' positions).  I am amazed sometimes when it seems we want to leave no good deed unpunished...

It has been useful to a few people and that is probably a good thing.


Mary Christine said...

It was useful to me last week. I thought it was a great idea too.

I can't understand how someone would take objection to a group having a website. Promotion? It's not like they are pushing the website out. You would have to know about the group and the website to find it, right?

Now a group having photos of members and names? Totally different story. Yikes.

The Turning Point said...

Read your post, maybe I missed it but did you ask Central Office?

Their perspective has served AA well over the years.

What was their reaction?

Syd said...

Our district now has an Al-Anon Information Service web site. Finally, after all these years, one can download a meeting list, find pamphlets that are CAL, and look for meetings and conferences. It has been a real boost to the district. I don't see a problem with getting that information out there.

Steve E. said...

Very interesting series, Ed. My ideas are too many to put into comment form. I was born and raised (in AA, that is) to QUITE conservative Peeps. Lately have been given over a lot more to "Live and Let Live" (too much)...and find myself swinging back again.

Last year about this time (December?) Syd and I posted Tradition posts, side-by-side, inspired by one blogger's very profound series of Step posts.

In a short time, I seemed to have forgotten all that was worthy during these several months of postings.

But somehow, my focus is returning to the importance of Traditions, without which, especially Tradition 1, we may as well close up shop.

Sorry, too long a comment AGAIN! PEACE, Ed. You're a good man, and this is a great series.