Computing in BSA
(no name) ((no email))
Thu, 10 Sep 1992 18:35:04 CDT
Larry Gracie brought up lots of good points in his posting about the uses
of computing in the administration of the BSA from the unit level upwards.
The BSA has long recognized the power of computing but has been wary about
placing records of membership, tenure, service and especially personal
information (like home phone numbers and addresses) onto ANYTHING that
cannot be controlled at the local COUNCIL LEVEL ONLY!
There is quite a number of reasons why this scares the daylights out of
lots of professionals and key volunteers...I will only illustrate three
and let your own imagination do the rest:
The first illustration is rather a common one, especially with local units.
During a fall round-up, the unit leader (or a member of the unit's committee)
places information about the Scout onto a database. This database would be
used to backup the advancement reports and other important items (like the
summer camp applications and other things that the unit "thinks" that it
needs to know.
During a Committee meeting, one of the members of the committee asks for
a printout of the Troop members and gets one so that he could arrange for
transportation to an event. Later on, he (or she) places the printout
in a drawer.
About three weeks after the event is over, one of the friends of the
transportation coordinator asks for a list of the Scouts in the unit. He
wants to offer the families a reduced-cost at a local video store.
Yep...you guessed it...it became a mailing list for the video store owner,
which prompts people to ask as in the current MCI ad, "
"who told them MY name??"
(the makers of Packmaster and Troopmaster (tm) asks and pleads with the
committees that purchase their product to avoid this kind of thing by
insisting that all requests for names, lists, etc. be handled by ONE person
in the unit...and idealy that one person should be the Committee Chair.)
Okay...now that I've scared a quarter of you (you're on the phone right now,
are you not??), let's move up one step to the District.
The District's Training Chairman is a longtime computer "buff" and has
made available his pc and software for the District's uses. They get a lot
of mileage from the usage and over the five years of usage, there's a lot
of information on the drive and on several floppies concerning the training
and membership composition of the District.
Now, its become time for this guy to upgrade his pc to a better, more
powerful model and he sells the old model to a firm that wants a extra
pc in their office. Of course, the PC "buff" deletes ALL of the files
from the hard drive and from the floppies before handing it over. (and yes,
he *did* upload it onto the new computer and printer drives!)
Nancy (one of the people in the office) is *also* a computer "buff" and
has available one of many tools to "undelete" information on a drive or
on a floppy. One afternoon, she was "curious" (it was a slow day in the
office!) and undeleted one of the floppies. VOLA!! She now has the
records of all of the training that went on and who did it (she also has
a mailing list as well, because if the "buff" did his job right, he also
had the names and addresses and phone numbers of trainers and trainees!)
Just because its "deleted" don't mean its not "gone forever!" With the
advent of tools in DOS 5.0, you can UNDELETE a file as quickly as you
deleted it (this tool was made for idiots like me that is ready to hit
the "del" key at any time!).
Okay...now for the highlight. Lots of local Councis have FIBBED to National
about their membership and unit figures....oh, this is isn't anything new.
This has been going on for years and years under different formats. Now that
National HAS a tool to discover this irregularity much, much faster and
to place a stop to it, some local Councils send them ONE set of figures
through computer modem and fax and send their volunteers and others (united
way or large contributers) a higher, more pleasent-looking set.
Imagine what would happen if someone on, lets say, the Council's Membership
Committee kept their OWN computerized set of books and they don't jive
with the announcement from the Council President and Scout Executive stating
that "this was our BIGGEST year yet!!" ???
Or the other way around, that the Council has had a large loss and that
was NOT the case....or that the Council Camp had a tremendous year and less
Scouts were actually in camp than reported??
well...you get the general idea. I have seen lots of local Councils (have
been part of three in particular!) that have used computers and computing
tools to make the program run smoother and more effiecient (without typos
at least! *smile*). However, that CHARTER and the information that that
document has will always be the local Council's and I feel, always come
to us in PAPER form for the coming years. There's just too much misuse,
possible compromises and hangups with using it on a grander scale than
what local Councils are doing now...faxing and sending reports by modem
to the regional offices for further transmissions to national. There
are lots of professionals that want to move us FORWARD...but there are
many more that remember the large scale scandels in the 50s and 60s and
would rather not relive it again in the 90s.
Sorry that this was too long for some of your mailers...but I wanted to make
sure that I expressed it completely so that we can ALL comment on it.
I love computing....it's made my life a lot better and faster in many ways.
But I don't think that we should try to apply it ALL to the most sensitive
of records that the BSA keeps..those of our members, the units and the
personal and family information from those members and units. If a unit
wants to keep that kind of information on a database, fine...but insure that
only those that REALLY NEED TO KNOW that kind of information can get it.
BTW, I have NEVER had any problem with the existing Troop, Team, Pack and Post\
Ship Record Books...they make an excellent record, can be stored safely,
and best of all, need NO ELECTRICITY to make them work!!! (the're slightly
more expensive than what they should be, but we're buying them from the
Supply Division...what'll we expect!!)
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City