Computers & Scouting
Scott Begin (70334.376@COMPUSERVE.COM)
Thu, 10 Sep 1992 23:40:23 EDT
Some valid points have been made recently on why the national office isn't
more computerized than they are. I have some additional thoughts and
It was mentioned that making information accessable via computers created a
gap between those with computers and those without. However, I have noted
an additional gap of separation: between those who can telecomunicate and
those who can't. Where I work, Knight-Ridder operates a BBS containing
updated Commodity Price information, and we sell subscriptions to our
service. Many of our customers have modems which came with their computer
(not unusual anymore) and have never been used. Often, the only
communications software they have is a Prodigy or CompuServe membership kit.
A large percentage of them have to be walked through the log in procedure.
I mention this not as condemnation, but as example of an additional
gap hindering the access to information which has been proposed.
The mention that Mike made about a video store obtaining a mailing list is a
very real problem, and a real concern among those dealing with large
ammounts of information. For example, if you request address information
from the National Office of Alpha Phi Omega, you receive a note indicating
that it is against the bylaws to use the information for advertising
purposes. The "Central Source" of information can solve this problem, but
through my experiences as being that central source of info, I have found
that often people don't know what information is available or believe it is
too much work to get the information. This last reaction came from people
who knew me long enough to know I was a computer nerd (I use the term with
pride) and could get the info in a couple of minutes.
I agree that even though it seems to require a lot of paperwork,
rechartering is better done by someone who handles the information
regularly. There are many activities which although they may seem to be
something which can go easier via computer, may actually take longer.
Electronic filing of a Tax return may seem to save time, but the paperwork
still has to be filled out correctly, with all the t's crossed and the i's
dotted before it can be done on the computer (unless you want to spend
$50-$100 every year for an new version of a program to fill out the
paperwork for you).
The thought of rechartering via computer brings to light thoughts of
security. How do you guarantee that the person "rechartering" this troop is
actually responsible for the troop? If you establish an account for every
troop, how are you sure the person using it is authorized to do stuff. This
also makes keeping an audit trail difficult. If you establish an account
for every adult just for rechartering convenience, you end up with a lot of
seldom used accounts (a security risk), often times protected with a simple
or easy to remember (guess) password (further security risk). Also, how do
you know when a adult is no longer with a specific unit and would need to
change his/her access. I think for the clerical time saved, the system
maintanence time would be many times greater (and more so since system
maintainers earn more than clerks).
Mike mentioned about the physical security of someone recovering deleted
data. I will agree that this is a risk, but few people realize that
"deleted" files really aren't, let alone would find it worthwhile to try to
recreate something. There are also programs available which can physically
overwrite information (to DoD specs, if you want) so that it can't be
recovered. (Mike, I receive your full message and am glad you brought up
some points I hand't considered).
The idea that information be easily accessable and sharable sounds good
until you consider the costs. This type of system would require a great
deal of work to set up as well as maintain. Complex, powerfull programs do
not come cheaply.
Yours in Scouting,
Scott A. Begin Assistant Scoutmaster
70334.376@Compuserve.com Philmont Staff Association
Oak Forest, IL Alpha Phi Omega, Epsilon Beta Chapter
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City