Tuesday, March 18, 2008

PC(USA) Adopts New Tracking Software For GA218

For the 217th General Assembly, the PC(USA) used a web-based business tracker called "Les". It received mixed reviews, especially from commissioners on the floor of General Assembly. I was "watching" the business of GA217 from my home in Columbia Missouri, and I found the Les interface a little clunky, but reliable, and in conjunction with the live streaming video feed I could watch as little or as much of the proceedings as I wanted to..

Why were there so many complaints from the people in attendance? I found out later that the commissioners had access only to the General Assembly intranet and had to wait until they got back to their rooms to get internet access. My guess is that the local intranet was not up to feeding all the commissioners, advisory delegates, and staff members, all of whom wanted to keep track on what was going on. This is going to become more and more critical as the PC(USA) moves closer to a "paperless" General Assembly. It is a fairly easy proposition to install a wireless access point in the committee rooms where numbers are generally limited, but the plenary sessions present another set of problems. The more people attaching to a wireless network, the more contention there is for bandwidth. And I suspect that most of the several hundred people in the plenary room are going to be trying to access the same information at the same time. Hopefully the GA site will have competent networking personnel dealing with the infrastructure.

The new tracking software, www.pc-biz.org, is web-based (as was Les) and the business from GA217 has been ported over and can be searched using the "Explorer" tab. The FAQ section is a work in progress, but there is enough to get you started. Right now the only information you will get on the 218th General Assembly is the overture list (about 80 at this point), task force reports, as well as some news items. This will, no doubt, change quickly as committee assignments are made and schedules are firmed up. If you register, you can make notations on various items, retrieve your recently viewed items, and flag certain items that you want to watch. Registration is free and open to the public. Commissioners have already received their user ids and passwords.

I am glad to see this being made available not only to the GA commissioners, but to Presbyterians in general. The more information the average Presbyterian has, the more informed decisions can be made, all the way down to the congregation level. My initial impression of the new tracking system is that it is more intuitive than Les, and a little more responsive. Of course that could all change when more people get on and start puttering around.

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