Association BloggerCon in Nashville

Ben Martin has taken the initiative to organize an association blogger meeting at ASAE’s Annual Meeting in Nashville this August: Y’all meet me in Nashville

This is an all-call to association bloggers attending the ASAE Annual Meeting in Nashville. You’re invited to a meet-up of association bloggers. Time, date and exact location are to be determined. Leave a comment or email me to begin the discussion about when, where and what to discuss when we meet.

Be sure to post a comment to Ben’s blog if you want to attend. I’m looking forward to it!

Managing Logins for a Members-only Web Site

How to manage member access to member-only areas of an association’s web site is a common question posted to the ASAE Technology listserv. Since I’ve answered it a few times I thought I would go ahead and post my stock reply here to save some typing in the future. 🙂

Many associations, when they first create a member-only area of their web site, have used a member’s ID number and last name to control access. However, that same information is usually listed on mailing labels and membership cards. This method is very easy to set up, administer and communicate to members. However, having that info on mailing labels is definitely a security risk. The size of the risk really depends upon what they can do with the account once they login. If it’s just to view content (usually the case for early efforts), the risk is relatively low. If it can include e-commerce transactions or editing the members’ data in your association management system (what most associations want to add or expand upon now), then the risk is pretty high. Either way, I think it is smart to move to something more secure.

When I came to ASHA in 2000 we were using the same account number/last name scheme for access and that info was and is on every mailing label and membership card. We then implemented a username/password system that allowed the user to create their own login name and password. Over time, we found many members had problems remembering the login name they had created for themselves. A few years later we migrated to using their e-mail address as their login name which has dramatically reduced support calls for lost user names (many of our members call us instead of using the account help tools on the site). Based on our own experience, I would recommend going with e-mail as the login name. That seems to be the emerging standard around the web for many major sites out there (Amazon being the most notable).

Some gotchas to look out for when using e-mail as the username:

  • Each member must provide a unique e-mail address. Sometimes this is an issue when a spouse shares the same account and is also a member.
  • You should provide instructions on free services that members without an e-mail address can use to get one (there are still some people without e-mail addresses!). This is also useful in the spouse shared address situation.
  • Clearly state how the address will be used by the association when the members supplies it to ease privacy/spam concerns on the part of the member
  • Consider your response to members who refuse to supply you with an e-mail address but want access to the member-only content and services (I have encountered this a few times).
  • Members should be able to change their e-mail address at any time without having to re-register with the site. In technical terms, test for e-mail uniqueness but don’t use it as the primary key for the record.

Finally, you will need to associate the login with their account number in some way. You might ask for their member ID number at the time they register or associate the login with their account later through some other process. I strongly suggest automating the process as much as possible while still preventing the same ID number from being associated with more than one login.

Hopefully the above info will help you get a jump start on the design (or redesign) of your web site login system.

Event Blogging, But Not What You Expected

A Minneapolis blogger got in on the ASAE event blogging, although in a way that I bet the conference organizers didn’t anticipate:

Ooooh, my freakin’ ears. What am I talking about? The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE, I linked their site because that name just sounds too made up), that’s what. They are having a ‘little’ conference outside my apartment. By little I mean they have about four city blocks barricaded and they are all eating, drinking, and networking their heads off. Oh, one other thing. Pretend that you could marry the music of 90’s adult contemporary with smooth jazz; ahh soothing right? Well then imagine a female-male lead singing duo on crack belting out ‘today’s hits and yesterday’s favorites’ (They just did a bone-chilling rendition of Outkast’s Hey Ya). Yeah, and according to the conference itinerary I’ve got a couple more hours to go. Where’s my damn earplugs? Ugh.

That is a pretty accurate description of the party that was thrown Saturday night to open up the meeting. And that easy listening band was truly horrendous.

I came across the post by searching Technorati on Tuesday morning. My plan was to demonstrate the site during a presentation I was doing that afternoon and talk about how associations should start using it to monitor how the blogging world is covering their issues and organizations. What a perfect example! If it’s any consolation, anonymous Minneapolis law student, the attendees in the session seemed to agree that the band was pretty bad.

I also talked about what kind of PR damage that entry could have done if it had been picked up by the local media. Hell, Technorati has a CNN advisory gig so it might go national. OK, that was a pretty low risk, but it could happen. The media seem to love blog-related stories these days.

In the session, I suggested that buying the blogger in question a free dinner or giving him some noise-canceling headphones might be a nice gesture to apologize for interupting his evening and could help turn the story into a postive if it did get picked up. That would have been money well spent to avert a more negative story and at the least would be the right thing to do. Of course, that requires keeping up with what is going on in the blogging world via tools such as Technorati.

In any case, thanks for sharing your neighborhood with us and for giving me a great example for the session I spoke in.

This Turn Down Service Brought to You by Acme!

Photo of marketing tent card placed on the bed as part of the turn down service.

Can we all agree that this is a bit much? Stuff under the door at night or left with the newspaper in the morning is ok, but I’d like to be able to get in bed without having to remove the marketing material from the covers first.

BTW, I’ve got lots of notes from the conference so far that may take me a day or two to get converted into posts here. Hope to get to it soon….

Last little bit on AMS/CMS deployment timing

In our session yesterday I had the opportunity to ask Loretta DeLuca of DelCor Technology Solutions what she thought about deploying an AMS and a CMS simultaneously. (Loretta is one of the more experienced AMS selection consultants out there.) She said she wouldn’t recommend it either but for slightly different reasons than I have been yammering on about here. Her main concern was that trying to develop your ‘front-office’ systems (the CMS) while still developing, deploying and configuring your ‘back-office’ system (the AMS) is inviting lots of backtracking and crises you need not have to deal with if you wait for the AMS deployment to be complete before ramping up on the CMS project. Waiting lets the AMS settle down so that it isn’t a moving integration target for the CMS. Makes sense to me.

OK, I think that dead horse is well and truly beaten. I’ll move on to something else soon. 🙂

On the ground

Made it to Minneapolis with no problems and have settled in at the Double Tree. They give you a warm cookie when you check in. I recommend that all hotels begin doing this. Yummy.

Got our handouts for our pre-con session tomorrow copied at the local Kinkos, since I put the finishing touches on them during the flight. We’re supposed to turn them in weeks before the meeting but that didn’t happen for several very good reasons. Really. Bad speaker! I’ll probably throw a copy of them up on this site next week if my co-presenters are willing.

As I worked on the presentation I read a story about how Hershey Foods tried to implement CRM, ERP and supply chain managements systems simultaneously. This apparently failed in a rather spectacular way: they weren’t able to delivery candy to major customers in time for Halloween in 1999. Ouch. More reason to think twice before implementing a content management system and an association management system (CRM) at the same time.

Event Blogging

Dan Bricklin’s essay on the dynamics of event blogging, based on his experience at the Democratic National Convention, provide some useful thoughts for the bloggers who may cover the ASAE meeting:

What we learn from the Convention blogging:

Event blogging is different than normal, daily blogging. In normal blogging, you watch the world go by and pick and choose things you want to comment upon. There is material online to point to and react to. There are ideas that well up and you take the time to write about, but few people may be waiting for them. There are many, many bloggers. Some read other blogs and choose the posts they think others should read. Through popular gateway blogs like some of the well known political blogs, and tools like Blogdex, Daypop, and more, things bubble to the top.

Events are another thing entirely. The time is very condensed and the amount of information is concentrated. If you are “covering” the event, you have to look at it all and provide perspective to a reader who doesn’t see all of the context that you do. The event marches on and won’t stop for you to take time for thinking and writing. Picking and choosing is harder — if you stop to blog, you might miss the keystone piece of what’s going on.

Good stuff. I know I usually have a hard time just keeping up with voice- and e-mail while at a meeting like this, let alone trying to write something coherent.

ASAE Dips Toe Into Blogging Water

The American Society of Association Executives is launching an event blog for their annual meeting in Minneapolis next week. (Not much to see yet.) I’ve been asked to make a small contribution to it during the meeting which I’ll post a pointer to when it goes up. I’m excited that ASAE is experimenting with blogs. Given the sub-domain they have setup it looks like they may have several in the works.

I’ll post here a few times from the meeting as well. Jeff De Cagna sounds like he will be blogging the meeting too. Anyone else?

Update: Mickie Rops will also be blogging from Minneapolis. I created an ASAE Minneapolis blogs wiki page to track all these sites with. Feel free to add to it if you know of others who plan to blog from the meeting.