What information can an organization provide to the Internet?
This document lists ideas for databases and other information which an organization can provide to the Internet, as a service and as a part of its own outreach efforts.
The following can be implemented in the framework of WWW and be useful for Jewish and other nonprofit organizations.
- List (or catalogue) of services.
- Online courses in various specialized subjects.
- Database of officials in the various organizations, which contains also E-mail contact information. See also the section about multi-organizational databases.
- Calendar of events relevant to your organization (such as Jewish events relevant to Jewish organizations). See also the section about multi-organizational databases.
- Guest lecturers and suggested topics for speeches - for invitation to social functions and cultural events.
- "What organization is already taking care of what kind of activities" - to help in locating specialized services anyone (or any other organization) may need.
- Database of volunteers to do various tasks in a given geographical region.
- Database of volunteers to translate written material into other languages.
- List of any specialized databases which organizations maintain, and whose contents might be useful for other organizations.
- Ideas for programs for get-together meetings.
- Geneological database.
It is to be noted that organizations are very reluctant to divulge membership/subscription lists. This kind of information has political implications. However this does not preclude possible cooperation between organizations in which one organization sends out a mailing in behalf of another organization without giving the other organization detailed information about the people who get the message.
The following services could be provided (but not in the form of databases):
- Rabbis may make themselves available online for questions from the general population. They can respond in person and put the question and answer (without disclosing the name of the person who originally asked the question) in a WWW site for everyone to see.
An organization may want to disseminate advice about handling various recurring issues. Examples of recurring issues are:
- Halachic issues facing Jews on campus.
- Social issues facing Jews on campus.
- Dealing with missionaries.
- Finding the right balance between traditional and egalitarian for Conservative services.
- Revisionist advertising in campus newspapers.
- Anti-semitic speakers coming to campuses.
- Frequently occurring questions and answers - intellectual ammunition.
- Names of people to be wary of (such as anti-semitic leaders and lecturers).
- Advice about how to organize an event which handles the specific recurring issue (such as a demonstration against anti-semitic speaker, a religious revival, etc.).
When speaking about local geographical information, the covered region (assumed to be a city in the following) could also be county, state or whatever.
- Services for the deaf in a city.
- Synagogues in a city.
- Their addresses
- Times for services
- Schedule of other events in the synagogue
- Contact persons in the synagogue
- Other Jewish organizations in a city
- Address and other contact information.
- Working hours.
- Schedule of events.
- Kosher restaurants
- Other sources of kosher food in a city.
- Available housing for people who want to move into a city.
- Useful contact persons.
- Contact information for local Rotary group.
- Tourist attractions.
- Climate information.
- Any special laws or regulations of which the visitors should be aware.
A WWW page which gives the information for a region should provide links to pages which provide information on subdivisions of the region (such as cities or counties, if the region has more than one city or county).
The pages should have such keywords that a search engine can locate the correct page given a phrase such as "Dallas Texas USA Kosher".
Such a project could be maintained and kept up to date by high school students, as a volunteer activity.
Organizations which provide the information should also provide:
- Last-updated date for each piece of the information.
- Name and E-mail address of contact person for the purpose of validation and final authentication.
The last updated date will let people know how up-to-date the information is.
The contact information for final authentication is needed so that:
- People who *really* need the information will be able to verify its correctness with the contact person before actually making the trip to the place.
- The contact person will be responsible for updating the information as required - and he'll do so if he sees that there is enough interest in the information.
In order to match classes for pen-palling in Jewish (or other) schools, the following information is needed for each participating classroom:
- E-mail addresses
- Kind of class (age, subject, organization type) - e.g.: 8-year olds, first year Hebrew class, Conservative synagogoue.
- Kind of pen-palling: 1 to 1 or class to class
- How will the students access the Internet
- Any other information or special requests
Certain databases contain information, which has to be provided by several organizations. Example: a list of all presidents (or chairpersons) of all Jewish organizations in a large country (such as USA). Such a list would have to contain also their contact information (phone numbers, E-mail addresses, regional office addresses).
Another database which contains data from several organization is a calendar of events organized by various organizations. Such a calendar can help an organization schedule an event in such a way that it'll not conflict with events scheduled by other organizations.
Such a database has the special problem of being kept current. There is no single organization whose reputation depends upon the quality of the database, so the database has no natural owner.
A possible approach to the problem consists of the following:
- Define, for each record in the database, the name of a contact person who is responsible for updating that record.
- The database manager should cause the contents of each record to be periodically reviewed and validated (e.g. by sending an E-mail message to the record's contact person) - perhaps once per year.
- There should be a reasonably secure means for authenticating information updates (e.g. by PGP signing of messages).