Local Group and Region Tags

Introduction

In order to bring a sense of order, consistency and predictability to the names used for mail aliases, mailing lists, web sites and such, it is proposed that MAG keeps a table of regions, local groups, shorthand names for both and the people who do the various roles for those groups. This table can then be maintained on one place and reused to set up or adjust the names and contents of the relevant electronic resources in MAG. The following is an explanation of the fields needed and a few examples.

Shorthand group and region names

Many groups and regions have quite lengthy names in order to properly encompass the areas they represent. It would be very cumbersome to use the whole name as the tag for, for example, their web site name. It would lead to mistypes and confusion. Each group and region will therefore have a shorthand name of a suitable length and composition to be used in web and email addresses. It would be composed only of lower case letters and "-" characters. Any shorthand name greater than 8 characters is getting a bit on the long side, although there is no had and fast rule to clip them. The following is an example drawn from western region as of the time of writing.

Region
Local Group Shorthand
Local Group Full Name
western
bristol
Bristol MAG
western forest
Forest of Dean MAG
western mid-wilts
Mid Wiltshire MAG
western north-avon
North Avon MAG
western north-somerset
Weston and North Somerset MAG
western swindon
Swindon MAG

Mail Aliases

A mail alias is an email address that is not the same as a persons actual email address but none the lest directs email towards them. For example "chair@mag-uk.org" is an address that leads to the MAG National Chair's inbox.

MAG has, for a long time, had a system whereby holders of roles and offices within MAG have a mail alias for that role. For example "western-region-web@mag-uk.org" is set to deliver email to the webmaster for the western region, likewise "mid-wilts-web@mag-uk.org" goes to the Mid Wilts MAG local group webmaster. These aliases already exist and are for the most part already named for the shorthand tags. Those existing aliases that do not use the existing shorthand tags will not be removed, but (where possible) will exist alongside new aliases that are named in this way. This may seem a little prescriptive and control freaky, but the idea behind this is that the page on the national website that lists the local groups and their various mail and web resources can be generated directly from the table held at central. This way it will be as accurate as the table, automatically. This page is frequently out of date and inaccurate as the trip from local or regional decision about changes to the crew, through the various stages to finally being updated onto the web site is frequently not completed.

Naming Convention:

Email Mailing lists for Local Groups, Regions and National

An email mailing list is an address that instead of leading to a person as normal, in fact goes to a computer program that holds a further list of email addresses for people. When this mailing list receives a mail, it is first put through a set of quite stringent checks, one of which is to compare the sender of the mail with a list of people who are allowed to send email to the mailing list. If and when the incoming email passes all of the checks, a copy is sent to everyone on its member list. A lot of local groups have a grand Cc: list of all of the local activists. This suffers from a number of problems including privacy. If someone wants to be on the circulation, but for whatever reason doesn't want that email address to become known, they can sit on the mailing list and nobody except the administrator of the list can see what the address is. It also helps cut down on spam as virtually all of the spam that might end up in the local group activists' inboxes will fall foul of the "must be permitted to send" rule. All members are, by default, allowed to send mail to the mailing list, but it is very unlikely that the spammers will get the combination of senders address and mailing list address correct.

Western region has had an interlocking set of local and regional mailing lists since 1998. Each local group has it's own, mostly self maintained mailing list for the local activists with email addresses. Some are maintained by the local Webmaster or Rep, others by the Regional Comms Officer. The decision was taken several years ago and reaffirmed recently, that the members of the email mailing lists would not have to be MAG members, but needed to be local motorcycle activists that go along to meetings and/or demos and events. Some argued that it was a privaledge of membership, but the majority of local group Reps on the regional committee took the view that it worked as a marketing tool to help keep the local activists interested, it helped boost attendance outside of the usual suspects you see every week and that in the majority of cases, once you had snagged someone's email address they were more likely to pay at least an occasional visit to the local group meeting and a good percentage of them joined in the end.

There is another email mailing list for the Regional Committee, composed of the email addresses of each of the Reps, or a designated observer for that local group if the Rep was without email, plus the regional officers. This is used as a forum for proposing agenda items for the meeting, discussing matters to urgent to wait until the next meeting and helping local groups keep in touch with each other via the reps. It has also been used to help inform local group meetings with respect to events and news from the region.

All of the local group mailing lists and the committee list are collected together into one monster mailing list covering every known email address for the region. The region wide list is not used for discussion or trivia, but very sparingly for announcements relevant to the region and for calls to arms if letters or demos are required. As it is (it is hoped) being actively maintained by the local groups for their own purposes, it should be as up to date as it is possible for it to be.

Once every region has a network of mailing lists in place, a third tier can be generated that combines all of the regional lists into one national activists list. There is already a national activists mailing list, but it is only really maintained in the breach. If the aggregate of all the local and regional lists is used to gradually replace the content of the existing activists list, then over time we will be in a much stronger position when a national call to arms is needed.

Examples:

Local and Regional Web Sites

Once we have a reference list of all of the local groups and regions, along with a shorthand tag for each, we can then make sure that every local group and region has a web site under a known name. If there is already a site then it can have a web forward from the pattern name to the existing one, or in some cases the webmaster might be happy to re-host the site onto MAG equipment. There are a large number of very good reasons why it would be much better for all of the web sites set up in MAG's name should be hosted on equipment ultimately controlled by MAG. It is however important to point out that there is no current thoughts, and certainly no policies that would seek to enforce editorial control over any of these sites; although having said that if they start hosting illegal content then something might need to be done. It is the declared intent that MAG should help local groups get themselves set up with the resources they need and whatever additional advice is necessary for them to run their own local campaigns and social activities as they themselves see fit. MAG is member lead organisation and this is part of what that means.

You can't get cheaper than free

Given that the new MAG server is already in place and running the national web site and other necessary resources on a national basis, it is not unreasonable to say that the regional and local web sites, when hosted on MAG equipment are entirely free. There is no additional fee to pay to the hosting company for each additional web site, because there is no hosting company; although it should be said that our previous hosting co. very generously waived any additional fees above the bare minimum.

It should also be noted that because we have complete unfettered control over the configuration and features of the MAG server, we can provide the members with anything from a simple flat text web site to the most sophisticated forum based CMS imaginable, as long as it is open source and available for the operating system we are running (as of writing this is Fedora Linux); however this really doesn't restrict the field.

It's for the Members

The MAG server with it's email and web services was bought by MAG UK, for the use of the membership of MAG UK. If any member has a problem or suggestion, then they should, through their Rep, let MAG central know about it. Any suggestions will be treated with respect and consideration.