The MAG Self Hosting Project: What MAG can do for your Group or Region

Why use MAG? I can do it myself!

These days pretty much any organisation needs to be on the web and available over email. This of course is true in spades for campaigning groups like ours. There are many very well meaning MAG activists that have dug into their own pockets and spent their own time putting together web sites and email systems for their local group(s) or regions to use. This is of course extremely laudable, but it does have a number of problems associated.

MAG never has had any issue with groups and regions controlling and updating the content of their own web sites. Some people get all sniffy about "Amateur looking lash-ups", and that is a direct quote from a MAG local group webmaster with higher than average webmastering skills. The majority opinion, all the way down the line though, is that it is far more about appealing to the local riding community and that a well informed, frequently updated site, is far more important than how slick it is. The national site is a very different kettle of fish of course, that does need to be slick and professional, but it is intended for a very different audience.

The domains and equipment underneath the local and regional sites and email address though, is a quite different matter. There are a number of reasons why these really should under MAG control.

The most contentious problem is succession. No matter how committed and energetic the activist might be, there will come a day when they will no longer be doing what they use to do. This could be because they are now a senior officer in MAG and no longer have time for it, or that they have had a falling out and have moved on, or indeed that they have finally met the bus that they couldn't swerve round and have gone to the great ride-out in the sky. How then will the next activists in line take over from them? Will there suddenly be a problem paying for the non-MAG MAG domain? Will the remaining members of the local group run into problems trying to get control of the site? Having been in a technical position with MAG for quite a few years (decades even) now, the author has seen all these scenarios and many many more played out. The one thing they all have in common is that they take up time better spent working for riders' rights. In a disturbing number of cases, they lead to bad feeling and the loss of valuable activists; totally counter-productive!

What does the MAG Server at Central do?

The short answer is pretty much anything you might want it to. The hardware is wholly owned by MAG UK. The software on it is all "Open Source" and as such is free in perpetuity. There is no longer anything to pay on either front. The only cost is the ISP, which was being paid anyway before the server was even thought of. MAG has total control over the server.

We do email. Any kind of address at the MAG domain is possible. You can have it going to a secure MAG email account (which is the default) or if there is a very good reason why not, you could have it forwarded to another address, but you may very well run into problems trying to reply as that address and not your own.

We do email mailing lists. There are a whole set of mailing lists already, some of which have been running successfully for over a decade, helping the groups keep their members informed and more importantly enthused. Every local group can and indeed should have one. Every region can have an announcements list, automatically built out of the membership lists of their local groups and again, several already have had for many years. The regional committees can all have one for use coordinating their region. If local groups or regions elect to use their own mailing lists, based outside of the MAG server, then the addresses they collect cannot be re-used for the low traffic announcement lists at the regional and national levels. They also might run into the succession problems mentioned above for the websites. There may also be an issue about security, if a commercial provider is used for the mailing list. Who owns and has access to the email archive? Do they have the right to monitor your email traffic?

We do web sites. Every local group should have a web site, even if it only gives the time and location of their weekly meetings and the contacts for the local rep. This is indeed all some local groups have. Many more have a site with some pics of their members out on charity runs and rallies and such. Some even have some pretty sophisticated CMS based web sites with some really useful and powerful features for their members. The MAG server can support any and all of these sites. If there is something you think can't be done, just ask. If it isn't currently installed, it almost certainly can be.