Lincoln has retired as our webmaster. Todah rabah for your volunteer service! We are grateful for the changes that Lincoln brought to the website during his tenure. It was a labor of love — and an aesthetically satisfying result! Through Lincoln’s personal efforts and his collaborations, Emanu-El has established a web presence that his successor can enhance. As your editor, I asked Lincoln about his experience in this role. The following interview Q & A reflects his response.
- Q. What experience, if any, did you have with websites before you assumed the role of Congregation Emanu-El webmaster? A. By 2013, I had some experience designing and administering websites. I had served as the webmaster for two academic websites, including the UVic English Department’s site, and I had built a number of smaller websites for nonprofit organizations and individuals using online and offline software.
- Q. How did you become involved with Emanu-El’s website? A. While visiting the Congregation Emanu-El website, I saw that it was seriously in need of refreshing. Stephen Kagan, the volunteer webmaster who had built the site years before had become preoccupied with other matters and didn’t have time for a redesign of the Emanu-El site. So I built a mock-up of a simple website for the synagogue and presented it to Rabbi Harry, with the offer that I would fully build it out if he and the Board wished for me to do so. They were delighted that someone was taking the initiative. It turned out to be a big project, much bigger than I had expected, that involved consulting many different stakeholders to gather key information and to facilitate, along with Jonathan Stoppi, Frances Aknai, and the other newsletter folks, new modes of linking the synagogue’s disparate online identity. I eventually realized that I would need to get more deeply involved than I had at first expected.
- Q. What were some of the tasks involved in the redesign? A. I bought a new URL (web address) for the synagogue: congregationemanuel.ca, which replaced and, for technical reasons, was easier to use than the old one, congregationemanu-el.ca, with a hyphen. I used an online platform that allowed me to create a site that I hoped members of various groups in the synagogue would be able to update easily. Even so, I had to “hack” the platform somewhat to create a menu system that would serve such a multi-faceted site, and to add Hebrew lettering and other elements that were not standard for the platform. I also took my own photos to make the website’s various pages more visually appealing. I was, and remain, proud of the new look of the website and its growing functionality for all of the Congregation Emanu-El community.
- Q. The scope of information technology projects have a tendency to expand? Did this occur with the website project? A. As the site grew and developed, I communicated at length, and frequently, with the people at ShulSuite, a third-party online donations and budgeting service used by our office. I also made the decision to switch Zelda Dean and all of the office staff to using Gmail rather than Outlook, as they had been doing for years. Gmail had become a robust online email solution for a small office like the Synagogue’s, where maintaining our own servers and hard drives was a difficult and potentially problematic proposition. I spent a long time reorganizing the entire mail system and helping staff learn to use it.
- Q. Did you play a direct role in developing the website content? A. I gathered all sorts of material from Ed Fitch and others relating to the Synagogue’s 150th anniversary events, which we all felt should have a place on the website. I designed the site to be able to offer details of our history for those visitors who were interested. I consulted, I believe, with every Synagogue committee to make sure that we had information about their activities on the site. And I found ways to make available many different kinds of resources that we had never before had online.
- Q. With whom did you co-ordinate in developing the website as a communication tool? A. Jonathan Stoppi and I coordinated quite a bit to make the website, newsletter, blog, and Koleinu work together more or less seamlessly. We put no small effort into increasing the Synagogue’s social media presence, although none of us had the time that would have been necessary to really make social media work as a communications tool in the ways that people like Avi Lambert, with whom we consulted, rightfully felt were needed. That is a project to come!
- Q. How would you rate your experience as Emanu-El’s webmaster? A. Over time, administering the website has been very pleasurable work that gave me the sense of contributing tangibly to the Congregation Emanu-El community. There have been some rough spots, but mostly the website administration has been a lovely experience that required regular, but not onerous, attention and work.
- Why are you stepping down from the position? A. Earlier this year Jean Dragushan and her committee let me know they were planning to further unify the Synagogue’s online media and proposed hiring a web designer. I was very pleased to hear this as I had recently become the 2017 Victoria International Jewish Film Festival Director and needed to focus my volunteer efforts on making that festival a success. Jean has done excellent work in consulting with me and others who have been involved in the past few years in the Synagogue’s online media and communications, and I wish her and her team great success as we go forward.
- Do you have any closing remarks? A. I have felt truly blessed to be able to offer my experience and knowledge in these past four years to help Congregation Emanu-El grow its online presence and improve communications. I felt very much attached to the event-world of the whole community as I administered and curated the website. Thank you to everyone who has collaborated with me, and to the many other volunteers throughout our kehilah who have made this work so meaningful!