There have been many ideas and opinions expressed about online communications in the RAF. In addition to the Promenader and the RAF web site there are several individual club web sites, and from time to time various clubs and individuals issue email “broadcasts” with overlapping mailing lists. It seemed that publishing the Promenader as a standalone online magazine would simply add to the confusion and duplication. However, combining the Promenader with the RAF web site has many benefits, including the following:
How did we get here? When it became clear that no successor would come forward to succeed Betty and Andy Ludwick, and talk began to circulate about a successor newsletter, a few of us who had “some” level of interest (but not enough to tackle the editorial job) got together to see what could be done to preserve the Promenader legacy by streamlining the job enough to attract a volunteer. What came out of that discussion was a re-imagined Promenader that would have the look and feel of the familiar paper publication but the efficiency of an online format, where content could flow almost directly from authors to readers.
In thinking through what that format could be and how to get there, we asked many of the questions listed in the FAQ and considered many possibilities, including various forms of newsletter. However, even an electronic newsletter takes some amount of layout and page composition, especially if it is important to maintain printability for subscribers who do not have easy access to computers or printers.
Page layout and composition work accounted for a substantial fraction of the time that the Ludwicks devoted to each paper issue. In other words, an electronic newsletter, such as could be published using one of the many available “desktop publishing” software packages, would still leave a substantial amount of effort for the content editor.
On the other hand, the RAF web site, being essentially a database query viewer, could be adapted to display text submissions as well as data from the database. Pages could be presented in a set of pre-established layouts with pre-established style rules. Blending the Promenader with the RAF web site would have the additional benefits of avoiding duplicated efforts, such as entering schedule data from the Promenader into the RAF database, and boosting usage of the RAF web site to make it a more effective communication platform in the dancing community.
An additional benefit was that this idea sparked Betty’s imagination and motivated her to design not only an online look for the Promenader but also the beginnings of a new look for the Federation side of the site. Others might have done it very differently, but with Betty & Andy engaged in making this happen, there was no doubt that it would be done.
Since preparation of this winter, 2014, issue has coincided with debugging the new web site design, it remains to be seen how much the editorial role has actually been streamlined. However, indications are good because processing the content, which is presumably all that will be needed next time, has only been a small fraction of the overall production effort.
Those who are familiar with software tools for web site creation or desktop publishing (including Betty at times) have questioned the wisdom of this approach, but no better path was available. Also, the result has several benefits that would not be found in a more conventional online newsletter or magazine: