Thursday, September 21, 2006

People needed...

By the end of November we shall lose a very valuable member of our team. Officially he has been our primary support person, the person that people talk to first about any problems they are having with any of our facilities. However, he has been much more valuable that that... he has also been Mr Fixit, sorting out many things that needed doing around the office, from plumbing to building shelves. And even more than that he has kept a smiling face and been an encourager to the rest of us. He is away on vacation at the moment so we are missing him already.

So if there were people available to fill all the people we need what roles would we need filling?

  • Office Administrator & Book-keeper
  • Primary Support Person
  • Server Administrator
  • Software Developer
  • Video Editor/Sound Mixer
  • Training Co-ordinator
  • Fund-raiser

When I thought about this I initially thought I will try to put them in order, but I am less convinced there is an order. We really do need an Office Administrator and Book-keeper. It's a sort of half time but critical role. From simple things like ensuring we have an office cleaner [not doing the cleaning but arranging it to happen] though sorting the multiple mishaps [like arranging a plumber or air conditioing engineer when needed -- can require up to a dozen phone calls chasing up], office supplies and remembering silly things we forget like coffee, but alongside this the vital role of Book-keeper. We currently have someone who gives one day per week on this, but sometimes its quite a bit more than that and keeping it done on a day to day basis is a real need.

When we lose John at the end of November we shall need another Primary Support Person, again this could be a half time job, involving answering problems [when a user says 'my email isn't working' he finds out what they mean, then check that it is working from our end and then tells them what to do to fix it if he can... frequently with the facilities we provide its not a problem with our facilities but with the end users use of them] We also need documentation writing for some of the facilities and John has been steadily uploading programmes off audio tape onto the main audio server as a sort of background task. This of course alongside the building shelves etc that I mentioned earlier.

We really need a full time Server Administrator, someone who knows Linux/UNIX and is comfortable administrating email, web servers and database systems, backing them up and doing all the housekeeping needed to keep 9 production servers directly under our control running and a helping partners with a few other servers that they turn to us for advice on. There are currently three of us doing this support part time and we would still be available for 'holiday relief' and some of the administration but we are more project oriented people who are better developing new ideas and systems.

We need a Software Developer, someone who is confident in Perl, PHP and SQL. We have had someone out here for three months developing a system for connecting desktop mobile phones to the database servers. He will be coming back for six weeks next week. Looking at the projects we could be doing if we had a developer shows us we really need one.

We could do with a Video Editor and Sound Mixer combined. I can do both those jobs and actually enjoy doing them, but don't have time and projects are always getting behind because I don't have 'focus time' for some of the projects. When I mean 'focus time' I mean significant chunks of time [weeks not days or hours] to devote to projects, this is in part because I am 'on call' for support for 3-4 shifts per week, have co-ordination meetings, administration and a host of other calls upon my time.

Over the last couple of years we have had an Egyptian person as an intern, he has been here between a quarter and one third of his time. It has been very profitable both ways. He is now a very competent system administrator and becoming a valuable media consultant in the region. We would like to multiply that and have 3 or 4 interns - so there would always be one intern here in Cyprus. To run an effective internship programme we need someone to do it. Someone who can travel so that between times here at our office they can be visited and encouraged - that's the role of the Training Co-ordinator.

When I said we needed a Fund Raiser, that is true, but that would only be part of the job, also needed would be communicating with supporters about what we are doing and how things are going. We need funds for projects and for keeping the office going, but we also need equipment that is not allocated to specific projects but helps us do what we do. An example of this would be an interactive whiteboard with video projector. We have a couple of small rather old whiteboards, but as we are often developing systems, being able to integrate whiteboard and video projector would very significantly enhance our effectiveness. Replacing all the aging screens with LCD screens would be another need... plus some decent computers for development [we are currently using old cast-off computers for this].

So if we had all these what would I do? I would go sailing of course... no seriously, I spend a lot of my time in meetings and co-ordinating and being the stop gap for when something needs doing. I would so some projects but not be overloaded like I feel I am right now.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Meetings, meetings everywhere...

So far this month I have had meetings in Cyprus [as might have been expected], in Egypt [twice] and Tunisia [once]. OK, the Egypt twice was en route to and from Tunisia, but there have been a lot of meetings. Most of those meetings were about one of the major web sites that we host. The actual name of the site we don't publish here but the site has another information site that you can see what its about and how effective it is called eBridge. Click on 'Results' to see graphs of visitors, new people signing up etc.

Basically the site aims to 'sit down and drink coffee' [metaphorically] -- to build bridges with Muslims and share Jesus in a natural way. Obviously they can accept or reject Him, but frequently Christians say things in a superior 'we're right you're wrong' sort of way which is unhelpful to building relationships and thus inviting them into a relationship with someone we love dearly called Jesus.

We have been hosting the site for two years or so now and a year ago we took over responsibility for rebuilding it -- both design and site development, with others doing the regular updates on the content. Our partners also started advertising on Google and the response was overwhelming. While we were advertising we were getting more than 30,000 new visitors per month. Since we have stopped advertising [due to finances] we have now [only?] about 25,000 visitors per month with about 4,500 who have joined as members and interact with the editorial team daily.

The meetings were to plan the way ahead for the next year. What is ironic is that there is something incarnational about relationships that virtual relationships miss. What do I mean by this? Here we are running a very successful website where thousands of people are interacting daily, but we have to have face-to-face meetings to plan the website.

Now I'm back there are a few things to finish off... the DVD project that I am loving to hate [went for review while I was travelling and now have all the hopefully final comments to integrate]... plus a dub of a video into Farsi [another group did the main voice dub and we are sorting out the mix and adding in recordings I made of the songs in Farsi]... plus a dub into Kurdish of a video...