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Old 11-02-2009, 08:33 AM   #1
Howard Allen
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Default Dated info on websites

Folks--

A club I belong to maintains a website with general information for club members and potentially interested members of the general public. A page on the site includes a PDF "sample" issue of one of our club newsletters from 2005, just to give people an idea of what the newsletter is all about.

Today, we received a request from someone whose contact information (name, phone number, email address) was published in the newletter, asking us to remove the sample newsletter from our web page, as he did not want to be contacted. (His contact info was included in a brief notice for a third-party organization, to which he no longer belongs; it appears he's now on the outs with this organization and resents being reminded of it).

As far as I'm concerned, this request is way off base. The internet is chock-full of archived material that contains all kinds of contact information, some of which may be decades old!

In my view, this guy consented to have his contact info published originally, so it's his tough luck if people see it and try to contact him years later; I don't see that we have any responsibility to protect his (or anyone else's) contact information if he consented to it being disseminated in the first place. Any other opinions? I'm pretty sure a lawyer would laugh him out of the office, but it's an interesting issue these days, with all the "privacy" legislation that's been passed in recent years.

   
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Old 11-02-2009, 10:02 AM   #2
don Arnoldy
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Originally Posted by Howard Allen View Post
Folks--

A club I belong to maintains a website with general information for club members and potentially interested members of the general public. A page on the site includes a PDF "sample" issue of one of our club newsletters from 2005, just to give people an idea of what the newsletter is all about.
My response is—you have an almost-five-year-old newsletter that you're presenting to potential members?! This surely cannot be the best presentation for your club! I would put up the most-interesting issue from this past year instead. Ideally, I think I would replace the sample with a two-issue old one each time a new one is published.

--don

   
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Old 11-02-2009, 10:55 AM   #3
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I agree with Don. The idea of putting up the next-to-last issue each publication date makes a lot of sense.

Your site could probably use an update, anyway — much has changed in five years, including browsers, switch to XHTML, etc.

   
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Old 11-02-2009, 11:32 AM   #4
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My response is—you have an almost-five-year-old newsletter that you're presenting to potential members?! This surely cannot be the best presentation for your club! I would put up the most-interesting issue from this past year instead.
Point taken, but I'm afraid you've missed the point of my message: it really has nothing to do with newsletter per se. The issue is this: do people have the right to request that their contact information be removed from archival material? What about all the zillions of archived magazines, journals, newspapers, etc. that proliferate on the web? They all contain names, phone numbers and email addresses--are publishers expected to go back and expunge all this historical data after it reaches a "best before" date? What if our club decided (as many do) to provide all our newsletter back-issues for free downloading? And what about printed material? Our newsletters were printed and mailed out to members. Maybe some of them have kept back issues; what if someone looks in a hard copy back-issue and decides to contact this person? The whole idea is beyond absurd.

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Ideally, I think I would replace the sample with a two-issue old one each time a new one is published.
In our specific case, the age of the newsletter sample is not that important (I don't think), because the "look" hasn't changed in the past five years, and the articles are mostly general interest and not time-sensitive. It's more along the lines of a National Geographic, where an issue 20 years old looks no different from the current issue, and an article on stick insects or Mount Everest is no more or less relevant.

Cheers,

   
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Old 11-02-2009, 11:53 AM   #5
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The idea of putting up the next-to-last issue each publication date makes a lot of sense.
It does make a lot of sense, and it's an idea I've toyed with, along with the idea of simply posting the current and all back-issues to the website for members to download. Some clubs do this, but I don't know how you deal with the potential loss of paying members as a result, viz: why should anyone pay membership dues for the newsletter (which is the primary benefit of membership for most out-of-town members), if anyone can simply download the recent issues from the website, for free? It's a sticky issue; do you post newsletters for free and risk a drop in membership (and loss of potential new members), or do you keep a tight rein on the "product"?

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Your site could probably use an update, anyway — much has changed in five years, including browsers, switch to XHTML, etc.
ROFL! Sorry about that, but our "website" barely deserves the name: as in all small clubs, getting anybody to do anything at all is like pulling teeth. The person who keeps up the website (the only person who even knows what HTML stands for] has only the most rudimentary grasp of the subject, and we're lucky to have any online presence at all. It's strictly bare bones HTML 1.00 or nothing--and often the latter.

Cheers,

   
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Old 11-02-2009, 12:00 PM   #6
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My attitude to this would be - we do not have an obligation to remove the info but why not do it? It is easy and a more up to date issue would be better for our image. After all there might be other out of date info in that issue - like club officer names and contact info or club services and meeting place and times.

If I was maintaining an archive of all old newsletters then I would in no way remove or change an old one for this reason.

   
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Old 11-02-2009, 12:01 PM   #7
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Howard: In our specific case, the age of the newsletter sample is not that important (I don't think), because the "look" hasn't changed in the past five years, and the articles are mostly general interest and not time-sensitive.
First...if I found a site with a 5 year old newsletter, I'd think that perhaps the organization might not exist anymore so if you are looking to draw new members, then posting a sample newsletter that is even slightly more current would be a good thing. Perhaps, you could post the January (assuming a montly newsletter) newsletter each February so that you always have at least a current year's issue as a sample?

As to removing the contact info...while it's a pita, I think it would be a generous thing to do and if you posted a more current newsletter the issue becomes moot in this case?

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Old 11-02-2009, 12:48 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Howard Allen View Post
It does make a lot of sense, and it's an idea I've toyed with, along with the idea of simply posting the current and all back-issues to the website for members to download. Some clubs do this, but I don't know how you deal with the potential loss of paying members as a result, viz: why should anyone pay membership dues for the newsletter (which is the primary benefit of membership for most out-of-town members), if anyone can simply download the recent issues from the website, for free? It's a sticky issue; do you post newsletters for free and risk a drop in membership (and loss of potential new members), or do you keep a tight rein on the "product"?
If the newsletter is the primary “product” of the group, then no, I wouldn’t give it away on the web (or anywhere).

Newsletter publishers have always been warned not to send out free issues to prospective subscribers. If the issue was weak in any way, the result would be no new subscriber. And no issue will please everyone all the time. Hence the chatty brochures that attempt to present the content without actually providing too much.

Perhaps you could make a sort of sampler — snippets from several articles, say, to tease the reader to want more — but change that every few months so it doesn’t seem too stale.

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ROFL! Sorry about that, but our "website" barely deserves the name: as in all small clubs, getting anybody to do anything at all is like pulling teeth. The person who keeps up the website (the only person who even knows what HTML stands for] has only the most rudimentary grasp of the subject, and we're lucky to have any online presence at all. It's strictly bare bones HTML 1.00 or nothing--and often the latter.
Okay. So why have it at all?

How does it look in, say, Firefox 3? Safari?

   
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Old 11-03-2009, 07:46 AM   #9
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If it were at all possible, I'd remove the information if only as a courtesy.

What expectations did he have originally? That is, if the newsletters at the time weren't being published on the web but were only printed or distributed electronically to members only, it might have a bearing on the issue. He may have reasonably expected a much more limited distribution of his contact information than has actually come to pass and might justifiably be unhappy about it.

Whether that'd matter in a court or not? Who wants to find out?

   
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Old 11-03-2009, 10:54 AM   #10
don Arnoldy
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I'm afraid you've missed the point of my message: it really has nothing to do with newsletter per se.
I didn't miss the point of your message, I was trying to step around it.

If a person agrees to chair a project or a committee, or becomes an officer for a volunteer organization, they may agree to have their contact information put into a news release. A news release is, I think, intended to be ephemeral—at some point the information ceases to be news.

Yes, old newspapers and newsletters continue to exist—but generally marked as archives. People have to go looking for them, and by the time they find them, they know that the information is old.

This five-year-old newsletter on your site is not part of an archive—it is being distributed as a sample to people who may not immediately notice that it is 5 years old.

I think sky4forums said it as well as I could have—why not do it? Its better for you image, and it doesn't really cost you anything to do.

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