I caught up with our IT chair, Bruce G, at the last ARSC to talk about some of the things that are going on in his subcommittee.
So, Bruce, what are some of the most exciting things happening in the IT Subcommittee?
“We have a proposal on the floor of the region now to introduce a new plug-in for our internet site that we hope will improve our SEO [search engine optimisation] ratings. One of the things that we found is that doing searches for ‘drug addiction-help’, and various things like that, or ‘stop using drugs’, we end up around about on the 10th page of the Google search. So, this plug-in will help us improve our content keywords as we can program up to 10 additional search keywords on a page.”
So, this is kind of like making the fellowship us more accessible?
“Yeah making it more visible. We’ve got a good website functioning well, it’s easy to navigate, it’s had a lot of good feedback, however finding it is the next thing we need to work on.”
So, tell me a bit more about what the website was like when you took over you been chair for two years right?
“Yes, two years. So, when was elected, the website had a lot of problems displaying on mobile devices. It wasn’t a mobile friendly, and our stats show us that about 76% of people access our website on a mobile device. So, clearly, we needed to be mobile optimised, which we have. There were also a lot of reliability problems, which have now been completely eradicated.
We’ve also done a lot of work on meeting search capability and usability for the webpage.
So, besides for the webpage, you can search meetings by location online or by phone, is that right?
“Yep, so if you SMS your location to 0488 811 247 you get a text message back with the three closest meetings to your location. If you call the helpline you can search by voice and you get the option to search for meetings by city or suburb, state or territory, or you could send your postcode.
Also, there are a number of apps. We synchronise our meetings database with the NAWS [Narcotics Anonymous World Services] database and so the meetings and changes will be reflected on the NAWS meetings lists and approved apps. Our meetings page on the website has links to those apps. We are using a tool called the Basic Meetings List Toolbox (BMLT) developed by NA members over the last 15 years which helps provide the wide range of options for finding a meeting that we now have. Its used by over 80 different areas and regions around the world.
This also means we can direct agencies to print meetings list directly to provide to their clients and they will be up to date, as opposed to sending them meetings lists which gradually become out of date.
So, if I wanted to update my home group’s details what would I do?
You simply go to our website, click on the meetings button on the front page, and click on the “Meeting Update Form” button. You just fill in the details and it will be updated within 24 to 48 hours.
I know you’ve been making an effort to integrate the different area of state phonelines with the regional phoneline, can you tell me about that?
We have now integrated all helpine services in Australia using an application that’s also been built and designed by NA members that draws directly from the live meetings list data and makes it searchable by voice or SMS. Or we can route to phoneline volunteers around Australia.
So, by calling the national number you can ask for someone to talk to and you’ll be routed to a volunteer in your local area. Initially we were just routing to the different area numbers and networks but what we can do now with the system is route directly to volunteers who are scheduled. We can also send the volunteers an SMS with the number.
So, far we have migrated ten of the various different area helplines. It costs a lot less to hold those lines on the new service. It’s only about six dollars per month to maintain the old helpline numbers. Most important, we now have a single national helpline number to call to find someone to talk to or search for meetings. The old 1300 system simply provided a recorded list when was done quarterly and you had to key through to your state and listen to the whole list which was really not very user friendly
Along with this we really making an effort to ramp up phoneline services in the areas and get people organised with a schedule of volunteers. It’s been a challenging exercise as everything is in NA, but we are getting traction, and everything is slowly happening.”