Masonic Traveler over at Freemason Information has got a pretty interesting project going on. He is going State-by-State and examining Grand Lodge web sites. He has recently examined and commented on the web site of the Grand Lodge of California and – in a comment to his post – Tom Accuosti has posed an interesting question about the web sites. “Are they geared toward public use, or are they geared toward existing members?”
That is a very good question that could equally be extended to lodge web sites. I know that my own lodge’s site is primarily for the benefit of the members and I would have to say that my Grand Lodge’s site leans the same way. I have seen some other Grand Lodge and lodge web sites that seem to be aimed more towards the general public.
But what should the purpose of the sites be? Should they be primarily for the membership or for the public? The answer is ultimately up to each Grand lodge and lodge, but I do think that there should be a happy balance – with the balance tilting in favor of the existing membership.
If a site is geared too much towards public consumption, it runs the risk of having the appearance of solicitation or advertising. If there is nothing there, however, for the public; then an avenue has been blocked for men in this “Google” age to inquire about Freemasonry. Besides, there are plenty of web sites that will mislead the public about Freemasonry and the Grand Lodge web sites probably should be balancing this out with some accurate information.
As for tilting towards the existing membership, I believe the primary purpose of web sites should be to provide a means for easily spreading information to the members in a cost saving way. Calendars, newsletters, research sources, and messages to the Craft are just some of the things that can be included on web sites – as long as sensitive information is not involved – and can go a long ways towards saving on the cost of postage.
Personally, I look forward to Masonic Traveler’s continued examination of Grand Lodge web sites. Once he has completed this large project, it might be interesting to rank the sites according to which way they are geared – to the public or to the membership.