Thank you for your willingness to work with us in this transition. Our hope is that you will enjoy the same (and more) functionality with Sangha Announce and other group lists after a short period of adjustment. We are here to help.
Here are answers to some of the most common questions we've been getting about the transition to the Shambhala Network:
A: Yes and No.
To receive messages: you can receive an email from the Shambhala Network every time someone posts a message to Sangha Announce, Sangha Talk, etc -- just as you do now. Some people may prefer to receive a summary of all of the sangha announce postings once per week instead. It's important to set your email setting properly to get these messages in the way that you prefer.
To reply to a message, or to post your own, you'll have to log into the Network.
* To respond to a message you received, click the link in the email that you received in your inBox. This will take you to the Network, where you will be asked to log in.
You'll use your Shambhala Account to log in. (Trouble logging in? See this article.) After you log in, the Add a Reply box will appear. Place your cursor in the “Add a Reply” box, and type your response. Make sure to click “Post Reply” when you have finished composing your response.
* To create a new message ("post a message" or "create a new post"), you'll have to login using your Shambhala Account. (Trouble logging in? See this article.) Then you'll choose the group you want to post in -- for example the Sangha Announce group, Chicago Vajra Sangha group, Paris Community Room group, etc. Here's a helpful article about how to find the right group, and how to post your message.
Q: How do I send a message/announcement so that everyone will see it?
A: You can make announcements in the new Sangha Announce group. Discussions can happen in the Sangha Talk group. These are like the old email lists, but created on the Shambhala Network.
Others using the Network will receive your message based on their email settings.
They might get every message, or they may ask for a daily- or weekly-digest ("summary") of messages. Others may opt to not get email at all, and can log in directly to the Network to look for what they want.
Q: How do I adjust my email settings for the Network groups that I participate in?
A: You can set them individually for each group that you participate in. For instance, you may want to receive sangha announce messages in your inbox every time one is posted, but you may wish to limit the email flow from another group you participate in to receive a weekly summary (rather than daily or individual notifications..
Q: How can I get the messages from the Network in my email inBox?
A: It's important to set your email settings properly to get messages in a way you want (according to the 5 email options listed above)
You can get every single message of every group you're a member of, if you want to -- just like the old email lists.
Q: Why is this transition even happening?
A: Our current system has served us for more than 10 years, which is a testament to those who created it. We are tremendously appreciative to those people (particularly system administrator and programmer John Gorman) and to the functionality that we have benefitted from for all this time. At the same time, the needs of our community have grown beyond what the current system can provide. As such, Shambhala IT Services set out to create a new system that could address these needs:
1) many members tell us they receive "too much email" - the Network allows you to adjust your email setting to get daily- or weekly-digests ("summaries") of the messages in the Groups you subscribe to. You can scan digests quickly to see if there's anything you want to read.
2) working groups want a way to communicate easily - planning and other groups were bogged down by cc'ing people on emails, getting the wrong address, losing attachments, etc. The Shambhala Network allows working groups to collaborate with documents and images, and hold small discussions without involving the larger sangha.
3) people want to be able to create groups for smaller discussion topics - there were requests to be able to discuss the details of topics without involving everyone. For example, "Dharma and Sobriety" or "Sitting and Body Pain." Anyone can create a group for a discussion. Click to see how.
4) practice groups where people are joined automatically - the Shambhala Network automatically joins members to the practice groups they're authorized for. There's no need for a separate authorization process.
5) automatic coordination between systems - When you change your email in the Shambhala Database, it updates on the Network (unlike the old email lists, where you'd have to update your email address manually).
6) technology changes - in the world at large, technology has changed hugely since the -announce lists were created years ago. While many enjoy the old system, we received many requests to update our communication technology in a way that will continue to work for the next generation of practitioners -- the generation who will join in and continue to build our community. We neglect the needs of this younger community at the risk of alienating them. The IT Steering Committee felt this generational change was an important reason to develop modern communication technologies.
7) security concerns -- the -announce and -talk email lists are hosted on the original server (the computer that holds the website's files). Shambhala IT is currently working to move sites away from this server, due to concerns about security.
8) ease of upgrading and modification -- because the Shambhala Network is built on a common type of software, it's not difficult to find programmers to work on the site. The helps us avoid situations where the one programmer who can operate or modify a system goes on extended retreat or becomes unavailable. Also, the software the Network is built on is popular, "open source" (free) and includes upgrades without further cost into the future. This saves Shambhala IT Services money and time.
9) reducing the use of the old username/password -- the Unified Login Project aimed to eliminate additional username/password combinations, as password confusion is the most common support request we receive. One of the last places where the old username/password was used was in adjusting one's -announce and -talk email list subscriptions, when updating one's email address, etc. The Shambhala Network uses the standard Shambhala Account for login. This means 95% of users will never have to use another username/password combination again! (Trouble logging in? See this article.)
Q: I heard you have to be a member to participate.
A: There are only minor differences between members and non-members participation on the Shambhala Network.
Members and non-members alike can participate in all groups (based on one's Practice Authorizations in the Shambhala Database). Read this article to learn how to propose updates to one's practice history.
Q: Why isn't anybody listening or responding to input?
To join this Group:
1) click on the link above.
2) click on the "Join Group" button.
3) Adjust your email settings for this Group to whatever you prefer. Click the change link:
We've already begun to respond to feedback by making changes. Please keep in mind that our department's budget is very small and we have to prioritize the work that we do..
Also, we won't be able to make everyone happy, as we're getting different suggestions from different groups of people -- for example, some people want more emails coming to their inBox, some people want "less emails!"
That said, we'll try our best!
Q: Will the Network be improved?
A: Absolutely -- like the Shambhala Database, we'll be modifying it over time to best suits the needs of the community.
Keep in mind that Shambhala IT is very tiny department -- only four people working 14hrs/week paid -- plus a handful of amazing volunteers. This barely allows us to run the nearly 300 websites in Shambhala Mandala. Please be realistic. And donate to Shambhala International, so we can add more trained people to our team!
Q: Who created the Network and how did they make decisions?
A: This was a project of the Shambhala IT Steering Committee that began in 2009.
It began with discussions between Blue Mandala Web Design and the IT Steering Committee -- a volunteer working group within Shambhala which includes web designers, editors, acharyas, and other members whose background and roles within the mandala relate to internet technology and communication.
A "Beta" version of the website was created in 2010 and tested with over 100 volunteers actively making suggestions. At that time, everyone in Shambhala was invited to participate. The launch was delayed for quite some time due to lack of budget. Finally, we're planning the official launch in July 2012, at the soonest.
Q: Why not just keep sangha-announce, sadhaka-talk and sangha-talk as they are and go ahead with the Shambhala Network at the same time?
A: We considered this option, but realized that it would "split" these discussions.
Those writing ("posting") messages would never know if the people they’re trying to reach are in the other discussion on the other system. In the end, we decided that having everyone on one system was less confusing for all.