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About NSS Volunteer Skills

Action item tracking
A/V production
Awards & certificates
Chapter coordination
Committee Chair
Conference planning
Database admin.
Email list admin.
Fund-raising
Government relations
Graphic design
Letter writing
Meeting minutes
News article writing
Phone coordination
Political action
Presentation charts
Printing (on paper)
Project coordination
Proposal writing
Public relations
Publishing (mag)
Space policy
Speakers Bureau
Speaking at schools
Speaking to public
Spreadsheets
Webcasting
Web chats (text)
Web conferencing
Web forums (BBS)
Web page design
Web programming
Web site mgmt (CMS)
Word processing
Writing instructions

Action Item Tracking        

A person with these skills can maintain a list, table, spreadsheet, or database of action items for an NSS committee, including adding new ones recorded in the minutes of recent meetings, "closing" ones recently completed, and updating the status of ones still open.  A closed item should note the date of completion and a short statement of final outcome, especially if the item has been "overcome by events" or "superseded" by another action item.  An update could be a change in the person responsible for the action, a change in the targeted due date, a short message of progress, and/or a change in any urgency setting (e.g., Critical, High, Medium, Low) that may have been assigned.

Tracking an action item may entail email messages and/or telephone calls in addition to raising the issue during a meeting.  Some committees may choose to save group meeting time by having action item tracking done "offline" and utilize meeting time to discuss only actions that are having problems.

Depending on the needs of the NSS committee, the person tracking the action items may be the Committee Chair, the person who records the meeting minutes (e.g., "Secretary"), or a separate helper volunteer.  Whether the same person or three separate persons, all need to be able to easily coordinate to ensure accuracy and consistency.

A related skill is a person with experience in using and/or creating PC-based or Web-based "software" for storing and tracking action items.  NSS could definitely benefit from a secure, Web-based system (since its members are spread across the world) that committee members could easily access "24-7" -- especially one that could be configured to send out an automatic reminder at a specified interval before the targeted due date.  A person with such skills would be expected to help with the creation/installation of any such product and any necessary training, but would not be expected to do actual action item tracking (unless he/she wanted to).


Audio/Video Production        

A person with these skills can compose, produce, and/or edit sound and/or video (analog and/or digital) by hand and/or using one or more of the following audio/video software products (or others) and/or features:

NSS Web Site needs:  Most Web pages on the NSS Web Site were created manually using text editors or using WYSIWYG editors (e.g., Microsoft Word, Frontpage) and finalized and/or maintained by hand.  It is expected that the Web Oversight Committee will be requesting more dynamic Web pages to make the NSS Web site more visually appealing, and thus volunteers with graphics design skills will be greatly appreciated.  Few volunteers on the Internet Services Committee have the graphics arts skills required to reach the perceived level of "pizazz" that is desired.


Awards & Certificates        

Awards Committee needs:  A person with these skills can design, build, and/or assemble physical awards such as trophies, statues, plaques, and buttons; and/or can design, create, and/or print paper award certificates.

A related skill is the ability to "shop smartly" for whole awards or materials for same.  Some committees may


Chapter Coordination        

Chapters Committee needs:  A person with these skills can .


Committee Chair        

Committee Chair


Conference Planning        

Conference planning


Database Administration        

A person with these skills can design database "schema" and/or work effectively (as a user and/or administrator) with one or more of the following electronic database software products and/or features:

Internet Services Committee needs:  MySQL is currently installed on the Web server for the NSS Web Site, and version 3.22.32 is being used to store data associated with online forms (e.g., membership forms, donation forms, conference registration forms, this volunteer form, etc.).  All user interaction with the database is performed via secure (https) Web browser connections.  The schema used to store form information is based on NODAC (see below), and there are plans to integrate some of this data with the NODAC Database once operational.

Membership Committee needs:  MySQL is also currently being used to store member information in the NSS Membership Database (on a separate server), since user interaction with the database is performed via secure (https) Web browser connections.  The NSS Membership Database has evolved in various formats for over a decade and thus its schema is long overdue for a thorough review and possible overhaul.

Chapters Committee and Internet Services Committee needs:  MySQL is also currently being used to store the schema (and test data) for a "NSS On-Line Database for Activists and Chapters" (NODAC) that is under long-term development.  The schema has evolved over several years to become what hopefully can provide NSS with a robust "intranet" capability over the Web.  Much code development remains to interact with the NODAC Database, including processing of Web forms for entering and/or retrieving data, database administration, security and privacy features, automation features, etc.


Email List Administration        

Email list administration


Fund-raising        

Fund-raising


Government Relations        

Government relations


Graphic Design        

A person with these skills can design, layout, and/or compose text and graphics for a magazine, brochure, newsletter, report, banner, sign, poster, certificate, etc., and/or Web page by hand and/or using one or more of the following graphic design software products (or others) and/or features:

NSS Web Site needs:  Most Web pages on the NSS Web Site were created manually using text editors or using WYSIWYG editors (e.g., Microsoft Word, Frontpage) and finalized and/or maintained by hand.  It is expected that the Web Oversight Committee will be requesting more dynamic Web pages to make the NSS Web site more visually appealing, and thus volunteers with graphics design skills will be greatly appreciated.  Few volunteers on the Internet Services Committee have the graphics arts skills required to reach the perceived level of "pizazz" that is desired.

Membership Committee needs:  In addition to Web-related work, the Membership Committee is seeking help in designing new membership recruitment brochures, posters, and advertisements.

Development Committee needs:  In addition to Web-related work, the Development Committee (as well as the Projects Committee) is seeking help in designing new fund-raising campaign brochures, letters, packets, posters, advertisements, and merchandise (e.g., clothing, jewelry, etc.).

Policy Committee needs:  In addition to Web-related work, the Policy Committee is seeking help in designing new political action campaign brochures, letters, information packets, flyers, posters, and advertisements.

Public Affairs needs:  In addition to Web-related work, the Public Affairs Committee (as well as the Education Committee and Chapters Committee) is seeking help in designing new information packets, promotional materials, and educational materials.  The Chapters Committee is also seeking help in designing new chapter recruitment brochures and advertisements.

Awards Committee needs:  In addition to Web-related work, the Awards Committee is seeking help in designing paper certificates, physical awards, and related promotions.


Letter Writing        

Policy Committee needs:  A person with these skills can compose a "letter" to an elected member of Congress (national or state), another government official (e.g., President, Cabinet officer, Governor, etc.), a business leader, or a newspaper or magazine editor.  Such a "letter" (except for those to an editor) are usually short and to the point, and thus harder to write than a longer version.  Such a "letter" is usually on paper and sent by postal mail, but could also be faxed or emailed as long as the format still looks "professional".  Not every person is skilled in every form of letter to every leader, and it is thus expected that multiple volunteers with different letter writing skills will be needed to cover all desired recipients.

A related skill is the ability to organize a letter writing "campaign", either in a face-to-face setting or remotely via a Web site, email, or other means.  The same volunteer is NOT expected to have both writing and organizing skills.

"Internal" committees (Membership, Chapters, Projects, Awards) needs:  A person with these skills can compose an official-sounding "letter" (paper, fax, email) to a member or chapter of the NSS, for such purposes as requesting services or information, providing information, or recognizing a contribution of money, property, or volunteer time. 

"External" committees (Development, Public Affairs, Education, Awards) needs:  A person with these skills can compose an official-sounding "letter" (paper, fax, email) to a previous or potential contributor to NSS (member or non-member), for such purposes as requesting funds or information, providing information, or recognizing a contribution of money, property, or service. 


Meeting Minutes        

A person with these skills can record the "minutes" of meetings of an NSS committee, can transfer them into electronic form (if not recorded that way), and can email them out to committee members in a timely manner (within a week).  This person should be able to attend a majority of the committee meetings, or work with an alternate to share the responsibility.

Minutes include the attendance, especially of voting and non-voting members, the final agenda, summary of discussion of each agenda item, outcomes of any motions (who moved, who seconded, how voted), status of old action items (e.g., closed, delayed, issue), and recording of any new ones.  A new action item should include a summary of the action/task, the name of the person responsible for addressing it, and an estimated date for closure.

A committee can meet face-to-face, by teleconference (phone), by Web conference, or by Web chat (i.e., the NSS "MOO").  Face-to-face committee meetings occur once or twice a year on average.  Committees are expected to hold a telecon or Web conference/chat once per month when not meeting face-to-face, and more often as needed to address urgent business.  In the case of a Web chat, a full log file can be automatically made of the entire Web conversation (a transcript).  This file tends to be long with overlapping conversations due to delays in typing, and thus human intervention is still required to extract useful minutes (especially motions and actions) from any Web chat log.


News Article Writing        

News article writing


Political Action        

Political action


Presentation Charts        

A person with these skills can design/handcraft effective presentation charts and/or work effectively with one or more of the following electronic presentation chart software products and/or features:

Most NSS leaders work in Microsoft PowerPoint and thus it has become the standard file format for passing electronic documents among committee members.  To ensure that most members can open and read the file regardless of their own software product and version, saving the file in an older version (e.g., 95) is recommended unless newer desired features will be lost.  Unfortunately, PowerPoint files containing lots of graphics saved in this format tend to be very large and difficult to email, and those containing tables will lose critical table information; therefore, saving in the current 97/2000/XP format is usually more common.  When the presentation is being passed only to be read and not edited --- or is being uploaded to the NSS Web Site --- saving/converting the file to Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) is recommended.


Printing (on paper)        

Printing (on paper)


Project Coordination        

Project coordination


Proposal Writing        

Proposal writing


Public Relations        

Press releases


Publishing (magazine)        

Publishing (magazine)


Space Policy        

Space policy


Speakers Bureau        

Speakers Bureau


Speaking at Schools        

Speaking at schools


Speaking to Public        

Speaking to public


Spreadsheets        

A person with these skills can work effectively with one or more of the following electronic spreadsheet software products and/or features:

Most NSS leaders work in Microsoft Excel and thus it has become the standard file format for passing spreadsheet information among committee members.  To ensure that most members can open and read the file regardless of their own software product and version, saving the file in an older version (e.g., 5.0/95) is recommended unless newer desired features will be lost.  When only the data from a single worksheet in a workbook is being passed, an even more common data format such as Comma-delimited (CSV) is recommended.  When the entire spreadsheet document is being passed only to be read and not edited --- or is being uploaded to the NSS Web Site --- saving/converting the file to Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) is recommended.


Telephone Coordination        

Phone coordination


Webcasting (aka Netcasting)        

A person with these skills has implemented Webcast (or Netcast) services on a Web site and/or is otherwise familiar with the pros and cons of one or more of the following Webcast/Netcast products and services (or others) and/or features and issues:

Internet Services Committee needs:  No pages on the NSS Web site have ever hosted a Webcast.  It is expected that the Web Oversight Committee will be requesting Webcast services to make the NSS Web site more visually appealing and useful to members and visitors; therefore volunteers with Webcasting knowledge and skills will be greatly appreciated.  The NSS Web site is currently hosted by a server running the FreeBSD operating system (version 4.4), and this and bandwidth issues need to be taken into account when considering direct hosting of a Webcast.  Indirect hosting via Webcast service providers thus is also a valid option.


Web Chats (text-only meetings)        

A person with these skills has attended or hosted a Web chat (text-only online meeting) and/or is otherwise familiar with the pros and cons of one or more of the following Web chat and MUD client software or services (or others) and/or features and issues:

Internet Services Committee needs:  Most NSS committees currently hold voice-only remote (non-face-to-face) meetings over a shared telephone line (i.e., teleconference).  A few committees, in particular the Chapters Committee has held non-voice, text-only remote meetings online via Web chat software (i.e., the NSS "MOO").  Both have their advantages and drawbacks, and a cost-effective, combined voice and text/graphics Web conferencing capability is desired.  While waiting for that solution to emerge, or perhaps in addition to that capability (especially if not free), improvements in our existing Web chat capability is desired to encourage more committees to utilize the service.

The current NSS Web chat capability is based on around a "MOO" -- which stands for MUD (for "Multiple User Domain") Object-Oriented. MOOs and MUDs are designed for multiple-player online gaming -- dungeons and dragons style in particular -- and thus are not well suited to online meetings.  The main benefits of the NSS MOO is that the server software is freeware, most clients are also freeware or low-cost shareware, and the transcript of the meeting conversation can be captured in a log file.  The main drawbacks of the NSS MOO is that conversations involving many people quickly overlap, complicating the log file, and the MUD nature encourages playfulness among meeting participants (though one could argue that the last is a benefit).


Web Conferencing        

A person with these skills has attended or hosted a Web Conference and/or is otherwise familiar with the pros and cons of one or more of the following Web Conferencing (online meeting) services (or others) and/or features and issues:

Internet Services Committee needs:  Most NSS committees currently hold voice-only remote (non-face-to-face) meetings over a shared telephone line (i.e., teleconference).  A few committees, in particular the Chapters Committee has held non-voice, text-only remote meetings online via Web chat software (i.e., the NSS "MOO").  Both have their advantages and drawbacks, and a cost-effective, combined voice and text/graphics online meeting capability is desired.


Web Forums (bulletin boards)        

A person with these skills has attended or hosted a Web forum (bulletin board, newsgroup, etc.) and/or is otherwise familiar with the pros and cons of one or more of the following Web forum and BBS software or services (or others) and/or features and issues:

Internet Services Committee needs:  Most NSS committees currently hold voice-only remote (non-face-to-face) meetings over a shared telephone line (i.e., teleconference).  A few committees, in particular the Chapters Committee has held non-voice, text-only remote meetings online via Web chat software (i.e., the NSS "MOO").  Both have their advantages and drawbacks, and a cost-effective, combined voice and text/graphics Web conferencing capability is desired.  While waiting for that solution to emerge, or perhaps in addition to that capability (especially if not free), improvements in our existing Web chat capability is desired to encourage more committees to utilize the service.

The current NSS Web chat capability is based on around a "MOO" -- which stands for MUD (for "Multiple User Domain") Object-Oriented. MOOs and MUDs are designed for multiple-player online gaming -- dungeons and dragons style in particular -- and thus are not well suited to online meetings.  The main benefits of the NSS MOO is that the server software is freeware, most clients are also freeware or low-cost shareware, and the transcript of the meeting conversation can be captured in a log file.  The main drawbacks of the NSS MOO is that conversations involving many people quickly overlap, complicating the log file, and the MUD nature encourages playfulness among meeting participants (though one could argue that the last is a benefit).


Web Page Design        

A person with these skills can design/layout, write, and/or validate the "markup language" for a Web page using one or more of the following Web page development products and/or features:

Internet Services Committee needs:  Most Web pages on the NSS Web Site were created manually using text editors or using WYSIWYG editors (e.g., Microsoft Word, Frontpage) and finalized and/or maintained by hand.  The previous Web site contractor used Macromedia Dreamweaver to create the Ad Astra section and the Roadmap to Space section, but those pages have been maintained manually since.  Because of this, most Web pages on the NSS Web Site are written in a variety of 4.x HTML formats, few of which would pass a specific W3C validation test.  Recently, all NSS online forms were converted to W3C-validated XHTML 1.0 Transitional.  This was done partly since the validation process catches all errors, including those typically forgiven by many (but not all) Web browsers; and partly for future compatibility with XML.

Most Web pages on the NSS Web Site utilize a common Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) file to ensure a visual standard for the site.  Currently, the CSS file contents is limited to font specifications, and few volunteers on the ISC are experienced with the full power/capabilities of CSS.

Maintenance of the NSS Web Site is performed via a Web-based software product called WebSite Director (WSD), a series of products by the NSS Internet Service Provider, CyberTeams, Inc..  Most Web pages on the NSS Web Site utilize WSD templates to ensure common header and footer information.  Other Web pages utilize Server-Side Includes (SSI) to perform a similar function and to embed common content across multiple Web pages.  Few ISC volunteers are experienced with the full capabilities of the CyberTeams WSD software.

No pages on the NSS Web site utilize the animation capabilities of Macromedia Flash or Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) mainly due to a lack of volunteers with such experience.  It is expected that the Web Oversight Committee will be requesting more dynamic Web pages to make the NSS Web site more visually appealing, and thus volunteers with Flash and/or VRML skills will be greatly appreciated.  Also, at some point it will be become desirable to have a subset of the NSS Web Site viewable via a cell phone; this will require ISC volunteers with WML page development skills.


Web Programming        

A person with these skills can design, write, and/or test/debug code for making a Web page "dynamic" using one or more of the following client-based or server-based Web software products and/or features:

Internet Services Committee needs:  Perl and PHP are currently installed on the Web server for the NSS Web Site, and PHP version 4.1.2 (via NODAC, see below) is being used to process data associated with online forms (e.g., membership forms, donation forms, conference registration forms, this volunteer form, etc.).  JavaScript version 1.3 (DOM Level 0) is used to check all data from the online forms prior to submission, and to make the form "experience" more user-friendly.  A growing library of well-written JavaScript functions has been created for use with NSS Web site pages as well as any NSS chapter Web site pages.  PHP is currently used to recheck the critical form data, and work has begun on new PHP code to recheck the remaining form data (to ensure no abuse).

Outside of the online forms, very few Web pages on the NSS Web site are "dynamic", with the exception of some recently-created JavaScript functions for hiding email addresses.  Very little Dynamic HTML (DHTML) is currently used on the NSS Web site, partly due to the desire to ensure that Web pages work properly on all possible Web browsers, and partly due to lack of tools and experience with "cross-browser" compatible DHTML programming.  It is expected that the Web Oversight Committee will be requesting more dynamic and interactive Web pages to make the NSS Web site more visually appealing, and thus volunteers with "cross-browser" DHTML skills would be greatly appreciated.  Java versions 1.2.2 and 1.3.3 are installed on the Web server for the NSS Web Site, though thus far no applets or servlets have been written or are being used.  Such tools and features will also likely become more desirable as the NSS Web Site becomes more dynamic.

Since the Web server for the NSS Web Site is a Unix computer running FreeBSD, Microsoft-based products such as ASP, ASP.Net, and ActiveX will not run and thus are not installed.  Macromedia ColdFusion is also not installed since its support for FreeBSD and Linux is very weak.

As mentioned above, PHP is currently being used to create the executive code for NODAC -- an "NSS On-Line Database for Activists and Chapters", that is under long-term development.  Most of the "core" functions and routines have been written for low-level interaction with the NODAC MySQL Database, so as to greatly simplify Database interaction from "higher-level" functions.  A PHP object library called FastTemplate is used to separate executable PHP code from Web, email, and text output as much as possible, to achieve a "layered" software design.  A goal for the NODAC project is to incorporate the best Web application design/development practices to produce a robust and maintainable software product.  While presentation charts and notes exist for the desired functionality and robustness of NODAC, much code development remains to convert charts and notes into actual functional and robust code.


Web Site Management (CMS)        

A person with these skills has developed and/or maintained an entire Web site by hand and/or via one or more of the following Web site content management system (CMS) software packages and services (or others):

Internet Services Committee needs:  Maintenance of the NSS Web Site is performed via a Web-based software product called WebSite Director (WSD), a series of CMS products by the NSS Internet Service Provider, CyberTeams, Inc..  Most Web pages on the NSS Web Site utilize WSD templates to ensure common header and footer information.  Other Web pages utilize Server-Side Includes (SSI) to perform a similar function and to embed common content across multiple Web pages.  Few ISC volunteers are experienced with the full capabilities of the CyberTeams WSD software, especially automation features that could reduce the level of manual updates.

The Web Oversight Committee wants to make the NSS Web site more visually appealing and useful to members and visitors.  This will require a rate of Web page updates that may be hard to achieve manually with volunteers or even paid contractors; therefore volunteers with CMS knowledge and skills (CyberTeams and others) --- especially any automation aspects --- will be greatly appreciated.


Word Processing        

A person with these skills can work effectively with a typewriter and/or one or more of the following electronic word processing software products and/or features:

Most NSS leaders work in Microsoft Word and thus it has become the standard file format for passing electronic documents among committee members.  To ensure that most members can open and read the file regardless of their own software product and version, saving the file in an older version (e.g., 6.0/95) or Rich Text Format (RTF) is recommended unless newer desired features will be lost.  When the document is being passed only to be read and not edited --- or is being uploaded to the NSS Web Site --- saving/converting the file to Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) is recommended.


Writing Instructions        

A person with these skills can write instructions and procedures for others (volunteers and/or hired staff members) to follow.  NSS has many leaders who are good at making decisions and deciding on a general course of action.  NSS also has many volunteers willing to perform simple and short tasks once given clear instructions.  The missing piece of the puzzle are those people who are skilled in the art of converting general directions and guidelines into specific, step-by-step instructions that can be easily performed without much training.  NSS has few such volunteers who are good at writing instructions and procedures.

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