Branch Pollings Have Been Stymied by Member Data Problems

TL;DR: Democratic governance requires logistical competence, but for more than half a year garbled address data and other issues with membership records have complicated the branch pollings that are supposed to be part of routine Society operations. 

As previously discussed here, the SCA recently migrated its membership database from the Members Only platform it had used since 2012 over to a service offered by Neon One.

This transition took quite a bit longer than anticipated. (It had been announced by the Society’s President at the July 2022 Board meeting, with an anticipated launch date in October. At the October 2022 Board meeting the anticipated launch date was pushed back to November; data import issues were mentioned as contributing to the delay. On January 1 it was announced that the old membership portal would be taken offline on January 3 for “several days” to launch the new system, but the site did not launch as scheduled. At the January 2023 Board meeting three weeks later, the delay was attributed to bad weather. The eventual launch of the membership portal was announced on February 8.)

Unfortunately, the data migration appears to have introduced errors in the membership records that have been difficult to correct. Some people found that their address had been reset to a location where they had lived years ago; others found that their zip or post codes were wrong; and some had their membership numbers changed. Folks with family memberships had their own set of problems; in some cases, membership numbers were swapped between two relatives, and in one case a person who requested a new membership card instead received one addressed to a recently-deceased relative.

Because most people only rely on their membership to provide them with the Society’s “blue card” used to attest to membership and liability waiver status when attending events and practices, most of these errors created only minor hassles, which were addressed individually as people requested updated membership cards or renewed their memberships.

However, the garbled address data did create a significant obstacle for branches conducting pollings, such as a barony selecting new landed heads, or a shire considering advancement. Because the polling ballots are sent to members whose addresses are located within the borders of a particular branch, residents who were mistakenly listed as living elsewhere might be excluded and not receive a ballot. And because pollings are only considered valid if a majority of ballots are returned, sending ballots to people who were listed as residents but weren’t actually part of a group could also cause problems.

With nearly 200 baronies in the Known World, each of which selects new heads every few years, a few of these pollings would typically take place every month, but the data issues caused significant delays in some of those pollings, and in at least one case caused the polling to be invalidated and repeated.

At the April 2023 Board meeting, it was reported that “nearly all issues affecting member profiles have been resolved,” but additional data quality issues continued to crop up. In May, the East Kingdom seneschal encouraged all members to check the online portal to confirm that their address was listed correctly, especially for folks residing in a group undertaking a polling.

At the Pennsic Board “Meet and Greet” session in August, Director Bricca di Ghelere reported that Society staff were continuing to work on fixing these problems and had recently identified another step that could be taken to iron out issues with the original import, but that it seemed new data-integrity glitches were being introduced over time as individual members used the Neon CRM web interface to update their accounts.

At this point, it appears that the issue is ongoing, but details are scarce and there has been no public announcement from the Society on the topic.

As a result, branches throughout the Known World which are anticipating pollings are still being advised to closely review their member data via the kingdom-level census reports so that any errors can be addressed before the ballots are distributed.

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