[Most] Web Apps are not “Official Websites”

In a recent discussion of with webministers from around the Known World, someone asked a question, my answer to which I am re-posting here:

If an [officer] creates a google form […] is that form considered “an official website […]” and is the webministry accountable for making sure it adheres to the elements of a[n official] website required in the handbook?

This is a great question.

My take: No. 

Corpora and the Webministry Handbook make it clear that there are two buckets of technology under their purview:

1. “Official Websites” serve as the public face of some part of the SCA, and are primarily a publishing channel that parallels the newsletters published by the chronicler’s office. 

Official websites might be “dynamic” or “responsive,” but they’re fundamentally a branded outwards-facing one-way communications channel, from the SCA to the populace and public.

Corpora and policy both make clear that these are definitely, always, and exclusively under the authority and responsibility of the webministry. 

2. “Other Internet Infrastructure” is everything else that’s online or tech-related that isn’t an “official website” — email and social platforms, web applications, online databases, third-party web services, etc. 

Corpora does not explicitly assign responsibility for these things to anyone, but it does ask the webministry to “serves as a source of web… expertise and advice.” 

The webminister’s handbook recognizes that practices differ from kingdom to kingdom in terms of whether their webministry has responsibility for those items or not.

So, given that distinction…

A Google Form created by an officer isn’t an “official website” because it’s not an outwards-facing publishing channel. It’s more akin to email — a way for the populace/public to communicate directly with officers. 

In some kingdoms the webministry may be responsible for it. Or they might provide support but not have primary responsibility. Or individual offices might handle them separately, or individual officers. The exact disposition of responsibility varies from kingdom to kingdom, and is subject to change over time.

There are some Society-wide policies that apply regardless of which office(s) are responsible; for example, all of the data collected this way is subject to the SCA.org privacy policy… if you insert a photo in the Google form you need to have gotten a photo release for it… etc.

For example, here in the East, the kingdom webministry manages a shared Google Workspace. The kingdom webministry is responsible for providing identity services and some technical support, but most of the forms are created by other officers (or random members of the populace) and the webministry generally isn’t responsible for the content of the forms or how the answers are processed.

But no matter who manages the Google form, it’s not an “official website.”

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