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Upgrades to the USPX Website

June 29, 2012 in General

In case you are thinking the USPX website doesn’t look as polished as it once did, you are right. We are in the process of implementing new functionality. Some of this has proved incompatible with features on the home page. For now, we have implemented a more minimalist homepage while we sort things out. 

The new functionality is exciting. One feature that has already gone live is automated e-mail updates for groups. Here is how it works: If you are a member of any groups on the USPX website, you will receive automated e-mail updates whenever anyone posts to those groups. These updates will help members remain engaged with their groups.

Instead of receiving all e-mails for a group, you can elect to receive weekly summary e-mails, daily digests or no e-mails. To change this setting for one of your groups, log into the USPX website, go to the group, and select “email options.” If you get a blank screen when you attempt to enter the groups section, this is a bug, but it means your membership has expired. Select “My Membership” in the upper right corner of your screen (only appears if you have already logged in) and renew your membership. Then you will be able to enter the Groups section of the site.

Should you want to turn off all e-mails for all your groups, there should be a link at the bottom of all e-mails allowing you to do so.

We will be implementing even more functionality after this, starting with member wikis. And, of course, we will be coming up with an improved home page.

It’s Working!!!

January 19, 2012 in General

Eleven weeks ago, we launched the new USPX social networking website. The goal was to create an on-line community for our members to self-organize around issues. Guess what? It is working!!! Already, members Jim McRitchie, Steven Towns and myself have transfered exiting blogs to the USPX website. Members Krassimir Kostadinov, Marko Robinson and Daniel Rudewicz have launched new blogs.

We are at that time of year when most shareowner proposals for the spring have been submitted. Companies are responding with no-action requests to the SEC, and shareowner-proponents are submitting rebuttals. Just this week, I noticed how several members were simultaneously blogging about the process and what they were experiencing with their own proposals. What is more, they were reading each others’ blogs and responding. Nowhere else on the web will you find an active discussion between individual shareowners about their Rule 14a-8 proposals. We’re creating something new!

Just this morning, member John Chevedden copied me on an e-mail to member Steven Towns. Steven had just blogged about his success overcoming a no-action request against his proposal for GE. John had just overcome a no-action request made by GE against one of his proposals. Both no-action requests had been filed by a single law firm, Gibson Dunn, on GE’s behalf. John’s e-mail communicated that sense of comeraderie that comes from overcoming shared adversity. He proposed to Steven that they coordinate their efforts to find someone to attend the GE annual meeting to move both proposals for them.

When I read John’s e-mail, I knew the website was working!

Not all features of the website have been as successful as member blogs. For example, the website’s groups functionality is languishing. I think it will be more effective once we implement automated e-mails to notify group members of group activity.

Upgrades to the website are planned. Because we are an all-volunteer movement operating on a shoestring budget, those upgrades will take time. That doesn’t matter. Communities aren’t about the latest technology. They are about the enthusiasm and commitment of members. We have plenty of both!

Thank you bloggers. If any of you have questions about the blogging technology or would like help customizing the appearance of your blog, let me know. I will be glad to help. For everyone else, enjoy the blogs …. and think about launching you own. Join the conversation!

New Website Transforms USPX Members’ Experience.

November 1, 2011 in General

Members of the USPX are celebrating the launch of our brand new website. It offers a host of social networking tools that will allow members to network, create their own blogs, form groups, engage in discussion forums and more. It looks similar to the old website, but under the hood, everything has changed. The goal is to enable members to self-organize around issues. Stated another way, the website will decentralize decision making within our organization. It is going to put members in charge.

No one is celebrating more than founding member and head of information technology Kevin Weber. He has devoted many nights and weekends to this project, not just implementing it, but planning and advocating for it. His goal has been more than technology. He wants to grow the movement.

Plans to hold a June meeting were made on a ski trip earlier in the year. Maggie and Kevin Weber offered to host.

In June, he and his wife Maggie hosted a planning meeting at their home in the outer suburbs of Boston. Long-term members traveled from across the country to attend. They were concerned that, despite our many successes, we were not developing new leaders—and this was limiting our growth.

Much of our work requires expertise in corporate and financial regulation. We have had success educating new members in these, but a bigger challenge has been transitioning those new members—as they learned from working on projects��into leaders who could launch and lead their own projects. Contributing to this was the fact that decision making tended to take place through phone calls or e-mails, which limited participation. We needed to find ways to open up communication.

At the June meeting, Kevin demonstrated new social networking software he had been testing and proposed that he incorporate it into a new website. The software was open-source with an active developer community. It offered functionality that would grow with future releases of the software. Members at the meeting loved the demonstration and encouraged Kevin to incorporate the software into the new website.

The new website offers a host of social networking tools that will allow members to network, create their own blogs, form groups, engage in discussion forums and more.

It took twelve weeks and hours of hard work. By September 6, Kevin had a functioning site ready for testing. We invited a handful of members to try the website for a few weeks and provide feedback. They identified bugs and proposed enhancements. They also started using the site, creating blogs and networking. Jim McRitchie used the site to launch a project drafting a model proxy access proposal that members will submit to corporations in November. Attuned to the times, he described the project as: Proxy Access for the 99%. All website functionality was operational during testing, and once we were satisfied that security was working, we took down the “under construction” sign. Visitors who stumbled on the site started signing up as members.

Today, with the official launch, we are e-mailing all remaining members log-in credentials so they can start using the site. Whether you are an existing member or a first-time visitor, we encourage you to get on the site, start using it, and join the celebration. We have put up a seven-page tutorial explaining the website’s social networking functionality that starts here. It also communicates a spirit for how you want to use the functionality to network and self organize. In a couple weeks we will post another tutorial describing how to use the website to plan, launch and lead projects. We encourage everyone to stop thinking of yourselves as members and start thinking of yourselves as leaders. The website provides the tools. Now is your chance to make it happen.

Over the weekend, America’s northeast coast was hit by a freak October snowstorm. The area was blanketed with heavy wet snow that snapped trees and brought down power lines. Millions of people were left without power. Kevin was among them. On Sunday, he left his darkened home and boarded a flight for California. For his day job, he works as an IT consultant, currently immersed in a client project out there. His hands are pretty full, but he is celebrating.