Agenda for TEI Board Conference Call: Monday, May 18, 2009 14:00 (London)
Daniel O'Donnell

Agenda

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Appendices

Chair's Report

Another active quarter for the TEI. Most activity has been shared with Board by email as it has occurred, and other activities will are reported here. But some highlights:
  • TEI-Mellon Grant: After some very valuable input from our last meeting, especially from Julia, who rewrote and reorganised the document, the RFP was issued last week. I've already received a half-dozen emails on the matter from vendors and others, so it looks like things are going well.
  • TEI grants: Experimental programme successfully completed (see report)
  • Council Meeting/TEI Day: Very successful Council Meeting and TEI day in Lyon this past April
  • SIG Manuscript meeting: Grant funded meeting just finished in Paris
  • Conference: Purchased Conftool instance; Call for papers just over

Credit Cards

Accepting Credit Cards has been a long-standing desideratum of the TEI. Over the last 6 months, I have been investigating various methods of adding this capability to our operations. As a result of this investigation, I would like to propose that we open an on-line webstore using the open-source Zencart shopping cart software. We would use this software for subscriber and member enrolment, selling copies of the print guidelines, and conference registration. In the future, this software might also prove useful as a means of supporting the TEI-Mellon digitisation members benefit, creating a market for independent vendors to sell support and consultation, and selling more ephemeral items like TEI branded clothing or accessories.

Hosting the Zencart software would require us to purchase independent hosting, as University of Virginia rules prohibit us running a commercial store from their server. As part of this proposal, we would also need to arrange for a merchant account (the account that allows us to receive money from customers via the credit card companies), a SSL certificate for the webstore, and the services of a credit card gateway (the companies that actually handle the credit card processing and security). Depending on the vendors and service packages chosen, the necessary services and software would cost us between $250 and $500 per year plus fees for individual transactions (usually $0.25 + 2% per transaction). In the first year, some additional set-up charges would apply bringing the total to between $450 and $700 for the first year plus per-transaction fees.

I have investigated purchasing shopping cart services from vendors rather than running a cart ourself. As a rule, however, this approach reduces our flexibility without particularly diminishing the effort required to run the store. Most vendors tend to specialise in one type of shopping cart: software, conference registration, etc. In addition, most offer self-service cart design and maintenance: the customer is expected to learn how to enter new items in the catalogue and develop any custom demands for "look and feel" themselves. The main advantage of contracting with a vendor for shopping cart services seems to be that the vendor arranges for the hosting, merchant bank account, and credit card gateway services. These are set-up issues, however, and of relatively minor concern for an organisation like the TEI which might expect to run a webstore for several years using the same merchant bank, host, and gateway. For us, the far more serious issue is the time involved in day-to-day maintenance of the store--an area where there seems to be little difference between running our own store and purchasing a service from a vendor.

The cheapest possible hosting for a Zencart-based store seems to run at about $6/month. For this we would receive a working Zencart installation and standard hosting services (backups, email addresses, a domain name, etc). An alternative is to host with a site specialising in supporting Zencart installations. These are more expensive (ranging from about $12-$25/month) but offer much better customer support. In each case this fee includes custom installation and software support (moving our installation from the test server to the production site and ensuring upgrades are made) and possibility of getting specialised and knowledgeable technical support for our day-to-day running of the store. One provider I spoke to was even willing to contract for the actual day-to-day operations--adding new items to the store and/or providing phone-support.

Conference Fees

At our December meeting, we discussed the possibility of charging more consequently for the conference. An amount mentioned at the meeting was $90 with significant discounts for members, subscribers, and students. The rationale for this figure was: a) that it was in keeping with registration fees charged at similar conferences; and b) that $90 was unlikely to be much of a disincentive to participants when compared to the cost of travel, lodging, and meals for the trip.

After discussing the matter with previous and the current organising committees, I would like to propose the following fee schedule, to be implemented with the 2009 conference:
  • Retail (non-discounted) rate: $90.00
  • Discounted rate (Subscribers, students, local participants): $45.00
  • Local students: $0

Since, at 120 participants, the TEI's current contribution breaks down to $43.34 per person, this new structure would generally allow us to earn back our contribution to the conference, even if all attendance was discounted. This frees up $5200 for other purposes. By setting the retail price at $90, moreover, we allow ourselves the opportunity of realising a profit on the participation on non-member/subscribers and offering our subscribers a relatively high-dollar-value benefit.

This model also allows us to address a problem that became apparent last year: in addition to the TEI's contribution of $5200, local organisers are expected to raise another $3500-4500 in sponsorship and institutional contributions. As the conference has become more popular, however, it has become clear that this model discourages local hosts from maximising enrolment: because the TEI's contribution is fixed, every registrant represents a net loss to the local organisers since the increase needs to be covered out of the fundraising and institutional contribution. By pricing the conference on a cost-recovery basis, the TEI eliminates much of this disincentive, since each registrant funds most or all of the cost of his or her attendance.

SIG Grants

I have nothing but praise for the way in which the SIG Grant Competition ran this year. The version of the text that the SIG Grant Committee drew up (and which the Board approved) resulted in three strong proposals. The proposals were modest enough for us to make awards to each of the three requests, as all three were deemed fundable by the Committee. Moreover, the variety of grant activities requested were diverse (two events and a request for student support).

The Committee’s adjudication process went smoothly and a decision was reached within 10 days. All three of the recipients were delighted with the grants received. My thanks to the Committee, Christian Wittern (Board Rep), and James Cummings and David Sewell (Board Reps) for their professional and punctual contribution to the process.

I would strongly recommend that we continue these grants, albeit with additional funding. If the Board could allocate between $10,000-15,000 to this activity it would be ideal. I suspect that after this first round of grant announcements more SIG Chairs would be interested in submitting a proposal. It would be preferable for us to announce the Grant Call prior to the 2009 MM so that SIG Chairs could discuss possible projects at their business meetings.

The composition and size of the Board was ideal. Having both the Board and Council perspectives added to the process, and having only four people made discussion manageable.

Nominations

The nominations committee (Malte Rehbein, Julia Flanders and myself) has sent out the call for nominations about a week ago, with a deadline set for July1. We already have two nominations sent to the new generic alias (nominations@tei-c.org). Towards the end of the time period, I expect we will start to follow up on these and solicit more nominations if necessary.

Publications

Last year at the Board Meeting we discussed the possibility of a publishing arm of the TEI. I said I would raise this topic again in the spring. The impetus for this proposal came out of the desirability (or at least the perceived desirability) of publishing, at least, a proceedings from the Annual TEI MM and Conference.

In 2007 we were lucky in having L&LC agree to publish a special issue of proceedings from the MM. In 2008 we were not able to secure a publisher. For 2009 I have had a discussion with the editors of a DH journal who are at least in principle, interested in publishing a proceedings.

It would, however, be more desirable (at least I think it would be) for the proceedings to be published by one publisher or at least to be co-located online from one source (ideally the TEI site itself). While the TEI could simply choose to publish a proceedings on its site every year, this publishing model does not allow for contributors to get the necessary credit in terms of peer-reviewed publication.

I should thus like to propose that we convene a committee to look into this matter, to report back to the Board sometime in the Autumn. A member of the Board should convene this committee (I would be happy to convene this committee, but if somebody else feels they would like to I would be happy to step aside!) and would suggest we have two representatives each from the Council and SIG Chairs.

If the Board agrees, a first step would be to draw up a terms of reference which I would suggest be done by two or three members of the Board. After this is agreed upon by the full Board, the Committee members be invited to serve, with a final report due to the Board prior to the 2009 MM.


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