The Salesian Congregation’s official digital window on and for the world is the URL www.sdb.org, often simply indicated and certainly for this test period, as ´sdb.org´. It was among the first of the Salesian web sites to come into existence – we say ‘among the first’ because the facts tell us that it was the Australian Province to win that race by several weeks, and perhaps other as yet undiscovered facts might well reveal other Salesiansi ´startups´ from that period! But this was in 1995, just three or four years after the birth of the World Wide Web. Hence, whenever we say ´sdb.org´ we are talking of a lengthy history in digital terms. This means that other than being the official site of the Salesian Congregation, it has played a founding role, often paving the way for what are now thousands of Salesian websites around the world.
sdb.org prefers to describe itself according to what is written in the SSCS 1.0 1, guidelines regarding identity, purpose, and the very nature of the medium it is part of, namely, digital media.
sdb.org has a number of features that reveal its charismatic identity, but the heading or title would be the most obvious as a statement of Salesian identity: Salesians of Don Bosco. The constant reference to Don Bosco, his successors, the general style, appeal to a sense of community, all strengthen this identity. It also has a clear institutional identity: the logo of the General Administration is now considerably well known and diffused throughout the Salesian world. Then there are links to Salesian sites. These are all institutional pointers as are the many official documents available on its pages. Overall, the site’s main objective is to bear witness to its Christian and evangelising identity.
In its role as the Congregation’s official site, sdb.org plays a role in animation, formation, information and production. Other than its function as a window on the world and through which the world can get a glimpse of the Congregation, our aim is to offer a platform where people can be involved in the digital oratory. Today we talk about digital transformation, and sdb.org is clearly a first step towards Salesian digital transformation with respect to its planning, its integrity, its compatibility.
3.1 Graphic presentation
By maintaining its unity with the Salesian digital world’s long history, sdb.org aims to present itself in the most acceptable way by drawing its inspiration from today’s best trends in web design.
The representative image that dominates the users’ first glance is always focused on the leaders of the Salesian Congregation, especially the Rector Major, with other links internally or externally that add more information about them.
By scrolling down the homepage one can see the different topics laid out horizontally. Starting with the Rector Major, then followed by the General Council. Then if users scroll down further they see the Salesian common calendar, the last Youtube video, A section on Salesians in the world as visible through Provinces and Communities, and various Salesian works around the world, a List of deceased Salesians in the "in Memoriam" section, recent ANS news and finally general information below which leads to respective internal pages.
These blocks are clearly presented through intuitive graphics and a minimal amount of text, but still allowing the user to delve more deeply into topics.
3.1.2 Internal pages
Internal pages dominated by the image or images that represent the Section title. On the left you find the sub-menu (Subsection and Details for the Subsection) and on the right, text or lists leading to further text.
The Responsive Design technology adapts to the dimensions of the device that is being used. This was planned from the outset of development of sdb.org, in an effort to deal with the differences involved in different browsers and their versions.
The first choice occurs automatically, depending on the language established for the computer operating system of the user. Therefore the user’s language should appear automatically on the sdb.org site if it is one of the 6 languages that the site has currently been developed in. These are identified by flag icons: Italian, English, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Polish. In fact, there is also material in other languages on certain pages, but the site guarantees translation for the great majority of items only in the six languages mentioned above.
For most users, the central navigation system (menu), is the most important. It is always found at the top of the page, sometimes on a dark strip or just superimosed on the main image for that page. The menu items (each menu item also contains Sections) provides an overview of the site’s structure, or in other words an overview of the Salesians in the world today. Access to the third level, Subsections, and also repetition of second level items, can be found in the left-hand column of the page once a Menu item has been chosen from the top of the page. The main Menu includes: Salesians (identity), Organization, Worldwide, Resources and Info (general).
The ´Updates´ section in the lower left of the homepage offers quick access to current material – as do links in any frame at the centre of the page. Further choice could be made from words in the tag cloud.
Clicking on the logo at the top of each page returns the user to the homepage.
There are two different ways to log in; ‘login’ through username and password for those registered on the site, and login using Google Sign-In. With login, a user can access all content on the site, while someone who has not gone through this process might be blocked from accessing some reserved content. Google Sign-In allows the further facility of accessing Gmail and also reading the calendar on the homepage.
Alphabetical search is available to the right of the Menu bar. This search is additional to ‘Google search in site’. SDL (Salesian Digital Library) offers another possibility for searching for specific items of Salesian content. See below for a more extensive description of SDL.
Even though websites need to have their central office at Salesian Headquarters to be able to utilize space on sdb.org, or are not normally to be found on the same server, nevertheless, co-Salesian sites can be continuously linked with this main site. Anyone wanting to interact with the administrators of these co-sites should contact them, not the administrators of sdb.org.
IThe most important co-site is ANS, the Agenzia INfo Salesiana. This is a tin site in every sense to sdb.org, and for this reason is given special pre-eminence, its content appearing on any number of the pages of sdb.org.
A second site worth highlighting is SDL or the Salesian Digital Library. In reality all the documents found in sdb.org but many others as well can be found in SDL collections. There is a simple reason for this duplication: a web site is forever changing, and even if, in the case of sdb.org there is an effort to ensure continuity, especially for important documentation, there is need for a preservation strategy. SDL is part of this strategy. SDL ensures the long-term preservation of Salesian digital items, and its construction (its design is based on open source software called Greenstone, developed under the aegis of the University of Waikato, New Zealand, and UNESCO) ensures an adequate response to this need and the possibility of including materials in any language known to humankind.
The link to SDL is available in each Section under the Resources menu item. It leads to a page with its own menu (drop-down) containing each collection. These collection are organised mostly on a language basis, but some (e.g. Don Bosco, the Necrology, Regions…) are based on topics, where the material can be found in various languages in each collection, where they are available in these languages. Language-based collection are linked for search purposes, enabling multilingual search. The sdb.org homepage also contains a frame with updates to SDL.
Inside SDL are two reserved areas, one for Salesians with documents that have restricted access in sdb.org, and the other for Provincial Secretaries. In both cases one only needs to ask in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, for a username and password, given to whoever needs access.
Sdb.org encourages involvement but is also in need of it! The first appeal of administrators of sdb.org is to SC Delegates around the Salesian world. The ´SDB Digital World´, an optional frame, would allow Delegates to look after a page from their Province that they are interested in or that might be of wider interest. By now, given that sdb.org has begun to offer online data, it would be obvious that whoever has responsibility for data at various levels not only has the opportunity but also the responsibility to offer this in a cooperative way.
Sdb.org offers links to any Salesian website under the title of Resources (then links) if we are told the URL. Since these URLs so often change, it is important that the Sc Delegate checks the Province links listed in sdb.org and informs of any changes. There are other data pages (from Provinces), e.g. the linksto Provinces under Organization in the main navigation bar. Initially we take data from the Congregation’s FLASH, but it would be possible to update the data, and it is the Delegates and others who are responsible for this. Normally it would be either the SC Delegate or the Provincial Secretary. These data are also linked to the Region pages – data can be checked on one or other of these pages.
The ‘geolocation’ data (Google maps) are thought to be important and even ´strategic´ at times. Salesian NGOs who were the early responders to the tragedy in Haiti told us that if they had the coordinates for each of the Salesian centres, they could have reduced the time delay for intervening in each situation where these delays meant the difference between life and death. This should never be taken lightly. The sdb.org administration, given the lack of this kind of data for a Province, does its best to see that coordinates are visible. SC Delegates or Provincial Secretaries or even community members can help either by providing missing data or correcting the coordinates already assigned.
Provinces and individuals are always developing new resources. They are invited to send these resources to email@example.com so that they can be shared with the rest of the Salesian world. If there is a need for a resources to be assigned a more restricted level of access, it is sufficient to indicate this (e.g. only for SDBs).
The Congregation's website can also be a platform for the Salesian Family. The SF is already making use of this option. A very intense period is the one of preparation for the SF Spirituality Days, and the Days themselves. Under ‘Salesians’ in the navigation bar, there is a link to the Salesian Family. The site administrators ask the various Groups to advise firstname.lastname@example.org of any necessary updates.
The Salesian Congregation is a ‘knowledge-intensive´ body. I few also consider its role in the vast reality known as the Salesian Family, this becomes even more the case. The Congregation’s website plays a distinct role in knowledge management, especially but not only in the case of explicit knowledge.
One aspect of organizations with ´high knowledge intensity´ that has gained importance in recent years is known as ´common sense´. This refers not just to good sense but also to the less explicit knowledge contained in the stories, myths, best practice of a group. In terms of Salesian Common Sense, this knowledge can be described as the things that every Salesian should know (i.e., the expectation that it be known) but that is often not found in written form. Sdb.org can be thought of as a tool for Salesian Common Sense and fosters this approach in the following ways:
We can distinguish three types of Salesian Common Sense: (a) critical knowledge, e.g. the geographical location data we have mentioned (b) useful knowledge, e.g. data collected by a Department (b) knowledge that someone has and which other people could make use of, e.g.. some specific competence in a particular area.
Each element of this Salesian Common Sense offers a challenge to the Congregation and the Salesian Family: sharing knowledge and spreading knowledge; the difference between the value of sharing knowledge and the rights of individuals to certain aspects of knowledge (e.g. authors’ rights, but not only that); focusing on individuals instead of tools alone; managing tools and their development to ensure best practices in knowledge management.
1 (Salesian Social Communication System, Editice SDB, 2nd editioe, 2011, nos 84-89)