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Some site technical details - the registration system

The online registration system is based on Google docs, technology freely available to everyone. The effort I invested in adopting it for our purposes was more than worth it - it's been incredibly useful.

I just posted the following description of the jam registration, enrollment, and balances system to a Google+ discussion about google docs.

Google docs spreadsheets are incredibly conducive to managing the enrollment and other business details for a small (35 to 45 participants), twice-yearly multi-day retreat event that I and some other volunteers organize.

In Fall, 2010, I took over organizing the registration and accounting, shifting from a very ad hoc Excel spreadsheet that the previous volunteer had grown over a few years. I decided to use Google docs spreadsheets, because I wanted the collaboration features and I was intrigued by the prospect of feeding the registrations, via the spreadsheet forms, directly into the accounting and event management spreadsheet. It has worked out better than I could have hoped.

The way it's organized, the form (from http://eastcoastjam.com/jam-registration/register-here) feeds participant registrations into a data-only worksheet. That's reflected into a registration accounting worksheet, where we track the registrant info, work out paid and pending payments, note special provisions, etc. Then there are worksheets for accommodations, work-study, and complete accounting with the host retreat center. The last keys off of info in all the other worksheets, keeping track in real time of our exact obligations, net balances, etc. (I also have a worksheet with all the various rates, like room and meal costs, firewood, etc etc - so we can adjust them in new copies of the spreadsheet as the rates change, event to event.)

It's no small thing that this gives our event easy, online registration. (See the form in the page mentioned at the above link.) That's only the start.

As we've perfected the spreadsheet, all the nuances of our event's accounting are explicitly expressed in it. It does the calculations for us, and even more, makes it easy to fill in new volunteers about all the details, and, for those of us with less than perfect memories (me!), it conveys exactly how things work.

Even better, each of the volunteers manage all the information of our respective duties in a way that is clear and accessible to one another. We can each track all aspects of the situation in real time. Even better still, the collaborative features enable us to help one another resolve difficulties, fill in the gaps for each other, and do our strategic and tactical planning together, with the real details shared in front of us!

When I started in this direction, I was sure it was going to be better than the isolated, ad hoc spreadsheet. I didn't realize how much better - it's the difference between working separately, in the dark, and together with clear access for each of us to all of the crucial event enrollment details. And since everyone knows how to use it, we can pass the torch to new volunteers without loss of crucial info.

How to Use This Site

What is all this?

See the the home page intro and the "About" section.

When is the next ECJ?

See "Upcoming Jams" in the middle of the home page or the Upcoming Jams page.

How do I register for the next jam?

Visit the Jam Registration page.

What's new?

See the "Recent News" sidebar or the full list.

How do I contact someone about the site?

Follow the contact link at the top of any page.