This year has been one of change as has become usual over the last few years. We said goodbye to Sally Bugden as Chairman for the past five years and hello to our new Chairman, Jeremy Dhondy. Earlier in 2013 we implemented our new web site, based upon a very comprehensive content management system, which seems to be working very well. We don't believe it is perfect (yet), but it is a great improvement on what we had before, and we will continue to tweak it during the forthcoming year.
One major change just implemented is the way we deal with members' passwords. When we started the "members area", we chose to maintain members' passwords in a form that we can all understand. This was a "follow-on" from the way our previous computer system did things and also so we could provide as much help as humanly possible to people who are not very computer literate. However, as the cyber world seems totally obsessed with obtaining personal information via the internet we have decided that we need to "hash" our passwords so that they cannot be intercepted. (N.B. "Hashing" is like encryption, but is one way only). We do understand that the average cyber crook is not hugely concerned whether or not you got more than 50% in last night's game or whether you earned twenty or thirty master points. What they want is your password, as many people (wrongly) use the same password for many different web sites. This change means that we will no longer be able to assist members who forget or lose their passwords. Instead, there is an email mechanism which automates the password replacement process. If you do not wish to divulge your email address to us you must use an anonymous email facility (we will provide guidance) or a friends email; otherwise your members area will not be accessible to you. For those that worry about these things, if you provide us with your email address but do not want to receive emails from us, you can set an appropriate indicator in your own members area. It is worth noting that your current password, as far as you are concerned, remains unchanged.
Another change coming soon, is an addition to NGS that will allow us to grade some team games, Multiple Teams to start, and Swiss Teams when we get the changes we need to Bridgemate software. Full details of the changes will be made available when we are ready to launch.
Those of you who play in EBU events will know that we have started to use Pianola to report our own tournament results. We will be deepening our integration with Pianola during the next twelve months to improve our results service further.
One of the most gratifying things that we have seen in 2013 is the relatively high growth of new and returning clubs. We have a net growth of 14 clubs so far this year, with another starting their re-affiliation to us in January, and with more clubs working through the process as well and likely to join next year.
During this year we have also increased our online presence, with new EBU licensed games taking place on BBO and full master point awards. We have also been running a trial "online" knockout competition to get people used to that way of playing and we hope that this may encourage teams in the more remote parts of the country to participate in knockout events, which they may not do now because of the expense and time required in travelling. Full details of these games may be found on our web site.
This year has also seen us publish English Bridge online, which is slowly being used by our members. During the next year we hope to extend the online presence of the magazine by making it available on various tablet devices. We have also started archiving some of our oldest papers and magazines, so that we can save these items for posterity, and at the same time make them accessible in a manner that has not previously been the case. The eagle eyed among you may have seen a few of our oldest available magazines are now available to be read online - more will come in the next twelve months.
With the holiday season almost upon us, on behalf of all of my staff, I would like to wish you a great holiday season and a Happy New Year!