In Praise of Carl Foote
Who would have imagined? Back in the early fall of 1999 when I, then CMN’s national coordinator, suggested to the board that my friend Carl Foote would be a good person to bring in to finish setting up CMN’s first independent website, could he or I have envisioned that one of us would still be part of CMN’s operations in 2015? The website project had started off in one direction, was partially implemented, and then was paused when we found we needed to reorient the operation. Carl agreed to volunteer his time to finish the technical set-up and design work and get the site operating. Conferring over the next few weeks, he and I hustled to get the site into minimal shape to go live on schedule. So there’s the first thing to know about Carl: He comes through with what’s needed.
On the heels of Carl’s CMN connection, board member Barb Tilsen became the chair of the board’s Internet Services Committee, the point person to oversee and guide CMN’s expansion into the electronic world, including finishing the initial site setup. Out of Carl’s work on this, he quickly became a fixture and was serving as the webmaster.
Barb, Carl, and I functioned as the ongoing core of the online services team that included a number of other people for varying periods. Carl put the content material in place, providing technical expertise and an artistic design aesthetic we felt fortunate to have applied to our site. He also contributed ideas for features or improvements, alerted us and educated us about new technical possibilities, served as technical troubleshooter for the various electronic services, and communicated with ISPs as needed. That’s another thing about Carl: He’s a team player par excellence, one who actively engages with others who share the work, who makes his way with civility and patience through the give and take, the differences of opinion, and the sometimes untidy processes of an organization that operates on consensus decision making.
The original site design was a sort of starter model, and a revamp was undertaken before long by Carl and a second tech/design volunteer. When the national disaster of September 11, 2001 hit, the site had technical capabilities in place to allow quick creation of the Peace Resources pages. A committee worked to secure a substantial grant from the Dodge Foundation to expand the resource, which also covered—finally!—payment for Carl’s services, allowing him to devote more of his time to CMN. With electronic services increasingly important to CMN, Carl’s paid work had become an ongoing necessity.
There are a couple of chunks of work I did with Carl the process of which had for me something of the feel of magic because of the transformation that occurred. One was the member directory that originally existed as a database that lived in my office computer and periodically took on the alternative form of ink on paper. When it became possible to put the directory on the website, everything had to be designed and programmed not only for user presentation but also to integrate with the membership system and office records. Naturally, it took a lot of time to hash out, especially since one of the hashers knew the content, information outcome needs, policies, and such, but only a sliver of the relevant technical stuff, while the other’s knowledge skewed more in the reverse direction. Thank goodness Carl is one of those wonders in a technical field who is able to—and willing to—explain things intelligibly to the tech untutored.
Magnify the directory effort and you have some notion of the process of transforming our Pass It On! journal’s print “body” into an entity wholly digital in its makeup. Carl and I spent many hours mentally picking apart all of the pieces and details of a finished PIO! issue and thinking out how to reshape and reintegrate them to form the digital scaffold for the new version. His explanatory abilities and patience were given a good workout. This project, too, had the feel of a metamorphosis resulting in a new, exotic organism. Once again, Carl had offered ideas, solutions, and alternatives, framed with the eye of an artist. No doubt any CMNer who has had occasion to work with him could tell of a similar collaboration experience.