North Texas Objectivist Society (NTOS) Message Board › NTOS: Updates to our "About" Page

NTOS: Updates to our "About" Page

Karen G.
skgainey
Sulphur, OK
Post #: 23
I think you have done an incredible job!!!!! Concise yet thorough, it is a work to be proud of Todd. You have made it an enjoyable read and a wonderful introduction to this group. I love the openings with Ayn Rand quotes. I put the quote you just sent for the newest meetup above my computer.

Personally I hate the serenity prayer, but it is strictly a personal thing and I know many who love it.
Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 707
Karen,

Thank you, again, for your constructive feedback.

For others who may be interested and for future reference, the quote Karen is referring to is this one:


...
If you want to influence a country's intellectual trend, the first step is to bring order to your own ideas and integrate them into a consistent case, to the best of your knowledge and ability. This does not mean memorizing and reciting slogans and principles, Objectivist or otherwise: knowledge necessarily includes the ability to apply abstract principles to concrete problems, to recognize the principles in specific issues, to demonstrate them, and to advocate a consistent course of action. This does not require omniscience or omnipotence; it is the subconscious expectation of automatic omniscience in oneself and in others that defeats many would-be crusaders (and serves as an excuse for doing nothing). What is required is honesty -- intellectual honesty, which consists in knowing what one does know, constantly expanding one's knowledge, and never evading or failing to correct a contradiction. This means: the development of an active mind as a permanent attribute.
...
It is a mistake to think that an intellectual movement requires some special duty or self-sacrificial effort on your part. It requires something much more difficult: a profound conviction that ideas are important to you and to your own life."

--Ayn Rand
The Ayn Rand Letter
Vol. 1, No. 7
January 3, 1972


I think this fuller quote is crucially relevant to an Organization like NTOS. Unfortunately, I think all of the above is too long for the purposes of our "About" page, so I am currently just using the last part.

I particularly appreciated your compliment that it is "concise yet thorough." One of the constraints I have for the "About" page is strictly numerical. Meetup's system "only" allows about 25,000 characters, including all the format coding, for a group's "About Us" page. When I first bumped up against this limit, I railed against it. But over time I have come to use it to force me to focus, as I tend to verbosity. As written, the content of our "About" page is more than 3,000 words. When copied to 12-point proportional font, single spaced, using typical margins on 8.5" x 11" paper, the "About" page is actually 12 pages long.

The "About" page should contain the essential information that all our members should know "About Us." I ask all members to read it when joining NTOS and when it is updated from time to time. But regardless of whether a member actually does so or not, everyone is charged with fair notice of all that it contains.

I am proud to have NTOS judged by our "About" page, which is the presentation of our organizing principles. Nevertheless, it continues to be a work-in-progress subject to criticism and improvement, whenever someone presents me with a persuasive, rational argument.



Regarding the "Serenity Prayer," it brings forward some issues that I think may often be misunderstood about Ayn Rand and Objectivism, including her attitude toward religion. Ayn Rand discusses this prayer and what it means in detail in this article:

The Ayn Rand Letter
Vol. II, No. 12 March 12, 1973
The Metaphysical Versus The Man-Made
Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 712
In continuing to think about Karen's comment, I decided to replace the "Serenity Prayer" on our "About" page with a quote of Ayn Rand. As much as I personally like the wisdom of it and Ayn Rand's discussion of it, I think a quote of Ayn Rand herself is more in keeping with the interest of our group.
Karen G.
skgainey
Sulphur, OK
Post #: 29
Thank you. When someone reads our 'About' page, I doubt many will be familiar with Ayn Rand's discussion on the 'Serenity Prayer', but I feel that a large number would recognize it as the mantra of Alcoholics Anonymous.

I have not yet read her discussion of it myself. Maybe when I do I will have a different opinion of it.
Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 819
Upon further reflection, I am deleting the following from our "About Us" page:

Organizer's Reservation of Right. The Organizer reserves the right to limit or terminate membership or participation in NTOS for any reason.


It was hasty of me, borne of some frustration with the amount of time managing NTOS sometimes requires. But fundamentally, such a reservation is completely non-objective and it undermines all the prior work I have done to create objective participation terms. I should continue to struggle with formulating objective participation terms rather than resort to this short-cut, which I had long resisted before this.
Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 843
In the first three years of organizing NTOS, we have (unexpectedly) had a very few instances of a person signing up for NTOS who has never read anything by Ayn Rand.

It seems the person may have somewhere read something he finds interesting about her or her philosophy and thinks that he would have a lot in common with our members, but he is not particularly interested in her philosophy. When we first started NTOS, I did not contemplate that this would ever happen. I thought such a possibility would be as remote as me signing up for a motorcycle club just because I find people who ride motorcycles interesting to talk to. I do, but I would understand that this does not mean they would have much interest in talking with me for long.

My first response to this was to require that the person at least start reading Ayn Rand. But experience is showing that this is not sufficient for our purposes.

Accordingly, I have increased the standards for membership in NTOS regarding a person having at least “a constructive interest” in Objectivism. This should include that a member have read The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged.

-- Old Toad
Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 844
After a little feedback from a couple of our members, I should clarify a few things about the purpose of our membership standards and why these are higher than our standards for welcome guests.

It is important to hold the context that one of our purposes is to offer social events among our members. In this context, who our members are is important to all our members. This is different than for a purpose of putting on a lecture presentation, in which case it could be open to the public because who the other attendees are may be of little import relative to the content of the presentation. For example, when I go to the movies I don't require having much in common with the others in the audience except than that they implicitly agree to behave appropriately.

It is also important to remember that virtually all of our "members" sign up to NTOS from the internet. Our standards for membership on our About page is a tool to objectively communicate to our potential members what minimum level of common interest we expect them to have with us.

Of course, we also want our members to bring welcome guests to our social events. Bringing personal friends, family, and children is important for building our society and helping our members make their interest in Objectivism a part of their lives. We do not expect our members' guests to meet the standards for membership. This is because the member is the link between our membership and his friends and family. The member naturally explains our interest to his guests and helps our other members and his guests enjoy our events.

The interest of our members in Ayn Rand's works and Objectivism is the glue that holds our social group together. In contrast to the welcome guests a member may wish to bring, a person who signs up as a member -- usually from the internet -- has no other basis for contact with our association. I think that for our social purposes, each "member" must have an independent and sufficient level of interest in common with us.

-- Old Toad
Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 867
I have continued to clarify a section of our “About Us” page regarding the Organizers and organizing principles for NTOS. I do not have much experience regarding business or other entity structures, tax issues, etc., so this part is slow going for me. A few of our members might be interested and want to help. It is not written in stone.

My purpose for this section is two-fold. First, to state the management structure of NTOS as it is. Second, to state what the management commits to do and--just as importantly--what the management commits to not do in the name of the society and its members.

Meetup's system contemplates that each Meetup have one, supreme "Organizer." Meetup does this so that if there are any conflicts within a particular Meetup, “the Organizer” resolves them. To one who disagrees with the Organizer, Meetup suggests … form your own Meetup! But this structure does not mesh with Texas law regarding unincorporated, non-profit associations, which contemplates a board of directors and a formal election process for the directors. At the start of our society--and even after a few years of growth--we do not have sufficient membership and participation to support such formalities.

Besides, I am the ubermensch!
Old T.
OldToad
Group Organizer
Dallas, TX
Post #: 1,002
It has been six months since I have given this thread a "bump."

In this time I have made literally hundreds of trivial edits to sharpen the focus and layout of our "About" page.

The major revisions include:
  • Reorganizing the sections to be in a more logical order to a person on a first reading.

  • Changing a few of the pictures -- as I am certainly the person who reads this page the most often, I needed to see something different!

  • Expanding the description of the essentials of Ayn Rand's philosophy to be a bit more specific and to use only her own words.

  • Shortening some of the verbosity in the description of our society's activities.

  • Clarifying our society's expectations regarding privacy and private communications among our members.

  • Expanding and trying to clarify our "Constitution" section, which is my effort to objectively communicate and explain the organizing principles I have for our society. This is currently the most challenging section for me to write.

    To those who have read a previous version anytime in the past year (or even longer past), the current version will probably seem to be substantively very much the same. But I think it is much improved.

    If anyone has the patience to review it again, I would certainly welcome constructive criticism or feedback.
  • Old T.
    OldToad
    Group Organizer
    Dallas, TX
    Post #: 1,056
    To all,

    It is important to recognize that there are many differences among us, including regarding what is and what is not consistent with Ayn Rand’s philosophy of reality and reason. This means there are several challenges in the organizing our fledgling association, including, for example:
    a. Defining the common ground of ideas that unite our association.
    b. Differentiating the other personal ideas of our members and organizers (especially mine) from the common ground of ideas that unite us.
    c. Sponsoring events and materials that (i) at least are not inconsistent with the common ground of ideas that unite us, and (ii) at least are not divisive regarding other issues.

    I think the objectivity of our “About” page is a powerful tool for addressing these challenges. One of the purposes of our "About" page is to inform and guide members. Another is to inform and guide the organizers.

    NTOS needs assistant organizers who are willing to focus on promoting the common ground of ideas that unite our association, independent of their personal opinions on other issues. If you want to help organize NTOS this way, please contact me.
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