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What Happened to the Alamo Area Aquatic Association’s Web Site?

The Alamo Area Aquatic Association (AAAA) is an umbrella organization of USA Swimming (USA-S) Club and High School swimming organizations, at a number of different geographical locations within the San Antonio Metropolitan Area. For the purposes of this discussion, those individual locations will be referred to as Elements of AAAA.

In the Fall of 2001, the AAAA Board of Directors (BoD) entered into protracted internal discussions regarding the need for better, more efficient modes by which to communicate with athletes, their parents, administrators and, to a somewhat lesser extent, coaches. The need was driven by an ever-increasing number of swimmers, both Age Group and High School, affiliating with the organization.

As was apparent at a later date, communications with deck officials was also to be a very important matter as well.

At the time Web Sites were still pretty much a novelty to many people and seemed to be mostly sponsored by large organizations and companies. E-commerce was in its infancy. Much smaller, client-based and personnel-directed Sites were just beginning to appear on the World Wide Web (WWW). Nonetheless, the BoD determined a Web Site probably presented the best means of mass communication available at the time.

Within the BoD, not much was known at the time about where domains came from, or how Sites were established, operated and maintained. Volunteers from outside the AAAA BoD were recruited to research and investigate the matter, to hopefully come up with a plan to establish an AAAA Web Site to be narrowly focused on their membership.

That research and those investigations soon made it clear that there were at least six (6) major attributes Web Sites must possess if they are to effectively and efficiently serve their clients:

Ease of Access

Ease of Navigation

Reliability

Immediacy

Accuracy

Timeliness

Ease of access and Ease of Navigation are mostly self-explanatory, but the other four perhaps require some clarification:

     Reliability is almost entirely a function of the Host Server and is indicative of how often the Server fails to provide service over time. Modern Hosts can legitimately boast of Reliability rates in excess of 99%. Reliability also considers and is concerned about the security of a client’s data.

     Immediacy refers to how quickly data and / or information appears on a Web Site after they become available. Quicker is always better and is the primary reason why large companies and news organizations employ many full-time “Webmasters.” This is especially relevant for Meet Results, Commlinks and sometimes Scores.

     Accuracy is, in the main, also self-explanatory; but its importance in the management of a Web Site should not be in any way neglected and surely not ignored. Inaccurate data and / or information can very quickly destroy a Web Site’s credibility.

     Timeliness and immediacy are closely related, but are not quite the same. In this particular context it refers to items such as Meet Informations, HYV Files, etc. where it is important to have the data and information posted in a timely manner, but that usually does not mean immediately and is most often driven by Meet Entry deadlines.

By early Summer of 2002, the research and investigations were complete and actions were initiated, completely outside of the BoD, to acquire a volunteer Site Manager, domains, software and a Host Server. Ultimately this allowed an AAAA Web Site to be published to the WWW for the first time on 26 September 2002, nearly 20 years ago.

From the Fall of 2002 until early in 2010, the Web Site appeared to function well, all six attributes were being met and it attracted a reasonably large following. It also widened considerably the kinds of content posted.

At the beginning of 2010 there occurred changes in personnel and management style within the AAAA BoD, which soon led to disagreements between the management of AAAA and that of the Web Site. While these disagreements appeared to be related to Site content, style, etc., that actually was NOT the case. Rather they were, and still are, actually about personal disrespect and probably actual dislike, by management of at least one of the Elements, directed specifically towards Web Site management.

Sometime around mid-2010, an Element within the BoD established what appeared to be personal animosity toward Web Site management. The who of that establishment as well as the when and how were well-known early on, but the why, has never been revealed. As personnel and management among the Elements continued to be altered over time, the animosity and its related toxicity  were passed on each time changes occurred.  This toxicity was quite recently exacerbated to a significant degree, primarily due to a misunderstanding or perhaps miscommunication of intentions. However, very reliable sources have confirmed that there were and possibly still are, some prevarications of those communications still at play. Regardless of the reasons, no attempt by AAAA to resolve matters in a mutually satisfactory manner was ever attempted and the toxic environment remains unabated.

In mid-2012 the AAAA BoD was offered an opportunity to acquire the Web Site domains (aaaa-sa.org, .com, .net), allowing the BoD a considerable measure of control over the Site. For reasons that remain unknown or understood, the offer was refused. Consequently, the Site was retained under volunteer funding and control completely outside the BoD and remains so to this day.

Between 2012 and mid-2020 the BoD was queried numerous times regarding exactly what it was or is about the Web Site that seems to annoy some of the Elements so badly and consistently. The question has always been generally evaded in some way or, more often, just ignored. In September of 2014 representatives of one AAAA Element actually walked out of a BoD meeting rather than address the issue.

By the beginning of 2014, there were, again; personnel and management changes within the AAAA BoD, which once more altered how the Web Site related to and interacted with it. The afore-mentioned toxicity, which had been present since 2010, remained even as it does today. That animosity and toxicity is rather difficult to understand. All of the “players” are college educated adults who are swimming or diving coaches and / or administrators. It would seem perhaps logical then, to reasonably expect they could sit down and resolve whatever differences have existed and festered for some 12 years to the obvious detriment of AAAA's client base.

But such has not, is not and likely will not be the case. To the casual observer it appears, for no documented, stated or observed good reason, to be a very unfortunate; counter-productive and frustrating affair. The Site was established in 2002 to facilitate communications within the AAAA Community, with the primary mission being to serve the athletes and their parents. Exactly how it has all deteriorated into a kind of personal quarrel is not at all clear, but what is continuing to happen is most definitely is not about or in the best interests of the athletes.

In the late summer of 2017, the BoD again elected to explore the issue of acquiring and operating their own Web Site. Pursuant to that objective, a memo was prepared, based entirely on the then present circumstances, outlining what might be entailed cost-wise for such an effort. An extract from that memo is pasted just below.

AAAA Web Site expenditures July 2002 through July 2017

All dollar amounts have been rounded down to the nearest $100.00

Web Software (2002)

$125.00

Upgrade (2005)

$50.00

 

 

Host Server per year

$300.00

12 Years

$3600.00

 

 

Domain Registrations 2002 – 2017

$1100.00

Currently expire in mid-2022

 

 

 

Volunteer Web management and absorbing all costs

$0.00

Average 61 hours per month for 180 months

 

12 years at about 11K man-hours per year

 

At $7.25 per hour (2012 Minimum Wage)

$80,700.00

At $30.00 per hour (2017 Median Webmaster Wage)

$300,000.00

Miscellaneous costs, such as postage, CDs, FAX Service, Internet Service, E-mail Service, CPU Repairs, etc. were not tracked and are not factored into the figures above.

AAAA has, therefore had, since 2002; a fully functional, Web Site with better than 98% reliability and a near full-time Webmaster for 15 years at no cost to the organization whatsoever.

Prepared 16 September 2017

 

This no-cost to AAAA Web Site service continued, uninterrupted, until early June of 2022.

The above figures are mostly in 2017 dollars. Five years on (2022), each and every one will be significantly increased not only due to technological advances but also because of inflation.

During the five-year period from 2002 through 2008, some tentative attempts were made through sponsorships, to cause the Web Site to generate some sort of revenue stream. The efforts were only marginally effective and by late 2008 the effort was abandoned. The ineffectiveness of the revenue generating ideas were or may have been hampered by the fact that there was, at the time, no one with Marketing or Sales experience or training affiliated with the BoD. The same thing can also be said regarding Information Technology (IT). In all likelihood those same deficiencies still exist 2022. It would, of course, be quite possible to find the necessary expertise within the general membership, but AAAA has always been very reluctant when it comes to allowing parents or other "outsiders" to become involved in AAAA operations in any way.

As an obvious consequence of the personal animosity generated toxicity, in early June of this year (2022) the BoD elected to completely disengage from the Web Site after having had nearly 20 years of completely free Web Service. There was no written, email or any other sort actual notification. Web Site management learned about it via the "grape vine." The Site was then removed from the WWW for a short period of time.

AAAA enjoys Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Non-profit status under 501(3)c. It appears to carefully guard its financial affairs, which are, as far as can be determined; not published anywhere and are apparently unavailable to its membership by any means. In accordance with 501(3)c Policies and Procedures, that secrecy could probably be successfully challenged via FOIA.

Matters of this sort usually have at least two sides or versions, sometimes more. It is therefore likely, if not probable, there will, at some future point; appear a version presenting the AAAA "side" to this matter. Should that, in fact be the case, it must immediately be asked, "why has it taken 12+ years to find out about it?"

What once was the AAAA Web Site was revived and re-posted on 16 June 2022, with a different name and a slightly revised format. Virtually all references to AAAA have been deleted, but the Web Address (URL) www.aaaa-sa.org remains intact and unchanged.