2005 Annual Report
Author: Rhed al'Tere
Click HERE to view the pdf version.
- 1 State of the Tower
- 2 Overview
- 3 Changes Affecting Our Membership
- 4 Changes Affecting Our Administration
- 5 Administrative Projects
- 6 Looking Forward
- 7 Financial Report
- 8 Department of Information Technology
- 9 Department of Membership
- 10 Department of Membership Services
- 11 Department of Communications
- 12 Department of Research
State of the Tower
Our Fifth Anniversary has come and gone with fantastic fanfare and much celebration. Having crossed that hurdle, we now look to our next five years as an internet presence and community. We've come farther in this half decade than any of us originally anticipated, and this makes planning for the future particularly challenging. Our growth and the growth of WoT fandom at large continually changes our playing field, and we will need to continue innovating and adapting in order to stay at the top of our game.
One clear example of how our growth keeps effecting us directly is our continued search for an acceptable server solution. Incredible use of our message boards and other features have had our database queries quickly become too much for our hosting providers, and we have switched providers no less than twice in the last 12 months, and another switch in the near future looks inevitable. We have, however, had a wonderful infusion of new talent into our IT department which, with our more established IT persons, are coming up with innovative and far-reaching solutions for this and other issues. It has been awhile since we've been able to fundamentally work on the bones and features of our website, and I anticipate that this next year will see us developing our site, further enabling it as both a place of entertainment and an organizational tool for running our community.
Growth has also effected many of our standing policies and procedures regarding our membership. The Hall and Council ended up taking the last leap and are now overseeing and approving raisings in membership for all levels in a process that I feel is both more effective and more fair given the numbers we now see.
Growth is also apparent in the rapid expansion of our real life functions. While this has always been an important and defining part of our organization, the demand for real life gatherings, meetings and events by our members has exploded. Nearly every weekend minor get togethers are planned by members for those in their local area. We have, by necessity, increased our annual European functions to two and have appointed a second Mistress of Revels for that side of the Atlantic. Attendance at our Anniversary trumped our hopes to reach 80 persons with an attendance of 114. Because of this changing face, we will be reassessing how our parties are structured and timed this year, most likely adjusting them so more members can take advantage of them, so that they do not overlap on their needs of resources too badly, and so that they fall during favorable travel periods.
Along these lines, I am pleased to make a preliminary announcement that TarValon.Net, in conjunction with other prominent WoT sites, will be attempting to create a multi-site conference named "WoT*Con" within the next 2 years. It has always been a long term goal of this site and community to eventually take our real life functions and use them to create bridges and celebrate our fandom with other fan groups. We are excited as we initially thought this was a goal we would accomplish near year 10. Given the success of our events, and our experience with them, we are confident that we will be able to accomplish this much sooner. It is so incredible to be in a position, not only in membership but also financially, in our experience, and in our status, to be able to go forward with this long-term goal. We are not certain if this event will supplement or take the place of one of our North American events; I expect this will be discussed and decided on over our summer Admin meeting. More information on this, and how you can become involved, will be available over the next year.
This year has been good to us, financially. Despite our "promise" that we would hold twice annual fundraisers whether we needed them or not, we did not hold a single money drive in 2005. None of our events were planned for profit, but because attendance was almost always higher than initially budgeted for, we managed to make a marginal profit on a few of them (with those funds going straight in to cover our operational costs). However, with increased server needs, our increase in event needs (which often necessitate many deposits being paid, and often overlap), and the potential for underwriting a multi-community event in the near future, it is important for us to have a higher bank balance, enabling us to keep all of our bases covered. Our financial report will detail what our goals for the coming year will be.
Another significant change occurred in the past month. My Keeper of nearly four years, Elyna Sedai, retired from her position. She was instrumental in helping us become what we are today, and I am grateful to have had her work with me for so very long. Her successor, Dralyn Sedai, brings a new energy and enthusiasm to her position. A new person in such a role will always bring some changes with her, but I am certain that the changes Dralyn brings are going to be a much-needed shot in the arm. I hope I am as lucky with her as I was with Elyna and will have her with me for a good long time.
We have spent the last two years solidifying our place as we approached 5 years. This year, I hope to focus on more innovation. I want to look at where we are, figure out what we can do better, and adapt not only to fit but also fill the place we hold. I want to use this time to dream a little bigger and to think about what we can do for each other and what we can do for the community at large. We have shown we have the talent, ability, and drive to do great things. This year, I would like for us to start fulfilling our greater potential.
This year saw a lot of changes for the Tower. We updated the member home on our main site with new features. The administration had several shake-ups in terms of who holds which positions, including one of the highest-ranking positions, Keeper of the Chronicles. However, these shifts and changes are a part of what have allowed us to thrive for 5 years, and we feel very confident at the end of the year that we will continue to grow and do great things.
Changes Affecting Our Membership
A couple of changes to our technical end of things may not be as noticeable as other changes, but they're still pretty exciting. We updated permissions for usergroups so that guests and registered guests can see certain forums, which we hope will allow people to see whether or not they want to have a greater involvement in our community prior to registering as a citizen. We also added several new features to the member home. We are always searching for ways to make the member home a more useful part of our community; to that end, people now have control over their official emails. Members can now submit events to our calendar. Senior Members will now be able to recommend a Citizen for raising into the Tower via their home, and all members can contact their membership administrator through a form that automatically pulls up the correct email address based upon the member's rank. The administration also began changing the forum structure in 2005, and this was completed in 2006, ending in a vastly different forum structure with the most important forums on top and also with more forums being restricted to members of our community. Our community news has also started being used to announce raisings and the like, so be sure to check that part of our main site as well!
We finished the change to our raising structures, as decided upon at the 2005 administrators' meeting. Members must now be 13 to be a Citizen, 14 to be a Novice/Recruit, 15 to be an Accepted/Soldier, and 17 to be an Aes Sedai/Gaidin. Members being raised to Senior Members must also be made "real" by going through a process of sending his membership administrator a photograph of himself and having a telephone/Skype conversation with his administrator (or an alternative membership administrator who has agreed to take on this task). The Heads and CCs now make the decision of when a person within their group is ready to be raised and will compile a packet of information about the Accepted/Soldier in question. That packet, which includes information such as their avatar, their profile, their real life photograph, and details about their time here, is then sent to the Mistress of Novices or Captain of the Guard, who then reviews the packet, makes a decision about the Junior Member's readiness, and places it before the Hall. The Hall then decides if the person is ready to be raised and approves or denies the raising. This change was initiated after the 2005 admin meeting and was completed this year. We feel that this change has been a very positive change over the previous method of polling the appropriate Senior Member group, and our raisings are more standardized, provide more information, and gather more information through this process.
The largest change to our membership as a whole is the introduction of the guesting system. It has always been the case that the Junior Members who are in an Ajah/Company are not members of that group; they are simply guests within that group, in a similar fashion to those who are bonded to someone in the group, with the intent being that the Junior Members are trying to figure out if this is where they feel most at home. However, the culture around this has been shifting over the past couple of years so that there is a stigma attached to those Junior Members who actually leave the group they initially joined, so that Junior Members are afraid to leave their group even when they are unhappy in it. Many groups are also welcoming the Junior Members more into the fold, allowing them to affect the group's policy when they shouldn't. To reaffirm our intent that Junior Members are guests within the groups and not members, and to combat the idea that Junior Members cannot explore their options once they have chosen a group, we have decided to change our policies. Junior Members will now be required to be a guest with two groups at a time for at least the first 6 weeks after they have been raised to Accepted/Soldier. They may change which two groups they are guesting with at any time, allowing them to fully explore all of their options. At any time past 10 weeks, the Accepted/Soldier can choose to Aspire to one group. Once they have decided to Aspire, they are taken out of all other group forums. Aspiring does not mean that they are a member of that group; it is simply a signal to the Head/Commander of that group that they wish to be raised to Senior Membership in that group. The Head/Commander will then go about the raising process as has been done in the past.
We feel that this change, while jarring at first for older members, will be vastly beneficial to the Tower as a whole and will strengthen community bonds. The biggest concern that has been voiced with this change is privacy - many Senior Members are not happy with the idea that Junior Members have more freedom to move about Ajah/Company forums. To retain privacy for the Senior Members within their groups, each group will receive an additional forum called "Chambers" that will be only for the Senior Members who are part of that group. We have also made the Dormitories and the Barracks single gender only to allow the Junior Members a level of privacy as well.
Guilds were also implemented. Another decision from the 2005 administrators' meeting, the Guilds are meant to be a more egalitarian place for all members of our community to discuss topics related to broad categories that could conceivably exist as a networking Guild in The Wheel of Time. The 6 Guilds initially chosen were the Youth Guild, the Martial Guild, the Tailors Guild, the Gleeman's Guild, the Artisans Guild, and the Healers Guild. http://www.tarvalonforums.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=21293&start=0 However, while we were debating the best ways to implement the Guilds, we decided to change some of the Guilds and ended up with the Artisans, Innkeepers, Gleemen, Martial, Tailors, and Healers. These decisions were based upon whether or not the Guild focused on a real skill, if the Guild could have conceivably existed in the series, and if the Guild could offer benefit to our community. The structure decided upon is that all members can post in any Guild, but only members of that Guild can start new threads, edit their posts in that forum, and vote in polls. Members can only be a member of one Guild at a time, though members do not have to belong to any Guilds if they do not desire to.
One change that garnered significant discussion was changing the guidelines and filter rules for our main chat room, #wheel. We have often stated that #wheel and #oldewarderandhen are at a PG-13 level; however, our moderation style has been a good deal stricter than what you usually find in movies that are rated PG-13. We have changed our guidelines to state that #wheel will now be an environment that is family-friendly, while #oldewarderandhen will remain at a PG-13 level and #wanderingwoman will remain 18+. While filters have been employed previously in various forms, we have not had one for quite some time. However, the actions of a few individuals who seem determined to overstep the intent behind our guidelines have caused us to review our guidelines and procedures. For several months, TheDarkOne, the bot that manages out official chat rooms, sent reminders to people who use certain words in #wheel. While not an official warning, this took some of the pressure off of our chat operators to catch every single curse, and it provided for more even coverage of cursing while we were reviewing our guidelines. Once our review was complete and decisions were made, the filter was removed and the guidelines updated. We hope that our members will be mindful of where they're speaking and follow the guidelines as listed. The final change implemented this year with regards to our chat rooms involves titles - if Senior Members wish their titles to be used, they must list their titles in their nicks. Otherwise, titles are not expected in our chat rooms.
There are only a couple of changes to our events that we implemented this year, mostly with regards to our ceremonies. We will perform our ceremonies at every official function in the future so that all of our events have a thread of continuity and common experience. Our ceremonies often include first sibling ceremonies, which will now be limited to the first 3 ceremonies for which we receive applications. Marriage ceremonies are the celebration of a current or impending marriage between two Tower members with their Tower family. If a couple wishes to have such a celebration, it can be done at any time after their legal wedding or no more than 6 months before their legal wedding is scheduled to take place, providing sufficient reason is given. Unofficial events planned in our Local Events forum must be inclusive - if a member plans an event in that forum, all members in good standing are welcome to attend. The host is allowed to set the age and who may stay in their home, naturally, but if a member who has not been banned from our real life events wants to attend, they are allowed to attend. If a member wants to be more exclusive with the guest list, that member should plan the event outside of the Local Events forum.
One of the most exciting additions we've had to our philanthropic side of things is a scholarship. This year, we have decided to start offering an annual scholarship. This scholarship is open to any Tower member in good standing who is currently in their first year of college/university. Members who wish to apply will have to write an essay, which will be put forth in the Hall in a blind-read for selection. While our initial offering is $100, we hope to increase this amount as possible. We are extremely excited about this decision!
Changes Affecting Our Administration
One of the largest changes involving our administration was the resignation of our long-time Keeper of the Chronicles, Elyna alTzoran. Elyna has served as the Amyrlin's right-hand woman for 4.5 years and finally decided to step down and enjoy a well-deserved retirement as a regular Aes Sedai. Dralyn Montsier was chosen as her successor. Val a'Shain, the Masters at Arms, also retired, and the duties of that position have been subsumed within the Directors of Administration and Membership (see creation of departments below) and the Keeper. While many changes within the administration do not necessarily end with changes for the community as a whole, given the wide reach and visibility of these positions, the changing of the Keeper and retirement of the Master at Arms will be a shift, both for the community and the administration.
The administrative structure was also changed and clarified this year. The Amyrlin Seat's duties have shifted so that she can focus on involvement in the community, the most pressing of membership and business matters, and strategic planning. The Keeper of the Chronicles will focus on making the administrative side of our community function smoothly and efficiently, and she will directly oversee the Department Directors and have board administrator access so that she can interact with all members in all forums. Those Directors are responsible for the administrators and staff within their Department, and any administrators who have staff are responsible for their staff. The Department of Administration was created to oversee all of the business aspects of our community, from legal to financial to record-keeping. The Department of Membership was created to oversee our membership administrators and the membership groups and will have board administrator access to facilitate the duties of this position and to enable him/her to interact with members in all forums related to our membership. The Department of Research and Communications has been separated into two Departments with separate Directors. The administrative calendar was also firmed - demotions and bond dissolution's now occur on January 1st and July 1st every year, as well as the Hall changing over.
Our European events have continued to grow and change, just as the North American events have. To ease the burden of our primary Mistress of Revels, we have split the position into the North American Mistress of Revels and two European Mistresses of Revels. Given the vastly different business practices employed in Europe due to the different countries, we felt that having two Mistresses of Revels would provide for a more comparable workload to that of the North American Mistress of Revels. We look forward to having the European Mistresses of Revels to help us plan our events more professionally in Europe!
Current Events, one of our more contentious forums, will have the Keeper as a permanent moderator and then two to three other moderators who rotate on the same schedule as the Hall rotation. Current Events is a difficult forum to moderate long-term, so allowing people to swap in and out keeps the moderation fresh.
This year we celebrated our 5th anniversary at Corpus Christi, Texas. To help commemorate this event in the manner it deserved, we decided to put together a memory book. We included pictures taken at our various events over the past 5 years, and we allowed our members to purchase pages in it for Shout Outs, which could include anything from graphics to poems. This aspect of the project was a huge success, and our members great enjoyed seeing the many memories included in its pages. We ran into some difficulties with the printing and mailing of the books, but those were eventually resolved, with everyone receiving the books that they paid for. We want to thank Jenarra Tikvah and Faeril Munlear for all of their hard work on these books!
While a structure for the Guilds was decided upon, that structure is somewhat transient as the administration tries to provide the best experience for our community. Therefore, the Guilds are a project that will be on-going, and their current form should not be taken as their permanent form.
One project that we were happy to see completion on was adding the RSS feed of Robert Jordan's blog on Dragonmount.com to our website. We are thankful that Dragonmount has given us the ability to post his writings on our website directly, and we hope that our members enjoy this feature.
One of the biggest projects that was completed this year was a complete reconstruction of our Bylaws (formerly known as our Constitution). The Bylaws had not been updated in 3 years and so were horribly dated, so they were changed to reflect the current guidelines and policies of the Tower. Our IRC guidelines were also updated and released.
We also firmed up the procedure for demotions this year. While this will be altered somewhat to take into account the new guesting system, Senior Members who are no longer happy in their chosen group can apply to take a voluntary demotion back to Accepted/Soldier in order to find their home in a new group. This should be a a rarity and will not always be approved.
The changes to our administration and the solidifying of administrative structure resulted in the Executive branch holding a class about the duties of the Directors, the Keeper, and the Amyrlin, as well as the new structure. Given the administrative upheaval of the year, this class helped a lot of our members gain a better grasp of what it is that the top level administrators do.
Many of our changes are on-going projects. Implementing the guesting system and working out all of the kinks will likely be a process that lasts well into 2007. We will be working with our membership groups and listening to their feedback to make sure that the guesting system achieves its goals while suiting the needs and desires of as many members as possible. The Guilds are also a work in progress and will likely be changed throughout the upcoming year as necessary. To complement our new Bylaws, we will begin work on a Membership Manual that includes the actual details of our community and administration. This will be a living document that will be changed as needed to reflect changes more rapidly. Our Department of IT will begin looking at content management systems that will suit our needs in terms of transitioning our main site into something more secure and flexible, as well as a system that will better suit the needs for our ever-expanding Library. Part of the long-term goal is to have a unified log-in for all of this. The Director of Communications will begin searching a new format for the Tar Valon Times; email no longer suffices. The administration plans on having two fundraisers a year to help cover costs and will begin that this fall. A busy year behind us, and a busy year ahead!
Due to the prolonged ill health of our treasurer, financial specifics for 2005 are not yet available, but will be transferred to the Amyrlin as soon as the treasurer is able.
Our beginning balance for 2005 was $2,377.01
Current balance in April of 2006 is $7, 001.07
We did not have any on-site fundraisers in 2005 due to our American events generally turning unexpected, small profits.
In 2006, we do plan to hold on-site fundraisers so that members not attending events may also contribute. It is our goal to have at least a standing balance of $10,000 in savings by the end of the year. We hope that this will facilitate us accepting more payments for events "at the door" in the future, as well as allow us to underwrite specific upcoming projects.
Several months ago, we moved our funds from a private personal account (to which both the Treasurer and the Amyrlin had access) to a sole-proprietor business account. Checks to and from TarValon.Net can now be made out specifically to TarValon.Net, and this account will allow us to add and remove signers as needed.
We hope to have a plan regarding our finances in Europe solidified by the end of this year.
Department of Information Technology
Master of the Watch
It's been an interesting year for the IT department! Due to our heavy activity, our forums account was suspended in March. We managed to convince our hosting company to bring us back online, but then we were suspended again in May. In February, we started making plans to switch hosting companies, but before we could even get things off the ground, that company realized that we were far too big for them to handle.
In May, we moved to the virtual server that we are hosted on now.
Unfortunately, it wasn't until late in the year that we realized that the statistics tracking module on our virtual server wasn't working properly, so we don't have any stats for you this year on bandwidth and the like.
Melana Sedai worked extremely hard to change the code on our main site when our host for that portion of our web presence just flat went out of business. Our new host did not support the type of database we had been using previously, so many things had to be re-written. Melana worked tirelessly though, and the changeover was *flawless*!
Also, in April of 2005, we got a new IRC Director! Yenie Sedai was put in charge of Tar Valon's three chat rooms, #wheel, #oldewarderandhen and #wanderingwoman. In August, Yenie chose Sela Sedai to be her assistant. The two of them have worked hard to make our chat rooms lively places with much activity! There are radio shows and games therein, and the list of channel operators has been overhauled to make sure there is always an op present. Sela went over the commands of our bot, TDO, organized them all, and deleted commands that were outdated.
In October, we arranged for many of the groups within the tower to have FTP access to their own spot on our server, as well as database access. This involved creating users and permissions for each group, and setting up and installing an application to make database access and manipulation easy, and accessible from the web browser, since users don't have direct access to the server. Groups that received accounts of this nature include all the companies and ajahs, the Tar Valon Times, Tar Valon Radio, and the Museum; the forums themselves were moved to their own folder. We continue our efforts to get our entire web presence consolidated onto one server.
2006 looks to be an exciting year as our community continues to grow and change.
Department of Membership
1. City Membership
In the first full year of the City of Tar Valon, we have received on average three applications a day. In all, 1,204 applications are on record. This number is after cleaning out the double applications and the people who don't make any attempt to fill out a serious application. A comparison with 2004 is not really useful, records in the possession of the Master-at-Arms only go back till October. From 2004 a total of 270 applications are on record, indicating that the number of applications received is more or less constant. The first month of 2006 doesn't show much change either.
It is not possible to know exactly how many of the people who apply create an account on the boards. There are several difficulties in finding out. Some people don't use the name they use on their application (but for instance an AIM or Yahoo handle). Others do create an account but never fill out an application. During 2005, a number of accounts were probably created by bots as well. The administration deleted unused accounts on several occasions.
2. Tower Membership
Although the number of Citizen applications doesn't seem to change much, the number of people moving from the City to the Tower does. The number has risen from a reported 99 in 2004 to 137 in 2005.
Novice/Recruit applications are still less predictable than Citizen applications, but the process has become more streamlined in the last year. There have also been less technical problems. All this resulted in a steadier influx of people into the Tower in 2005. Figure 1 shows the numbers of new novices and recruits.
Figure 1: New Tower Members in 2005
Due to some changes in the procedure for resigning and the fact we didn't do any major clean ups in 2005, the number of officially retired members was limited to 5.
In 2005, Tower membership has grown quite a lot. Growth is seen in all ranks, especially the number of Recruits and Soldiers, which has more than doubled in 2005. Tower membership divided by rank is shown in table A.
|Rank||April 1st 2003||April 1st 2004||January 1st 2005||January 1st 2006|
Table A: Rank of Tower members. The discrepancy between the number of people joining and leaving and the difference between the totals for 2005 and 2006 is caused by a few of our members returning after long periods of absence.
The ratio of women and men in the Tower has shifted slightly in 2005 in favor of the men. It has dropped below 2:1 again. If we look at City applications, the number of men and women are almost equal. In figure 2, Tower membership divided by rank is shown in a circle graph.
4. Ajah and Company Membership
The fourth company is probably the biggest change in this section. Madhi'in d'ma Dieb started accepting members in January 2005, initially with 6 people, 2 from each of the other companies. After almost a year, MDD is a well established Company with 14 members.
As can be expected from the overall growth in Tower membership all Ajahs and Companies have increased their membership over the past year.
|Ajah||April 1 2003||April 1 2004||January 1 2005||January 1 2006|
|Mahdi'in d'ma Dieb|
|San D'Ma Shadar|
Table B: Ajah and Company membership.
In figures 3 and 4, the relative sizes as well as the composition of each Ajah and Company is shown.
The location graph (figure 5) shows little difference compared to last year. Roughly 2/3 of our membership is concentrated in the U.S.; the rest is mostly located in north-west Europe and Australia. Worth noting, but not directly obvious from the graph, is that the category other includes more countries than it did before. Also interesting to see is that we are attracting more people from Germany and Finland, currently the largest contributors to the category other.
Other nations in the graph include: Germany, Finland, South Africa, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, India, New Zealand, U.A.E., Portugal, Spain, Israel, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Serbia, Malaysia and France. The share of people from countries where English is not an official language is fairly constant, about 17%.
Table C shows where we are best represented per capita (countries with less than 10 members not included).
|Country||Members||Population||One member on x inhabitants|
Table C: members per capita. Source population number CIA world factbook
The USA overtook the Netherlands in 2005, other than that the overall picture has changed little.
With the increasing size of our membership, the age range of our members seems to have increased a bit. The minimum age requirement is still 14, so no members born after 1991 are allowed (save Odin, born in 2000). Figure 6 shows the year of birth of our members.
The bulk of our membership was born between 1978 and 1989 with the average still somewhere in 1982. The date of birth of one of our returning members is not exactly known, explaining why there are only 431 people in figure 6.
7. Looking ahead
Two major changes are coming up for the membership department. First is the change in leadership. After more than 4 years of service to the Tower, the Keeper of the Chronicles, Elyna al'Tzoran, has decided to step down. Her successor, Dralyn Montsier, is currently being trained. Although no drastic changes in the way the department is organized are being considered, this change will not go unnoticed. The Membership department is grateful for Elyna's service and wishes Dralyn the best in taking on this new challenge.
The second change of the membership department is the imminent start of a long anticipated project, guilds in the city of Tar Valon. It has been a wish of the Tower administration to expand the City in this direction since the City's conception. The Guild leaders are currently being selected and the project is expected to take off soon.
In other words, 2006 will be a challenging year for the membership department. Just the way we like it.
Department of Membership Services
This has been quite an exciting year for the Department of Membership Services!
We held three very successful events, in addition to our presence at Dragon*Con and Comic*Con. Our Anniversary party was in the beautiful Colorado mountains, a few hours outside of Denver. Fall Ball was held in historic Richmond, Virginia, and featured a dinner at an authentic tavern from the Colonial Williamsburg era. Europe had its annual event in Gothenburg, Sweden. Our unofficial local events are increasing in size and frequency, offering many opportunities to meet with Tower folk all over the world, all year long.
TarValon.Net was chosen as one of a select few sites to design a page for TOR's Knife of Dreams Internet Hunt. With artwork by Valorian Edoras and design by Darim Pelegro, our contribution featured a scene from Mat's Healing in The Dragon Reborn. We were excited and honored to be recognized by TOR as one of the leading sites in the internet world of the Wheel of Time.
For TarValon.Net's annual Servant of All Competition, members from all ranks and affiliations logged community service contributions for the month of December. In one month, our members donated hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars to their communities. We also held a very special Santa Project for a member in need who lost her home and all her belongings to Hurricane Katrina. Tower members pitched in and donated over $650 for her to buy new furniture and house goods. These two acts have shown just how giving this community is, and proves that we really are Servants of All!
With the addition of an online events team, freeweeks and holidays have taken off and now feature fun games, activities, and competitions. Our Feast of Fools celebration in late summer caused much chaos, as Ajahs and Companies traded affiliations, novices and recruits switches places, and citizens pranced about ordering everyone around. Feast of All Soul's Salvation and Feast of Lights, two annual events, gave members the opportunity to participate in many Ajah- and Company-sponsored games and hunts, in addition to site-wide costume competitions and other activities.
The Tower Museum has recently expanded its exhibits to include written works, along with its traditional artwork. Along with this, this museum is also sponsoring prose and poetry workshops hosted by Jalen te'Kreg. Ajah and Company logos got a makeover this year by Art Curator Darim Pelegro. The new logos artistically describe each Ajah and Company individually, while keeping a flow and continuity throughout.
Tar Valon Radio now hosts seven different radio shows, with more on the way. The move to a new server has permitted more listeners, and some of our shows attract over twenty members a week! Our irc games have hit a bit of a road bump, but they are on their way to making a comeback and once again, along with Tar Valon Radio, making the Olde Warder and Hen both active and entertaining.
Looking ahead, we have a very busy and productive year coming up. For the first time ever, we have a Mistress of Revels team in Europe, dedicated to the development of European parties. Because of this, we will be hosting two parties in Europe every year, to balance the two parties we host in the US.
Everyone is looking forward to this year's Anni Party, which marks our 5th anniversary as a community. This event will be our biggest yet, with attendance exceeding 100 members and an extra day added to give us time for all of our activities. We will have games, competitions, discussion groups, kareoke, workshops, classes, awards, ceremonies, and a formal dinner and masquerade! This is our most ambitious event and is highly anticipated!
Also, look for our next Euro Party taking place this summer, and Fall Ball in Toronto, Canada.
The appointment of a Mistress of Games gives high hopes to the more playful side of TarValon.Net. She will be in charge of our irc activities and handle publicity and scheduling for Olde Warder and Hen activities. Tar Valon Radio is gaining popularity, bringing new listeners and hosts. Expect to see more shows premiering in the near future. Our online events team is already planning our next freeweek, and is preparing another fun-filled year to come. We are also looking at developing a more user-friendly and individualized calendar to provide our membership with.
It has been an absolute delight in leading this department these past two years. Last year has shown remarkable developments and progress, and I expect the same great things out of this department for the coming year as well. I would like to thank everyone in the Department of Membership Services for all their hard work and continuous dedication. They truly are behind everything that makes this site so special.
Department of Membership Services, as of February 2006:
Kariada Kunai - Department Director
Neisa Alibrylla - Assistant to the Director
Saminda Meltacia - Department Webmistress
Jenarra Tikvah - Mistress of Revels, US
Maidelyn F'Koff - Mistress of Revels, Europe
Maran Damastes - Mistress of Revels, Europe
Darim Pelegro - Lead Graphic Design, Art Curator
Ehlana Taravin - Avatar Site Coordinator, Online Events Coordinator
Raevyn Tsornin - Member Resource Center Manager
Triste al'Rotture - Mistress of Games
Micah Junfir - Tar Valon Radio Director
Ilissa al'Nari - Birthday Coordinator
Though I cannot name them all here, I would also like to recognize all the members of the online events team, all the radio and irc game hosts and staff, and everyone who works on committees for our events. They put in an enormous amount of work and are crucial to the fulfillment of many of our department duties.
Thank you, everyone. I am grateful to all of your work, and am looking forward to another rewarding and successful year!
Department of Communications
This year, the Tar Valon Times reached the goal of becoming an emailed newsletter. At first, Citizens did not receive the email as they were not in a user group that allowed mass emails. This changed, however, and as of January 1, every member with an account on the boards received the TVT by email. Due to a board error, mass emails are not possible at the current time, so the TVT is posted in General.
Current staff on the TVT include al'Cary Mandoragan, Assistant Editor; Ciaran al'Trystan; Cursor Wrathwind; Dart Marouvin; Laurienne Corana; and Valadilene Aldieb.
The position of Eyes-and-Ears was created in October. The person holding this position scans other Wheel of Time sites to find news that may not reach TarValon.net or the email@example.com address.
In the coming year, I hope to update the news at least once a week, though some weeks this is not possible simply because there is no news pertaining to the Wheel of Time or Robert Jordan. The TVT will be given a "face-lift" as the staff and I find out what the members of TarValon.net would like to see in the TVT.
Department of Research
The growth in the Library this past year has been nothing less than exceptional. Many goals have been met, progress continues to move forward at a fast pace, and the mark of twenty five hundred articles has been reached and passed.
There has been a bit of a change in the membership of the Research Department. Lyssandra Darai, after a very long time of service and much hard work, chose to retire from the position of Director of Research. Now filling the position of Assistant to the Director of Research, my former position, is Kyria d'Oreyn. The position of Classroom Assistant has also been brought back and added to; instead of just organizing classes, the Classroom Assistant, currently Jundna al'Daelys, now also moderates the classroom forum.
As far as book-related research is concerned, we have made huge advances, and the completion of both the chapter summaries and the character summaries is within sight. With nearly five hundred and fifty chapter summaries in total, less than fifty remain to be done; out of close to one thousand nine hundred character summaries, somewhere between four and five hundred remain. With the Tower Histories, a lot of progress has been made. At this point, most of the important, basic information is available in the Library and the content continues to expand.
Goals for the Research part of the department over the next year are high but completely attainable. In the Histories, the Tower Historian, Ismene Gillandred, hopes to continue work on updating information, as well as creating pages about Ajah positions, such as Hearts and Honor Guards, creating pages on TarValon.Net traditions, and possibly compiling a list of unofficial Tower "clubs" and groups. For the Library in general, I have hopes of completing both the chapter and character summary sections and completing the updates for Knife of Dreams. We will likely be hitting the three thousand article mark sometime late April to mid May.
The next year looks to be very bright indeed for the Tower Library. We continue to be a leading source of Wheel of Time information and look forward to the additions to come.