Last month, the Web pages for Episcopal News Service were revamped and the URL for the main page was changed. That URL is now http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/, which, arguably, is inconveniently long. (It used to be http://episcopalchurch.org/ens/—an address which, for now, is being redirected to the new page—but http://dfms.org/ens/, which was much more convenient, also worked. That more compact URL no longer does.)
In any case, the new ENS site is more simply organized, and URLs of new stories are no longer the inscrutable strings of characters they used to be. Recent stories with old-style URLs have retained their Web addresses. Unfortunately, older stories have not. Thus, myriad links on the Web to past stories—I haven’t determined at what date “older stories” begin—are broken.
That URLs of ENS stories have changed is particularly irritating to me, as I am the principal editor of Pittsburgh Update, a blog maintained by Progressive Episcopalians of Pittsburgh that publishes a weekly summary of news stories related to Episcopal Church integrity. New stories on Pittsburgh Update frequently refer to older stories, and those older stories often contain links to stories from ENS. Many of those links are now broken, though I try to repair them whenever I run across them.
Today, while working on the weekly Pittsburgh Update post, I needed to link to an earlier post that contained a link to an ENS story at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/79901_119351_ENG_HTM.htm from February 2010. That address brought up the dreaded Page Not Found message. It was only through the Internet Archive that I was able to determine the title and exact date of the story. With that information, I went searching for the article in the ENS archive.
Just about all the ENS pages contain a search box, so one might think that searching for the exact story title would be the fastest way to find it. The result of that search, however, was the message “Sorry, no posts matched your criteria.” Knowing the date of an article is helpful, as the ENS site allows one to find all the posts in a given month. Unfortunately, one has to know how the article was characterized, since the monthly archives are segregated by topic. I looked under World Report, which seemed to contain all the stories from other Anglican Communion churches. This search failed, as did one under Churchwide. (As it happens, I would have had to look under News. Who knew?)
Anyway, by this time I was frustrated and decided to call the Episcopal Church Center in New York City to ask someone to tell me where my story went. I made the call, planning to ask for anyone from ENS, since I know that ENS people are not always in the New York office. I was surprised to hear not the human receptionist I had come to expect, but a dreaded automated announcement. That announcement offered me the option of dialing an extension I already knew—but I didn’t know an extension—of using a system to find the number of a particular person—but I wasn’t trying to reach a particular person, only a department—or of hearing a list of departments. There was no option for talking to an operator, and pressing 0, which often works on such automated systems, simply gave me an error message. I chose the last option, of course, but ENS wasn’t among the departments listed. I hung up in frustration.
I went back to the ENS site and found a list of contact numbers for ENS people and dialed the number of someone I actually knew but who likely wasn’t in the office today. She wasn’t. I then called the Episcopal Church Center and listened to the recitation of extension numbers. I punched in the number of the Office of the Presiding Bishop and explained that I really wanted to speak to someone from ENS. My call was promptly transferred to someone who was able to help me and who clearly shared some of my frustrations, both about the ENS site and about the telephone system. (The URL I was looking for, by the way, was http://archive.episcopalchurch.org/79425_119351_ENG_HTM.htm, an address not related to the original URL in any obvious way.)
As a computer professional, I can appreciate the difficulty of revising the ENS pages while preserving older URLs. Moreover, I can accept that it was seen as necessary to preserve the arcane classification system previously used for ENS stories for those older stories. Nonetheless, I find the present ENS archive a weekly, if not a daily trial.
What I cannot accept is the difficulty in reaching someone—anyone—at ENS. The Contact Us page on the ENS site lists the Episcopal Church Center telephone numbers for general inquiries. Of the six individuals listed, one has a telephone number in the U.K., one has a California number, and two have only e-mail addresses. If one clicks on Contact Us on the home page of the main Episcopal Church site, one is presented with an e-mail form, not a list of telephone numbers or e-mail addresses! And then, there is the telephone system.
The Episcopal Church Welcomes You. Yeah, right!
Postscript. I visited my bookmarked page containing Episcopal Church images for use in print publications, Web sites, and so forth. I thought I would use one of the images for this post. The page has moved or disappeared, however.