Thursday, October 3, 2019

What Happened to the Vote?

By Chris Hamill

On Tuesday, a number of concerns were communicated to me from several sources about the ongoing vote for the proposed new Section of the T&C. The vote was temporarily suspended in order to fairly address the issues, and what is to happen will be explained in a moment.

The timing/rush of the vote was due to a misunderstanding of how long we have left before the final text of the scriptures has to be turned over to the printer for the leather scriptures. If the vote adopted the new Section, the formatting of the T&C would have to be changed in order to place that new Section in front of the final 3 existing sections so that it would be in chronological order like all of the other Sections. And with so little time available, it all had to take place within a few weeks. The primary concerns raised about how this was being handled were:

  • Changing the arrangement of the Sections would mean that the paperback and hardbound books no longer matched the formatting of the leather scriptures, though we were told they would.
  • This should have been handled during the conference a few weeks ago, not afterwards. Or it should wait until the next conference.

A post was prepared to address these and other concerns, but was not put up because a new factor was introduced that changed everything. Some thoughts shared with me from a conversation Denver had with one of the committee members indicated that the chronological order of that particular talk (OUR DIVINE PARENTS) is not critical. He suggested simply adding the new Section, if adopted, at the end of the T&C as Section 178. The effects of that observation are:

  • This would not mess with the formatting of the paperback and hardbound T&C compared to the leather scriptures.
  • Being added at the end could be done at any time, not necessarily immediately, meaning it doesn't have to be done online, but can wait until the next general conference.

The result is a simple change -- postponing a vote until next year.

Or so it would seem.

A few more issues and explanations need to be presented before continuing. First, here are some of the other concerns that were raised about the proposed new Section, given with responses so that everyone is aware of them and can discuss them as needed:

  • There should always be an opportunity for people to discuss an issue before making a decision. If the vote didn't need such a rush, more time would definitely have been taken ahead of the vote.
  • The substance of the proposed Section has been questioned: Is it a rehash that doesn't warrant special attention? Shouldn't the whole talk be adopted, rather than just a piece given without a lot of context? The determination was made early on in the scriptures project to try to avoid including any of Denver's talks or published works in the scriptures. He agreed that those should stand on their own. So including the whole talk, which was once proposed for inclusion, was determined inappropriate. Looking more closely at the small portion quoted in the proposal, the initial material is a restating of what can be found in Section 89. Had that been all that was said about it, this proposal never would have even been made. It was Denver's later return to the remarks, and his singling them out as unique and independent of the talk, that attracted attention: Those concluding references to the Word of Wisdom were themselves given as a reminder, by revelation, as something to be repeated here in the context of this talk [Our Divine Parents] to honor Her. Remarks given by revelation, with the intent to honor Heavenly Mother, fit the definition of scripture found in the Glossary better than some of the existing Sections in the T&C do. There is no other instance of singled out revealed remarks in all of Denver's writings. In the course of compiling material for the Glossary, I've listened to all of his talks and books many times and can attest to that.
  • The scriptures committee has repeatedly stated that the project was done and the text was finished. People waited to purchase new copies of the scriptures until they felt confident that nothing major would change. That was assumed by the publishing of the new paperbacks and hardbound copies. The first inkling that there was something to address happened a week ago Wednesday, 3 days after the conference ended. This may look suspicious, until asking reveals that it was unexpected. We had no anticipation of anything further happening with the ongoing scriptures project other than minor typos being caught and addressed until we lock down the text and send it for printing. It came to light as a result of reviewing the talk OUR DIVINE PARENTS. Once a new Section was proposed, there was the concern for getting it into this first printing of the leather scriptures. If the proposed Section was adopted, it would have to be added to the T&C in front of the last 3 sections because of the chronological order of the Sections. This couldn't be done down the road as there may not be another printing of leather scriptures, and to insert a Section anywhere other than at the end of the line would be problematic at best. So to add it to the leather scriptures, it would have to be voted on quickly (so we assumed). Because there would not be a conference or group event allowing for a larger discussion and vote prior to the closing deadline of the text, the committee discussed whether the proposal was reasonable to make and execute online. There was good support for proposing it for a vote and the vote was set up.
  • (Now that we understand the order of the Sections doesn't need to change, all arguments that the non-leather scriptures won't sync with the leather versions are no longer an issue.)
  • Claims and concerns of betrayal, of lying, of trying to sneak something in, in a way no one could really prevent, have all been leveled. And they all require the assumption of intent to do so. This proposal wasn't anticipated, so it's hard to claim any ill intent. Because claims of nefarious intent have been leveled for 2 1/2 years and not a single one has proven true, this should add support to our claim that we're simply acting on something that seems reasonable to consider adding to the scriptures, and proposing it to the general assembly. That has been part of our assignment from the beginning. (A plea: We need to be careful not to move back into the contentious exchanges we've been reproved for in Sections 157 and 177.) This also speaks to the integrity claims -- that we aren't keeping our word. We intended the scripture text to be completed. We had no anticipation of any additions to happen within what we already have, only for new revelations to be added later. But some people have placed expectations upon the project that have never been promised. We're doing our best, and communicate as clearly and openly as we can. But we've all experienced making commitments and then having something arise that can't be ignored and that supersedes our original commitment. That doesn't make us liars, but instead, requires us to consider our higher priorities. For example, when the project was first announced in March of 2017, we stated that there would be a 6-9 month period of review and then the final scriptures would be published. That was 2 1/2 years ago. Many unanticipated things have come to light and required us to investigate and adapt. This was no exception.

Given all of the issues raised, even though there are reasonable responses to them all, we determined it would be best to temporarily suspend the ongoing vote, listen to and consider what people were saying, and address them. There was a post prepared for that purpose that would have gone up yesterday afternoon if Denver's thoughts hadn't changed our understanding. And to handle the additional issue that some pointed to -- that there are folks, for example, who have voted NO and who might have voted differently had they heard these explanations, but their votes have been cast and can't be changed -- we also determined to allow time for the post to be studied and discussed, then have the vote restarted from scratch (a do-over). This delay is possible because the deadline for getting the final text to the printer is farther out than we first realized. (It will take at least 45 days to produce the paper for the printing and the PDFs don't have to be to the printer before the paper is. The paper won't be ordered until after we place our order, which won't happen until the special-order window closes on October 15th.)

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Now that you've been brought up to speed, there is another consideration to be made. A number of people, many of them women, have expressed excitement and satisfaction at the possibility of having a clear, present-day example of our Heavenly Mother speaking to us included in the scriptures. Having that Section published in this first edition of our leather scriptures adds a sense of validity that printing the Section and inserting it in the back of the T&C next year just couldn't achieve. But once the leather scriptures are printed, all new revelations will be handled as inserts until there is enough material to justify either printing a booklet-style addendum or reprinting the leather T&C.

There is always the possibility of new revelation, other than this proposed Section, being given to us prior to the locking down of the T&C text for printing in December. And it's likely many of us would want as much material as possible included in the first printing. Since we don't have a conference of any sort planned until next April, the only means of adding anything else between now and December is the online approach. It doesn't have to be rushed; time for discussion can be made. We currently do not have a formally accepted procedure for adopting new material as scripture. The Glossary explanation of SCRIPTURE includes: "To be acknowledged, a conference must adopt the writing as part of a canon." Up to now we've had new scripture added both by online voting and by voting in a conference. Because we have yet to formally agree as a people how we will continue to add new scripture, the possibility exists to still add scripture using the online approach (which could be ratified at a future conference). However, no person or group can decide that for the body as a whole. For that reason, the suspended voting will be replaced with a new vote that will address both questions facing this people:

  1. Should any new material that we want included as scripture in the first printing of the leather scriptures be allowed to be adopted using an online vote, or must it wait until a conference can be held?
  2. If an online approach is determined to be acceptable until the next conference, should the proposed new Section be adopted as scripture and added to the initial printing of the leather scriptures?

This approach accomplishes several things:

  • The people as a whole, not a small group or individual, decides the method of adoption to be used until the next conference. The matter of agreeing on a procedure for adding scripture can be finalized and voted on at that time.
  • The lack of a definitive approach gives those who are interested or passionate about the proposed example of the Mother's voice being included in the original printing of the leather scriptures the possibility to have that take place.
  • In addressing both questions in a single voting session, if the determination is that an online approach is not acceptable, despite the special circumstance of trying to include the material in the new leather scriptures, the results of the second question can be ignored and a future vote can be taken at a conference instead. If, however, an online vote is deemed acceptable for the time being, then we will also have the voice of the people on the proposed Section and can act in time to include it in the first printing of the leather scriptures if it's adopted.

The new vote will begin a week from this Saturday, on October 12th, and run through Sunday October 20th. This will allow all of us enough time to consider all of the issues presented, any new ones, and discuss it all among ourselves before voting. Please pay attention to the announcement area at the top of the home page of scriptures.info for updates and other information.

27 comments:

  1. Thanks for the explanation and providing a place of discussion. I'm sure the community appreciates the volunteer work and understands how the process is something we are all learning about as we go along.

    I'm curious and would appreciate knowing what the vote tally was prior to it being pulled down. I am pretty sure there are others that would appreciate that level of transparency.

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  2. I appreciate the explanation. It seemed really strange when something showed up suddenly, and then was shut down just as suddenly. This helps bridge the "what in the hell is going on" gap for me. Would you mind sharing the vote tally of those that voted during that window?

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  3. That could possibly skew the new vote, just as in any election, so we won't disclose the partial vote results.

    Chris

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    1. I don't understand how releasing the "primary" election tally skews the "final" election any more than stopping the vote and redoing the explanation. Isn't the very purpose of the expanded explanation to change minds?

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    2. If the content isn't going to change then I could see that. But if it is would it matter?

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    3. Not as far as I can see. And especially since it only included the early voters, not those who were carefully weighing this through. It seems like a total distraction.

      Marcia

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    4. What early votes there were, were made with different expectations than those voters will have the second time through. And from Chris's anecdotal description, it sounds likely that many "no" votes (however many there were) could have been due to some of those objectionable expectations that have now changed. (i.e., section reordering that will not happen and the concern about whether an online vote is acceptable) I also found it helpful to hear and consider other perspectives (esp. female) on why this could be a good idea now rather than waiting for another general conference.

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  4. Thank you. Your hard work is appreciated beyond measure.

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  5. Chris,

    Your explanation was thorough and well-presented. Our family is persuaded! Thank you for these continued efforts and we applaud you all for moving forward with this.

    I will acknowledge that our entire family had already voted in the affirmative and the things that you shared have confirmed that we will keep our vote in that direction.

    While there is a temptation to divert the discussion toward the content of Section 89 (the Word of Wisdom) and weigh the pros and cons of whether this counsel for us creates an atmosphere where Pharisees can thrive---we believe we should just let the words of God stand for themselves, allow people to govern themselves accordingly, and focus this discussion of whether to add a new section upon the significance of what we have received from God.

    As you reiterated: We have received a designated "revelation," unique in all the present-day material we have received. The Divine Parents talk as a whole shed more light and knowledge on the topic of Heavenly Mother than has been known for millennia. Whereas we cannot include the entire talk, we would be remiss to neglect that opportunity to include this in this initial printing. It may even be more than "remiss" ---but bordering on a travesty to neglect this. Not only does it shed light on the Mother's involvement and concern for us, but by making this effort to include it, we show respect and honor to Them for Their willingness to condescend to speak to us again. In the scope of human history, this is no small matter. We would do well to set aside personal biases about subject matters and look at the grand overall significance of what we have received and show our respect and gratitude to our Divine Parents for their willingness to work with us again.

    I shout "hallelujah" to whomever it was that made this observation and was inspired enough to realize we have neglected this and have the opportunity to get this included in time. That's a miracle of sorts in our estimation.

    One simple question: If the proposal passes, will future printings of the "on demand" soft cover versions include this section? We plan to get some large print scriptures and want to wait until this would be included if possible.

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  6. Here we go:
    1. It was an explanation, not a persuasion piece, so we explain why the vote had been canceled, why some of the concerns were no longer relevant, and what the other concerns were so that people can discuss them. It was not intended to change minds.
    2. The vote that was suspended was not a complete vote, so it does not give an accurate picture of what people are thinking. Numbers by themselves do not offer any context, since we don't know why someone voted yes or no. So numbers alone are not helpful. Also, if the current numbers had been 497 nos and one yes, then people might feel like it's not worth the bother to vote again since nearly everyone appears to be against the proposed. (That example does not reflect the true numbers in any way.)
    Hope that helps.

    Chris Hamill

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  7. Thanks for the explanation on what happened. I appreciate how this is being handled.
    I like the idea of getting feedback for the validity of online voting. The value of voting in person at a conference is that it takes away the anonymity. I think it's valuable for someone to have their name on the line when making a decision (especially when it can be very uncomfortable). It would be nice if the online voting could have names attached, but I don't see a valid way to do that (especially since there are some among us who aren't yet ready for their names to be linked to this movement).

    Kevin Gillman

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  8. I am likely the one mentioned as suggesting the entire “Our Divine Parents” talk be included.

    I never knew Denver had said he thought his talks should be standalone. He had the responsibility to give that talk and so I accept that intent as his prerogative. I do feel the language given at the beginning of that particular talk seems particularly bold in asserting Divine direction and approval, but I am perfectly fine putting a laminated copy of that talk in my own scriptures.

    I can see and feel both the love and sincere desire of Chris and the scripture committee in everything they are doing. Because they genuinely care so much about everyone’s input and are determined to remain equal, please allow me to remove my suggestion the entire talk be included and remove that concern and weight from the considerations with all that is being done. My intent was certainly not to add stress or cause contention and in that spirit I withdraw my request. And I do so freely and not because I feel compelled. I simply love and support this group and do not desire to be a burden.

    Voting yes to include that smaller portion of the remarks was one of the easiest yes votes I could ever give, and still will be if/when a revote is taken.

    Chris/Scripture committee,

    If you read this, I want to say I am very sorry for the accusations of ill will toward you. I have been shown much about the hearts of this group, and I want to thank you for the respect you are showing Our Lords words by your words and deeds, and for being ever mindful of His will for us that we love one another.

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  9. So I have an honest question. In the quote of Denvers from the talk, he says "as something to be repeated here in the context of this talk [Our Divine Parents] to honor Her." It says in the context of this talk. If you say we should let the talk stand alone, then if you pull that from the talk, it would no longer be in the context of the talk, would it?

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  10. Scripture people have done an amazing job and i appreciate all the work they have done. Bryce Stevensons comments make a really good case for not accepting this. Daniel comments make a good case for why if we don't have full transparency perhaps conference votes will be better than online though I probably would of done exact what chris has said in his comments.

    But in the end I Think this blog gives a good illustration about all this.

    "Matters of governance such as which of Dave’s quotes to include in our scriptures are only practice in learning to get along at this point. Keep in mind that if the movement succeeds, we get Jesus and an unsealed Book of Mormon. A hundred years from now, our yak leather bound set of remnant scriptures will either be replaced with white stones, or it will be kept in an Lamanite museum next to Brigham’s walking cane and the conference center podium made from GBH’s tree as a reminder of the hubris of failed dispensations."
    https://atbmblog.blogspot.com/2019/10/what-does-society-of-prophets-look-like.html

    Whatever the result I am grateful for all just trying to help us all become closer to God and remember better His word for us and help become His people. Which can be easily distracting if were not careful.

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  11. How is it when we know that becoming part of the scriptures requires adopting the proposed scripture by a CONFERENCE as part of the canon, yet think we are justified just this once in doing it on line? We do know that is what is required, because you read it to us from the glossary which defines "scripture."

    Just because we have done voting on line before doesn't to my mind justify circumnavigating the requirement when we know there is a requirement, despite how badly some of us may want a message from our Mother in Heaven to be there. After all we require our Heavenly Father's words to be there through the proper process.

    Keith

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  12. I would be very careful with this Divine Parents doctrine. Denver states: "This topic may seem foreign to Christians. Despite that, Christ’s gospel includes things you may not yet understand."

    It's not foreign to Christians or Jews. Jews regularly practiced veneration of Asherah and the Queen of Heaven as the wife of God.

    Jeremiah 44:17-19 talks about how they said they would worship as their ancestors had done.

    Jeremiah then refutes this in the next verses.

    This isn't new and further doctrine. This is what the Hebrew Scriptures repeated warns us about.

    The doctrine of a Heavenly Mother became accepted Mormon Doctrine in the last verse of the song Oh My Father which was penned by the polygamist Eliza Snow who stated that she was married to Joseph and was in fact married to Brigham.

    I'm not a troll, I'd just be remiss if I didn't make mention of using caution around the subject.
    Andrew

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  13. A potential resolution of nearly all the concerns has been identified. An announcement will be made tomorrow on scriptures.info

    Chris Hamill

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  14. I voted no (not because of the placement in the T&C nor the other issues that were mentioned) but because of the actual content itself which has yet to be discussed. Not everyone agrees that everything said is and should be considered revelation.

    There are other reasons from other no voters that haven't been mentioned. Maybe this whole yes/no voting mechanism should include a way for anyone to voice concerns for why something shouldn't be included rather than the comments section of Adrian's personal blog?

    It sounds like there are no plans to change the content in the upcoming vote. If that is the case my vote will likely not change.

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  15. I also voted no because the text feels like a commentary on the Word of Wisdom from Denver. Isn't scripture usually in the voice of the Lord? I don't understand how a commentary about the Word of Wisdom is scripture. Perhaps someone here can enlighten my understanding.

    I think there is an assumption regarding why people were initially voting "no" that may not be true. Like Dan, I too am interested in what the vote tally was before the vote was removed.

    Also, in the interest of transparency, would it make sense to have the person proposing this be accepted as scripture to come forward and explain their thoughts as to why this should be the case? Would it also not make sense to have Denver's point of view on the matter since it is from his talk?

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  16. The post is now up on scriptures.info

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  17. Bret, this is my thought on your question: "Isn't scripture usually in the voice of the Lord? I don't understand how a commentary about the Word of Wisdom is scripture. Perhaps someone here can enlighten my understanding."

    Your comment made me think of how the original D&C had things like the declaration of belief regarding governments (D&C 134... I'm okay with that not being in the T&C) and the T&C has several letters from Joseph Smith that seem to include commentary. To me, this proposed section doesn't seem to be out of the ordinary for what already been done. On top of that, the small section references the entire talk ("Those concluding references to the Word of Wisdom were themselves given as a reminder, by revelation, as something to be repeated here in the context of this talk [Our Divine Parents] to honor Her."), so in an indirect way I see it as including the entire talk as part of the T&C. And I remember Denver being clear toward the beginning of the talk that this was a message from heaven. I think that reference is something worth considering when voting.

    I like your recommendation about having whoever is proposing this give their name and explanation.

    It seems quite late in the game to be proposing new additions. Why wait until now? But I think it's good that a General Business Conference is now planned as a result (http://scriptures.info/Home/Announcements). It's great we have more opportunity to learn how to interact and make decisions as a group. Thanks to those organizing this.

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  18. I think online voting should definitely be done. Most of us can't afford to make it to all the conferences, seems pretty unfair to have our votes not count because we don't have the luxury of living of being able to take a vacation?

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  19. I am the person responsible for proposing the potential new Section. It was done in response to the same voice that led to the addition of THE FIRST WITNESSES in the front matter of the Book of Mormon and the same voice that led to the Lord changing the words of the Father at Christ's baptism in Matt. 2:4. That voice will never be ignored or postponed. It was that voice coming late in the game that determined the timing, not me. Also, my reasoning was given clearly in the post being commented on. By using the phrase BY REVELATION, Denver indicated that he either received the commentary by revelation and delivered it, or he was directed by revelation to give commentary, which implies that God would take ownership of it. That the comments were included in his paper that he prepared prior to delivering the talk points to the first possibility being the most likely. Either way, they came from God, not Denver. Denver has given his point of view many times on the matter - he does whatever the Lord asks of him, however inconvenient.

    I've also already explained that giving the count from the halted online vote would have an unfair influence on the upcoming vote on the same matter. It isn't an issue of not being transparent. If that were the case, then every presidential election has been unfair and lacked transparency because the actual vote count is never revealed until after the voting is completed so that folks on the west coast are not influenced by the voting that took place on the ease coast. Since the online vote was not completed, any numbers are an inaccurate reflection of the overall perspective of the movement. The count can be shared after the final vote on the matter takes place, likely at the conference.

    The issue of online voting and the content of the proposed Section can be taken up by the attendees during the conference.

    Chris Hamill

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  20. As to the desire to have our Heavenly Mother's voice, saying's, and revelations to us in our scriptures, aren't we already blessed in abundance with these? "Does not Wisdom cry? And understanding put forth Her voice? ....She cries at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors. Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man..." (Old Covenant, Proverbs 2:34-38). And many other things in places throughout all our scriptures if we are just perceptive enough to see them.

    Plus, we have the whole Our Divine Parents talk in context and The Word of Wisdom as given through Joseph as instigated by Emma, in context before us anytime we desire to read them or (so far) hear it.

    If Denver received a revelation while he was preparing or talking, meant to enhance our perception or retention of the importance of what previously was given in a more general context, then by all means it should be added to our scriptures, particularly if it doesn't disrupt the order of scripture numbering in copies already sold as complete. But, if that was the intent of its delivery only Denver would know, and without him saying so, the rest of us are left only to guess.

    Keith

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  21. Definitely there needs to be a vote to include those who cannot come to the conference. It is a financial burden to travel and there are many who cannot come for illness or other valid reasons who desperately want to be involved. Something as important as determining the future of voting and how business is conducted needs to include all who wish to be included in whatever way is possible for them to be included. All are not in a position of traveling several times a year in order to cast a vote. That may be hard to believe to some but there are many who cannot drop everything and travel hours or days in order to participate because there is a vote called on a whim and it has been determined by a few that it has to be in person. That is not very considerate of fellow covenant holders.

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  22. Just FYI - yesterday Denver was interviewed by Shawn McCraney (from the Heart of the Matter podcast). Shortly before the 3rd hour Shawn asked Denver some questions on the WOW. Denver gave some historical background, his opinions on it and some examples from his life. Worth listening to and considering.

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Hey everyone,

It's been brought to my attention that comments from mobile phones might not come through in some situations. If you commented and it hasn't appeared, try sending from a computer or other device, or use the "Contact Me" tool to reach out to me personally. Sorry for the problems! The blogger platform, though free, seems to have problems.