“BMLT” stands for “Basic Meeting List Toolbox.” It is a Web-based platform that was designed to encourage and assist NA Service bodies in providing a powerful, easily-maintained NA meeting list.
The BMLT is designed specifically for NA Service bodies, but has been deployed for other fellowships. It has also been used to track Helpline and Sponsorship volunteers. The BMLT is easy to customize, so it’s not just for NA meetings.
If you integrate the BMLT with your Web site, you can have an extremely usable, attractive and accurate meeting search or list. You can also have displays that are designed specifically for mobile devices. We even have an iPhone/iPad app that is designed to be used with the BMLT.
The BMLT was designed with usability, stability, quality, security and continuity in mind. It was designed to be easy to install, easy to use, easy to maintain, and easy to transfer from one administrator to another.
That last item is critical. There are quite a few “bespoke” meeting search systems out there; many are extremely well-done, and may even give a better experience than the BMLT. However, these systems almost never remain intact after the handoff from one Webservant to another. The BMLT is designed as a standard platform. It is well-documented, well-supported and well-understood. If you use the BMLT for your meeting search, then you can greatly reduce the “knowledge transfer” when people change out of/into roles that administer it.
Additionally, the BMLT was designed with multiple data mining and export options, so it is extremely easy to synchronize your meeting search with NAWS, or other Service bodies, and there are a vast number of ways in which it can be deployed. You don’t have to use the standard format. There are many variations, from simple inline tables (the classic “table of meetings”), to highly interactive searches.
The BMLT is comprised of super high-quality code, originally done by a professional software engineer, and is 100% free and open source. It can never be hijacked or taken away. It belongs to NA.
The Principal Engineer working on the BMLT got clean at the age of 18, in 1980, and has no intention of going anywhere, so the BMLT is supported by a pretty stable family.
The BMLT was first released in alpha version in May, 2009, and was officially released in June of 2009. This means that it is a highly stable, mature project with a long, well-established provenance.
When we say that the BMLT is handled as a “full-fat” professional-grade project, we’re not kidding.
The BMLT is a PHP program, that uses the MySQL database. PHP is an extremely common Web programming language that is available virtually everywhere, and is supported by the cheapest Web hosting companies. The BMLT is meant to be used by as many people as possible, and was created with this in mind.
The BMLT is designed to be extremely easy to install, and even easier to administer. Far more work has been put into the “back end” of the system than the front. Easy administration is very important.
Before you rush out and get a BMLT, you need to consider how it will be used. Let us explain, then you’ll understand:
The BMLT is what is referred to as a “client/server” system. There is a central “server,” that holds the meetings, and where the administrators edit and take care of their meetings, and multiple “clients,” where the meeting list/search is displayed for Web site (and mobile device) users.
A common pattern is that the “server” is run by a Regional Service body, with all of the Area Services keeping their meeting lists in the central server.
Each Area Service runs a “client” on their Web server. This “client” connects to the central Regional “server,” and gets the information that it displays, from there. However, the “client” is completely integrated into the Area Service Web site. This is an extremely important concept, as each Service body should be very autonomous. They can present their meeting list in whatever form they choose. There is no sign that the data is coming from the central “server.”
With this in mind, you should determine whether or not you want to run a BMLT “client” or a BMLT “server” (we call the BMLT “server” the “Root Server”).
If you are a Group or an Area Service, then you should probably find out if your Region already has a BMLT root server established. If they do, then your job is extremely easy. Simply get whatever client is best suited for your site, point it at the Regional root server, and there you go. You don’t need to run MySQL, and the PHP requirements for satellites are a bit more relaxed than for the Root Server.
If your Region does not have a root server set up, you may want to consider asking them to set one up. It may be a good idea to reach out to neighboring Area Services, and work together on a shared root server (either through your Region, or even multiple Regions). The wider the area covered by a root server, the more useful and powerful the BMLT installation will be.
Most NA Web sites being constructed these days, use what is called a “CMS,” which stands for “Content Management System.” There are three major CMS systems that represent the vast majority of CMS sites. These are WordPress (the CMS that runs this site), Drupal and Joomla. If your site is based on Drupal or WordPress, then it is extremely easy to add a BMLT client, as we have plugins for these systems that are a breeze to install and manage (PLEASE NOTE: Joomla is no longer supported; and when we did support it, our plugin only covered Joomla 1.5 – 2.6).
It is possible to add a BMLT client into a non-CMS site. It takes a bit of extra coding, but hardly any. There are also ways to get highly customized displays of BMLT data for your site (for example, a small ASC site may not want an interactive search, but would rather have a small table of meetings. This can easily be done with the BMLT).