Monthly Archives: June 2007

WEA community website course

As an advocate of a DIY approach to creating websites, John Anderson is helping people in a really practical way. He’s teaching a short course on how to Build a Community Website.

Coming up on 7 July he’s offering the course at the Global Education Centre in Wellington. Topics being covered include an introduction to the tools available (such as WordPress and CMSimple) and some of the technicalities, along with time to get practical. It costs some cash ($20) and half a Saturday.

John is on the Executive of the Wellington branch of the Workers Educational Association which kicked back into life last year with renewed zeal to provide “Education For Social Change”. During the week he works as a systems administrator dealing with spam, emails and other techy stuff for the Development Resource Centre.

As we chatted over a roti chenai John’s enthusiasm for using IT for making a difference came through. Dealing with MS Windows induced misery is the subject of another course he teaches. Even wider help is envisaged at a community tech bring and mend session: John’s considered hiring a hall, organising some techies and inviting people to bring their PCs in to get mended.

While I wait anxiously for funding for the e-Rider to be confirmed, I’m impressed that John is getting stuck in where he sees a need. All this without becoming embroiled in red tape, etc. I hope he gets a good response.

Connect your community, again

Connecting your community book coverI’m holding in my hands a hardcopy of the Webguide. The booklet aims to help Aotearoa New Zealand community and voluntary organisations get a web presence. I helped out with the contents early on, so I was really pleased to see it released earlier this year.

In 94 pages it covers everything from beginning to end for a community group setting up a website. There’s an online version too, though I find this less easy to use than the hardcopy.

With the ink barely dry, a second version is already being planned. It’s really good the Webguide Partnership have gone back to Miraz Jordan to ask her to write an updated version.

Writing on her blog today (see Community: you’re soaking in it!) Miraz says in version 2, “I plan to talk about all kinds of ‘new’ services such as Twitter, YouTube, and yes, Second Life. I feel pretty defensive about these things though, as even SMS (texting) seems to be too ‘out there’ for some groups.”

Miraz not only has lots of relevant expertise, she’s got a perspective on technology that gels with the values most community groups hold. She believes “we can all use technology such as computers and the Internet to bring change into the world, improving ourselves, others and this planet, our only home in the universe.”

I strongly encourage Miraz to stick to her guns. As I’ve written about earlier, organisations could lose access to some audiences if they don’t keep up with new online tools. I don’t recommend a stampede is warranted, but I do think groups need to be aware of what the new social networking tools can do.

WCC seeks (e) Community Advisor

The Wellington City Council has been committed for more than a decade to ensuring that the city is switched onto powerful uses of ICT. Wellington 2020 in it’s different guises has received core funding for much of the period from the Council, and will continue to do so in the future all things being equal.

The latest iteration of the “Information & Communications Technology Policy” (adopted in July 2006) places emphasis jointly on both e-commuinty and e-democracy. The main thrust is about on ensuring those who are not online have their awareness raised of potential benefits, receive good training and support. The need for coordination and working in partnership with other organisations, including with Wellington 2020, is recognised.

To see the policy given life, WCC are on the recruitment trail again and are looking for a second Advisor to work with Raewyn Baldwin, who started late last year. Those repsonsible for the e-commuinty portfolio have the ambitious job of “leading the strategic/management overview of e-Community initiatives, building and maintaining a full understand of related issues and challenges, and leading implementation of e-Community aspects of the Council’s Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Policy.” One specific focus will be managing computer hubs based at two Council owned and operated housing estates.

Applications for the vacancy close 5pm 4 July. All the jazz about applying is online WCC’s job vacancies page.

Barbara’s travels

When I was chatting with Barbara Crump about the evaluation of the e-Rider IT service, she mentioned she was heading out of town for a conference.

Barbara is presenting a paper at the annual International Association for Development of the Information Society e-Society conference in Lisbon. The paper is based on her work with Eltahir Kabbar. They have been researching refugee immigrants in the Wellington region and their uptake/adoption of ICTs (or otherwise). A paper based on the research was published last year in Informing Science, the international journal of the an emerging transdiscipline, see “The Factors that Influence Adoption of ICTs by Recent Refugee Immigrants to New Zealand” (pdf).

Later in her travels she’ll meet with leading community informatics researcher Peter Day at the University of Brighton.

I’ve suggested Barbara regale us with news from the Northern Hemisphere on her return. Much as it is easy to get an indigestible amount of information about community informatics online, the personal touch goes along way. Bon voyage Barbara and I look forward to some stories when you get back.

Making links conference, Sydney

On 30-31 October 2007 a range of people will be gathering to share all they know about using technology for social action and community building at the Making Links conference. A call for papers is open until 2 July for oral paper presentations, practical workshops and interactive multimedia displays, as well as referred academic papers.

This year’s confernce is the fourth and is described “…as one of Australia’s leading forums for workers in the not-for-profit and community sectors to showcase their work and to explore current and emerging new media and information and communications technology (ICT).”

I’ve suggested to Barbara Crump from Massey University that we co-present a paper about the e-Rider project at the 2008 event. By this time Barbara will have completed the evaluation (all going to plan) and we’ll have may insights from the management side of things. In the meantime I’m saving so that I participate this year.

Email powers Community Sector Taskforce communication

When I visited the Community Sector Taskforce’s new website I actually had a few problems signing up. An RSS-feed was broken, I couldn’t find my profile to change a password and an unsubscribe email address didn’t work. These niggardly things were more irritating than earth-shattering.

Thankfully within a couple of hours of sending an email to the help address I had all the little hassles ironed out. It was great service from Dan at onlinegroups which is providing the website and technical support.

The Taskforce have chosen a platform that allows interested people to subscribe to emails to receive news or items on a variety of topics, as well as view archives online. At the moment, aside from a weekly news summary, the other subject areas covered are government resourcing, jobs and what’s on. More subjects are planned. Links to RSS-feeds give people another option for staying in touch.

The decision to put email at the centre reflects the high level of comfort the grassroots constituency of the Taskforce have with this means of communicating. It’s good strategy to go to where people are at rather than providing applications that aren’t commonly used within the sector.

While the main list has over 1,200 members, the others are growing slowly. Without a critical mass of both users and posts lists won’t work. From my time managing the CommuntyNet Aotearoa website I know that it takes a lot of effort and sticking power to build up a critical mass of content (something I’m not sure we every did manage to achieve). In time, I’m sure this list will gather steam.

As well as news and discussion, there are historical documents and background materials. Included amongst these materials are an explanation of the powerful two-house organising model being promoted to ensure the structure of the Taskforce is soundly Te Tiriti o Waitangi based.

As part of the goal of facilitating collaboration I’m sure the Taskforce will have it’s sight set on increasing the numbers of active members. I’ll certainly point people toward the website and look forward to seeing what else the is done to promote participation.