Monthly Archives: July 2009

91 insightful seconds about online community

If you’ve got a spare 1 minute 31 seconds take a look at this short video from Nancy White. Logoactivo sums it up in his comment: “That´s great advice: “getting good at asking questions”. Incredible, in less than 5 seconds she´s made it clearer than any 2 hour social media conference!”

Pithy, to the point. Why say anything more.

Though if you do want more, interviewer Robin Good introduces the video in a post about “Online Community Building Strategy: Good Advice from Nancy White”. He interviewed Nancy in his home town of Rome where Robin runs Ikonos New Media.

(BTW: I’ve been following Nancy’s work since meeting she visit Wellington last year, see my post “Dags and dingleberries”, 24 August 2008.)

Using video to tell your story

Telling stories using video is something that Nathalie Hofsteed and Lee Hales at Give a little are pretty excited about. They recently told me about plans to make it easy for organisations to share video updates via their donation pages. Give a little are on a mission to make it easy for fundraisers to account to supporters about how they use donations.

“People love hearing from the trenches. Organisations are sharing are really honest, budget productions,” explains Nathalie.

“People like to see a face. You can see frustration or elation or whatever,” Lee chipped in.

Videos of new wells being constructed by charity: water are a good example, Nathalie says. The emphasis is on clarity of presentation, not on slick production. In fact, the Give a little team argue that it doesn’t need to be broadcast quality.

Effective communication to a wide audience led the NZ Drug Foundation to share a series of short clips from the New Zealand/International Drug policy symposium on YouTube. These are not just long talks, but edited digests on themes such as addiction treatment, methamphetamines and international policy.

I recently spoke with Ross Bell, the Foundation’s director, who describes the videos as a way of translating information into formats that people can more easily access.

They’ll form useful background for upcoming consultation on liquor legislation being run by the Law Commission. And they are being picked up by affiliated organisations around the world.

With positive feedback about the footage, which is also being distributed by DVD, Ross will continue to use video when it’s an effective way of communicating.

How to get started? Even though I missed “The Power of Videoblogging” workshop by Jay Dedman and Ryanne Hodson run at the Connecting Up conference in May 2009, I heard very good things about the session. Materials shared by the presenters include slides from their presentation and links to learn to videoblog resources on the freevlog website. It doesn’t look too scary.

With free hosting of videos by YouTube, Vimeo and others, coupled with the ease of embedding and sharing, now is a good time to start thinking about video. You’ll be the first to see results of my efforts, which I’ll share here. The only thing stopping me: I need to loan/ buy/ beg a video recorder from somewhere.

Moving on from CommunityCentral

New CommunityCentral website banner

As I gaze out my home office window (which I do in exceedingly rare moments when I’m day dreaming turning over thorny ideas) I can see a kowhai gently bending with the breeze. The plant is a farewell gift from the partners behind CommunityCentral.  My paid role Project Manager came to an end last week after over 18 months involvement.

In the week of my departure we released two much awaited features: Private workspaces and Discussion networks. The features are set up to allow people to use a secure online spaces to support their work, learning and conversations. They’re in part about productivity, and part building connections.

If you login in you’ll see there are already people using these spaces. For instance, Tracy Kenyon, of Presbyterian Support Northern, has set up a Discussion network to link volunteer managers and coordinators. Her aim is to build up online community. You’ll see the names of Private workspaces, but that’s about all as these are for committees or project teams. They’re very much about internal workings of organisations.

In the latter half of the project my role was primarily focused on software development and setting up internal processes. My head was truly under the hood of Drupal as we endeavoured to wrestle the generic organic groups modules into something we felt would work for community and voluntary sector audiences. There also some cosmetic changes are well – in evidence in the banner above.

There is more to do, and likely a few rough edges here and there. We established a firm policy of being open to feedback. A suggestions forum has been added to the About section as a one way of collecting members’ comments and ideas for new features.

The project is now switching focus. As it says in the latest edition of the email update:

… attention is now turning to helping all members make good use of the platform, and telling lots more people about what is available. So, now is the time to spread the word!

I got an enormous amount out of working with a diverse group of people to turn the idea of community hub into a nascent community. Although it seems pretty obvious, I’m a signed up member of the supporters crew. It’ll be hard to forget, especially with a kowhai waving to me outside the window.

Facilitating online course: introduction

The true meaning of consensus was something the Canterbury University Peace group wanted to get to the bottom of. Before we could act we needed an ethical basis for making decisions. From a philosophical standpoint, we needed to decide on things together in a non-coercive way. To do otherwise was considered as a form of violence to each other.

While I can’t recall the subtleties of our discussions in 1988 and 1989, I do remember we agreed to become good at shared facilitation. I’ve still got one of the books which I treated as a bible for non-violent communication, “A resource manual for a living revolution”. Ever since I’ve had an interest in effective decision-making and group processes.

I’ll be dusting off this book out, and other materials I’ve gathered over the years, as I begin a Facilitating Online course. I’m familiar with most areas being covered by the course, which looks for online community in forums, blogs, wiki, virtual worlds and social networking platforms, and have led discussion and sharing within many of these platforms.

The missing link for me is stepping things up a gear and helping online groups to be really effective. I’ve learned a lot by doing and reading (including seminal texts such as “Community-building on the web” (2001) by Amy Jo Klein and “Design for Community” (2001) by Derek Powazek).

I’m seeking some structured methods for facilitating conversations and sharing learning. I’d also like to talk with others about the efficacy of best practice guidance for running online groups.

During the four month course there are three pieces of assessment, including input into a virtual conference. I’ve signed up as an informal student, but course credits can be obtained through Manukau Institute of Technology. There is no cost to join in, just your own time.

Already nine others have signed up, a few short of the 74 people listed as participants in 2008. I’m anticipating lots of sharing and commenting – in fact, I’m worried it might absorb more time than I have to spare.

I’ll be writing regular posts about the course, using the tag FO09. Feel free to add your thoughts too.

Update: check out how I’m progressing – see a list of related posts.