Tag Archives: networking

NetSquared for Wellington?

NetSquared button: net2, with tagline share, build, collaborateThere is lots of great sharing going on at the monthly Wellington NGO webmaster networking events which got underway in November last year.

We’ve touched lightly on a heap of topics, and dug into depth on a few. Hot topics include choosing a content management system, email newsletter distribution options and analytics. At yesterday’s session Julian provided an overview of instant website builders Weebly and Google Sites – opinions were mixed.

Getting out from behind the computer to swap notes in person seems valuable for those that participate. What is obvious to me is that many more people could benefit from the korero. Plus the topics people touch on range far wider than just websites.

Watching the recent broadcast of the online Nonprofit Technology Conference beamed in from San Francisco I caught a short lunchtime interview with two local organisers of NetSquared networking events.

One of them was the enthusiastic and friendly Elijah van der Giessen who I conversed with at the Connecting Up conference in Melbourne last year. His vivid description of how the regular Net Tuesday Vancouver networking events really benefit NGOs convinced me to look into the net2 movement further.

Bringing together people with an interest in using technology to promote social benefits is at the core of NetSquared. It’s an initiative of the TechSoup software donation and capacity building organisation. They promote innovative uses of the web to help NGOs through challenges and events, along with support for loose, local networking events (called Net Tuesday).

Seeing all this makes me wonder if we could run NetSquared here in Wellington?

It would mean broadening the scope of the nascent webmaster network. This is probably no bad thing as few people in the NGO sector identify as being a webmaster. As well as those working in NGOs, Net Tuesday would be open to interested professionals, people going online for things other than websites (which is most people), and individuals with a passion for social justice.

NetSquared aims to support people “to connect locally with all those interested in the intersection of social technologies and social change”. This definition is a good description of what participants coming to the existing networking events are actually doing.

I like the idea of a network where the philosophy is centred on network members organising stuff for themselves. As well as a monthly Net Tuesday meet up (which I’ll happily convene along with any other willing organisers), people could run other events. NetSquared pay for a Meetup subscription to support spontaneous networking.

I notice in Vancouver there is a Salesforce sub-group. So webmasters or any other specialist group could keep meeting under a broader umbrella. And of course events could be run in weekends or over breakfast (no thanks!!).

When I raised this idea at the networking event yesterday, there were nods of support and a few good questions. I promised to canvas more widely before arriving at a conclusion.

So, Wellingtonians wanting to remix the web for social change, what do you think about the idea of setting up a NetSquared network? Your thoughts?

Update: the first Net Tuesday will be held on 19 June. Register and get update dates on NetSquared Wellington.

Don’t choose your online networking space(s) first

I invariably try to frame whatever I’m writing or talking about in a resolutely positive way. Turn the statements around. Glass half full. And all that.

As I feel strongly about this topic, I’m going to stick to a negative assertion that struck me as I was thinking about this blog post. If there is one that might stick it’s this: whatever you do, don’t choose the tools or spaces for an online network first.

It feels trite to say it’s necessary to begin by understanding the particular needs of each organisation (or amorphous network) and what people are seeking to do.

Isn’t this so, so obvious? Does it really need saying? Aren’t all online groups basically the same away?

For a number of reasons, we do need to reassert a fairly predictable starting point.

We’re bombarded with sales pitches, free ways to form groups at the drop of a button, and hear of countless others setting up groups on this or that platform. Why don’t we do the same?

Under pressure to do something, getting started is better than doing nothing.

I’m writing about this now after making just this point to the Comm2Comms network in Wellington last week. (See my “Choosing the right online spaces to support your unique network(s) presentation” notes.)

In brief, I recommended people think about practices and activities first, and then match these with online tools or spaces. In the end we didn’t directly address what can be a very long list of tools. But we certainly talked around the rationale for networks. (BTW: for a jumbled list of tools, take a look at my delicious links listing online networking and related applications.)

I am grateful for the work of community of practice luminaries Etienne Wenger, Nancy White and John D Smith who have given anyone wanting to successfully use technology to support learning networks some sound guidance in their book “Digital Habitats: stewarding technology for communities” (2009).

Leaving aside the approach to technology acquisition, ongoing support and all that jazz, Wenger et al, offer a useful way for understanding the different foci of groups. There starting point is with what they call orientations. These are described as:

“a typical pattern of activities and connections through which members experience being a community”.

Orientations could be described as the things people actually do (or want to focus on) within a network. This could be: holding meetings, online or off; having open-ended conversations; running projects; accessing expertise; enabling individual participation; forming and maintaining relationships. This is by no means a definitive list, rather it’s offered as a starting point.

To get to the point, if you are clear on the orientation(s) then everything else will follow. Included in “Digital Habitats” are useful guides for each of the nine orientations. Each of these matches the types of things people want to do with the practices that will keep them alive, and, yes, the tools.

During the workshop I did say that anyone running a network shouldn’t expect people to be monogamous. Thinking people will loyally participate in just a single online space or place is unrealistic.

With the exploding demands for our attention every online network needs to be relevant. Even with a group different people with varying levels of technology nous will want to interact in different ways. Better to accept this than fight against the flow.

Somehow I’ve ended up saying much more than my heading. In hindsight, perhaps I should rename it “Setting up thriving online networks – where to start”.

Is this relevant to your organisation or network?

Below are the slides of my presentation, plus I’ve listed the links I referred to about online networking resources. I am available to repeat or customise this presentation for your unique network. Contact me.

Come along, Wellington NGO webmasters networking event

Two colums of people facing each other at a speed dating event, by gsalokheI’ve promised to run the inaugural NGO webmasters networking event in a fast paced way. The exact words I’ve used in my promotional messages are “Snappy and fun – no sales pitches – no long speeches.”

I’ve attended many networking events and public meetings where things drag on. At worst, it’s half time before even half the people attending have introduced themselves. Recounting the number of hats being worn may be honest, but it quickly becomes tiresome. This is especially so when a honest bunch of people doing good works are present.

So, I’m going to muster some of the newer techniques to keep my promise. These seem to be largely a by-product of the speed dating phenomena.

I’ve yet to finalise my approach but I’m thinking of using a combination of the following techniques:

  • Business card swap and capturing web addresses on arrival
  • Rapid fire getting to know each other round, with pre-set questions such as website platform, part or full time, biggest challenges, number of web properties
  • Speedy prioritisation of issues on top, maybe including voting
  • Resource sharing in a flash
  • Pairing up with like-minded participants.

Of course the format that best suits the group who come will arise on the night. We’ll have about 90 minutes together including time to have a cuppa and some of my home baking.

If you have any particularly good suggestions for speed networking techniques, you could share your thoughts on this blog post.

At this stage I’m not making any assumptions about what will happen after this first event. For this reason, I’ve set up a simple wiki page to record who attends and any links or resources shared if people desire. It’s too early to imposed an online platforms designed to support networking events (eg MeetUp) as this suggests I know how the networking event will work out. I don’t. Making a decision on the technology to support any future networking is some time off (and depends on whether people want to have stuff recorded, and want to come back).

The networking event is open to all webmasters working for NGOs. There’s no charge to attend. So come along if you’re in Wellington on the day. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone who comes along and the korero.

Wellington NGO networking event details

Date: 5pm, for 5.15pm start, on Tuesday 15 November 2011
Venue: Conference room 1 (upstairs), St Andrews church, 30 The Terrace
Find out more and register

PS I decided to run this even after talking with people at the Connecting Up conferences earlier in the year (see my post “An informal, regular get together for Wellington nfp webmasters?”). After talking with a few people, I ran a poll to check with potential attendees how often they’d like to meet. The responses indicated each month would be about right. So, here goes.

Photo credit: gsalokhe