Tag Archives: online community

CommunityCentral sneak preview

On the CommunityCentral blog you’ll a find a sneak preview of the new homepage. After a demonstration at the NZ Federation of Voluntary Welfare Organisation’s AGM we’ve decided to let people see what the new web-based platform will look like.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been doing a fairly intensive amount of usability testing. This has included a series of formal tests by AccEase who draw on a pool of people using screen readers and other assistive devices. I’m doing some more informal usability testing with a small group of typical users. And finally, the reference group we set up as been probing the e-newsletter function.

All this testing is generating a lot of feedback – some of which will involve relatively minor cosmetic changes, including wording, but there could be some more substantive problems. As we want to start engaging with users, it’s unlikely we’ll be able to address everything raised in the testing before the website goes live.

After ten months of planning, discussion, scoping, and behind the scenes work, the launch seems to be coming up so quickly. There are endless details to sort out and fiddly refinements. At times I wonder how I will get through everything.

What keeps me going? It’s actually because now that we’ve got a working website I can see how CommunityCentral will make a meaningful contribution to supporting people working in tangata whenua, community and voluntary organisations. It’ll take time, but I can see how the vision of the founders and initiators can be realised.

Anyway, I’d welcome any feedback if you visit the sneak preview.

PS We’re looking for a dynamic person who enjoys setting up systems and giving people really good support to act as webmaster/ site manager. Our ideal scenario is finding an intern or volunteer who will take on the role of webmaster and support person – for something like four or six months. Please get in touch if you’re interested or know someone who might be suitable. I’d be happy to send details.

Dags and dingleberries

Bringing up dags around the dinner table is, if not frowned upon, is really rather crass. Especially if you really start exploring the meaning.

But when dags came up during a conversation with Nancy White, an online facilitation specialist from Seattle, they were a bridge to cross Pacific understanding. And utter hilarity.

It didn’t take much to encourage Nancy to share the North American term for dag. It’s dingleberry she proclaimed. We couldn’t stop laughing.

The rest of our session was very cordial and good humoured. This moment of irreverence established a very friendly rapport and tone, in what had previously been a group of strangers.

In the online world it’s far harder to cultivate this environment. But it’s exactly what Nancy has been working in and around as a trainer, researcher, presenter and learner. She was visiting Wellington to share her experience at the DEANZ conference.

The difference between building community online and in the real world looms very big. Nancy suggests we need to articulate new roles such as technology stewards – less geek more translator – and information filterers and organisers. Chairpersons and secretaries are less relevant online.

She says its particularly important to pay attention how people are invited to join online communities. Not only the language and how a website is designed but who makes the approach, is it specific and will it touch people deeply.

In a forthcoming book Nancy is co-authoring with community of practice guru Etienne Wegner and John D Smith, there’s a chapter on the orientation of online spaces. In Stewarding Technology for Communities she shows how different spaces and tools suit different purposes – if you get the wrong tools your community won’t be supported. This seems obvious, but it’s working out the purpose and knowing what tools that match this that’s the trick. There’s a handy diagram in the book which matches tools to different purposes.
A lot of what Nancy talks about is finding ways to bring to the surface the dynamics of online spaces. As existing roles and processes just don’t apply, new ways of operating have to be reflected on. Making assumptions about what people are able to do at the other end of the Internet can easily mean people are excluded. So lets talk about our assumptions.

We’ll still in the early days of understanding how online community works (if it does), and what skilled facilitation is required, so it’s wonderful that Nancy is very generous sharing her knowledge. Be sure to check her blog and resource site FullCircle Associates, her presentations on SlideShare and the Online Facilitation Yahoo Group, established in 1999.

I’m pleased I learned about Americanese for dags, and all the other stuff. If you’re reading this Nancy, thanks for stopping by.

CommunityCentral: coming soon

We’ve been a bit coy of singing too loudly that a new website for the tangata whenua, community and voluntary sector is coming soon.

With major website developments timing can be fickle. It’s really difficult to be sure you have enough to show others.

But later next month, we’ll be unveiling CommunityCentral. There’ll be spaces people can set up to work together. This could be on a discrete project or as part of an ongoing network. And then there’ll be some news sources and big projects to keep an eye on.

This is just the start and the project aims to get people talking about what online tools will best support work in communities. Although we have yet to secure an ongoing source of funding, the aim is to keep growing and modifying CommunityCentral in response to what people working in grassroots organisations need.

To find out some more you can read our early marketing brochure (200 KB, PDF), read a few posts on the CommunityCentral blog where we’re talking about the development process, or listen to a recent interview.

Last week Ros and Michael from Collaborative Voices interviewed me as part of the their monthly radio show. The show keeps the not-for-profit and social service sectors up to date and informed. There is an mp3 file or your can listen on demand to the “NFP Computer Stuff You Need To Know” feature. If downloading the mp3 file, be warned it is a 25 MB file, so it’s best not to use dial-up.

Later in the year we’ll be doing a roadshow around Aotearoa sharing the website and getting feedback on where we should head.

I’ve been working on this project since November last year, so it’s great to be finally making visible progress. Get in touch with any questions or feedback.