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Analogue projects and digital technology

January 3rd, 2008 by Graham Attwell

I have used many different systems in the various projects I am involved in. I have used Plone, Jumbla, Elgg, Post Nuke and now am working with WordPress. But it is still difficult to sustain communities and even more so to get members of projects to communicate effectively through different platforms.

Too often we are using the wrong tool. Why insist that people log in to a platform when all tehyw ant to do is exchange occasional emails to a list of 5 or 6 people.  On the other hand email list servers are not particualry effective in developing a pool of shared knowledge. One project I work with commissioned me to develop a ‘communication platform’. We have built a relatively lightweight platofrm for teh project using WordPress. Yet they do not use it. One of the problems is they do not know how, I suspect. WordPress is very easy IF you are used to using social sofwtare or blogging applications. If email and word are your main experince of using computers for communciation itis a whole new world.

And then again, I sat down this afternoon to write some ‘easy to use’ instruction on how to use teh site and for what. The how to use is difficult enough – it might be easy to shwo someone but it is quite hard to write. But the for what question was much harder. When should project partners write a blog – and why? What should they – or might they want to share? What is the forum for – and how is it difficult from the blog?

Of course the one thing they probably want most – to share files – is not particularly well supported in wordpress.  Yes, they can make a new page or blog post and add them to this. But what if they want to link to a file in the forum? Of course they can upload a file in the new post section – not publish a post and then link. But that is not so easy to explain. Ah well -will keep thinking. I am well puzzled at the moment about teh best way to support projects – anyone any ideas?

2 Responses to “Analogue projects and digital technology”

  1. Your words are like a mirror before me and your sighs are mine as well. The trials of promoting opportunities for connections that others find difficult, intimidating or just don’t find – at all. I’m into month 9 for a community I built for a group of teachers across Alberta – I was hoping to anlayze their interaction but – guess what? there’s nothing happening! They said they wanted a space, I gave them one, and they are nowhere in sight. I held five sparsely attended face to face sesions, hoping to create a champion class – ha! Is it the software? Are they communicating elsewhere? What other barriers (adminsitrative, competitive, firewall, access, etc)? Or maybe they do, yet don’t want to communicate. That is, they don’t want the responsibility of membership, the freedom of sharing their assets (perhaps suffering a lack of confidence in their own ability and not wanting to “put” themselves and their work out there for others). Ultimately I believe our audience is just not ready for continuous communication. They enjoy sporadic, undocumented, impermanent exchanges, or time-based, structured project activity. But the idea of impromptu, casual social networking – at least in the populace(s) I have experienced – is an onerous bit of self-reflection that they would rather not be involved in.

  2. Hi there Graham and Michael,
    Getting communication to work between partners is always going to be difficult to ‘manufacture’ , I have also tried this an it tends to die a slow lingering death!
    What appears to be more useful is an organic growth between like minded parties which grows naturally – perhaps originally through something like Twitter or blogs, this then develops into group links, which has happened in some of the Ning networks and group wiki projects that I have been involved in. The teahcers/adminstrators within these communities then have invested their time and tend to be more proactive in pushing projects on to their conclusion…. Paul

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