Communications and social media internships

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Wherever you are in the world: if you’re studying Communications, or wanting to break into the field, and you’re passionate about solutions for positive change in the world, then this could be the opportunity for you. Appropedia is looking for interns – one to start in October, another to start in the New Year – to help us communicate and engage with people who might be interested in this project, as well as communicate with and strengthen our existing community.

The work will involve a mixture of interviewing, contacting and/or helping to write publicity materials. You can work part-time, and you’ll have a lot of flexibility in how you work, but you’ll have guidance always available.

There is a lot of potential to learn and to make a difference. I sometimes say, only half-jokingly, that Appropedia was built by engineers and scientists, so we’re much better at doing stuff than at talking about what we do. But we’ve talked, and got better at it, and become active in social media, as we’ve taken our message out there. We’re happy to share with you what we’ve learned, but we’re also happy to learn from you and with you.

You’ll need to take initiative, experiment and report on what’s working and what isn’t. We have a high respect for failure with enthusiasm, which is often the basis for future success, and even more often the basis for very valuable learning.

This is a virtual internship – you’ll be working with people who might be on the other side of the world, but with email, chat and VOIP, that’s not such a challenge these days. You can work from anywhere in the world with internet access. That requires you to manage your time, organize yourself and get things done – an online internship isn’t for everyone.

If you have any questions or want to apply, please get in touch – email me on chriswaterguyAtsymbol.pngappropediaDot.pngorg, or leave a comment below, or on my Appropedia talk page. For up-to-date info on these internships, see: For more on all Appropedia’s internship opportunities, see:

Wikiprogress

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Introducing a series of guest posts from knowledge sharing projects aiming to build a better world.

Our first post is from Philippa Lysaght from Wikiprogress – looking at progress as more than just increasing GDP.


Wikiprogress logo

When Wikiprogress launched at the 2009 OECD World Forum, there was a lot of excitement and nervousness as to how the wiki platform would develop and foster the progress community. Almost two years on and Wikiprogress has grown to play a central role in the progress movement, with many lessons learnt on the challenges and opportunities wiki platforms present. We have gathered a few of the highlights from this experience so far, along with a little background info what Wikiprogress is and what it aims to achieve.

What is Wikiprogress?

Wikiprogress is an online platform centralizing data, information, initiatives, publications, events and networks that are part of the international movement to look beyond GDP in measuring the progress of societies.

In recent years, the shift from measuring economic production to wellbeing has gained a lot of support from organisations and governments around the world. National statistics offices, intergovernmental organisations, research networks, non-government organisations and interested individuals are working to develop new and existing measures of social, environmental and economic progress.

Wikiprogress aims to provide a platform for all parts of the progress community, citizens and policy makers alike, to develop information on measures of progress by creating a robust wiki of related research and statistics. In doing so, Wikiprogress aims to foster a web community around the vision of measuring progress and provide a platform for collaborative participation.

Why wiki?

In fostering the development of progress indicators, it is important to develop a conversation with all levels of society on what dimensions of progress are important to each community.

Joseph Stiglitz, a world-renowned economist and pioneer of the progress movement, has called for a ‘global dialogue’ on measuring progress: ‘part of the objective of rethinking our measurement systems is to generate a national and global dialogue on what we care about.’ (From Measuring Production to Measuring Well-being, Joseph E. Stiglitz, Presentation to the Productivity Commission, Melbourne, July 29, 2010)

The wiki platform ensures that all voices are heard in developing progress indicators, and more importantly, fosters a multidisciplinary community to work together.

Insights from Online Community Managers

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Jennifer Lentfer of the How Matters blog was asked to help conceptualize an online community, and given the order “Don’t reinvent the wheel.” So from a series of interviews with managers of online communities (including Curt and I from Appropedia) emerged the report Revisiting the Wheel: Insights from Online Community Managers.

In brief, Jennifer found:

  • A role for “keepers” of the community – a core group of community members need to serve as shapers and the drivers of the online community.
  • Moderators help create “buzz” – especially in the beginning stages.
  • A handshake still matters – personal connections provide energy and cohesion.
  • Different members, different priorities – there are different types of members, in terms of their goals and what they bring to the community, and in terms of how they participate.
  • What are our goals? And later on…what are they again? – Clarity on the online community’s goals and functions is very important.
  • Aims first, tools second – thus it is important to find a platform that will allow for new features to be added, tweaked and integrated in the community. And function must be prioritized before aesthetics.
  • Try and try again – experimentation and adaptation are a key part of an online community’s strength and robustness.

See Jennifer’s own summary at the How Matters blog post, or download the full report (PDF).

Online collaboration doesn’t happen by magic

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Blogger on global health issues, Christine Gorman, was researching patent issues around “Plumpy’nut,” an easy-to-make peanut-based food used to effectively treat malnutrition. (In brief, there are concerns about whether the patent is preventing some who need it from getting it, and even questions about whether the patent is valid.)

Gorman decided to try a collaborative approach – but as many others have found, getting concrete contributions is a challenge:

Online collaboration may be the wave of the future but it’s not so easy to convince people to do it…

This was not the instantaneous burst of community magic that I had hoped for. But a kind of long-amplitude wave eventually did materialize. My old Plumpy’Nut posts kept getting traffic. Maybe I had brought a fast-food mentality to a slow-cooking world.

And indeed, a year after the blog went up (and many months after I stopped posting anything new), I received an e-mail from Martin Enserink at Science, who was working on a story about Plumpy’Nut and wanted to include a sidebar on the patent controversy.

via Global Health Report: What Plumpy’Nut Taught Me.

The biggest part of online collaboration is making a start, putting it out there, and making it open for people to use. It’s hard to say when results will come – but sharing and practicing openness creates the possibility.

So how do we build some real community?

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It seems that our compulsive fixation on Social Software is rooted in a real lack of community in Real Life… Greg Hirsch

There is a lot of truth in this. New social media like Twitter and Facebook can connect us with people around the world – yet it can mean spending our time in front of the computer rather than connecting with people face to face.

But what makes this so compelling? Part of it is the addictive nature of constant updates we get online – a bit like the orienting response to television. But more positively, I suspect that many of us feel a real connection to people online, and our regular suburban or urban lives are not all that connected.

On the other hand, we can use social software to connect in the real world. We can find like-minded people locally, as well as on the other side of the planet, that we would never have connected with in the past. I see this improving as the semantic web grows – it should be much easier to mark our profiles with our location, and preferentially connect with people within  certain radius. Websites like Sydney Talks, are a great indicator of the potential of this – but the real power of such features is yet to be seen, I’m sure.

We can also find fulfillment and connection online outside the sometimes inane chatterings of social media – for myself and quite a number of people I know, that’s helping building a resource that makes a real difference in the world, such as Wikipedia or Appropedia. Though, seeing how people are using services such as microblogging (Identi.ca or Twitter), I think wikis could potentially benefit from better integrating social features. (It’s already possible to allow you MediaWiki site to display your Twitter feed, for example, and that’s enabled on Appropedia – but there is much more to do to make this smoother. We have a few ideas, but need coders interested in working with us on this.)

And for all that MediaWiki is not designed for social networking, some of the coolest people I know, I’ve met in person through wikis: Wikipedia, Appropedia and other wikis. Lonny, the founder of Appropedia, actually first contacted me and invited me to check out Appropedia by leaving a note on my Wikipedia talk page.

We can use our new, like-minded online friendships to do something in the real world. For that to be most effective, I suspect it’s best to connect with those who are already doing something. For that reason I like Global Swadeshi as a social network – between them, these people are doing a lot of cool stuff. Some of us are talking about setting up an Appropriate technology village, somewhere such as the South of India, so we can do more work face-to-face.

My aim here is to start a conversation. There is much, much more to write about community in this era, about the creative real-world ways of acting for community, such as co-housing and other forms of intentional community. I also know this post could do with some editing. But excuse me if I post these initial thoughts in this rough form – I need to get away from the computer and meet people.

Your community, in a global community

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Can local groups and communities could use the wiki as their own way of connecting and sharing knowledge?

Answer: Absolutely!

Appropedia is not only a living library, but:

  • A collaborative workspace, both to grow the library, and for plotting real-world action.
  • A networking tool. While our platform (MediaWiki) is not designed as a social networking tool, this is a community full of hardcore sustainability buffs and problem solvers from around the world, and from all walks of life.
  • A “shell” within which communities can operate, serving their members and connecting with partners both local and distant. A community of communities, if you will.
  • A way of increasing profile & findability.
  • A way of increasing synergy. Why work on a greywater treatment page on a locally focused site, that will have a small number of contributors and readers, when you can work with a global community on making an awesome page?
  • You can have your own pages on your own projects, too, as part of a collection of designs from around the world. Be like the developer of the Home biogas system (Philippine BioDigesters), who received emails of thanks, along with design improvements, from around the world.

This was prompted by a question from Steven Walling during a a recent presentation on Appropedia. It made me realize how far ahead Appropedia is when I envisage it, compared to what a visitor to the site sees today (e.g. the greywater treatment page is one-twentieth or one-hundredth as good as I’d like to see it). People already say how great the site is, but I foresee something much, much greater.

(I know I say “around the world” a lot, but hey, that’s what Appropedia is about!)

Turning deletion into a good faith process

wikis

I’d like to explore the idea of turning deletion into a good faith process – I’ve made a few notes in my Wikipedia userspace already. I thought I’d flag this now before I do serious work on it, in case I’m reinventing the wheel.

Inspired by SJ Klein of OLPC.

I should add – the Appropedia community has been much more good-faith than my experience of Wikipedia. But then, Appropedia is still a fraction of the size of Wikipedia. Maintaining a civil community as we grow will be a challenge, but a critical one. We’ll be paying very close attention to large yet supportive communities such as wikiHow.

A community-owned wiki

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We’ve been talking* about how to make Appropedia something that the community as a whole takes greater ownership of. Here’s some ideas:

  • This post reveals that what we call admins are known as librarians on the Spanish Wikipedia. I love it! It loses much of the connotations of power and control which are contrary to the spirit of a wiki, and it describes the role much better, I believe. A big part of explaining what a community wiki is about is explaining that noone owns it, and this could help.
  • A broad wiki is easier for people to get involved in. You want something on the wiki? Great, do it! Appropedia has always been deliberately very broad, but I wonder if we can communicate this better.
  • As many communication channels as possible (like OLPC’s many channels):
  • Communicating with Mailing lists. So obvious, but for a long time I operated on the assumption that we could get talk pages and some kind of forums to meet the needs for communication. But of course, many of us emailed each other constantly… and by nature that’s closed communication. A mailing list lets anyone in who’s interested, and puts our ideas out there for all who might be interested.
  • Communicating with talk pages on the wiki. We could making the talk pages work much better, and this is where we need geek help. A way of making a more finely controllable recent pages page, that could give us all changes to the various talk pages. This would help keen people track conversations more easily, and give people answers more quickly.
  • Communicating with an easy-to-use chatroom. I like OLPC’s chatroom, in that it’s geek-friendly (IRC!) but accessible by normal humans via the web.

That’s by no means a complete list. How does it sound? What else can we do?

* prompted in part by comments by SJ from OLPC.

Originally posted at Pablo Garuda.

Open social networking and wikis

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“If you want to find out what tools your staff are finding most useful at the moment, just go and see what your IT department is blocking.” – Quoted in CIO magazine on Enterprise 2.0

A lot of Web 2.0 is time-wasting in my view, but it’s clearly meeting people’s needs or wants. (Though I suspect it’s also triggering some deep-seated addictive behavior, the way television hooks us by triggering our orienting response.)

My prediction: The next generation of social networking tools will be much less intrusive, more integrated into our web experience, and enable us to find people we want to connect with, and stay connected. That well be good for our social lives, good for whatever projects we’re involved in – and it will be good for business,

What about wikis? So far there are not a lot of shiny social networking tools for wikis. There’s the wiki itself of course, people interacting on talk pages and user pages in the process of building a resource. But in terms of additional tools, the best examples I’ve seen are at Wikia, starting with their gaming and entertainment sites such as Halopedia. The use of structured pages such as a Social Profile (automatically linked from the user page) has a lot of potential. Kudos to Wikia for open-sourcing the code.

There are other tools for building better connections within a wiki: a window into a community conversation is possible on standard MediaWiki, and the newest pages feeds on the Appropedia homepage are possible with an extension; I’d also like to see new ways of aggregating discussions, so I see on a single page the discussions I’m following.

But the developments I’m looking forward to are those freeing us from having to visit a specific site. Being able to add our maps, twitter feeds, blog feeds and custom searches to the site or sites of our choice gives us much more freedom. We already can do all of those things at Appropedia now, thanks in large part to work done on Wiki Widgets at Hexten. I suspect there’s much more on the way, like a bookshelf that I can share between my profiles on different sites, with my reviews.

But when there’s a vampire application, a la Facebook, I’ll let it pass.

This post originally appeared at Pablo Garuda