Tag Archives: Networks

Preview of the Living Lab for (digital) life

The workshop that Drew Mackie and I ran last week, exploring how to help people adopt digital technology, is part of a suite of games and other methods we are developing, with Sangeet Bhullar, under the title of Living Lab. I wrote then that I would explain further – so here goes.

The Lab idea follows on, in part, from work we did for Nominet Trust on the usefulness of technology at different time of life: firstly for young people, and then for later life. We now have a proposal in with their funding challenge on technology during life transitions.

I’m naturally delighted that we are through to the second round. As well as filling in the appropriate forms we were asked to provide a short video, which is here. I confess I left it rather to the last minute – but the Trust were very helpful in saying they wanted enthusiasm rather than high production values, so I hope it does the job. Drew provided the illustrations.

Below is the backup document that we also submitted. This further diagram from Drew makes the connections between the different elements in the Lab, showing how the three basic activities of Games, Storytelling and Network Mapping can combine to:

  • Define connections between individuals, groups and agencies.
  • Locate assets that might be shared
  • Develop the personas that are typical of the community of users, and the digital literacies they need
  • Define the tech selections and workflows that would benefit the personas
  • Assess the implications for strategy

Element of Living Lab

Here’s the document supporting our proposal.

The Living Lab is a space to explore, online and face-to-face, how we can use personal technology to make the most of life, at whatever age. Our two explorations for Nominet Trust showed the importance of digital technology for young and older people, particularly at times of change.

We distilled common principles for policy and investment from a wealth of examples, heaps of research, and scores of innovative projects. But general principles are of little practical use in finding what might work for an individual, their friend, children, or elderly parents.

The reason is that everyone’s needs, skills, circumstances and preferences are different, so one digital size doesn’t fit all. Outside organisational systems, all technology adoption is personal. If people can’t understand and choose, they can’t enjoy the benefits.

And being smart with computers doesn’t mean you necessarily have the digital literacies needed for meaningful and safe online participation for young and old online, or can advise and support people on smartphones and tablets.

This raises a number of challenges:

  • How can organisations, that are aiming to help, understand diverse personal needs, match those with rapidly changing technology, and scale up support?
  • How do we ensure that all those involved in providing support to others also have the necessary digital literacies to inspire and engage young and old to develop their own knowledge, understanding and personal learning journeys (online and offline)?
  • What might these look like and what are the digital literacies needed by all involved in the process, to create a supportive ecosystem, able to respond to individual and diverse needs and interests? How best should this be delivered?

The Living Lab provides a way for individuals, groups and organisations to explore these issues, learn about possibilities, and plan ways forward.

Over the past 30 years, working in community engagement and social technology, Drew Mackie and David Wilcox have found three approaches that work well. Firstly, games enable people to play through possibilities. Secondly, stories make the use of technology human. Thirdly, networks enable learning together.

The Lab will add another dimension by combining these three elements with the essential ingredient of digital literacy.

In the last 20 years, Sangeet Bhullar’s work has focused on supporting adults and young people to develop a critical and meaningful understanding of online spaces, services and communities (referred to here as digital literacy), as well as the necessary digital competencies needed to benefit from these online communities and services, and use them safely.

Together we are creating a suite of workshop games about choosing and using technology, developed from experience over the past 15 years. These are linked with group storytelling techniques designed to bring to life a range fictitious characters and their experiences. We will use some elements of the game as well as stand-alone exercises to help explore and develop the baseline and other digital competencies needed for positive and safe online experiences.

We have developed the fictitious town of Slipham, populated with some engaging characters and supportive organisations, to provide the context for the games, stories and the way networks and digital literacies can develop.

Slipham also provides a set of networks through which the various connective needs of individuals, community groups, enterprises and agencies can be explored. Existing assets (skills, equipment, premises, organisational structures, etc) are also modelled.

All games materials will be available online for download, with Creative Commons licenses, and each element will link to further resources online. Together they will create:

  • A DIY system that can be used face-to-face and online by anyone without our support.
  • An open process of gathering stories, situations, and methods to foster a network of people interested in further development.
  • An open source framework within which others can add or develop solutions.
  • A space to explore the digital literacies needed for effective online use, and the implications of the move towards personal, mobile, “appified” technology solutions.

We already have a range of workshop materials that can be developed for DIY use. We have started to build a site where workshop cards provide a design framework to link through to more resources onsite and elsewhere.

Here’s some of the work that we have done that underpins our approach.

Guides examples:

Games examples:

Explorations

The idea of Living Labs

  • Wikipedia
  • Open Living Labs network
  • The Digital Practitioner - Digital Leader Programme Collaborative Blog – a collaborative blog developed for a ‘Digital Leader’ programme to support Community Digital Inclusion workers and volunteers develop their own knowledge, skills and digital literacy so that they could, in turn, provide better support to their organisations, peers and service users in their use of online technologies.

Update April 10 2014: we have now learned that we were unsuccessful in the bid to Nominet Trust, who said “although we were incredibly inspired by your proposal, we are simply unable to fund all of the high quality applications we receive.” However, we do have a number of projects through which we are starting to build elements of the Lab, and will be seeking investment elsewhere.

Building a network for People Powered Change

Over the past week the partners in Big Lottery Fund’s People Powered Change initiative have provided some updating posts about their work, on BIG’s blog.

This was promised as part of the evolution of PPC, which I wrote about earlier, referring there to the work I and colleagues did on the process. It was part of BIG’s exploration of how to be more than a funder, and as Linda Quinn, Director of Communications an Marketing puts it BIG is: “… developing a number of ideas which we hope will make us a more engaged, open and social organisation. I also hope it will help us support projects to share their stories, inspirations and ideas”.

On the communications front BIG is setting up an internal comms system, and experimenting with social reporting from events. In addition they are:

  • Crowdsourcing ideas in how best to map where funding goes and the impact it makes, drawing on people’s willingness to swap and share experience.
  • Providing support for projects to tell, share and learn from stories including surgeries and games.
  • Testing ideas on the use of social media with projects funded under the Silver Dreams Fund and the Jubilee People’s Millions.

The posts on the BIG blog are from Your Square MileMedia TrustUnLtdNESTA and the Young Foundation. They mainly focus on the work they are supporting on the ground, as a result of BIG funding. It is all fascinating stuff, and I hope we’ll see more, whether on the BIG blog or on their own sites.

In my mind it sparks the possibility that BIG could extend its own “sociable organisation” approach to helping create a more sociable network for People Powered Change. As part of our work with BIG, Drew Mackie did some quick network mapping at the workshop that we ran. You can see one of the resulting maps above, showing who knew who and who worked with whom.

Drew also asked what resources organisations held, and you can see those in this online map, by mousing over the nodes.

The map is just a snapshot of relationships and resources at any time, and doesn’t say anything much about the strength of relationships or collaborations that may, or not not, be evolving.

BIG is a strong supporter of the idea of Asset Based Community Development in localities, though which the aim is to nurture and build on resources, rather than just identifying problems and seeking more funds. Or if you are seeking more funds, showing that you are making the most of what you have.

I hope BIG and partners won’t mind me suggesting that there could be scope for doing the same with the People Powered Change network that we surfaced through mapping at the workshop. It might be achieved through:

  • some more systematic mapping (there wasn’t much time at the workshop)
  • further blogging from those on the network, to let each other and all of us know what they are doing
  • some way to aggregate feeds (perhaps creating a river of news on the lines Dave Winer sets out here)
  • some sociable events
  • ways to promote better internal communications ….

… and hey, I find I’m repeating many of the ideas that Linda and colleagues are already exploring for BIG.

How much more powerful it would be if BIG could become not just a more social organisation, or even a networked organisation, but one that is catalysing a really active network for People Powered Change.

We looked at different network models as part of our work with BIG, using the diagram of this general example representing a shift from a hierarchy through more of  cluster towards a mesh. As Tom Phillips mentioned at the time, the nodes can  be created by sociable events … so that part of BIG’s programme will certainly be helpful.

If the network developed, it could be the strategic movement that would support the one-the-ground developments reported by PPC partners – not just through their individual organisational efforts, but by drawing on the strengths of the network as a whole.

It may well be that some of this is happening already, and if so early examples would be great topics for further posts from BIG and partners, or others in the field.

One great example is the work of the NESTA Neighbourhood Challenge programme, which funded 17 local projects under PPC … reported here by Alice Casey. Each neighbourhood was asked to blog about their work as it developed, and so maybe there’s potential for a PPC network in miniature emerging already.

The challenge of networking civil society

Summary: local activists and volunteers need to share their achievements and experience in hard times. The publicly-funded sites for this have some limitations, and  smaller sites, mainly run by volunteers, don’t have the resources to grow. Is there scope for more joining up, rather than further top-down solutions?

Government policies of localism and cuts to the voluntary sector are pushing citizens and community groups to do more for themselves on the ground, and find their own ways of learning from each other nationally. A couple of recent events prompted me to review what is available online.

The first event was an invite to chat informally to a new team in the government department of Communities and Local Government about the role of social reporting in helping sharing. It was very encouraging to meet a young team full of enthusiasm and enquiry, who describe their remit like this:

The neighbourhood engagement team are working to open up the conversation on neighbourhoods policy to a greater range of people: sharing enthusiasm, tapping into a wider pool of ideas and examples and exploring how government can best support those who want to have greater control and influence in their area. Workshops and online platforms will empower those active in the community to continue the conversation across professional silos, supporting each other to innovate in local arenas with less central government direction.

The second event was a webinar, organised by Globalnet21, on whether social networking can “help create a network of mutual independence that strengthens the countless groups that are the social glue of our civil society”.

That nudged me to prepare the slides that I posted earlier, based on work I did last year with Big Lottery Fund, as well as the blogging I’ve done here about social reporting. I’ve linked a lot in this piece so you can find starting points for your own research, and draw your own conclusions.

I started looking at what platforms are being developed to help people share – about which more later. However, as you’ll see from the slides, I was also emphasising that sharing is about networks, not one-stop-information-shops, and it is people who make that work. It takes people who have some digital literacy skills, with the support of facilitators. An excellent post by Tim Davies says it very well and is worth quoting at length:

When we look at a successful example of online collaboration the most obvious visible element of it is often the platform being used: whether it’s a Facebook group, or a custom-built intranet. Projects to support online learning, knowledge sharing or dialogue can quickly get bogged down in developing feature-lists for the platform they think they need – articulating grand architectural visions of a platform which will bring disparate conversations together, and which will resolve information-sharing bottlenecks in an organisation or network. But when you look closer at any successful online collaboration, you will see that it’s not the platform, but the people, that make it work.

People need opportunities, capabilities and supportive institutional cultures to make the most of the Internet for collaboration. The capabilities needed range from technical skills (and, on corporate networks, the permission) to install and use programs like Skype, to Internet literacies for creating hyper-links and sharing documents, and the social and media literacy to participate in horizontal conversations across different media.

But even skills and capabilities of the participants are not enough to make online collaboration work: there also needs to be a culture of sharing, recognising that the Internet changes the very logic of organisational structures, and means individuals need to be trusted and empowered to collaborate and communicate across organisational and national boundaries in pursuit of common goals.

Online collaboration also needs facilitation: from animateurs who can build community and keep conversations flowing, to technology stewards who can help individuals and groups to find the right ad-hoc tools for the sorts of sharing they are engaged in at that particular time. Online facilitators also need to work to ensure dialogues are inclusive – and to build bridges between online and offline dialogue. In my experience facilitating an online community of youth workers in the UK, or supporting social reporting at the Internet Governance Forum, the biggest barriers to online collaboration have been people’s lack of confidence in expressing themselves online, or easily-address technical skill shortages for uploading and embedding video, or following a conversation on Twitter.

Building the capacity of people and institutions, and changing cultures, so that online collaboration can work is far trickier than building a platform. But, it’s the only way to support truly inclusive dialogue and knowledge-sharing. Plus, when we focus on skills and capabilities, we don’t limit the sorts of purposes they can be put to. A platform has a specific focus and a limited scope: sharing skills lays the foundation for people to participate in a far wider range of online opportunities in the future.

The challenge of supporting sharing and local innovation was picked up last year by the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) under its banner of People Powered Change, with investments of £5.76 million in a range of programmes including Your Square Mile and the Media Trust’s Newsnet, as I first wrote about here, and followed up later. I then worked with BIG for a few months exploring, with John Popham, how they might be more than a funder. Posts here.

As part of that work I put together a Netvibes dashboard taking feeds from the main community and voluntary sector sites.

I’m a little circumspect in what follows, because BIG is a client, and I know the people involved in Newsnet and Your Square Mile, and admire what they are trying to achieve.

Here’s Linda Quinn of BIG,  Gavin Sheppard on Newsnet,  Paul Twivy of Your Square Mile, in interviews last year.

The bad news is that at present it is almost impossible to find out what is going on, where to get help, how to to connect. As I aimed to show in this slide from the webinar (pdf download), there’s a big gap between local networking and national, with many unconnected initiatives in between.

I know it is early days, but as well as the CLG neighbourhoods team work, further announcements are due soon from BIG about People Powered Change (see below), so it is a good time to review progress so far, and how to build on or complement those investments. We have the elements of a rich knowledge ecosystem if we can join them up.

Your Square Mile (£830,000) has a powerful vision of what people may need locally, and a site that does a smart job of aggregating useful data and advising people about local services and the part they may play. There is currently no networking, but that may be a feature of next stage development. Baroness Newlove, Government’s Champion for Active Safer Communities, favours the site as the hub for community activists, as I reported earlier.

In addition Newsnet (£1.89 million)  has a vision of local hubs to connect a network of citizen journalists. Their site has some limitations, but there is interesting discussion and some good examples of hubs, with ways to upload and network news promised later.

In my view something like Newsnet has great potential if it can blend the dynamic of community reporting with citizens finding their own voices to tell their own stories. However this will take time, and on current plans Newsnet site will be archived in two years, when BIG funding ends. We can’t reckon it will be a long-term element in the mix (however, see update below).

Meanwhile a range of unfunded online communities like Our Society, ABCDEurope, and NatCan are doing well in each attracting hundreds of members and a wide range of discussion and resources. Networks like Transition TownsFiery Spirits and i-volunteer show what is possible with some modest investment in platform, and far more facilitation. Tim Davies facilitates Youth Work Online here.

(Disclosure: I’m one of the group running Our Society).

Mandeep Hothi, writing for Guardian Voluntary Sector Network, reports on the results of some other BIG-funded work supported by DCLG’s Empowerment Fund, confirming again that investment in social media and technology is not in itself the answer. It is people who connect. Social media can amplify and assist … but we need to understand the fine grain of how that works as a blend of face-to-face, SMS, email, forums, Facebook and other methods.

Another of the People Powered Change partners, NESTA, are just beginning a big programme of research and development in the field of hyperlocal communications. Interest from the BBC may help catalyse a network of hyperlocal activists in London.

So … we know that just investing in technology isn’t the answer, and that instead it would help to improve and support the digital literacy of activists. We know there are a number of programmes that could join up to achieve this: I’ve only highlighted a few.

But who is going to help bring it together? Big Lottery Fund is a strong supporter of the idea of asset based community development: making the most of the resources that you have in any neighbourhood, rather than just looking at the problems and putting in more funds. Could BIG apply that philosophy to networking for civil society?

After the workshop we ran with BIG in December, Linda Quinn wrote:

We’ll then spend some time working our thoughts into an overall strategy that will inform a paper to our Committee in March. My sense is that much of what we discussed is about how we engage, how we share and how we collaborate. Some of this I think we can test out in pilots, some of it requires us to think how we might change our internal processes but all of it requires that we carry on the conversation with those who have helped us so far and hopefully will remain constructive critical friends and supporters in the future.

In drafting this post, I started at this point to write that Power Powered Change phase two, when announced, may be more about investment in people than in technology platforms, and that it might be developed in part by bringing together the various initiatives I’ve mentioned, and others, to co-design something  for the future.

However, I don’t know if that will be the case – and on reflection I don’t know that we need to wait on BIG … however welcome their support would be.

I then wondered whether there was more scope for joining up the smaller sites I mentioned – even if only by sharing newsletter items and some feeds, and having a shared signposting system of who is doing what where: a more accessible version of the Netvibes dashboard I developed.

Ideally this network of networks should be animated by some social reporting … helping people make sense of the civil society ecosystem, and joining up conversation. It would be the online equivalent of local community building, in this instance designed to make the most of the knowledge assets that we have.

What do you think? Is there a problem for activists trying to get information and advice, and connect with others? If so, should we follow Baroness Newlove’s suggestions, and focus on the development of one site, like Your Square Mile? Or should we try and build a knowledge ecoystem of smaller sites, and of civil society organisations better able to network online? (By we, I’m thinking of those who manage online communities or other civil society sites).

The NESTA hyperlocal research and development programme is very timely. Maybe we need something similar at national level.

Update: if you are interested in the big picture, Steve Dale has some deeply-researched slides and notes on The Future of social media and social networks

Update 2: I dropped a query about Media Trust plans into Newsnet discussions, and Gavin Sheppard responded:

“Whilst the BIG funding is for another two years, we’re committed to supporting the platform beyond that date. Obviously further development will depending on what funding is available to us, but I see no reason why the community can’t continue to grow beyond 2014″.

Want to influence? Understand networks.

I was fascinated last year by the analysis of how climate sceptics networked more effectively than environmentalists to create Climategate, which was followed by practical advice on the role of social insurgents in the equivalent of online guerilla warfare.

The story of that research commissioned by Oxfam was broken by the blog Left Foot Forward, and they have now invited Stephen Fitzpatrick, from the socialbusinessgroup.com to report directly here on their latest piece of work on connections between informal networks of financial websites. Some of these are close to the source of the last financial crisis, and Stephen suggests that following them might help politicians see the next crisis coming.

The report Social Media: the New Influentials, from Mindful Money, shows how an increasing number of web and blog sites connect to each other, how they influence the debate and influence investors, providing, in the process, an alternative viewpoint to the established media. They list the top twenty. read more »

Social reporters may be network weavers: if you trust them

Nancy White offers reflections on the recent “Journalism that matters” gathering in Seattle, including thoughts on how social reporting relates to mainstream and citizen journalism. Nancy quotes me as suggesting social reporting is “an emerging role, set of skills and philosophy around how to mix journalism, facilitation and social media to help people develop conversations and stories for collaboration” and goes on to say:

I suspect citizen journalism is a form of social reporting. For me the question is about transparency and how one chooses to be a social reporter. Is it as someone trying to objectively cover an event? Editorialize? Synthesize? Focus on particular outputs? Some of these transgress traditional journalist  practices and perhaps even ethics. My conclusion is that social reporting sits on the continuum that includes journalism, but often moves outside of its bounds and becomes more subjective than objective. If that is what is needed, that’s useful. Ethically it suggests we should disclose our intentions and agendas as social reporters!

read more »

Rethinking networks as passionate human clouds

A meeting in London with Peggy Duvette, chief executive of WiserEarth, and also with Ed Mitchell, sparked some thoughts about networking – global, local, and organisational. Well, questions mostly. Warning: this is a bit of ramble that also takes in the RSA, NCVO, cloud computing and the local government knowledge hub.

I met up with Peggy at an evening event organised last week in London by Mike Zeidler, that was in itself a pleasure as these things go. It brought together people broadly interested in environment, social justice with a bit of tech as well. The presentations were minimal, facilitation light-touch, wine sufficient, and conversations engaging. Peggy’s visit to the UK was the spark, and some of the substance.

Anyway, I was thinking I would skip the usual video reporting chores when Peggy came over and said hello … maybe it was three tag words during the circle of intros: socialreporter – dot – com. A bit promotional, I know. Anyway we got to talking about what makes networks work, and I pulled out the iphone 3gs as you can see above.

I asked some pretty standard questions, to which Peggy added substance by sharp insights and the weight of experience in WiserEarth, which “helps the global movement of people and organizations working toward social justice, indigenous rights, and environmental stewardship connect, collaborate, share knowledge, and build alliances” and has some 30,000 members, and thousands of groups. It is “the world’s largest free and editable international directory of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and socially responsible organizations (over 110,000 in 243 countries, territories, and sovereign islands)”.

Three observations stood out for me from our chat: mix face-to-face and online networking, go where people are already gathered rather than expecting them to come to your place, and what makes it all work is passion for an issue. If people are passionate, concerned, and want to meet others then they will make the effort to use the tools.

This led me to reflect upon one of the other networks I have written lots about: the RSA. It has some 27,000 members (Fellows) around the world, with a diversity of interests to match those on WiserEarth, and some high ideals going back to its foundation in the elightenment years of the 18th century. There’s currently an exhibition to make the then-and-now links.

I used the interview with Peggy as a peg for a slightly provocative piece on the RSA City London network – “Is the network quiet because we have no shared passion? Do we need one”? Everyone says the RSA Fellowship has great potential because people cover so many interests … but there isn’t any one focus, and the online networks are very quiet. But then, WiserEarth covers a lot of ground, and people network there. I guess the difference is that WiserEarth presents itself as a place for action for the environment and social justice, while RSA has broader aims and a host of other activities to engage people.

Just before the event with Peggy I had spent a very enjoyable couple of hours with Ed Mitchell, who is currently developing a online network for the Transition Town movement.

As the wiki explains: A Transition Initiative is a community  working together to look Peak Oil and Climate Change squarely in the eye and address this BIG question: “for all those aspects of life that this community needs in order to sustain itself and thrive, how do we significantly increase resilience (to mitigate the effects of Peak Oil) and drastically reduce carbon emissions (to mitigate the effects of Climate Change)?”

While there’s a primer, and a 12-step process for the transition journey, the movement is about as bottom-up as you can get. Dan McQuillan, speaking recently at the mypublicservices event, reckoned Transition was a good example of the way we’ll have to go for new-style public services in future. Do watch the interview for this, and his general reflections on power and transformation of public services.

Anyway, Ed and his team are evolving a system that will provide a central Drupal-based site, and also aggregate tagged content from just about anywhere (first pilot here). Ed’s doing that with a specially-formed group of developers in a way that looks set to be a model of tight-budget creative collaboration. Plenty of passion among both system user/contributors and developers, within a strong  framework of values provided both by Transition and the Open Source approach (sustainability, resilence, collaboration, distribution).

In conversation with Ed I recalled an excellent event run by the NCVO Foresight team a few weeks back on what tech changes will mean for nonprofits. It was organised in part by Guy Yeomans, who write here about ubiquitous connectivity – allowing us to be online anywhere anytime. An associated development is cloud computing, explained at the event by Robin Gear of PAconsulting. It means, among other things, that you can have all of your email, documents, networking etc handled by Google and other big players, storing your stuff in massive data warehouses in California. Or somewhere. You won’t know.

We discussed this and other issues at tables: ours was focussed on membership organisations. I remember two insights. One was that organisations may need two divergent strategies, for those connected and unconnected; the other was that we should think about the “human cloud”. By the human cloud we meant that people will be less and less tied into formal communications relationships with membership organisations – for example – popping in and out of discussion forums set up in some prefined groups. Those who are connected, using social media, will cluster around topics wherever people of shared passion may gather. If their membership organisation offers the facility, fine, if not they go elsewhere. Or probably do both. What’s then important if you are acting as a convenor (like Transition Towns) is being able to both offer a central platform and also aggregate content tagged from elsewhere. (I later discovered discussion of the human cloud over at Sun Microsystems).

Twitter – explained here – is proving both a tool and a model for connecting clouds of people who cluster around events and interests defined by tags. You can also use lists, as Beth Kanter explains here. So, if someone is using Twitter it’s fairly easy to talk about clouds, more difficult if not. Maybe the analogy is a very fluid conference, or party, where conversations group and regroup. Anyone got some good metaphors? I think that the technical term is knowledge ecology.

The other place I picked up some really useful thoughts on human clounds and networks is the advisory groups for the IDeA knowledge hub. The overall aim – as I’ve written before – is to help local councils and other public bodies be more conversational in knowledge-sharing among themselves and with citizens. The project is being driven forward by Ingrid Koehler and Steve Dale, and they have blogged at SocialbySocial here and here.

When we met the other day we worked on a couple of realistic but fictitious scenarios, where a local strategic partnership was gathering people and knowledge around issues where they had to deliver results (these are known as national indicators). I was in a group looking at reducing alcohol-related harm. You can see from video of the report back, and Steve’s analysis here, that success depended partly on good knowledge-sharing but substantially on development and maintenance of the network of people – the cloud – that formed around the task.

So yet again the components for knowledge-sharing and action were a framework of values or target; some focus in an issue or task; flexible ways to contribute and access knowledge; processes to develop relationships and create a trusted social space, the power to convene, the capacity to facilitate. The tools were then whatever was needed to support this.

The challenge for local government, in developing the knowledge ecology model, may be whether people will have the same passion to make it work as those using WiserEarth or the Transition system. I’m really delighted that I’ll be working with Ingrid, Steve and others on these issues together with Amy Sample Ward over at SocialbySocial.net. IDeA will be using that shared space to explore where next, with links to the groups there working on community-based blogs and online systems. More soon on that.

The challenge for RSA may be whether it can offer its diverse membership something that makes it worth clustering around online (as well as the excellent public lectures programme, which you don’t have to pay for). Maybe there could be closer links with the lectures, and the strong programme of projects developed by staff. Anyway, the good news there is that the new Fellowship Council is going well – as live-blogged here by Jemima Gibbons – and Tessy Britton has been elected chair. Tessy is very positive, and there are some 40 others highly capable Fellows on the council.  One group is looking at communications and engagement, and there’s also plans for meetings of smaller interest groups in London, that could link to online development.

This is one of those blog pieces I felt I needed to write to get stuff out of my head … and in the hope someone might come up with good links to better explanations of human clouds and knowledge ecosystems. Please. And also so I can later write shorter pieces with reference to human clouds. Meanwhile thanks to Peggy, Mike, Ed, Dan, Ingrid, Steve, Tessy, Guy, Robin, Beth, Jemima, Amy and many others for conversations in the cloud.

Break open the walled gardens

Demolition ballThe Economist sees little future for walled garden social networking sites like Facebook and Second Life if they continue to restrict the flow of content across the Internet. A few years back we had AOL, Compuserve and Prodigy each providing their own subscription-based services, and look what happened to them:

Why stay within a closed community when you can roam outside its walled garden, into the wilds of the internet proper? Admittedly, it took a while for open and standardised forms of e-mail, discussion boards and file downloads—not to mention a new publishing technology called the world wide web—to match the proprietary, closed versions that preceded them. Today only AOL survives, and in a very different form: as an open web portal supported by advertising.

The Economist provides a more detailed analysis of the uncertain business models for social networking sites, which prompted me to wonder over here whether the walled garden approach will serve membership organisations well. I think it is another example of World 1 thinking.