Notes from the Online Communities Day


Howard Rheingold - doing it right/stimulating the growth of communities in the UK

Introduction and explain that there were a lot of different parts of society from various different countries - interest in Online Community Building.

PUBLIC V COMMERCIAL Is there a collaborative ? Can you With the devil i.e. can you deal with commercial enterprises? Power of BBC as a portal - was a suggestion that local community efforts could be highlighted - David Wilcox "onto this" - many places where online community where we have got to highlight - make those local resources available to people. (See plans)

Alistair Kelman - Communities for all/public access

Our group was small and very mixed but all of us were dedicated to try and make communities available for all, not just an elite but also low income people and disadvantaged persons. We felt that there was a real danger of, what we termed, "parachuting in" systems within communities and letting politicians say that these people were now members of the Information Society because the kit had been delivered - even through the recipients of these systems did not use them, could not use them and did not want to use them!

We talked about a lot of things but were also reminded of a recent BBC Newsnight programme regarding a deprived community in Salford. There over the Easter holidays a local school had been given some new computers. Within a few days some of the older brothers of the schoolkids had broken into the school and stolen the new computers. The headmistress said that the schools needed a security budget as well as an IT budget if this programme was to succeed. We suggested an alternative strategy. We thought that giving computers to individuals, to particular children or to a local computer club was likely to have a far great effect on a local community since the recipients of these systems would defend their own possessions. Giving the computers to an institution without an additional security budget is a recipe for theft and loss.

So onto Howard's presentation on the "Wonders of the Well" in the late 1980s. I am sure that Howard would not disagree that the virtual community of the Well is not a low income disadvantaged group. The Well's population has always been made up of capable, middle class people. Creating a community which would be used by and participated in by the under-privileged is a far harder task. We laboured long and hard in our group trying to find a way to address this. And finally we believe we found it through thinking about why people get involved within a community.

People get involved in a community if events are happening that concern them. And the effects that concern low income people are likely to be circumstances in their physical local community: a school with bad educational results in the league tables, a local hospital which is earmarked for closure, a road bypass which will lead to the destruction of housing. These are all topics which are covered by local news. And here is where the BBC had a real advantage - it is a trusted news organisation both globally and nationally. We concluded that the best hope for bringing these people into the Information Society would be though BBC local radio hosting discussion forums on stories of local interest: the bad school, the hospital under threat; the local by-pass. Local people, concerned about matters which affect them, would try to participate in these discussions. Their participation, recorded in the forum, could be responded and reacted to. And having participated in forums which concern their daily lives they would have learnt the skills to enable them to participate in matter which are not so crucial - East Enders forums or Football discussions. To develop their case for or against a local news story they would search for information on the Web, learning how to research and develop their point of view. And having learnt how to research matters on one topic they would have the basic knowledge to research anything. Information Society skills would have been stealthily engendered in people with no formal qualifications and no trust in their own abilities. The seed would have been sown to widen their interest in the Internet, to motivate them to learn about its power and capabilities and to use it to their advantage.

But the key to this happening is a trusted forum provider from , we believe, a trusted brand in the form of BBC Local Radio which can be relied upon for unbiased news reporting. If a local BBC news story was linked to a local forums created by the BBC and if good results came from the discussions in local community forum initiatives (more responsive educational authorities, reviews of hospital closures) then the motivation to participate in the Information Society would be established amongst low income communities.

To facilitate these discussions the BBC would need to provide some training in on-line moderation skills and should also provide frameworks regarding how to run the forums. These are also some data protection issues if the discussions in the forum are to be permanently recorded, which need to be resolved. But none of this is rocket science - it simply requires commitment.

Our discussions also briefly considered the importance of Open Source Software in bringing down the cost of reliable trusted interconnected Web systems - operating systems such as Linux which should reduce the real costs of ownership of full Internet functional computers so that they could truly be available to anyone in the United Kingdom regardless of income or location.

Doug Winter - coping with technology/planning for convergence

Varied group - Planning for Convergence is a wide area and difficult with wide area of people. BBC focussed:

IDEAS: We do not know what the community of the future will be - we need to prepare to prepare technology to take from current media - i.e. television, radio etc.

DNA idea , existing creatures break it down by breaking everything into manageable chunks into new services etc. Contribute "DNA".

Beth Porter - power to the people/giving users what they want

Stimulating the contributions and addressing v.v.v. rigorously and we need to make it attractive so people contribute.

Moderation is a minefield - pros and cons of different kinds of moderation - do we need it for stimulated discussions?

Users Community, therefore community must be built with a level of needs for user.

Not Techy lead or commercially led - must be user lead, either of those things - not very good and highjacked by non user leads.

Cannot regulate for peoples behaviour - there will be times when people go off topic - have to go along with it - don't feel under obligation.

Own Online Community - in a corporation. Like the BBC, a private community is a group e-mails, more liberating and enlightening.

Need for knowledge management, rich source of knowledge and a rich source of knowledge, Knowledge is v. important - internally Online community for employees is a very good resource.

Access to real and tangible downloaded information. What do people need - benefits, e.g. Friendships, support & downloading software and ability to do like minded affinity related downloads

Transparency for online as a whole and making it clear what Online is here to do and functionality.

Chris Jeffery - keep it clean/legal issues

Various different people - quite reassuring for moderators in legal regards. Good practice an element of supervision and set procedure i.e. obscene material, specific individuals.

In relationship to subscribers - terms and conditions - when sign on to clear link and they are informed so things can move forward.

When you log on to BBC Chat lines? Terms and conditions are on the bottom of each page when you log on. Must have the terms and conditions there, so there won't be any legal procussions.

How to deal with "dodgy" contributions? Can always post it elsewhere, but be careful of copyright issues.

Mark Frost - public service vs commercial communities

30,000 ft level and common areas of this - good mix of people. Nothing pans out how it seems and you must understand the audience and put good things in front of audience. Provided human touch to site and need it to look "richer" - human feel to it. Significant energy on it - no, word of mouth is the best way to do it, rather than marketing.

Not as many questions are going on now, people in forums answering questions. Hosting community is a trust & respect issue and people are having their say. People answering other people - a lot of scepticism, about making it pay.

Maybe if soul purpose is community - tough, but if it is part of business, it should work and be beneficial, page impressions by community. Expect the unexpected.- http://www.brixton.co.uk is a very good example. When bomb went off it was good for the educational side of it and changed the complexion and formed a community online. Questions & topics. Affected their focus of site. Wrong to talk about certain things. Brand Ownership is not the "b all and end all".

Virtually put people together wherever they may be. People bad on e-mail, so you have to appreciate this.


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