Credit Alan Levine, CC BY

As you probably know, I am a big believer in “open.” I also support maximizing inclusiveness and equity. That combination has caused me numerous headaches in terms of platform decisions for online communities as well as with other tools.

Over and over again that, I have seen that the most “open” tools are not the ones that are most inclusive. A simple example: the arguably most popular platform (where people already “are” and the largest number are most likely to engage and participate) is Facebook, also one of the least open platforms there is.

Another example: Some of the most open choices, such as self-hosted web sites and blogs and open source toolsets, are among the least likely to be used by large numbers of people. One might even say they (or their communities?) are elitist.

Usually at about this time in the discussion, I ask myself questions like “Are you being ‘scale’-obsessed? Is reaching the most people really what’s important?” (Walk Out, Walk On is a great book that addresses some of these issues.)

But then I think about equity and inclusiveness, and especially in building online community spaces, it seems to me that one of the highest priorities ought to be accessibility to the broadest group possible. It is essential that we go beyond the “choir” and broaden participator to those who normally wouldn’t be at the table.

A specific instance of this that weighs on my mind is CLMOOC. I don’t even know what to link to here — the main site, the G+ community, the Twitter tag, the Facebook community (a closed group as of now; another whole case study in the problem), the aggregated blog hub — I think you see where this is going.

Every year, team CLMOOC struggles with the platform question. Early on, we decided on a G+ community for a number of reasons you can read more about if you interested. We always wanted to encourage choice though and so made other options available. Now, we are dealing with the challenges of a “fractured” community. Where should people post? Should people try to read everything? Are all the cross-posts too much? Are we losing out by not being everywhere all the time (which is scarcely possible)?

Many OER projects face the same dilemma. When content is free to live everywhere and often does, how do you build, engage, and maintain community? How do you share the best of improvements and forks? How do you track usage?

I know that some groups have approached this through aggregation of content, but I’m not sure that’s the solution if broad, mainstream participation is the goal. Are technologies or their implementers not quite ready to make this mainstream? I don’t know.

And yet, we don’t want to be controlling (non-open) by dictating one place of engagement. Frankly, we couldn’t even if we wanted to.

Any solutions to this? I’m all ears!

Values and my work: part 2/platforms
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7 thoughts on “Values and my work: part 2/platforms

  • July 13, 2015 at 6:29 pm
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    You keep raising such important issues and then, you live what you believe in a way that I find so admirable, Karen, and I learn so much from what you do. Yes, this open idea is very complicated, and therefore, has stumbling blocks along the way. If we wanted easy, we’d live on Facebook (and you know where I stand on that!). Keeping spaces open for the larger audience is key, and then, knowing that personal touches — invites, encouragement, connections — are what make an open education space worth learning in … that’s the key to the whole banana shop. (just made that phrase up, I think. It might be some offshoot of the banana stand in Arrested Development. I kind of like that … key to the banana shop .. ok … a little diversion in the comment section but I bet you don’t mind …)
    Kevin

  • July 13, 2015 at 6:57 pm
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    Open can also mean overwhelming. I hate to be this way, but I had to cut off the receiving of an email every time someone posted in the Google + community. My mailbox was overflowing and I just had to stop. Otherwise, I would not be fed or bathed or sleeping. I understand that open forum is important to this kind of work. But how do I choose what to read and how much and when to eat chocolate? I got to this post from Twitter. Twitter used to totally overwhelm me and I avoided it. But as practice helps any activity, I feel a little safer there and can navigate easier. This makes me wonder about what we offer to our students. Open may be too much. I opened our blog site to the world this year. This was not a problem. We didn’t get any wanderers. Kevin popped in to do a few stolen line poems. But that was actually fun and rewarding to my kids.
    As you question, how do we maintain community while being open and inviting? I like that there are so many venues to choose from in this CLMOOC community, but for my own sanity, I have to limit where I navigate and what I read. Thanks for bringing up this confusing question.

  • July 14, 2015 at 11:01 am
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    Margaret, what excellent points you raise. Thanks for writing.

    I don’t think that any of us read all the posts comments on G+ or elsewhere, and my wish is that no one would ever feel bad about that. (I turn notifications on all of this off myself.)

    I hadn’t thought before about the connection between “open” and the flood of too much information. I have to ponder that further.

    Several folks have brought up the idea lately that some spaces (like CLMOOC on G+) may just be too big or too active to be useful. That’s really worth thinking more about. In the past, some of us have tried creating “mini-communities” around smaller interest groups. I like that idea, and of course, like everything, it’s just one option.

    The challenges with smaller mini-communities seemed to be 1) Populating them, 2) Establishing leadership for them (I’m going to write more about this here soon), and 3) People didn’t know whether to join the main community and the smaller ones, and then didn’t know what to post where. (This seems similar to what we’re seeing in FB this year.) Sometimes as a result, it just ended up being even more overwhelming, which was obviously not the intent.

    So many issues to think about, but just the fact that so many of us are thinking and working on them seems like a very good thing.

  • July 14, 2015 at 12:35 pm
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    I can’t help but feel a little bit famous when someone comments on a post or retweets a message. These connections grow our community. And I think we naturally gravitate to people that we can connect to in some way. I have build some great relationships through my online presence. This week I am teaching a small group of writers. Small is good in this case because everyone has a chance to share and be heard. I do worry about some of the moocers we are leaving out in the cold.

  • July 14, 2015 at 3:19 pm
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    I liked your Google Docs list of inputs, outputs, etc. In the “inputs” is design [intent/ethos] and content. That’s why I liked G+ instead of FB. And I’m not sure “leaderless” [or lots of participant choice and voice] means without organization.

    I read the link to why use G+, and I keep asking, “Which platform provides the most connections among people and to resources both input and output by participants and facilitators in an organized and multi-media way?” I’ve found Google Plus to have those options, and offers those unfamiliar with it to those new options. Some said they like to “study” with G+ communities, and that’s what I find: communities to “study” or share together through the categories. I don’t find it too big or overwhelming; just filled with people will to share and reciprocate in a way I don’t find in FB. Maybe it’s how I think.

    I think it’s easier now to find posts, especially when people start using tags for their ideas. I’ve easily found old posts that way — or through searching of people. The star helps me pin the posts to my profile.

    The thing about G+ is I get to choose what I want; I find it open and welcoming. In FB, so many extra things I don’t want, and, to me, not easy to get around. And when FB changes something, watch out.

    I really like the list of inputs and outputs. It’s helping me think through the CLmooc system — the openness and invitation to participant voice and choice. The option of always adapting to fit the needs of the learner. It spoils me now when I must conform.

    I keep thinking about design and organization. CLmooc is designed to be open with options. It is definitely that. Connected Learning Massive Open with Options Collaboration. And if there are two active groups — FB and G+ then that’s what it is. I’m staying with G+ — others will choose FB.

    I’m not cross-posting anymore, unless asked. I’m just working with G+ with sharing on Twitter. There must be ways to track all of them, but probably not together. I’m not techy enough for that. But isn’t that part of the beauty of CLmooc — the options? meeting the needs of learners? allowing learners to personalize their ways to learn, share, connect, and collaborate? It’s a true community of diversity, connected in a common purpose and networked [should be open– that was a goof unintended with FB], albeit loosely.

    One more thing: Last year, I had wanted to start a community in MightyBell for a group of us, but was discouraged to have too many options. So there is precedence for limiting options.

    Feeling fractured trying to help in two places, I made a choice, and CLmooc allows that. Isn’t that good?

  • July 14, 2015 at 3:46 pm
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    Thanks for your thoughts, Sheri. Great points as usual. A few quick thoughts in response:

    – Yes, choice seems good to me. I too think that letting people choose where they want to be is a good thing. I think some of the problem is with folks who are less comfortable with environments like this and especially those who think they need to be everywhere. I know we’ve said many times that this isn’t the case, but it doesn’t always seem to come across.
    – I wholeheartedly agree with your thoughts on cross-posting. (The only things I’m cross-posting are “official” announcements of events and news.) In fact, I find that all the cross-posting is quite distracting to me.
    – The real platform conflict seems to be between G+ and FB. They are very similar in intent/design, but most people seem to naturally gravitate to one or the other. (Twitter is a very different kind of space, and people who are there — while not in the majority — seem to use it accordingly.)
    – Re: limiting options, I hope that in being discouraged, no one said you couldn’t do it. I see both sides of this. Sometimes everything is too much. We’ve certainly heard a fair amount that some think there are too many choices. On the other hand, if a group wants to diverge, and they are willing to take that on themselves, I would say more power to them! There are many fringe groups using still more tools in CLMOOC (Slack, Hackpad, etc. – Wait! Are these all Terry’s?!? :)

    Again, thanks for sharing.

  • July 14, 2015 at 4:48 pm
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    I’m thinking about a list of “do’s and don’ts” for building inclusivity.

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