Online networking methods
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These notes are based on a presentation by David Wilcox to the Partners in Regeneration networking event in May 2006. The chart aims to provide a way of thinking about what communication methods to use in what situation, with different interests.
Main network communication methods
We can think of four main ways in which we use communication in networking:
- Finding: getting information in. - Exchanging: two-way communication - Collaborating: creating something together - Publishing: giving information out.
Traditionally we have used library systems, databases, meetings, phone calls, newsletters. These can now be enormously enhanced by online methods. For example:
Finding: search engines like Google now go beyond simple web searches to find images, music, video … anything digital. As well as saving web site addresses on our computers as favourites, we can engage in 'social bookmarking' - saving favourites online, with keywords, so others can benefit from our research. See http://del.icio.us/dwilcox for mine.
Exchanging: Email can be used for many-to- many discussion on free services like http://groups.yahoo.com., or you can set up online forums. http://www.skype.com offers both instant messaging and free phone calls - including conferencing. Other systems offer free video conferencing.
Collaborating: intranet systems like Networks Online http://www.networksonline.org.uk provide organisations with private spaces to conference and also share files and other data. You can set up project workspaces using Basecamp for a monthly charge of about £16 - see http://www.basecamphq.com … or do collaborative writing using an editable web site (wiki) like Jotspot http://www.jot.com. Simple collaborative editing tools like Writeboard http://www.writeboard.com and Writely now Google Docs and Spreadsheets http://docs.google.com/ are free. http://www.wikipedia.org is a collaboratively-created online encyclopedia.
Publishing: web publishing has been transformed in the last few years by wikis (see above), and blogs. At one level blogs are journal-type web sites used by individuals to post news, views, photos, and videos. http://www.blogger.com is one of many free services. You can post your pictures at http://www.flickr.com and your video at http://video.google.com or http://www.youtube.com/
However, what's really changed things is the move from page-centric publishing to item-centric content, with the addition of keywords and the ability to feed items from one site to another.
Really Simple Syndication These days on many sites you will see reference to RSS and feeds. - meaning the site is using blog-type technology to chunk content into items that can be tagged with keywords, and offered in a stream, or feed. Here's an explanation and examples at BBC online.
You then don't have to go to the web site to get the content - it can be pulled on to your desk top through a browser or specialist software rather in the way that you receive email. The stream can contain audio files, images, and video. Different streams of content can be remixed and republished through an aggregator. This means that individuals and organisations can each produce their own content, and then amalgamate these streams into a river of material that is constantly updated. The audience can choose which topics they take. Of course, just because you can network and collaborate online doesn't mean you will. That depends on people, their attitudes and skills. Purpose, people - then methods.