User Tools

Site Tools



This shows you the differences between two versions of the page.

Link to this comparison view

partnerships:articles:7-steps [2017/06/12 10:20] (current)
Line 1: Line 1:
 +Seven Steps to Building Electronic Communities
 + By: [Philippa Gamse](mailto:​,​ and [Terry
 +### Introduction
 +The recent dramatic growth in the technology and use of electronic
 +computer networks/​bulletin boards provides us with some unprecedented
 +opportunities. More and more people, businesses and organizations are
 +using these methods to research ideas and resources, to publicize their
 +services, and to pool their skills and knowledge in a wide range of both
 +private and public sector applications.\
 + ​However,​ as the number of available networks proliferates,​ many
 +potential users find themselves bewildered by the choices open to them,
 +and about ways to ensure optimum use of the "​Information Superhighway"​.\
 + This document provides a set of guidelines to aid managers in:
 +-   ​assessing your organization'​s current readiness to network
 +-   ​identifying activities which are most appropriate for the
 +    telecommunications environment
 +-   ​evaluating existing systems, or deciding to develop an independent
 +    network
 +Additionally,​ once the technology issues are resolved, we suggest
 +methods for:
 +-   ​attracting appropriate users and sustaining their interest and
 +    participation
 +-   ​developing a plan for user training and technical support
 +-   ​determining the scope, content, and format for the promotion of
 +    public information
 +-   ​establishing a "​feel"​ or "​culture"​ for the network
 +-   ​generating creative ways to utilize the network to maximum advantage
 +The authors would welcome your comments, ideas or questions.\
 + ​Philippa Gamse, (847) 541-2359, or by e-mail at
 + Terry Grunwald, (919) 856-2176, or by e-mail at <​>​\
 +##### © Copyright Gamse and Grunwald 1995. All rights reserved.
 +### Step 1: Develop a networking plan
 +#### A. Define your community
 +-   Will this be a community of individuals,​ organizations or a
 +    combination?​
 +-   Is there a common agenda? a vision?
 +-   Does the group already work collaboratively?​
 +-   Is there a core group with the capacity to network during the
 +    planning phase?
 +-   Who else needs to participate within the next 1-3 years?
 +-   Who might be connected in the future?
 +-   ​Connection to other existing and planned online communities:​\
 +     Is anyone doing similar things in your community? in the
 +    region/​state/​nationally?​
 +-   If so: how do their activities compare with your plans?
 +    1.  where are the gaps in what is accomplished?​
 +    2.  are there opportunities for collaboration?​
 +#### B. Identify the needs electronic networking might address
 +-   ​Cost-effective communication / information sharing with multiple
 +    sites
 +-   ​Collaborative work (e.g. co-authoring documents to be edited and
 +    revised)
 +-   ​Easily-updated library of information and record of organizational
 +    history
 +-   ​Searchable relational databases, research opportunities using
 +    Internet tools
 +-   ​Public visibility via Internet gophers and World Wide Web pages
 +-   A private forum/​conference to plan strategy
 +-   A means of disseminating wide scale ALERTS for lobbying efforts
 +-   ​Ongoing dialogue and debate through moderated Usenet newsgroups and
 +    mailing lists
 +-   "​Real time" online discussions
 +-   An informal, online gathering place to build relationships
 +#### C. Survey your potential users
 +-   How do they currently communicate?​
 +-   Is there consensus on a common agenda?
 +-   Do they agree with the needs you've outlined?
 +-   What tasks would they like to accomplish online?
 +-   What kind of hardware (computer / modem / mouse) do they have, if
 +    any?\
 +     Are they using a local area office network?
 +-   Are they computer literate?
 +-   Do they have access to:
 +    1.  training opportunities
 +    2.  technical assistance?
 +-   How much can they afford to spend per month on telecommunications?​
 +-   What kind of information are they willing to share?
 +-   Who else do they want to participate?​
 +-   ​What'​s their vision for your online community?
 +#### D. Determine which of the following resources you will need:
 +-   A committed facilitator and / or information specialist
 +-   A skilled system operator (sysop) / Internet guru
 +-   ​Additional information providers
 +-   ​Clerical support
 +-   ​Computer hardware / software
 +-   A method of inputting large amounts of information (eg, scanner)
 +-   ​Subsidies to support the participation of financially-strapped users
 +-   ​Grants to support facilitator/​information provider activities
 +-   Basic computer training for novice users
 +-   ​Technical support / computer mentoring for users
 +-   ​Ongoing source for funding for the years it will take to make the
 +    community self-sufficient
 +### Step 2: Select a networking "​platform"​
 +#### A. Go-it-alone:​ Setting up your own BBS
 +-   What are your hardware needs? Enough storage for growth? Phone
 +    lines?
 +-   What features should the software have?
 +-   Can you customize existing software to meet your needs / will you
 +    develop your own?
 +-   Do you have an experienced sysop?
 +-   Will you have Internet connectivity?​
 +-   Are there no existing resources which can meet your needs?
 +-   Might you be "​reinventing the wheel?"​
 +#### B. Selecting an existing "​host"​ network. Issues to consider:
 +-   Ease of use
 +-   ​Compatibility among different operating systems
 +-   ​Availability of functions identified in your needs assessment, eg:
 +    1.  group e-mail;
 +    2.  ability to send disk files and faxes;
 +    3.  conferencing with message threading; private discussion areas;
 +        keyword search; etc.
 +-   ​Costs:​
 +    1.  proprietary software;
 +    2.  one time and monthly subscription;​
 +    3.  online charges (peak / off-peak);
 +    4.  availability of toll-free or local untimed call access.
 +-   ​Connectivity to other networks, echoing of bulletin boards, level of
 +    Internet facilities
 +-   Who are the current users? Quality of current information?​ Quality
 +    of communications?​
 +-   ​Availability and type of technical support, training and
 +    documentation
 +-   ​Ability to delegate management functions to you and your
 +    facilitator(s)
 +-   ​Stability of host: Are costs likely to rise or fall?
 +#### C. Get your core group online and planning as quickly as possible
 +-   Use e-mail gateways/​Internet
 +-   ​Develop simple protocols
 +-   Make it as informal as possible
 +-   ​Select an interim facilitator
 +-   ​Pursue fundraising as needed
 +### Step 3: Market to your users
 +#### Marketing Hints
 +-   ​Define the unique selling points of the network to your community
 +-   ​Concentrate on getting the high profile users online first
 +-   Where possible, market to the decision-makers within an organization
 +-   Use network demonstrations with overhead projectors. Know which
 +    features you want to showcase, and make sure there is plenty of
 +    recent, high quality information online
 +-   Plan to participate in major conferences attended by your target
 +    audience.
 +-   Try to get on the formal agenda
 +-   Make sure marketing materials can be easily revised. Things change
 +    quickly!
 +### Step 4: Training and technical support
 +#### A. Why train?
 +-   ​Computerphobia
 +-   ​Manuals are often poorly written, overwhelming in their detail, and
 +    intimidating to non-technical people
 +-   ​Internet tools, while improving, are still extremely complex
 +-   Users need both basic training and tips to use software more
 +    efficiently
 +-   ​Opportunity for users to share experiences and build relationships
 +#### B. Develop a training plan
 +-   ​Identify trainers (preferably members of your online community)
 +-   ​Explore opportunities for hands-on training at conferences and other
 +    events
 +-   ​Provide for advanced training as well
 +-   ​Develop a training curriculum which goes beyond the mechanics to
 +    include "real work" activities and homework
 +-   If group is dispersed, consider a series of online exercises
 +-   ​Develop a simple step-by-step protocol for those not interested in
 +    using the more sophisticated features
 +-   ​Create a "buddy system"​ to pair experienced networkers with novices
 +-   Use all online resources of your "​host":​ online tours, help
 +    features, etc.
 +-   ​Don'​t put all your resources into an initial training. Staff
 +    turnover will necessitate ongoing training.
 +-   ​**\*\*Avoid jargon. Go slow. Be patient.**
 +#### C. Develop a technical support plan
 +-   ​Suggest users get compatible hardware and software
 +-   ​Encourage users to identify computer support options including
 +    volunteers in their own communities.
 +-   ​Potential resources include:
 +    1.  local colleges
 +    2.  computer vendors
 +    3.  computer user groups
 +    4.  BBS enthusiasts
 +-   If you provide technical support directly, set your limits. Will you
 +    offer general computer support or only respond to network-related
 +    problems?
 +### Step 5: Set up and manage a public online information forum
 +#### A. Why have an public information area?
 +-   ​Supplements e-mail communication
 +-   ​Creates an online "​home"​ you can customize for your community
 +-   ​Provides an organizational memory for new generations of users
 +-   ​Serves as a link to other communities on your host network
 +-   Gives your issues greater visibility
 +-   ​Possible recruiting tool
 +#### B. Tips for managing a forum
 +-   Have a paid facilitator if at all possible. Facilitation needs tend
 +    to grow; not diminish
 +-   ​Consult with experienced newsgroup or mailing list moderators
 +-   ​Identify and post the kinds of information most important to your
 +    users
 +-   Make sure the information is relevant, timely, and posted at regular
 +    intervals
 +-   ​Encourage all users to post items, make it as easy as possible,
 +    applaud every contribution
 +-   Make the forum simple to access, navigate, and search. Remove
 +    outdated items. Keep the information fresh
 +-   Keep up to date with technological developments,​ eg multi-media
 +    applications
 +### Step 6: Using networks for collaboration and problem solving
 +#### A. How can networks promote collaboration?​
 +-   ​Allows communication with a dozen or even hundreds of users as
 +    easily as with one (group addresses)
 +-   ​Expands the pool of practitioners available to respond to inquiries
 +    and calls to action
 +-   ​Reinforces existing relationships within your community and creates
 +    new ones
 +-   ​Maintains the momentum created at conferences
 +-   ​Promotes co-authoring of proposals
 +#### B. Tips for successful online collaboration
 +-   ​Create enough value on the network that it becomes indispensable for
 +    the work of the community
 +-   Seek out opportunities for occasional face-to-face meetings to
 +    reinforce online activities
 +-   ​Establish a formal '​buy-in"​ to the process of collaboration
 +-   ​Document and publicize your successes
 +-   ​Practice what you preach. Use the net wherever possible for your own
 +    planning and administrative activities
 +-   Nudge people -- nicely, but consistently
 +-   ​Understand and respect the limitations of networks
 +### Step 7: Creating the spirit of community
 +#### Environmental hints:
 +-   An informal style of communication helps build a sense of community
 +-   ​Networking is an exercise in electronic democracy. Facilitators
 +    should try to empower as many users as possible to actively
 +    contribute
 +-   Be inclusive and remember that many users will "read only" at first
 +    and need to be coaxed to participate
 +-   ​Expect to handhold, encourage, and cheerlead. *Positive strokes
 +    only!!!*
 +-   The core group should try to model the culture of networking in
 +    their online discussions
 +-   Use networks to sustain the relationships formed elsewhere
 +[Making The Net Work](http://​
 +[*Cyberspeaker homepage* *- Philippa
partnerships/articles/7-steps.txt · Last modified: 2017/06/12 10:20 (external edit)