The WeAreMedia project is housed on a wiki, but the conversations and contributions don't always take place on homebase (the wiki), sometimes they happen at outposts like people's blogs, in the comments, and other places. So, one role of the wiki gardener is to not only make sure homebase is neat and tidy, but to scoop up the distributed content and make sure it is linked in the right place.
Listening in both locations
That's why it is really important to set up listening posts in both locations. Luckily, the wiki application we're using has the ability to track every page and every discussion area either through email or RSS. I've found myself doing a combination - setting email alerts on important pages - for example so I welcome new people who join the expertise map which now has 47 people on it or swarm list.
To listen in the outposts, I have set up google alerts (URL and phrase), technorati, and summize (search on Twitter). When someone mentions the project or has gone the extra mile to contribute content on their own blog, I try to thank them and then incorporate that into the appropriate wiki page.
Participation in both locations
In facilitating this community discussion to get at the curriculum, I've used blog posts that point people to the wiki page, one-on-one emails to specific people who self-identify, tweets, FriendFeed NpTech Room posts, and a little on Facebook. I'm not trying to control where the conversation takes place - I want it to be as easy as possible for someone to make a contribution and if that happens off the wiki, that's okay. As the wiki gardener, I just need to be able to gather up these valuable nuggets of insights from nonprofit technology professionals, and add them to the wiki curriculum or do some light editing of what's there. The challenge is to extend this editorial or curatorial role to wiki participants which is a little daunting.
The Listening Module: An Example
I don't have a set recipe yet for facilitating a discussion/brainstorm for the development of a curriculum and weaving community knowledge on a wiki yet. So, every now and then, I deconstruct what I did - to examine what worked and what didn't.
Last week after a brief pause, we launched the first of the tactical modules to brainstorm on the wiki and these included - listen, participate, content, generating buzz, and social networking. What's nice about these modules compared to the strategic ones, is that they are very concrete.
The first module of this series was titled "Why Listening Is the First Step." I have been setting up the pages with a few questions, leaving blank space, and filling in just a small amount. I was delighted and surprised to see that a wiki participant, Robin Browne had, on their own, filled out this module.
Next, I started the conversation with this blog post, giving an overview of the content and asking for nonprofit stories and resources. These types of items seem to be the easiest for people to contribute because it doesn't take a lot of time if they have the experience or know of a link or two to add.
Some people added the questions over the wiki, while others left comments on the blog posts. For those who left comments, I asked some follow up questions out in the comments and pinged them via email. This was like doing a quick distributed interview for a mini-case study right there on the comments. It became clear that people needed to see an example of what a mini-case study might look like, so I wrote another blog post giving an example and asking for stories. I mentioned this post on Twitter, FriendFeed, and Facebook - and got into conversations with people who responded. Then, I scooped up the various stories, made screen captures, hunted down names and links, and incorporated them into the module.
But, there's also been some deeper reflections, ideas, and converation happening on the outposts.
Gordon Meyer, who writes the Nonprofit Communicator Blog, wrote a thoughtful post called "Way Beyond News Alerts" that is a terrific addition to the WeAreMedia Listening Module. He makes a good point about why listening is important and also points a cool new listening tool - Boardreader.
Non-Profit Chas has written an excellent post called "Shut Up and Listen to the Internet" which weaves together themes and idea from the listening module and the one launched this week on participation.
So, I'm hoping as we move forward through the tactical modules as well as the play with the tools week we're planning later this month, I hope we'll see both blog posts like those identified above as well as the continued level of participation - from the typo swatting to the listing of links to quick interviews in the comments -- all contributions are very much appreciated and valued.
My big question is how to make the tasks and job of a wiki gardener - the listening, summarizing, and tracking a bit more efficient. Ideas?