Communicosm

A short while ago, I wrote a little piece about a possible idea to enter into the Building Democracy competition, which was to create a social ‘directory’ of online community groups. I put directory in inverted comments because that isn’t really what it is, but I could think of a better word. Anyway, I’ve come up with a working title for the project: Communicosm – it’s like a microcosm of communities. Or something. I dunno.

Anyway, for the Building Democracy site, I need to answer some questions about the project. Here’s my draft responses, which will hopefully give more detail on how this thing might just work. Once again, all feedback gratefully received! I need to get this up on the site next week really, so chop chop people.

What is your idea’s name?

Communicosm.

A short description of your idea (in twenty words or less)

A socially generated directory of online communities, tagged by areas of interest, that organisations can use to find people to talk to. (This is 22 words. Dammit.)

Describe your idea. What will you do?

Create a wiki based site which will contain details of online communities, which organisations such as central and local government can use to find the people they need to get in touch with for consultations, etc. Each community will have a page describing it and its interests, with tags describing it with keywords, which can then be used by organisations to find the right communities quickly whether through a search engine or a tag cloud. Time will be spent at the beginning researching and finding communities and adding them to the site so that when it launches, it is full of content for people to get their teeth into. After this initial burst of activity, it will be a community generated job. Further additions to functionality might be for people to make lists of communities that they have found on the site, which can be emailed to them or shared on the site.

What will the benefits be?

The site will save time for those searching for groups to contact and engage with. Searching online for communities is a time consuming business, not least because some human research element is required to judge activity levels and how relevant the community is to a project.

Who will you target?

Online community groups will be targetted and encouraged to add themselves to the site. Non-online community group could also be added, though if they have no online presence this could be tricky. It will also be publicised amongst government and other organisations to encourage use.

Is your idea linked to a particular town or region? If so, where?

No, it’s a national thing. A local version already kind of exists with GroupsNearYou.

What kind of assistance would you like from others?

Help in identifying, adding and tagging communities on the site once up and running. Encouragement of organisations to make use of the site’s content.

My Building Democracy idea

I just had a request from someone asking what the best community sites are for a certain – fairly specific – group of people. A little digging, partly Google, partly ‘I know I’ve seen something like this somewhere…’, soon produced some good results. I emailed them off and my contact was a happy chappy (hopefully).

This set me off thinking, that some kind of online resource for government, both central and local, and other organisations, could use to identify where the places are that people are talking about certain topics. It could be community maintained and updated, but would need some seriously work in the first place to firstly identify key target groups that would be good places to start, and secondly do the grunt work to track down the most popular communities and forums, and then list them on the site.

A further development could then be to add other communities which aren’t necessarily online based – though if they have no web presence at all, that might be tricky.

So, some time is required to get it up and running, which if I were to do it (and why not?) I’d probably like to be paid for. Which made me think of Building Democracy, the competition to identify projects which help ‘stimulate public discussion’. I reckon this idea suits that remit pretty well. I need to do some maths around how much time it would take to scope and do the initial work, but I doubt it will use up very much of the available £150,000 at all.

Before I post it up to the site, though, I’d like some initial feedback:

  • Is it a good idea?
  • Does something like this already exist?
  • Can you see any problems at this early stage of the idea’s development?

Any thoughts welcomed! Oh, and please don’t steal my idea!

More cloud working stuff

I missed a couple of bits out of my recent post on stuff I am/will be using to work once I am self employed (not long to go now, folks!). Here’s a couple more:

Communications

Being at home alone more often will mean I need to have good communications links with other folk to help me keep on top of things as well as keep me sane. So, I have Skype which is as useful for instant messaging as it is calling people over the web. I’m davewbriggs on Skype, if you’d like to connect on there.

I also use Meebo, which in an in-the-browser instant messenger client which allows you to chat to people whether they use Microsoft, Google, AOL or Yahoo! instant messaging. Very useful! These days it’s also useful to keep an eye on Facebook chat, which seems to be becoming increasingly popular.

One communications medium I would like to make more is online video, both by using ‘webinar’ (ugh!) type services like DimDim and GoToMeeting and video conferencing like ooVoo. It would certainly be cool to be able to provide support or even coaching online using these sorts of methods.

Intranet

It might be a bit strange for what is effectively a one-man-band to have an intranet. I see it as another tool with which I can organise myself, though. I’m using a wiki I created with Google Sites, which makes use of several templates to create the functionality I need. Each bit of work I undertake has a page in the wiki, and an entry in a big to-do list. All the files for a project are attached to the relevant wiki page, which also lists everything I know about the project: who I am talking to about it, URLs etc so I can’t forget anything. It also means I have a record of completed projects that I can refer to easily. It seems to be working pretty well so far.

Working in the cloud

This rather mega post from Paul Stamatiou made me think about what I’m going to be using from September to manage myself and my business. Most of these I have been using for a while, or have just started to get set up.

Email

I use Gmail for my email, set up  to work with the DavePress.net domain through Google Apps. It works wonderfully, including being able to access it on my iPhone.

Calendar

I use iCal on my Mac, which syncs with the iPhone through MobileMe. Some people have had trouble with this service, but it works fine for me. MobileMe also means I have a web based version of the calendar should I need to give others access.

Documents

I have two types of documents, those that I am working on with others, and those which are pretty much just for me. The former I put on Google Docs, the latter I edit with Office 2008 on the Mac and save on my iDisk, which thanks to MobileMe is accessible from anywhere. All Docs I regularly back up on my hard drive.

I’m currently experimenting with how to plan work and time, with spreadsheets and calendars. Am sure I will figure it out soon.

Contacts

I have contacts in my phone, synced to the Mac and online with MobileMe. I’m also starting to fill out Zoho CRM, which is an online customer relationship management platform, running in the browser, which is free for up to three users. It’s a very comprehensive system, far too big for my purposes, really, but I am trying to find the bits of functionality I need and how I can make them work for me.

The Zoho suite of online apps is truly amazing, though I have to admit to never having got into them properly because there is simply too much of it!

Notes

Mixture of old and new media here. First port of call is my notebook; but second I go for Evernote which syncs between web, iPhone and Mac desktop application, including text, images and audio.

What’s important

So what I seem to need in the apps I use is mobility. I need to be able access as much of my stuff as I can in different locations, whether I have my own laptop with me or not – and even when I only have my phone with me.