The story of a Community of Practice: scoping technological support


Connecting People

Jeske has had the brilliant idea of having a Reading Group, in which all Community members will receive a suggested piece of reading and will be able to discuss it. So far so good. She has selected a reading but now what?

If we send it by email, it risks being ephemeral and even if we have a great conversation about it, we will not have any way to build on it or refer back to it. So online then. But then we risk that no one participates because most of us, let’s face it, live in our Inbox. I have seen a lot of activity at work using Yammer, and that seems to be a way of bridging discussions with a central repository. But it might not quite be all we need as Jeske has also suggested that in support of the paper she has suggested “…we can share background material. For example this article discusses several gender planning frameworks. We could provide an overview of them and the many others together with the article.” Does Yammer allow us to bring together lots of different resources together?

Whatever we decide for this will have repercussions for our other activities as we will surely not want one technology per every single task.

Hmmm… time to grab my copy of Digital Habitats*. In this book, Wenger, White and Smith suggest you decide what orientation your community has and then choose technologies to suit. There is a list of nine orientations to help you think things through.  I think our orientations are Meetings and Content mainly at the moment, with a bit of Project, Access to Expertise and Cultivating the Community thrown in there too. For all of these a Discussion Board seems a useful thing to have, so let’s start with that. There are, however, about 4 billion Discussion Boards out there. Where to start? My organization has a list of approved tools we should use so I ended up checking out Google Sites,. It does look like it may help us do what we need to do. While i was there, i found their Directory too, which also looks cute. Oh how wonderful. There are templates and you can do all sorts of things really easily adding all kinds of interesting features and apps that you never even knew you needed.

But you know what happened while I was getting excited about Google Sites and setting up a proto-site for us to play with?! My colleagues suggested we just use Yammer and see how it goes! Silly me. I was doing that thing when you get so excited by technologies you forget the cardinal rule

Keep it simple: What is the simplest solution for your community at this point in time? Is that “good enough”?’

So, Yammer it is for the moment. The simplest solution for our community at this point in time.

*Wenger, Etienne, Nancy White, and J.D. Smith. 2009. Digital Habitats: Stewarding Technology for Communities. CPSquare.

One comment

  1. ehermanowicz · · Reply

    it’s a cool post.
    about yammer – it is ok for now but I see it quite different to a google site and quite incomparable. Yammer is like Facebook – great for promoting some posts, single publications or announcements. What it cannot do is put all the resources together and make them easily searchable which is probably what we will need at some point. For now – as you say – let’s keep it simple.

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