Back in March 2010 Tessy Britton posted on How Could a Network Look after itself, reflecting on how we might do more for ourselves to animate our online activity. Tessy wrote
"I have been wondering about what it would take to encourage Fellows:
… and referred to some ideas about social reporting that I had advanced, together with a little mind map.
Things didn't really take off then, but perhaps the time is now right. We have more staff support - from Matthew Kalman Mezey as senior networks manager - and some tips from Matthew on being an online Fellow.
This group has developed the idea of regional digital champions, and I've recently had a number of conversations about social reporting with both Fellows and staff.
These days there is more encouragement for Fellows to take a lead, and for staff and Fellows to work together. I think there's scope for some joint reporting of projects, and at events.
There's perhaps even more interest in the power of networks, for example with the development of the Changemakers network in Peterborough through the Citizen Power project.
Working together, and with staff, would not only create some good content, but also help develop relationships that are so important in building the foundation for action.
That prompted some slight revision of my mind map from 2010, reflecting what digital champions and reporters might do. I think it might be a mix of:
But that's just my take. What do you think? And what encouragement might Fellows need to volunteer on this front?
Once we have a few reporters and champions, we could look in more practical detail at what's involved on this site, Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter.
I'm a firm believer in publicity. It is the life blood of action. I think the "buzz" created by reporting would be the most effective way of energizing the Fellowship. It is marketing in the 21st Century. We, as a society, more and more turn to the curation of "reporters" to make sense of all the information with which we are bombarded - or to surface information that is kept from us, whether by omission or censorship.
Thanks John. I think that by adding reporting to digital championing - whether by the same people or not - we might indeed help create some buzz. Maybe we could do some open brainstorming on topics and storylines ... what is going to interest other Fellows and perhaps also help us fill out the idea of 21st century enlightenment in the process.
One place to start could be reporting on the staff-led projects, which often have fascinating content somewhat buried in rather academic publications. RSA likes to consider itself something of a think tank, and that can be rather constraining in the way content is presented. I think we could help show the practical relevance of much project work by giving ourselves the challenge of creating additional content that other Fellows would want to refer to, as in "did you know this is what the RSA is doing". For example, I found Ben Dellot and Emma Norris more than willing to help by giving me interviews on Changemakers and Community Footprint.
The benefit for the reporter is getting some closer contact with RSA work, and maybe spotting some opportunities for further collaboration.
Some useful, positive thinking here and I would certainly encourage people to examine this idea closely with a view to taking it forward. Count me in especially as I don't get down to London that often these days.
Some words of caution, however; Val Lewis and I look after a website for the Shropshire Disability Network with Val taking care of the vast majority of the work and me just looking over her shoulder now and again and fiddling about with the back office stuff. What we have learned, often through bitter experience, is the need to link the "join up" the "curation" and the "help out". This is dangerous ground because of the potential for stepping on toes, mis interpreting and failing to recognise what is already there. It needs an editorial function, which in turn means that content isn't always included, which in turn means somebody is going to be disappointed.
That said, the experience of SDN is that because of the highly relevant content, constantly refreshed and sometimes challenging means that daily visits, to what is a small, rural, volunteers website, can reach 400 unique visits a day with more than 5 minutes spent on site each visit. In short, this is an idea that can work wonders as long as we think about the caveats and quid pro quos.
Paul has a very good point about the dangers. A friend of mine runs a company-internal biotech website where part of the content comes from reporting on the latest papers in the field in a condensed but accurate format. She has considered abandoning this role on several occasions because of the ruffled feathers of some of the rare birds in this field ( or should it be "air"?).
The worst situation she had was when she published what was in effect the author's own abstract as the article as she considered it a good piece of curation. Alas, the author didn't agree that it presented the key point strongly enough and was quite abusive even when showed the 90%+ correlation between his abstract and the article. However the site is now the "go to" place for all the scientists in the company and the morning traffic peaks suggest that far more than the scientists visit too. I knew it was a success when I had breakfast with a group of IT engineers and found them discussing a biology paper instead of the usual impenetrable hacker subjects. So far I have convinced her to continue but I've had to have several Skype counseling sessions with her - more like cheer-leading sessions.
Well I use the gReader app on my Android phone and Reeder on my Mac and my iPod Touch for most of my tech input. I tend to use specific apps for the various general news stories e.g. Guardian. I guess gReader is now my primary source as I'm traveling a lot. Once I stop moving I use my beloved Macbook Air and Reeder.
Building a good app is not trivial and an RSS feed might be a good starting point for mobile. It does have the advantage of one site, web and mobile distribution. The first-level curation is then under control of the social reporters.
For what it's worth I'm using Google Reader on the PC to organise my RSS feeds and Flipboard on the iPhone and iPad which allows me to pick up Google Reader as well as the main stream stuff.
Off the top of my head (never a good idea) we could by way of experiment use something like paper.li just to see what we get and what it looks like. Though my own vision (not sure I should admit to having those ;-) ) would be to move towards more of a Huff Post idea where people contribute to a core collecting point.
I find paper.li and auto-curation systems useful for general trawling but they are clumsy and limited when dealing with private community spaces i.e. non-Twitter or non-Facebook pointed. paper.li does have limited RSS filtering but I've tried to capture RSA-related stuff with it but I failed to make it any better than Roxanne's version - not that I was trying to "beat" her, I was just testing the paper.li limits. If we are to have rich and relavent content then I don't think there is any way we can remove the human from the equation. That human(s) might feed it to a Tumblr or a Wordpress-based blog but HuffPost's aggregator is a pretty sophisticated piece of proprietary code.
Slugger O'Tool uses just the basic Wordpress code and normal RSS, Twitter and Facebook widgets (at least according to builtwith.com) and lots of manual curation. It's not all bad news though because at least human intervention can correct some of the most egregious language abuse common in most internet sources.
(Hurrumphs and stomps off into the distance... thinking "did I re-read what I've just written or did I leave the post splattered with egregious abuse"_
.... or is egregious abuse the norm for today's generations who just see it as another way of expression. Maybe it's only old fogies's like me who find it offensive.