0. General Considerations

  • Develop a stripped-down and localized version of the Knight Foundation’s Community Info Toolkit to send reporters out into the field with. Use this to obtain a better idea of the information ecosystem you are immersed in.
  • Keep an eye out for the canvassing data being collected by GSLIS as part of the UC2B project. This will be a valuable source to help get a better picture of technology adoption and digital literacy in the communities you serve.
  • Be aware of the community and technological opportunities presented by the UC2B project, and incorporate these possibilities into your community engagement and technology strategies and plans.

1. Offline and Online Community Mirroring and Reinforcement

  • Combine relationship building with capacity building whenever possible. Think in the long term about creating the capacity for true grassroots community journalism.
  • Continue and expand upon the embedded reporter hours at local Community Technology Centers. Be alert to the opportunities as new CTC’s come online with the advent of UC2B.
  • Think creatively about embedding yourself in the community in other ways. Partner with your community allies to sponsor and organize social events and public forums around news and technology. More casual social events along the lines of the “Ice Cream Social” done by this class are potentially productive as well.
  • Think more about place in how you structure the site and its content. Community portals with news and discussion relevant to particular neighborhoods? Tie editorial content to community content more closely.
  • The mapping and data elements are a good strength in this area, build on that capacity and think more expansively about it. Maybe something like a kiosk in a public lab with your maps, mapping tools, and other place-based informational resources?

2. Community Outreach and Coalition-Building

  • Think more expansively about potential coalition partners, with the ultimately goal of making community partners fully vested and equal participants in the project.
  • Cultivate early adopters and opinion leaders to get the word out.
  • Use the Innovation Diffusion Framework to evaluate your efforts to engage communities around new technologies and unfamiliar practices

3. Editorial Approach to Community Content.

  • Seek ways to balance openness and community empowerment with journalistic standards and professionalism
  • Work to set a tone, and strike a balance between an enjoyable social space people would want to casually visit and a professional space where journalism takes place. Think of the community newsrooms you are trying to foster in physical spaces as a model.
  • In the short run, this is a conflict to be carefully managed, but the long term goal is to build capacity and relationships to the point where editorial and community content and processes can work hand-in-hand.

4. Participation and Creating Safe Spaces

  • Safe spaces and assurances about privacy are essential to getting community members to open up and tell their stories in public.
  • Pseudonymity is currently allowed, which is great. Persistent pseudonyms are probably the best compromise between privacy and accountability. What is needed is more clarity, transparency, and visibility when it comes to user privacy and protections. There’s nothing about this on the about page, at the point of the posting interface, etc. There may be something at signup, but it needs to be more pervasive and emphasized.
  • Twitter powered mobile is bad for this too, as there’s no way to anonymously tip from a mobile phone, short of making a new Twitter account. Look into providing a means of direct SMS contact through the site.
  • Create a moderation and discussion facilitation plan and devote time / resources to it.

5. Access Points and Levels of Participation

  • Create specific, structured web forms to define and shape different contributor roles and types of content contributions.
  • Refine and expand upon the Nuisance Property Database model.
  • Where data can’t be structured, explain, demystify, and make transparent the journalistic and collaborative process, and make expectations and instructions clear at the point of interaction.
  • Think of ways to promote lively and casual discussion of the news and community issues on the site, within the limitations of your mission.

6. Usability and Accessibility

  • Consider usability testing or a more informal review/suggestion process with community members and partners. This will both give them a stake in the site and a chance to give valuable feedback that¬† can improve the community experience.
  • Do a thorough accessibility review of the site, keeping in mind both W3C standards and backward compatibility with older browsers, slower internet connections, and so on.
  • Develop a native mobile interface for the site, one that supports content creation and interaction even on very basic phones. Think of new ways to solicit and use phone-based feedback and content, whether via SMS, Twitter, or other channels.

7. Social Media Strategy

  • Put the “social” in social media. Use social media primarily for dialogue and engagement, preferably in the online spaces people already frequent. Think “engage” rather than “push”, and “outreach” rather than “stickiness”. Social media strategy should mirror and complement the in-person engagement strategy.
  • Make sure to address social media in your implementation of some version of a Community Information Toolkit for beat reporters. More reporting along the lines of the “Tweet Beat” feature will also be of use in learning the current information ecosystem of the community’s social media use.
  • Develop a more flexible and combined approach to the use of social media tools in concert with the main site and in-person interactions, to add value to stories, gather and curate information, respond nimbly to events, and catalyze community interest and discussion.

8. Branding and Design

  • Think of your online community space as analogous to a physical community space. Use design and branding to make it as welcoming and safe as possible.
  • Put a human face on the site and organization. Tell the story of what you do and who you are to the community on the website. Demystify the journalistic process and the tools and methods involved.
  • Make use of color, texture, shading, fonts, and other design elements to set the tone, highlight relevant content, or make distinctions between editorial and community-generated content as needed.

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