Posted by: Mike Grenville | 21 January 2010

Web Project Update

Ed Mitchell Transition Network Web Co-ordinator gives us an update on the Transition web project:

What is going to happen once the site is launched?

We are very close to launching the new Transition Network website. Our goal is to have it out and about on the internet in the first week in February. This will be a ‘soft’ launch – it will be live, and the formal home for the Network and the Movement on the web, but we will continue work on it. The Transition Towns website will remain online for a good few months as well; our move from one to other will be gradual.

Like when you move into a new house together. You need to know how it is to live in it before doing any changes – to ‘observe and interact’. Only then will we really know what needs to be done to suit us all more effectively. We will be asking all Transitioners to come in and give it a go and give us feedback too.

So what’s going to happen?

We aim to have ‘phase one’ of the site live, as a ‘public beta’ in the first week of February.

This will include:

  • Website pages (about us, 12 steps, 7 buts etc.)
  • Initiative directory (directory of initiatives, starting with ‘official’ ones)
  • People directory (directory of people, starting with those who subscribe to the newsletter)
  • Projects directory (directory of projects, starting with ‘food’)
  • Events directory (directory of events, starting with Network events)

(phase two will involve inviting the mullers to add their initiatives to the directory, and phase three will be about introducing the ‘community microsites‘ for initiatives who want them, but we’ll only move once phase one is settled in so more on them in another post)

Website pages:

We will be editing these ourselves and tinkering with them as we go. Ben Brangwyn has been using the wiki for so long now that I think the move to a nice new ‘WYSIWYG’ editor in a formal content management system might over-excite him, but I’ll keep an eye on him. If you spot any spelling mistakes or inconsistencies, or can think of pages we are missing, please let us know; it’s an ongoing process.

The directories:

The directories may look rather empty to start with. This is because they are brand new. And because we need Transitioners to add information to them, as it’s information about Transitioners, which belongs to Transitioners. We see the web project as hosting and stewarding the information, and managing the technology it lives in, but the information belongs to the movement.

We have imported the very basic data we have about initiatives and people as a starting point, but beyond that, it’s up to the individuals and initiatives to catch the ball and run with it, so to speak.

So we have some plans to help people get used to the new site and add the vital information about the initiatives and themselves…

Life is one big road...

Life is one big road...

Initiative directory:

This will be the most important part of phase one. The initiative directory is absolutely vital to the movement, I’m sure you’ll agree. In order for it to be really useful, we’ll need information on location (postcode/zip). There is other information, but that is the one thing we really need; without it, no-one will be able to search for initiatives by location. NB: we will be asking for a postcode for initiatives, but we will never publish the postcode itself.

Each official initiative has its own profile page. To start with, these pages can be edited by the official point of contact. This can be changed, but whoever wants to edit the initiative profile page needs to be ‘registered’ on the system and related to the initiative for obvious reasons.

We will be sending out a welcome email to all initiative ‘official points of contact’ in the first week of February, asking them to log in and edit their initiative profile page. This will be straightforward and should not take long.

If you are part of an initiative which has not updated its details, please bring this up with your core team and let me know too.

People directory:

Each individual will have a profile page in the directory which they can edit themselves. This will be a chance for people to outline their interests, initiatives they are involved with, where they hang out, how to get in contact and so forth. Whether they do this is up to them – if people don’t want to add information to their profile or be contact-able, that’s fine too.

We have started this by importing the Network Newsletter subscribers into the new system as we will be sending our newsletters out from there in the future, and people will need to use the system to subscribe or unsubscribe as they wish.

So when we go live, website visitors who click on the people directory can see the names of people subscribed to the newsletter, but nothing else.

As with the initiatives directory, we only have a tiny amount of information about people. We have only imported name and email address. NB: no email address will ever be published in our system. In the ‘my profile admin page’ there is an option to ‘enable other people to contact me via the site’. This is set to ‘N’ for starters and it is up to people to re-set this themselves.

Projects directory:

We will launch this with all the information about food projects which we gleaned while beta-testing this service on Transition Food earlier this year.

All of the other theme directories will be empty at launch. This may look a little lonely to start with, but we are cooking up some facilitation plans to encourage Transitioners to add their projects as 2010 progresses.

If you meet me at any gathering this year, expect to be ‘motivated’ to add some project information to the directory by me. We’d like to see those directories looking happy in a few months’ time.

Events directory:

As with the projects directory, this will be empty at launch as no-one has been able to add any events as it hasn’t existed before!

It may look a little lonely to start with, but we expect that the first events will start to come in from Transition Network (conferences, training). We hope that Transitioners also start to add their events as it’s a great way to share this information, and we have set it up so that any ‘registered website user’ can add theirs too – encouraging our partners like The Permaculture Association, 10:10 etc. to share their events with us.

As well as these, when we get the ‘community microsites’ up and running (small websites for initiatives), events that they post will be automatically listed in the events directory.

A quick note on ‘moderation’:

In order to keep the flow of ‘content’ moving through the system with very limited resources and deep trust in the movement, we are taking a ‘post-moderation’ approach – ie we will let anything through the system (events, projects, comments etc.) without it having to be checked. Otherwise things go too slow.

We are aware that this offers a risk that some nonsense will get through, but we are installing some handy ‘moderation’ tools (e.g. ‘flag this as nonsense’ buttons on all content), and seek to build a group of community facilitators to keep a loving eye on the site as it grows.

We are a bunch of good folks and are strive to be sensitive, emotional, kind and all that. However, where toughness is required, toughness will be the name of the game. Ben and I (and many of the other possible ‘moderators’) have been online facilitating for many years now, and our negotiation stance on obvious nonsense is pretty much ‘no nonsense’. Irrelevant or spammy or otherwise undesirable events or other content will be removed with very little discussion. Community rules will appear in due course🙂

So, thanks for listening and we hope you are as excited as we are🙂

Ed Mitchell
Transition Network: Web Co-ordinator


Responses

  1. Hi there,

    Sounds great! Keep up the good work.

    I’m writing you from Belgium and I’m wondering whether the website will provide for non-UK initiatives as well? Is it your intention to include all transition towns and mullers from allover the world? Or are you rather focusing on the UK?

    Looking forward to your answer!

    Warm winterregards from Gent,

    Pieter

  2. Very excited, especially about the new community microsites (yes, I know we still have to wait a while…)😀

  3. Hi you two – glad to hear you’re looking forward to it – us too🙂

    my answers:

    @Pieter:

    Officials: We are going to include initiatives from around the world (who want to be included). We are starting the directory with a direct import of initiatives from the official page on the wiki here: http://transitiontowns.org/TransitionNetwork/TransitionCommunities

    Mullers: Once the officials are settled in (an unpredictable length of time), we will be inviting all of the mullers who we can contact to come in and set themselves up with a profile. At a rough guess I would say we’ll do this announcement… ooh… end of February if we’re going well…

    You can see a diagram of the process here:
    http://transitiontowns.org/webprojectblog/2009/11/27/initiatives-process/

    @Shaun:

    Check out the offer here:
    http://transitiontowns.org/webprojectblog/2010/01/18/community-microsites-offer/

    As with my response to Pieter, time is elastic depending on how the ‘adoption’ phase goes… If we’re going well, I reckon we’ll be looking for beta testers approx somewhere in early March-ish… (I love community technologies as they are so unpredictable but it requires a ‘go with the flow’ approach to project planning)

    Hmm… I don’t have you down as a beta-tester. These people need to be prepared to give new stuff a try, be patient, share their findings, be prepared to help others through it later…

    Fancy coming in and giving it a whirl before we really know how it works? Shall I add you to the list?

  4. Hi both,

    thank you for your enthusiasm🙂

    @Pieter:

    It will be possible to add and display initiatives (official and mullers) from around the world. The process is here:
    http://transitiontowns.org/webprojectblog/2009/11/27/initiatives-process/

    We are starting with an import of the basic data gleaned from the official initiative list on the wiki – this includes only name, number, website – and really need initiatives to add more information – so please let everyone know once we’re in motion next month.

    The first phase is about getting the official initiatives to add some data to their profiles. This will take time – once that is basically going OK, we’ll do a call for the mullers to add themselves as per the process above…

    I love community technology stuff as it’s totally unpredictable; we’re humans and volunteers so can’t assume everyone will jump on this immediately, so we have to roll with how it emerges…

    @Shaun:

    The community microsite offer is outlined here:
    http://transitiontowns.org/webprojectblog/2010/01/18/community-microsites-offer/

    Hmm. How about you offer yourself as a beta tester for the community microsites?

    Given my caveat about timing above, I reckon that we’ll be looking for some beta testers in March to get one up and running for their intiative, settle into the tech, learn the lessons, find the problems, get the experience, and then be OK with guiding others through it on the forums…

    Fancy it?

  5. Hi, I was wondering whether you are including an member social networking, or providing/linking to/building up a series of ‘how to’ articles (perhaps wiki-style?) from groups who have run successful projects?

  6. Hi Mark,

    a projects directory is underway to enable people to share their findings from their projects – we started with http://www.transitionfood.org.uk which we are importing to start the new system. This is food for now, but we will start widening it over 2010.

    social networking – well, we’re including profiles as the foundation for people to network, but we’re very aware that we cannot produce something like Ning which is very large and techie, so we’re focusing on the things that connect transitioners (transition themes and location) in a simple way, and will see how that goes. On the whole, we cannot do everything, so are focusing on the information about projects and initiatives and events rather than try to be a social network too – http://transitiontowns.org/webprojectblog/2009/12/01/social-networks-web-strategy/


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