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  Thread:   Re: All Talk and No Action - again!
  Date Posted: 2002-12-07 01:36:58
Author: Grant

Hi Carmen

Thanks for the response. Sorry it's taken so long to get back to you. Mind you, you could be forgiven for thinking that you're talking to yourself around here.

> I Agree we need more projects listed and
> ongoing discussion, but is the site
> preventing this from happening?

Preventing? Almost. Discouraging? In my view, most definitely.

> You also call it a 'dreary empty space'
> while I agree that the discussion area
> in particular looks ugly, flash looking
> graphic sites are reportedly those which
> prevent access by disadvantaging site
> impaired and poor computer/modem/
> phoneline resourced people.

'dreary empty space' was more a reference to the lack of apparent life, rather than a call for bells and whistles. Has anyone else tried checking the site to see whether it validates as reasonable HTML? I wouldn't seek to make the site any more inaccesible than it already is.

> what are the principles of online
> community building you refer to, and
> how can this site address them better?

A site endeavouring to build an active online community and encourage contribution needs to remove as many barriers to participation as possible and demonstrate clear returns to participants on the time and effort they're investing in contributing.

Barriers? Registration and moderation are barriers to active participation. The site should offer graded opportunities for participation from open contributions to those requiring registration and moderation. It's not possible to directly contribute to this site without either or both. This sends a clear message to potential participants that they are neither trusted nor valued and implicitly their contributions are not really wanted.

As implemented, requiring registration for participation in this forum performs practically no useful purpose. Any 12 year old will show you how to create a hotmail-style account providing yourself with an effectively anonymous registration in a matter of minutes.

In terms of time and effort, restricting all modes of contribution by registration and moderation increases the cost of contribution for potential participants. Sites endeavouring to encourage voluntary contributions need to facilitate microinvestments, small contributions of time and effort e.g. an anonymous vote in a poll, an unregistered/unmoderated message, open submission of a useful link, etc. Keeping the cost of contribution as small as possible encourages active contribution. How do you imagine requiring registration might limit participation in this forum? Would this explain why there are relatively few contributors and contributions?

Contributors will return again and again to watch for contributions by others and to see the value of the shared resource, the social capital, they are creating grow. They'll be looking for a return on their microinvestment.

How many clicks does it take from the home page of this site to realise that there's been a fresh message added to this forum? How many potential contributors could be forgiven for peeking at one or two of the largely inactive forums and writing this site off as a dead space, simply because there's no easy way of seeing recent contributions?

I had a go at adding a project to this site. Did you realise? Will anyone ever notice? The information is hidden away in a database. I can't even find it myself! Where's the return on my microinvestment of time and effort adding that project? Why would anyone waste their time adding a project to the site, when the chances are that no-one will notice and hardly anyone will ever find it?

There are any number of value adding strategies that could be employed to make the effort of adding a project, message or weblink worthwhile. E.g. a randomly updated resource weblink on each page of the site? Rotating featured projects on the homepage? Weekly ezine to subscribers listing fresh submissions?

As I indicated in my earlier post, I believe it's appalling that a federally funded initiative should demonstrate such a dismal grasp of such commonly understood principles of online community development - and the second time round!

I'm incredulous at the claims made for on the CANSA website:

"Throughout the year many CCD enthusiasts have become members of the ever - growing site and have participated in the many informative and creative Forums, projects and register their own CCD news. With 334 registered users to date, has become an excellent resource tool to bring ccd, arts workers and Graduate Diploma students together from all over Australia."

In the context of the discussion above, my report card for CCD is nowhere near as glowing.

As near as I can tell, after an initial spurt of activity, participation in the forums and contributions to the projects have dropped away almost entirely. I'll confidently predict that the International Theatre and Development Forum will be all but devoid of life within a matter of weeks.

The news section seems to retain some vestiges of life, but for it's purposes, it is a poor application of the available technology. If news is to be new, it needs to be pushed not pulled.

Given the trifling number of projects listed (only 50!?) and the largely inactive forums, the number of registered users would appear to far outnumber the contributions - which doesn't say much for the participation rate.

An "excellent resource tool" is clearly very much in the eye of the beholder.


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