Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Never Again wiki now has over 100 registered users! Exciting as this is, the challenge now is to turn more of them into active participants, in the wiki and Never Again’s work as a whole, which is why they came in the first place (apart from the spammers, of course).

I was able to catch an interesting discussion last night on open source & non-profits with Boris Mann from Bryght. Since I don’t entirely understand exactly what Open Source covers, I was pleased when the conversation turned to wikis and how to involve volunteers in the tasks needed.

Never Again is a very empowering network and the wiki has a lot of potential (as I have been saying for nearly a year now). But it is hard to communicate to people that they really can be bold on it, that it is a place for collaboration, for adding ideas, for brainstorming. But the wiki is just one of our tools and it has become clear that it doesn’t function effectively as a way of channelling action, for that other tools are needed.

I’d like to share the tip from Boris that I found most helpful, which was to have a Gardener (I can’t remember the exact phrase he used, it was late in the UK, but the whole transcript should be online by the end of the week). I see the gardener’s role in a wide sense. Boris suggested that he/she would blog regularly to highlight the important areas of work on the wiki, or in other places in the network, and to ask for help where it is needed. Lots of links from the blog would make it easy for people to get to where they are most needed. With this sort of communication, hopefully ideas would be able to take root and blossom into something connecting lots of people. Of course, this doesn't have to be on a blog but also covers regular email communication and communicating updates to the clubs that meet in person.

There are lots of gardening jobs to do at the wiki too, of course. Pruning, tidying up, creating clear pathways, raking the lawn to keep it fresh and welcoming. Having an idea of what’s in the back of the shed so that it can be brought out at the best times. Holding regular barbeques, perhaps by Skype or IM - an empty garden may look lovely but it takes a lot of time for one person to maintain and isn’t much good unless it’s creating the connections and provoking the critical thinking that is our goal.

I thought this was a very helpful analogy and one I will be trying to use. Hopefully simply being a gardener would also give more people a role and a way of getting to know the network and what is around the wiki.

If I can only find my old watering can...

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