Learning patterns/Online community meeting platform
What problem does this solve?
Geography makes meeting face to face a rare and expensive occasion for many affiliates and communities, and tools for meeting online have been variable.
The benefits of meeting other Wikimedians in person can be significant. It can increase members’ level of engagement, and provide a network for finding support and learning new things. It can also improve on-wiki interaction when people know each other.
Online meetings have relied on tools that required installation of plugins, and/or require users to provide email address and personal data to a third-party (eg Skype or Google). This put some members off participating.
What is the solution?
There are two parts to this solution: the People part, and the Platform part.
Organising a community meeting online, on a regular basis, at the same time, and in the same place can provide benefits including engagement, networking and learning.
Each month's meeting has a theme, or a featured presentation which might be a report from someone who has attended or organised a Wikimedia event, a demonstration of a new tool, or discussion of policies, strategies or projects. Tie it in with significant milestones or celebrations, such as Wikipedia or Wikidata Days. It is good to leave time to discuss particular tasks or projects that people want to share or ask for help on.
A professionally supported, dedicated online platform that does not require members to share email address with a vendor is a more accessible experience for presenters and participants.
An open source web conferencing platform, Big Blue Button, provides quality audio, supports webcams and chat as well as screen sharing. Through a hosting partner we receive our own landing page at a persistent address. Meetings can be recorded for playback via a URL. The same platform can be used for more formal online learning activities.
Things to consider
- Calendars and time zones: Email reminders are good. Getting meetings into members' calendars is great. Posting to Wikimedia Space calendar provides 'Add to Calendar' functionality. Be clear about time zones (for Australia there are 5 variations in summer, 6 if we invite New Zealanders).
- Multiple rooms: If you use an online platform which has multiple rooms, this can cause confusion with time spent collecting participants from the room they went to last time.
- Managing an entry passcode/key (if required) involves balancing ease of access with security and privacy for the community. Take extra care with privacy reminders for participants If you are recording sessions.
When to use
- Wikimedia Australia acknowledges Fred Dixon and Blindside Networks for support of their online meeting platform.
- Learning patterns/Choosing to meet up virtually or in person
- Learning patterns/Travelling Wikimedians report to the stay-at-homes
- Learning patters/Cooperative note-taking at meetings and workshops