Navel Gazing about Makerspace Communication

Talk here about what communication channels and conversation / information migration strategies are appropriate and encouraged.

Here’s one:

Leave everything the same, BUT…

Put the big three (wiki/disco/groups) in the welcome email


Add a role for updating the wiki based on groups/discuss/real-life events

My thoughts:

The google group should be low traffic, high importance. Requests for assistance, important info, etc.
The discuss forum can be high traffic, specific importance - solving problems, extended discussions.
The wiki is for final documentation and indexing.

It’s tempting to just throw everything at the Google Group, but I worry about a tragedy of the commons situation, where we end up with folks dropping off the group due to high traffic. Bumping complicated stuff to Discuss threads collects it in one place.

I do think there should be a final place for documentation that combines stuff generated on the mailing list and discuss. Personally, I don’t mind MediaWiki syntax, as used by the current wiki, but I agree that it’s clunky and a barrier to entry. I’m not huge on Markdown, but the editor for Discourse is pretty slick. It looks like there’s various efforts for Discourse based wikis, but nothing turn-key. 1, 2

We can do better with reducing the number of different accounts, if that’s a barrier. Discuss supports GoogleAuth, and there’s an GoogleLogin extension for MediaWiki.

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Right now, we have a number of different venues for communicating stuff: Wiki, mailing list, newsletter, Discuss, Google Docs, website, social media (FB, Twitter), etc. We also have a significant problem with finding anything.

My feeling is that the wiki is a good place for static, detailed stuff. Things like instructions on how to use and maintain specific pieces of equipment, lists of past books read by the book club, our policies, etc. Forums like Discuss are in theory good for discussion, but we don’t need discussion on those topics. The wiki easily allows for links to outside sources (like videos on YouTube/Vimeo), and can easily be linked to itself.

I don’t think anything’s permanent location should be a Google Doc, unless it is a working document, intended to be an ongoing collaboration. As such, things like board agendas or financial spreadsheets are probably OK on Google Docs, but board minutes, policy documents, etc, should live elsewhere, probably on the Wiki.

The Discuss forum is a tricky one. There is a lot of push to use it as a discussion venue, but I sort of consider it a failed experiment; very little discussion goes on here, and very little links to it. Many people claim to not know about it or remember that its there, and discussion continues apace on the ithaca_hackerspace list, despite fears that it’s not a good place.

As has come up in discussion, we don’t have an IG YouTube channel, and maybe we should. We should also consider using Google Photos as a way of collating our photos. Embedding pictures and videos from these places is easy in either

I think our website is not doing us a lot of favors. The information is stale, sometimes to the point of broken links. I know people have been confused by our membership stuff on there before. The event interface is (IMHO) hard to update and overengineered for our purpose. That said, I think that our summer intern is supposed to be working on the website, so hopefully there will be some improvement.

I think the first place people will look for stuff is going to be the website. I think that there should be a lot of easily-found links on our website to the Wiki or other archives. I think that the important stuff (who we are, where we are, when we are) should be visible going to our web page without clicking or scrolling.

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If the issue with the google group vs the discuss forum is primarily about keeping the google group high-importance/low-traffic, and the discussions are detracting from that, perhaps we could create an IthacaGenerator_discuss google group, and try to encourage people to work there.

RE: intern

Gianna comes highly recommended, with talent in graphic design and some UX/site building stuff. The things we have talked about include layout, user experience, “flow” type front-end design work especially for our front page and membership page. I think that will be helpful. I wasn’t really expecting to put the backend and integration stuff in her wheelhouse right away (not sure what her experience level is there).

I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that Gianna has some good insights or an up-to-the-minute design toolset that could benefit us…but time will tell. It may be that students of IC and TC3 are a good market for us (over 18, don’t own a shop, do have cool ideas). If that is the case, it may be worth considering that demographic in our systems. (mobile-first, visual, social?) Just a though.

RE: Other stuff

B pointed out, and I agree, that despite a bunch of great features, Discuss use hovers pretty low, even among those who know about it. Works well for this - but I notice none of the originators of the groups conversation moved over here.

It seems like the folks over here have a higher-level understanding of the network and ideas about how it should work. The folks spamming groups (“the workshop gang”, me, etc) are generating and sharing a lot of actionable info that thrives on low-latency. When things bog down, they tune out and go back to making.

If we can develop this into a proposal or action of some kind, I’d say that’s good teamwork!

I’ve been hearing the same complaints since i started coming a few years ago

The idea of a groups “alerts” channel and a groups “discuss” channel is interesting and easy. I wonder how it would work in practice. Alternately, maybe adding a “shop talk” channel?

I agree that whatever we choose, onboarding new members is part of the deal.

Based on levels of on-the-ground chatter and engagement, I would suspect a YouTube channel will be happening soon. Likely run by some combination of Casey, Norm Scott, and myself. It should be pretty easy to scrape the permalinks to the wiki or backup the channel if someone thought it was important enough to take the time.

Look, I’m really not trying to convince anyone of anything, because I’m really just too tired, and lets face it, people are stubborn and set in their ways. Email is one of many ways to communicate, and I don’t happen to think there exists a one size fits all model for communication (and thoroughly agree with Bez’s knowledge migration strategy). My main problem is you are giving a higher priority to people yelling to one another across a crowded room over some semblance of organization. Chaos is always easier than order in the short run.

Whatever though, I can set up a gmail filter to funnel the ithaca_hackerspace messages into my trash, but nobody should expect that I (or anyone else) will reliably receive information from that channel in that case, because by forcing me to listen to every special interest sidebar conversation, I will instead more likely not listen to anything. Emails get deleted in unrecoverable ways too, email is not forever. And if you want to chat, chat (in person or on Slack or Discourse or some other restricted channel, but not by broadcasting emails). Email is a valuable vector for information into people’s field of view, but it loses that value if it’s not treated respectfully and with some restraint.

Finally, if this forum is deemed a failed experiment by the board, please let me know and I will take the necessary steps to take as snapshot (e.g. for like 50 cents a month intead of $10 a month) and shut it down. Good luck with the next experiment, that’s what Makerspaces are / are for, I guess :wink:.

I totally hear that. Not good to be broadcasting junk.

I think some people use the groups forum differently. I talked to one person who thought it was only a forum, and uses it as such, and didn’t realize it was emailed out to some users real-time.

Another individual said they get the digest weekly.

One person said they thought the hackerspace listserv was UNDERused, and as an internal communication system should broadcast the day-to-day goings on.

shrug emoji.

I don’t think it’s time to can discuss just yet, FWIW, especially not if it generates hard feelings. It’s not like we have anything better ready to roll out.

On a sidenote, I installed that Google Auth plugin for so if you are so inclined, you should be able to login to use (edit) the Wiki with your Google account.