Thinking of a branch (or SIG, or ???) as a social network

I’m still in search of a reasonable platform to support an AAUW group (whether a geographically based branch/state, a team/committee, a special-topic based discussion with members nation-wide, or whatever).

  • – you’d think this would work, but it won’t unless there’s some effort put into rationalizing the topics, finding “facilitators” for the different boards to seed/drive the discussions, putting the “moderation” of private boards and such in the hands of folks who have the time to do it, etc., etc. Right now, the “latest news” board has a “last post” date of 2005. What’s wrong with this picture? Currently the underlying software is the low-end of the FuseTalk line of products — but the issues aren’t really technical. Something to keep in mind through all of this is “just building it doesn’t make them come”.
  • – this is obviously more engaging than the discussion boards – but doesn’t address all the issues. Facebook’s current structure –
    • Individuals – can have rich, application-enhanced profiles, share news and notices of updates with “friends”
    • Groups – easy to set up, but unless the members of the group become friends with each other, their interaction with each other is fairly limited
    • Networks – unrealistic for this application at the moment since they’re based on shared e-mail addresses. Some organizations do have “courtesy” addresses (i.e. I’m shoemaker AT based on my membership in the Association for Computing Machinery), but any chance of AAUW setting up mail forwarding for members is not on the horizon.

    In general, Facebook may be an excellent replacement to provide a richer environment for those who’ve been using Yahoo! groups and whose members can be encouraged to use the web interface in addition to e-mail.

  • – I haven’t explored this, but see Ning vs. Facebook for a few reasons why one group switched from Facebook to Ning (which allows for easy setup of a “network” — though I’m not sure what they mean by a “group”). Like Facebook, the free service is ad supported.
  • – Not free, but not that expensive, either. Seems to have features that could be used by a tech-savvy discussion group where folks would want to connect to each other as individuals as well as to share group information.
  • – The software that powers the affinity groups at Could be affordable if leveraged across several layers of the organization.

Okay, so I’m saying that technology isn’t the problem, and then I list a number of technical solutions. I see the contradiction here. But for many of our members (e-mail is the pinnacle of electronic communication) part of “selling” them on the benefits of a richer model is making sure that model fits what they’d need to do with it. And until more of us take advantage of that kind of networking — maybe it’s more of us getting on facebook to communicate with the kids, just like that was a driver for e-mail — this whole discussion may be woefully premature.

Comments welcome!

2 thoughts on “Thinking of a branch (or SIG, or ???) as a social network

  1. There’s a whole ‘nother discussion about using social networks to advance causes. See this blog post for a discussion.
    I’m still “stuck” on the person-to-person and person-to-group relationship buidling side of things — taking action comes later.

  2. Great post – full of issues and possible solutions AAUW needs to think about.

    So far – facebook seems to be the most viable option to me. AAUW’s future members and leaders are already there. Some of them have established and are leading AAUW’s presence on Facebook.

    Maybe we just need to figure out what other current members we need to get there – and get them to join facebook and start connecting and helping AAUW become more visible.

    And we quit worrying about how we get current members who don’t get it to value and participate in new networks. They aren’t the future of AAUW.


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