Tech Toolkit — Progress?

Once upon a time (1999 actually), AAUW published a set of toolkits — membership, president, leadership, etc. These were 8.5×11 guides that contained a wealth of information. In the almost ten years since, the idea has been extended and enhanced — the membership toolkit is updated each year, a public policy manual was recently published, the finance officers toolkit includes key information, and the entire series was augmented with the spring 2008 Leadership Development DVD. The current list includes:

Back when I served on the Association Program Development Committee 2001-2003, one of my goals was to plant the seeds for a Technology Toolkit — from the 2001 convention discussions (Tech-Savvy in the Branches special interest group, in particular) it was clear that AAUW could provide a member benefit by providing direction on what tech skills were key for members (and if not for all members for each branch to encourage some member to learn).

The problem’s enormous, of course.

This morning, I reconfigured to be a holding place for resources that I’ve been collecting along the way. I’m not sure why it took me so long to consider using the wiki to help outline the toolkit, but now that it’s done, I hope to gather my thoughts there — and to encourage others to contribute (at least to the list of topics that need to be covered).

Comments welcome!

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!

One more try

I’m going to Phoenix with an explicit goal of building support for better virtual communities within AAUW. I believe that there are groups that care about specific areas (STEM, public policy, etc., etc.) that could be much stronger if they had a way to connect with each other. I posted at to try to find others interested.

I’m a fan of the software that underlies the online communities at NTEN: Ad hoc groups are easy to create and manage, there’s integration with e-mail lists, groups can be public or “private”. What other requirements would you put on this kind of system?
See also this list in the NTEN forums of other online communities.