Connecting Outreach, Community Management, and Ethnography - and streamlining organizational processes

This is specifically directed toward our H2020 project teams.

NGI Community Management: @johncoate @MariaEuler

POPREBEL Community Management: @noemi

Outreach: @nadia

Research/Coordination @alberto @marina

Technology: @hugi @matthias

Please also tag anyone else who needs to be a part of this conversation.

Currently, we don’t have a great process for collaboration between our different teams. The biweekly call is theoretically supposed to be this, but I can’t remember the last time we were all present at the same time. At the moment it’s mostly pings on platform that come in the middle of one of our processes, hard for the other people to pick up on and follow.

I propose (this also comes from a discussion with @marina) that we put a more structured plan in place for discussing our projects and what we are each doing. Ideally we have a much better attended biweekly call, a bit more structured based upon project updates and what we need from each other. If not, I’m open to other ideas.

More specifically, I want to request that we put a system in place for tagging content for coding. Currently, this is something the community managers do, which is useful since you guys are reading all of the content. From my end, I ask that we make sure to do 2 things:

  1. Regularly assign the “ethno-project” tags to content that needs coding.
  2. Only assign those tags to codeable content. Please do not assign those tags to event planning posts, as they clog up the tag.
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Something that could be useful:

Creating a tag that outreach/engagement and community managers can use to mark content as “important” or “high priority” to code. @nadia that way we know what to prioritise automatically.

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Great. Would love to train more about how to use Graphryder actively to help community management. Could we maybe make a community manager workshop on that or so (less formal) at some point?

Another proposal:

A tag (or other way of aggregating) “update” or “strategy” posts that everyone on all the project teams for a given project needs to read (or at least the team leads of each). That way we are out of our silos and know what’s going on with each other. Or a scheduled reporting update, biweekly or once a month.

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I didn’t know that this is a problem,… ok can do that!

Otherwise the biweekly works for me, but indeed, we are never all together. I guess it lost the mandatory aspect, and if I needed information from someone the biweekly was never the way to get it, because we missing information from others who were not there…
But hear hear and will be there!

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I am very much in favor of this. I take guidance from the ethno team in approaching the conversations and the subject matter. I like the regular calls and try not to miss them. Starting conversations that sustain themselves or bring in many others besides ourselves is pretty challenging. And I recall Amelia saying conversations amongst ourselves don’t count for coding.

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ok will do.

This seems like an economic solution.

I have never felt the need for mandatory attendance by everyone. It is only in the past few months that I noticed I had lost contact with the POPREBEL team. What I am trying to say is that it does not have to be a big deal, maybe a bit of coordination: you can’t attends, make sure that someone else does who knows what is going on.

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Hello, after the workshop @amelia and @hugi gave today about using SSNA and Graphryder I was thinking a lot about the use of it in community management. I think we can do much more to use is practically, but to do so I think we have to address the following:

  1. Proper Graphryder training for Community Managers

    Slide like this one show how the different views can unravel structures underlying the conversations, however, to use that effectively we community managers would not only need to know more about the different views, how to explore and how to use them, but also about how to interpret certain pattern that we could come about.
  2. We would need to discuss who finds those interesting patterns. The CM team in the current set up has not the knowledge, but also not the time planned to do so. Is the research team in their day to day work already running in interesting clusters similar to a few of those in the presentation? Would it maybe make sense to have a quarterly check in where the research team points the CM towards clusters that should be attempted to connect? Or is that also not realistic for the research team in the current set up? Where and how can we place the effective use of Graphryder to inform CM?
  3. What is the typical “time-delay” between a conversation on the platform and it’s coding for the Graphryder? To be able to use it to inform CM the participants have to still be active on the platform (and yes some are long term, but some are not. To decide how to incorporate the Graphryder best for CM the realistic time-delay needs to be taken in consideration)

Looking forward to the further development of this.

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I think this would be super cool, and a great way to integrate community management and ethnography more. What do you think, @alberto?

I really like the idea of a quarterly meeting where we go through the graph for community management, with the ethno team presenting. These days things are getting coding pretty promptly @MariaEuler (and this would be a really nice way for me to additionally motivate people to stay on top of their coding).

I’d love to run a training session for the community managers, with @hugi or @alberto.

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POPREBEL is really tough because I have a hard time motivating people to code in a timely fashion, but for NGI we could definitely get this going (and I have faith that we could do it for POPREBEL too, but if I had to choose one to start with, it’d be NGI).

That would be @MariaEuler and @johncoate on community management, right?

Let’s jump right in and try this out, if you’re up for it — do you two want to join our biweekly on Monday, 2-3pm UK time? We can go through the graph together.

I imagine we could then have you guys join once a month (so, every other ethno call) for at least half of the call to run through the implications of the current coding round for community management.

Starting next Monday?

Would work for me. However, I think the time is tough for @johncoate as that’s in the middle of the night for him.

John is in California, so 2pm UK is 6am there. We could push it a little later, to 4pm UK, if that works for everyone? @Leonie @katejsim

I don’t think I want to have yet another periodic check-in. We need another solution to prevent spending all our time in meetings.

The suggestion is not that you join this regular meeting, @alberto — it’s for the community managers. And only if they want to (it’s something @MariaEuler has explicitly asked for). And I think of the meetings that we have, a regularly scheduled call where we talk about the ethnographic data itself and how it relates to community management is important, concrete, and useful. I’d much rather have short, regularly scheduled research coordination efforts on our projects than continue to try and get information on what’s going on in an ad hoc way. If people agree, cool, then they can jump on the call with me every other week and learn about the ethnography progress (and if community managers end up joining once a month, the community management progress too)

I know from many conversations with them both that @johncoate and @MariaEuler would prefer more structure and more face-to-face checkins, and @katejsim and @Leonie have both explicitly asked for these too (which is why the biweekly coding meeting now exists). So I will go ahead and do this for NGI.

POPREBEL can continue to be ad hoc if people prefer it that way. I’ve no intention to make anyone join any meeting or check-in that they don’t want to. But to me, the lack of structure in both of these projects in terms of how we communicate with one another across teams has created more time consuming work and quality issues. @marina has expressed similar feelings, too.

I understand that you and @nadia (as she expressed in the last team call) don’t want the solution to involve any more meetings, and @nadia has expressed no more ‘reporting’ either. That’s fine and you are of course both welcome to do whatever you want-- that’s how Edgeryders works. But it’s not working for me, so (like @matthias mentioned on another thread) I’m making changes to try to make my workflow easier, and anyone who feels the way that I do is welcome to add another meeting to the schedule / try to brainstorm how to update each other in a more structured and consistent way.

On this topic, Jo Freeman has an excellent article on the Tyranny of Structurelessness. @katejsim uses it when she teaches workshops on organising, actually. Freeman argues, I think very accurately, that there is no such thing as a structureless organisation – only those who make structures explicit, and those who leave them implicit (which means that the structure ends up being that of those who are dominant in the group).

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I think it is fine for Alberto and Nadia to opt out of these unless necessary in some cases. The reason I like such check-ins, besides a general feeling of connecting, is that it helps guide us in the directions of the conversations. It’s quite hard to get conversations going in NGI, so what we can make happen should be aligned with the ethno effort, seems to me.

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Sure, it is well known. And of course we agree, and no one ever tried to make Edge structureless. It is about making structures that work for those who need to use them. Adding new structure instead of fixing the existing one leads to org rot: the harmony fragments into a mosaic of islands that make some internal sense, but then cannot move forward because they need external output. Right now, in the RezNet I am hearing @nadia saying “I can’t engage because I was not given evidence from the coding in year 1” and Jan saying “OK, but now we need the engagement to get better material to code”. I do not recommend you guys go off into any more rabbithole, especially at this point.

Additionally, there is major issue with having regular calls in a fluid working reality: Alice agrees now to having meetings with Bob on the second Thursday of every month. Right now, her calendar is empty: no problem. But next month she might struggle to accommodate some other important meeting; or be on holiday; or be in the flow of writing some piece of text, and knows that stopping for the meeting is going to cost a lot in terms of concentration (I experience the latter a lot).

But, here is an alternative solution that (a) builds capacity in the team and (b) re-uses existing structure:

  1. Make a (one-time, for now) training for CMs on how to use network tools. I mean, how could I be against such use? My Ph.D. thesis is called The management of online communities. A social networks perspective! A lot can be accomplished simply by using Graphryder. I also have created, documented and published a Tulip perspective to create rapid social networks exactly with the idea that then CMs would target all the “singleton” nodes that have zero connections, without having to tamper with fragile updating of GraphRyder. I even used to produce lists of those, but then I stopped in early 2020, after the mess with Natalia etc. A training would empower CMs to explore the network under their own powers.

  2. Make these observations part of the bi-weekly meetings. I don’t expect a firehose of novelty. Observations like this do not come every week, and even when they do they could well be part of reporting into the bi-weekly. If a longer discussion is needed, we schedule one on demand, but do not make it a new ongoing commitment.

  3. In general, I would rather invest on the bi-weekly. Let’s put there everything by default. Let’s make it more juicy and fun. And let’s keep it trans-projects, within the ethics of maximizing mutual learning. Activities that need their own space and do not involve everyone (like coding) override the default and result in their own meetings, as always.

What say you?

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I agree with @amelia. I think that is what makes the onboarding of new people to such an organisation so challenging. Of course, there always needs to be a balance. but yes, there are lots of structures and issues that might be clear to people who are around from the start that are hard to pick up upon without meeting and articulating. And to be able to know what type of initiatives one can take one needs to know that, or just shoot and maybe hit the wrong target.

But that is a different topic all together.

I am happy to join the next ethno call and see from there how it develops to see how it could be used more practically in CM :).

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I definitely think this is a good idea.

Certainly agree with investing in the bi-weekly – this was my starting point in the original post. And yes, I would love for it to be juicy and fun. As step one to getting there, I mostly just need it to be more organised and informative, with more structured updates about each team’s work on each project. Happy to make the ethnographic observations part of the bi-weekly meetings, and I think there would be more space to do this if the structure of the meeting was a bit more defined. I’ve talked to @marina about this and she has some small changes to suggest that will be helpful on this front, I think.

The community managers (@johncoate and @MariaEuler for NGI, and anyone on POPREBEL) are still welcome to join our coding bi-weeklys if they want to, since we will be having them anyway. If they do we’ll set aside time every other meeting (once a month) to talk in more detail about the findings as they are relevant to community management. It’s something we’d do anyway from an ethnographic perspective.

Our bi-weekly coding meetings are also always open (the schedule and zoom link are on the ER schedule), so anyone interested can join at any time. This way, if anyone wants more detail on the ethnographic process they can come to those meetings, but I also commit to the larger team biweekly and giving updates on the ethnography on both projects in that space.

It is, and it isn’t. I actually think they’re very related.

This is not the first time I have heard this from someone joining Edgeryders (by a long shot), so I would recommend heeding it – it was also my experience, and I’ve done a lot of behind-the-scenes guidance/advising/pep talking with various people over the years. I also know I’ve personally done things suboptimally (driving @matthias crazy, for example) because I didn’t have all the ropes figured out properly for a long time. Valuing the ability to jump in and improvise/innovate is great, but everyone needs some kind of guidance when entering a new space. And it seems as an organisation we love certain kinds of people who take initiative in certain kinds of ways but not others, sometimes. We aren’t great at making things clear, and I think there is a real opportunity to kill multiple birds with one stone here, if we are willing to make small changes.

@marina and I, for example, could start assembling a better platform organisation and tagging structure in each project section so it’s easier to navigate each team’s work. Small changes (clearer and more consistent tagging) would lead to a lot better clarity.

We could/should also assemble (or make it clear, if it’s not already there) some introductory documentation and support for new members joining us. We’re getting bigger, and some organisational clarity would really help people coming in. And we can use our own tools for this! I remember @MariaEuler and @hugi making a cool map of the different ER communities to try to understand everything going on in the platform. SSNA would work well for this :smiley:

Some of this is also interpersonal communication habits. I’d also encourage all of us to try to have a little bit more patience with our new members and give them more regular and structured feedback. The way we do things creates a pretty anxiety-ridden first few months (and more, for some people) that we could really alleviate with kinder person-to-person comms.

I am making suggestions that I am fully ready to carry out myself (reliably being at the bi-weekly meeting, presenting the ethno team updates and needs in a clear and structured way, inviting community managers to the ethno meetings, creating new tags, and organising my own updates better on the platform). I am happy to do the work here so this doesn’t require a big effort from anyone else (except probably @marina) in terms of labour, but it would require a recognition that things are suboptimal and a willingness to make small changes to practice. These are issues I’ve had the whole time I’ve been working at Edgeryders but have in the past decided to work around rather than address head-on (in large part due to the culture I address in part in this post), but I’m giving it a try now. I hope you can trust me when I say I’m nowhere near the only one who has experienced these things – and I think small shifts could make a big difference.

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Something @hugi and I have also talked about before that is relevant here is putting in some better HR practices, for lack of a better phrase. These are twofold:

  1. Our hiring process is currently very ad-hoc, and that’s lead to quite a few suboptimal staffing outcomes in the past.

  2. We have no real internal way of dealing with interpersonal conflict, especially in hierarchical situations (and particularly where someone new is having trouble with someone who has been around for a while). This has some bad effects. Many of us who are external to the hierarchy or team in question find ourselves doing emotional and interpersonal support work, often without being able to help formally. There’s a reason most organisations have either an HR person or a welfare officer, depending on the kind of org. This is another situation where formal structures are our friend – firstly because when people know the expectations of them, it is easier to feel safe and to meet them. Secondly, when people have a clear understanding of who they can safely talk to when they have issues, anxiety levels decrease and problems don’t get out of control – they can be dealt with early at a small level.

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