Posts Tagged ‘online’

An important part of my role as a web communications strategist is to stay connected to other practitioners engaged in web communications, social media, web 2.0, etc – particularly in government, but of course there is always value in seeing what’s happening outside of government circles as well.

Below are some online and face-to-face communities and groups that I am connected with, and which I feel provide a great way to stay up-to-date with the latest developments in online communications.


govloopA facebook-type of online space and community dedicated to connecting government employees from around the world.  GovLoop has hundreds (maybe thousands?) of different groups, forums, blogs, etc where participants can share best practices, ask questions, and connect with other like-minded people on issues of common interest.  It’s easy to create your own profile, search for “friends” and connect with them, blog, join groups, etc.   If you’re not on GovLoop already, I highly recommend joining!


w2pThis is a less-formal but very beneficial local Ottawa community of government practitioners interested in Web 2.0 use in/for government.  Organized by Doug Bastien using Twitter and TwitVite (ex: this group meets regularly to discuss a variety of issues related to web 2.0/social media use in government.  Focus tends to be on federal government, but there are many issues that apply at the local level.  The W2P community has also organized an annual (free!) full-day networking event for the past two years.  I attended the event this year, and it was on-par with conferences organized by ALI and the Conference Board – each of which cost > $1000 pp.  Well worth connecting with #W2P on twitter and going out to their meetings and events.

CPS Renewal / Nick Charney


Ok so this isn’t a community, but rather a very active “connector” in social media for government, and definitely someone to connect with!  Follow Nick on Twitter, and read Nick’s blog to stay in the loop on the latest trends and happenings (particularly in Ottawa) around web 2.0/social media and government, and government transformation.

Third Tuesday Ottawa

thirdtuesdayWhile not focused specifically on government, the Third Tuesday Ottawa Meetups are about bringing together people in a F2F venue from Ottawa to discuss communications and marketing.  Many of the speakers and topics in the past have focused on social media use and web 2.0, and have been presented by government employees.  Worth joining the group and keeping an eye out for topics of interest.

Social Media Breakfast Ottawa

smbottawaWith a specific focus on social media, these events are a great way to meet other local people in a F2F venue interested in social media.  Not focused specifically on government, these events are typically an interesting way to learn and share about novel uses of social media tools and approaches.  They have in the past taken place at Gowlings on Elgin Street right across from City Hall – conveniently located to drop by before work (usually from 7:30-9am)

Girl Geek Dinner Ottawa

GGDOttawaMonthly F2F events aimed to make technology accessible and interesting to all age groups and all people, particularly women.  The dinners are always held in pubs, bars or restaurants and there is usually a speaker (or several) who talk for a short while on a chosen subject for the evening.  I’ve never been to one of their events, but have heard great things about them!

I’m sure I’ve missed lots of other great communities, groups, networks worth mentioning – please share your examples of local Ottawa F2F and online groups.

A few weeks ago I was at the MESH Conference in Toronto – an excellent event, well worth attending – where the term community emerged as one of the core concepts being used by many of the presenters.  Other than being a bit peeved at the bastardization of the term community, it was a pleasure to connect with other social media community folks at MESH!  I started reflecting on the concept after hearing many people toss the term around quite losely, and also thinking about the meaning of community in a web-enabled world.

community1Let’s start with the concept… a community is a sociological construct or model which means different things to different people, but at it’s core involves a group of people with identifyable commonalities. Traditionally tied by geographic proximity, in the modern digital era the meaning of community has evolved and changed radically as the degree of virtual interconnectness has increased.

There are core values which are critical to the cohesive bonding required for a group of people to identify themselves as a community. Community affiliation is dependent upon unity or connectiveness among a group of people driven by common values, ethics, and/or interests that are meaningful, identifiable, and which have a degree of commitment from the members.

Etienne Wegner, in defining a Community of Practice, describes a community as having an “identity defined by a shared domain of interest”, with a “commitment to the domain, and therefore a shared competence that distinguishes members from other people”.  It’s the commitment to the domain that I think challenges the concept of community in an online world.  It’s an easy process to join an online group, or be part of an online community; and to participate in that online space.  It’s also easy to quickly disassociate oneself from that space and association, and the bond or commitment to that space could be neglible.  While not all members of a community would necessarily know each other, they should be able to identify and connect with each other in a meaningful way.

Some companies seem to be using the concept of online communities as a marketing move in an attempt to make people feel more connected to their products, and to try to build increased brand awareness and loyalty.  Does this make those groups of online people communities?  I would argue that in most cases no – associating with others online around a particular brand could easily be dependent upon the satisfaction to the brand more than any bond with the group of people themselves.  So if, for example, a member of the Pepsi “community” were to start drinking Coke (or better yet Green Smoothies) instead, then there is no longer an association or commitment to that group of people.  It’s easy to make this brand-change, and the bonds tying people together aren’t founded on common values, ethics or interests.  I can’t picture people who drink pepsi high-fiving each other in the street just because they drink pepsi (or even acknowledging that connection at all).

One of the challenges of cultivating online communities is the ease with which people can dissociate themselves, or just forget about the group of people.  It takes time and commitment around a strong set of core values to build stickiness and depth that bonds and holds a group together as a community.

There are of course many examples of strong vibrant communities that either exist completely online, or are founded in a strong online presence.  The social media community is a great example  – with common values, interests & connections bonding people together, both virtually through various online spaces; and in person at a variety of ongoing events.  The MuniGov community is another great example, which brings people together around shared areas of focus, expertise and values – yet is entirely virtual, operating through Second Life and the web.  We could look to these (and many other) examples for what makes online communities work – in another post!

Of course there are many other issues defining online community – identity, privacy, access, etc, etc… I’d love to hear your opinions on the concept of community in a web-enable world.

I stumbled across a very neat collaboration tool called VoiceThread, that allows you to co-create presentations with others using various media sources, and invite discussion about the presentation through multiple channels.

voicethreadVoiceThread allows you to create a web-based presentation or story, using images, videos, documents, or powerpoint presentations (or a mix of these) with voice-over options.  Right now they allow you to import from Flickr and Facebook – look for more import options to come.  You can also export or embed a VoiceThread creation – there is a WordPress plugin for embedding VoiceThread, but only for self-hosted versions of WP.

People can then add their comments to the stories using any of: a computer’s microphone, webcam, a standard telephone (pretty cool), text comments, on-screen drawings (layered over top of the original presentation), or uploading a comment.  All of the comments are embedded around the original story, so you can see a sequential thread of discussion happening.

I think it’s a very creative example of mixing different ways to interact and chat about a particular issue.  The sophisticated commenting system I hope will be replicated in other apps – would be great to see this kind of functionality in blogs and wikis – for example, being able to add a video comment to this post at the click of a button.

Check out this example of a teacher using VoiceThread to get ideas from colleagues for a presentation about networking.