Strategic choices for MetaCAugs

Discussion about Big Choices we need to make.

There are a number of interesting discussions going on about how to structure MetaCAugs (which platforms to use, how to use them etc). There are also discussions we do not yet have but should have.
I’ll very briefly mention some topics, hoping it leads to an interesting discussion.

  1. What features do we need? Being an Howard Rheingold alumnus, I’d say Telegram is very good for fast exchanges (even though IMHO Slack would be far better). But we also need a forum such as Discourse for in-depth, focused discussion. We could also use a wiki (we use hack.md now as collaborative documents) and a space for mind maps (that could be Miro, but in my experience mind map tools are a very personal choice). I also think that some members would love to have a space for private blog posts. Of course, we also need videoconferencing (Zoom, Jitsi or BBB).

  2. The above features sound familiar to those who used the Social Media Classroom (SMC) in Howard’s classes. However, for a self-managing group we need more. Think of Loomio or similar tools for decision-making and Trello for task-management.

  3. We need a landing page for people who don’t know anything about MetaCAugs, Peeragogy or OLC. At least for MetaCAugs I think we should explain who we are, what we do and how we do it. A basic navigation would point people to the relevant spaces. A subscribe button would help people to stay informed about the activities.

  4. We need to make fundamental design choices. The current design is very distributed. We use many tools and have discussions all over the place (and I talk just about Metacaugs here). We have discussion in the mail, on Telegram, on Discourse, possibly Miro, we could have discussions on Riot, hypothes.is, Diigo etc. In reality we mainly discuss on Telegram and we start to have conversations here on Discourse. However, on Discourse we exist mainly as a tag, “MetaCAugs”, and we are part of an ecosystem called OLC.

The fact that people are confronted on OLC with many other discussions can be hailed as “open” and “distributive”, but it’s also confusing. People will have to think about the relationships between all these threads and entities such as OLC and MetaCAugs. Maybe they just want to participate in a Tuesday meeting and have a look at one or two specific discussion topics. Maybe they just want to become a “member” of MetaCAugs.

Yet, on the other hand I don’t want to say ‘get rid of OLC’. I learned a lot experimenting with the plethora of tools we use at MetaCAugs. Howard’s SMC seems to me a closed universe, ideal for closed courses, but not so much for open discussions and courses. IMHO what MetaCAugs needs most is a website (optimized for mobile) with a curated offering of places where people can navigate to and a straightforward subscribe function for the newsletter.

I know that newsletters and email are being considered as “old school” by some, but in reality these things are still among the most used and effective online tools for reaching out to a broader audience. We would still experiment with many other tools, but these would be designated as “experimental” (or similar term).

  1. Strategy is all good, but we also need some resources. I support OLC financially, but what about MetaCAugs? What do we support when supporting OLC, is that, for instance, also MetaCAugs or should MetaCAugs have it’s own tip jar? Who decides which projects OLC will invest in and what the priorities are? I guess today that is Robert since he does all the work, but what if more people start financing and contributing? Then we’ll need Loomio and Trello to have good decision-making, I think.

Please let your voices be heard!

I’d say Telegram is very good for fast exchanges (even though IMHO Slack would be far better)

I wonder if Zulip could be a happy choice?

Zulip combines the immediacy of real-time chat with an email threading model.
With Zulip, you can catch up on important conversations while ignoring irrelevant ones.
Zulip is 100% open source software, built by a vibrant community of hundreds of developers from all around the world.

Before getting to specific implementation decisions, though, it could be helpful to do a planning exercise that makes the implementation decisions optimally strategic!

The high level framework I ended up with after carrying out a “bottom-up” planning exercise in the Peeragogy group was:

  • Goal: What is the overall goal for the software? E.g., the one that I wrote about was New software for tending online peer learning ecosystems.
  • Subgoal: Other high-level goals/objectives.
  • Impact: Why it matters.
  • Pain: Problem(s) with current software.
  • Gain: Tangible benefits of the new software.
  • Requirement: Things that the software must absolutely address.
  • Resource: What we can draw on in our work.
  • Task: What to do on the way.
  • Desirable Feature: Things people said they wanted but which are not strictly ‘required’.

Maybe it’s helpful to have a look at what I wrote (in the Peeragogy forum under the heading “a platform for peeragogy: roadmap”) in some detail, particularly since there are many overlaps with the tech stack envisioned in the above post by @Roland. There are many points of commonalities between the communities too!

That said, this could also be a good time to surface and highlight any different wishes/needs of OLC+MetaCAugs that diverge from the wishes/needs described in that design doc for a peeragogy platform. It occurs to me that a nice step forward could be a visual “map” that includes these groups and other related ones, and the tools they use.

Howard’s SMC seems to me a closed universe, ideal for closed courses, but not so much for open discussions and courses.

The private/public dichotomy is an interesting one to think about. I feel like the Peeragogy project benefits from trying to maintain the greatest degree of public resources. Indeed, this goes to the extreme in that we make the Peeragogy Handbook available to the Public Domain, which then means that people can use the contents in their own public or private resources without worrying about assigning credit! Such an arrangement might (likely?) be counterproductive for MetaCAugs, however.

So far it seems to me that people here seem to like the sense of having a sheltered “salon” that is open by invitation, rather than an archive of information that is fully available to the public. Similarly, as with SMC, many teachers may want/need their courses to be private. But these views and parameters could change sometimes upon examination.

From a tooling point of view, I think it is a relatively small difference. A specific installation of SMC could just as well be set up to be public or private. Similarly, maybe the Peeragogy Handbook is a great place for this community to put their maximally-public information (given a common interest in peer learning), while also keeping some things private or by-invitation. I hope the framework and example design doc I shared can help in mulling these things over!

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Another framework that could be more authoritative is this one from Google:

  • Happiness
  • Engagement
  • Adoption
  • Retention
  • Task Success

You don’t have to optimise for all of these:

metrics should be chosen (in combination) based on the outcomes required from the metrics

So, this could be used coherently with the Goal/Subgoal etc. framework I came up with in my own exercise.

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