Then I somehow got sucked into creating a whole branding guidelines page after stumbling on Slack.com’s branding page. It turned out awesome! I had already started organizing brand assets on a train ride home one day.
So I took all those images, exported them into a bunch of different formats and dumped them into the ALC shared Google Drive. From there I had everything I needed to put together a resource page for people wanting to use our branding assets. This is pretty much limited to ALFs and ALCs.
I’ve been trying to gather feedback for a card on the ALF Community Mastery Board:
I feel like it isn’t being taken serious largely due to the amazing community we have who operate from a place of trust, respect, and understanding. It doesn’t feel like a big deal to define agreements because if something comes up we can “deal with it” on a case by case basis.
Perhaps that is right, but I don’t think so. We are growing at a fast rate, 5 new ALC Startups in the past 2 months, with nearly zero advertising on our part. The folks working on network infrastructure (like the website, etc) are foreseeing a “flood” of new interest in the coming year.
I work to keep our communication infrastructure running and transparent. Most of this is configuring web services, documenting their use, and working on making clear how they function. A part of this upkeep is also keeping cultural technology well functioning. An email list or website activity feed isn’t working if it’s full of spam or harassing messages.
Why General group communication agreements?
Right now there are about 6 email lists, multiple forums and discussion spaces on this website, plus endless comment threads on each blog post (including this one). We have no explicit agreement about what is and is not acceptable on any of these channels.
For the most part people can delete comments on their own websites, administrators of groups can moderate their forums, and empowered users can remove toxic people from email lists (which hasn’t ever happened). This is a fine system when we have only about 150 users. What happens when we have 1500 users? 15,000?
I want the General group communication agreements to act as a “baseline” agreement that is applied automatically to all ALC communication channels. Groups can exercise their autonomy to make their own communication agreements by over writing or adding to the general agreements.
What’s the big deal?
This isn’t the first site of this kind I’ve built. In 2011 I worked with a team of activist technologist to build a very similar site for #OCCUPYWALLSTREET in NYC. There was a need to coordinate and communicate about the encampment in the park digitally. It’s scope was limited to the NYC metro area and participants limited to people actually on the ground.
Even with this limited—trust based—scope things quickly spiraled out of control on the website. A minority of people began to create a very unsafe space online for other users. The tech working group who oversaw the site didn’t have clear guidelines around how to remove people. We were too afraid to use our autonomy to police the site because it hadn’t been clearly defined or granted to us by the larger community.
Our site, which we had worked so hard on, died. Only the trolls remained on the site and all the nice people who were interested in social change were driven out.
I don’t think the same thing will happen to the ALC site, the stakes are much lower and the community is much more grounded in trust.
The thing is, I don’t want to wait till something bad happens to have a process in place! I don’t want me and the other people I have granted admin rights to make arbitrary decisions about if a person is damaging the communication channels of our community. I want to be able to look to an agreement that is clear, which I can show to someone in “violation” and say “what you are doing is against our communities’ agreements”.
The Draft Agreements
– Keep posting relevant to the charter of the tool, no spam (irrelevant or inappropriate messages)
– Respect each other, no hate (any form of hate speech will result in immediate removal)
Any ban, blocking, or censorship will be forwarded to the Network Culture Committee Working Group (not yet a thing)
I think this could be much better. If we model it after student agreements, which are agreements that students sign to play in a space, then anyone in that space is empowered to point out violations of these agreements. This saves people like me from having to be the police and from normal users feeling powerless to deal with spammers or bullies.
What an amazing week! I’ve been in Asheville NC visiting the Endor ALC crew. I was housed by two amazing collective homes full of wonderful and amazing people who kept me well fed and in good company. I spent most of my time co-working with @liam and @rochellehudson which fueled one of my most productive weeks I’ve had in a long time. So, what did I do?
I’ve updated the network website to a point where it clearly outlines what ALC is. Gratitudes to my fellow ALFs, especially @tomis, @nancy, @abbyo, @artbrock for their contributions in content and design.
We’ve switched to the network theme which is a lot cleaner and clearer now. The front page covers much more about what ALC is and how to get involved.
I did a bit of work on designing visual elements for the page and getting it to a point of being pretty okay.
I’m very proud of the ALC directory which I created using Google Fusion Tables. This takes a spreadsheet and outputs it as a map. I did some custom design using a Google Map Style Wizard, it’s pretty fun, try it. Then I implemented some custom code to get it to display real nice on the welcome page:
Each of those icons is generated automagically as new schools are added to the directory. Each icon is clickable and displays information from the directory.
I’m super excited to expand on this work. To tighten and expand on the design and layout. I now feel like I can send people to our website without worrying that they might not “get” what’s going on.
Foldy Release Party!
@liam and I printed out about 50 of my School, Yay! foldys for a Wednesday event at Fire Storm Books & Coffee. There was a great turn out and even with no planning we were able to pull of a successful info sharing session about ALC and Endor. I used a Kanban to manage the flow of the event.
There was some great questions from our audience and super awesome input from @liam, @rochellehudson, and Keli (a new ALF from Asheville).
The foldy was also a great success!
Organizing and Orienting ALFs
I spent a lot of time working on some internal pages for alf.agilelearningcenters.org and our supporting systems to better organize our communication and collaboration within the network.
The Newbie page
I created a page for newbie ALFs (and forgetful ALFs like me). A quick aside: newbie is a term for someone who is new and thus inexperienced, it’s a term of endearment, unlike n00b which describes a person who acts dumb. The newbie page covers all of our internal tools and links to our support documents and other such things.
The Baked ALF checklist
Along with the help of @nancy and other “bakers” I started to develop what I hope to be one of many internal checklists for doing network jobs. This one focuses on what to do once a person has had their peer review, submitted their documents, and been “baked” (a title we are using to indicate a particular status of an ALF).
Added Helpful documentation
I spent a lot of time writing up helpful documentation about how to use some of our internal organizing tools. One that I’m really proud of is the ALF Community Mastery Trello Board that we use to create ALF cultural norms. This board covers how we handles meetings, what meetings there are, what software we use, and the protocol we follow for doing everything from sending emails to adding new people to the network. It’s an interactive tool that makes our community agreements and structure not only visible to all members but changeable (through our monthly change-up meetings) for all members! It’s something that deserves it’s own blog post. You can read about a real ALC example on the Everett page.
Created “easy links”
Using a redirection plugin I’ve created a number of links to important documents and services that we use. So rather than sending around long links like:
to point to the long link. Which is also very helpful if the link has to change! If we find that the hangout link stops working all i’ve got to do is edit the redirect and no one will have to be told about the change, it will just work!
Playing with Slack
We’ve started using this cool service called Slack, which is a group chat room on steroids. It’s really cool! What’s more cool is that is has a bunch of service integrations that can do all sorts of things like listen to a website’s RSS feed or display changes to a Trello card. I spend some time setting up a number of these tools along with @tomis.
The Great List Migration
Part of the work I did over ALF summer was to migrate from the NYC Google Apps for Education account to the ALC Network Apps for Education account. One of the big items of that migration was to switch over the email list serves that we use to communicate. I wrote up an email about what was going on and what people could expect
Upgraded ALC Everett
I’ve spent a lot of time writing about what happened at ALC Everett but I left the website in a kind of limbo. Anyone who was visiting the site wouldn’t exactly know that the school had become inactive or that I had written a comprehensive debrief on the whole thing, including a bunch of documentation around tools and practices. So I spend some time making the site look nice, adding a bunch of links to the debrief and the tool box as well as explanations of what the current status was and a way to contact folks at ALC incase they were from the area and wanted to learn more.
ALC Domain Mapping
This didn’t exactly happen this week, but I wanted to share. @artbrock and I managed to finally get some backend features working that allow schools (or anyone with an ALC site) to map the site to their personal domain name. This means that our school sites can use their own domain while still being part of the network!
So now sites like alcoahu.agilelearningcenters.org will show up as alcoahu.org! So cool.
This has been such an energizing week or productivity! I really feel like I’ve been in a great flow and hope to continue it into the rest of the month.
If you want other people to be able to edit pages on your site you first need to add them to your site and set their privileges to give them editing access.
Each user on your site is tied to their main user account, so if they have an account on the ALC site then you simply need to add their user name to your site and set their privileges.
Privileges give user account specific powers on your site. The Editor privilege allows the user to create, edit, and post to your site. You can read more about roles on the WordPress codex.
To add existing users (i.e. users who already have accounts on this site) you navigate to Users > Add New
From there you can add the existing user, just start typing their user name (for instance mine is drew as you can see in the subdomain of this blog’s URL) or their e-mail address.
The system will auto suggest once you put a few letters in.
If you want to add a new user that option is directly below. You would use this if you wanted to invite a non-ALC member to your site.
Be sure to set the role to the proper setting, I’m adding Abby as an editor so she can edit my existing posts:
Edit existing user’s roles
You might want to upgrade or downgrade someone’s role, to do this you simply find them under the Users list (click Users from the dashboard). Once you navigate to their user page you simply change the role and update.
You can also change their display name and some other options for them.
There has been a discussion about blogging on the All ALF’s email list recently and it touched on blog privacy. I wanted to write an outline of what your options are in terms of privacy when it comes to this site.
First of all as a general rule, anything you put on the internet can never come off and it should be assumed that at some point it will become public.
That said, WordPress (the system this website runs on) has many features that allow you to manage the privacy of your website and blog posts.
It should be noted that I or any one else, as a super admin, can access and troubleshoot any site on the network. It also means that trusted users with super admin privileges can view posts on any site regardless of privacy settings. Furthermore anyone with privileged access to the host server can read your posts directly out of the database. This is a general truth about the internet, be it Facebook or your bank, some users can see everything. I’ve mused about this before.
Managing the visibility of your site
Each user has their very own website. You are probably viewing this post on my site: http://drew.agilelearningcenters.org
“drew” is my user name which is also the subdomain where my blog lives. Each of us has a website that is located at http://user_name.agilelearningcenters.org
All of these subdomain sites, or sub sites, can have individual visibility settings. Either super admin can set them for you or you can set them yourself. The default setting is fully visible.
These settings can be found on your website’s “Dashboard” under Settings > Reading. Seen here:
Let’s look at each of these options:
Allow search engines to index this site
This means that your site is visible to anyone on the internet and there have been no restrictions placed on search engine robots to “index” the site. This simply means that your site and pages will appear on search engines like Google.com.
Discourage search engines from indexing this site
This means your site is visible to anyone on the internet but search engines are politely asked not to “index” your site. It is up to search engines to honor this request! There is no technical barrier restricting search engines or any other “web crawlers” from recording your site. It’s actually pretty interesting how this all works, you can read more about it over at robottxt.org.
Visible only to registered users of this network
This is the recommended setting if you want to keep the general internet population from viewing your site but still want to participate in cross network sharing. Registration to agilelearningcenters.org is not open to the public so only people who have been invited are able to have accounts, we currently have about 100 accounts on the site.
Visible only to registered users of this site
This setting gives you the most control over who can see your site. It allows only people who are registered users of your site to see your site. You have to set each user’s role in the Users menu of your dashboard. You might already have some participants in your users list, this just means that they have participated in your site in some way. You would have to promote them to have an actual role in your site for them to be able to see the site under this setting.
Visible only to administrators of this site
This is the most private setting. The site is only visible to you, the admin, and anyone else who you specifically set as an admin. It is also visible to super-admin, like me.
Per Post Privacy
Locking down your whole site might be over kill in your situation. Maybe you want to have a public blog that you can share with friends on Facebook but also want to write stuff that you will only share with the ALC community. Post privacy settings allows you to manage who can see individual posts.
A post, in the WordPress lexicon is any content you post to your site. So this can be a blog post, or a page, or a custom “post-type”.
You’ll find the visibility settings inside the Publish box when editing a new post.
The default is public, which has an option to be sticky, which will “stick” the post to the top of your blog.
You can password protect any post so that it is available to anyone on the internet who has the password.
Then there is private. This will make posts invisible to anyone except registered users of your site. Private posts are great for group blogs where you want to share something with only the members of your site.
Privacy is a tough thing to manage on the web. The very best thing you can do to keep yourself safe is to limit the personal information you expose on the web, private or not. Be wary of posting any identifiable information, be smart, be safe.
And remember, unless people are really out to get you, it’s probably nothing to worry about.