Online Community Guidelines

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.

Trolling, not even once!
Trolling, not even once!

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

## 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)

## Oversight

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.

Please add your suggestions below or, if you are an ALF add comments directly to the card.


The post Online Community Guidelines appeared first on Drew the ALF's blog.

Change Up Meeting

This post is part of a series on Agile Learning Center tools and 2015 ALC Everett #debrief

Culture creation is a central focus of Agile Learning Centers. We want to create and hold space that is safe for children to explore their passions. To create intentional culture we employ a weekly Change Up Meetings to build, update, and remix the culture inside the school. The central tool which makes this process explicit is the Community Mastery Board.

Community Mastery Board

The CMB is a Kanban style board that normally has four columns:


  1. Awareness
  2. Implement
  3. Practice
  4. Mastery

Topics enter into the process as an awareness. Community members share something they are aware of. This could be a problem or an opportunity available to the community. At any time anyone can leave a sticky note on the awareness column of the CMB.

An early version of the CMB with a single awareness column attached to our Group Kanban


Each week in the Change Up Meeting items from the CMB are discussed as a group. As we reflect on each item in the awareness column the group attempts (if needed) to imagine a way to deal with the item and select one to try and move the note to implement. If we don’t have any ideas then the item stays in awareness.

Once a solution is implemented we try it out for the week or two. The items in the implement column are limited in number because we don’t want to be introducing too many new rules or procedures at once. Each week we reflect on how well each particular solution is working. Are people abiding by the new procedure? Is the community happy with it?

Rather than have a long processes driven meetings about the implemented solution where we voice concerns and attempt to codify a community agreement in one sitting we do rapid testing of our agreements. Over the course of the week new agreements are tested and community members can “vote with their feet” where if they like a particular agreement they can promote it during the implementation week, remind people that we are trying it out, and build support for it.

Once an agreement has been implemented we revisit it at each Change Up Meeting where we either:

  • Demote it back to awareness if the implemented solution didn’t work
  • Keep it implemented for another week to continue testing
  • Change the implementation and try it again
  • Promote it to practicing

Agreements in the practicing column are both in practice and being practiced. Each week we quickly review all items in this column to determine if they need to be demoted because they aren’t working or if we have mastered them.

If an agreement has reached a point where it has passed a certain threshold defined by the community it can then be elevated to the mastery column.

We ran our meetings by reviewing items in practicing first then implementation and finally awareness.

The following diagram illustrates how an item might move through this process:


The items in the mastery column can then be presented to new people entering the space so they can understand the community agreements. This makes integrating new people into the community much easier because they don’t have to learn what our implicit rules are because we have made them explicit.

This process also helps keep our Student Agreement’s rule section short. There are only a few “base” rules which each student agrees to including this one:

Respecting community agreements we implement and practice from “Change-up”

Which allows us to collaboratively update agreements as needed without having to amend the Student Agreement.

The right side of the group Kanban served as our Community Mastery Board
The right side of the group Kanban served as our Community Mastery Board
The Community Mastery Board used by the ALC Network on
The Community Mastery Board used by the ALC Network on