Building capacity for Minnesota Broadband Coalition

logownameAt the MVO unconference the need for broadband came up – often. There was a blogger there who doesn’t have Internet access at home. She drives 10 miles to the library to get access. As she said, she could get dialup but feels like they ought to pay her to use it.

People recognized the need to make info available for tech lovers and tech-challenged (challenged by access, experience, cost…). People also recognized the need to help bridge the gap with training, improving tools and broadband.

I was thrilled when Jeff Narabrook form Minnesota Council for Nonprofits offered up his topic to talk about building capacity for the Minnesota Broadband Coalition. We talked about the tools we have created for the Coalition (web site, email newsletter, LinkedIn group). We talked about what we wanted from folks: ideas for the Broadband Task Force and ideas for the stimulus funding.

We talked about the need for the Coalition to help people understand why and how broadband does matter to them. The conversations that the Task Force are having (symmetrical speeds anyone?) do not necessarily capture the imagination of your average bear. But stories of how broadband means a better job, how broadband means a way to talk to a grandson in the army … they can capture the imagination.

So we’ve been trying to gather those stories (Got one? please let me know). Now we need to get those to a wider audience. One thought was to create a widget of sort (maybe a logo linked to an RSS feed) to share with folks like the Minnesota Council for Nonprofits to help us spread the word.

I had/have wanted to capture some stories in video – the biggest barrier for me is getting to people to get their stories. So I’m going to throw that out there too in case there’s someone in the field who’s looking for a story idea.

So that’s my lucky take-away and assignment from the conference. I also have a laundry list of tasks for me on more of a professional development level – like learn about Plurk (thanks Chuck Olsen for that) – so I feel like the support for the Minnesota Broadband Coalition is a complete bonus.

But before I do any of that – I’m spending the day in sunny Duluth with my family.

Video from the Unconference

I was so pleased with the unconference this weekend. I had hoped to do some live blogging and add video – but it turns out when you have a room full of video cameras that it can take hours to upload video. So I’m bringing you everything a day after the fact.

Below are videos from the day. Mostly we went through topics suggested by attendees – assigned table to topics and folks went where they wanted. Then we’ve convene and report back.

I tried to take notes during the first session, so I’ll inlcude that too – just to give you a quick idea of the conversations that were happening.

Notes from First Session:

Table 1: E-Democracy Group Server – folks got a great demo on how the E-Democracy Group Server facilitates local issues forms. It combines email and web-based discussions – or rather offers multiple ways of participating in the discussion.

Table 2: Facebook – a fun hands on session on Facebook.

Table 3: Strategic Use of Tools for Nonprofits Organizations – a discussion of people who use and/or want to use online tools. I heard people ask about a checklist or recipe for success. Does it help to have multiple people involved? It’s important to have a real person with a real voice at the helm.

Table 4: Podcasting – a discussion of how to use tools to facilitate remote meetings and record them. Dim Dim is a tool I heard come up.

Table 5: Creating community web sites – using tools that will help your audience help you with content, such as Google Calendar – but you still have to moderate.

Table 6: Twitter – a good hands-on session on how to add hash tags

Saturday Second Session Topics:

Saturday Second Sessions Summaries:

Continue reading

Unconference – developing topics for the day

We all met. Attendees were invited to submit topics for the day. People used post-it notes to vote for the topics that interested them most. I have videos that I hope outline that process:

Getting instructions:

OK this stinking video is coming soon. I have waited long enough and held the other posts. I will add the video when I can.

Learning about the topics:

MVO Unconference Fishbowl

The unconference started out with a fishbowl. Half a dozen of us sat in a circle in the middle of the room and discussed potentially controversial topics. Audience members were able to chime in to some degree.

Because I was in the fishbowl, it’s harder for me to talk about what happened – but I can say that it wsa fun to hear about differences of opinion. I’ll track down video of the event later.

Topics that came up include:

  1. How much structure do you need for online discussion? How strongly do you need to enforce structure?
  2. Do the growing online communities leave the real world community weakened?
  3. Will newspapers be around in 10 years?

MVO Unconference Friday night

It’s Friday night and the Minnesota Voices Online unconference is off to a good start. The reception started at around 4:30 – people trickled in and it was fun to see people who we really only knew via email. The dinner was great. Some of us brought our families. It was a good chance to get to know people.

At 6:30 the work began. The attendees gathered in a room to participate in a spectrogram. The idea is that the facilitator presents a statement such as – Online tools have allowed people to respond and react very quickly, decreasing the time that people have to reflect. This leads to quick reactions and a reduction is thoughtful democracy. Then participants can demonstrate their level of agreement (or extreme disagreement) by placing themselves on a continuum on taped to the floor. Participants are able talk about their options to the group and on video.

I was really impressed with how well the exercise worked. We did this three times with three different questions. There were about a dozen people who were very vocal and everyone else was willing to vote with their feet (placing themselves on the spectrum) and give a few words when asked.

I took video. I have been trying to upload the video for 2 hours – so far goose egg. But I’m hopeful that the video will be available by morning.

I enjoyed talking to folks after the scheduled activity. The folks that I talked about are interested in technology as a tool for community development – but their passion is the community. While they were technology users – they didn’t all have Internet access at home. As they pointed out, generally you only have good internet access (broadband) if you live within 2 miles of a town. If you don’t, you’re going to the library for good access. There was some concern about the digital divide as the online world expands.

Someone mentioned that they were able to expedite DSL access in their community because a neighbor had gone to Qwest to get a petition that they had 160 people sign to express an interest in getting DSL.

I did hear that some people were feeling a little lost because they felt that they didn’t know the technology as well as others. Twitter, wiki, blogs, utterly – it is like a foreign language , but we all learned it at some point and for better or for worse we learn something new everyday . Many of these people have tremendous community organizing skills – many of us could learn from them!

Here are the videos:

Marc Osten explains the spectogram

 New media-driven instant feedback leaves no time to think and that is eroding democracy.

Technology tools distract communities from coming together.


Online communities needs a heavy dose of structure to realize their potential.

 Steve Clift talking about online tools for the unconference