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Too much electronica
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jducoeur
One of the more cogent points raised in the flurry of activity on the Baronial Facebook page over the past day or two was that we are too splintered -- that our profusion of mailing lists for the various activities has wound up worsening the atomizing of the Barony.

Here's another aspect of that: we have *way* too many different electronic media that we're split among. I was just realizing that, when I posted to the Carolingian LJ about running for Baron, that I'd better also post to the Baronial mailing list, so I did so. And then I realized that maybe I should post to the Facebook group. And my own LJ, and Google+, and and and.

Not quite sure what to do about this. Everybody's got their own preferences online, and the War Of Facebook is pretty serious: some people completely live on it, and some hate it with a burning passion. I think the Baronial mailing list is still the most central organ we have, but in practice we haven't been using it enough, not least because mailing lists are a mediocre way to have deep discussions. But the fragmenting means that, even if I post something to all of the different media, it means that the Barony winds up having half a dozen *separate* conversations about the topic, instead of one unified one.

All a reminder that online social media are a two-edged sword. They're useful in many ways, and I don't really regret having them available, but I often long for more genuine face-to-face conversations among the Barony...
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I've been wondering if there's a market for creating a social media aggregator that allows you to seriously combine all of this stuff.

There actually are several such, although none has really won in the marketplace. But the hard part is the follow-on conversation. There are a bunch of services that make it easy to cross-post, or to pull together postings, but conversation tools are *so* varied and scattered that nobody I've seen has done any sort of serious attempt to pull together the comments and discussion from the various outlets. There are some nascent standards that might help (eg, Salmon), but only if the social media firms decide to adopt them...

Your last point is really the telling one. "Social media" as we currently call it, is actually pretty crappy at "conversations" in the first place. Social media is good at talking *to* one another, but conversations are about talking *with* one another - a subtle but very important difference.

Yaas. That was the primary point of the CommYou project in the first place: to create an online conversation system that didn't totally suck. I had thought that Google Wave was going to eventually fill that niche, but they utterly muffed it, so there's still a gigantic hole in the online ecology. (I often marvel at how completely the major companies fail to understand how *bad* they are at conversation and collaboration.)

But all that said, there's no substitute for face-to-face conversation, nor any sign that even the best online system will get there in the foreseeable future. I suspect we need to wean ourselves at least somewhat off the digital teat and get back to actually seeing each other a bit more often...

this should give you an idea of how I feel about Facebook...

...we have a Baronial Facebook page?

Re: this should give you an idea of how I feel about Facebook...

Yaas. (Well, Facebook group technically.) Follow the link above -- it's pretty active, especially this week. There's actually been such a page for a long time, but it's been gaining steam over the past year. Probably worth a reminder on the mailing list, now that you mention it...

Most of the Calafian traffic seems to be on YahooGroups. There's a general mailing list, plus mailing lists for individual interests (Costumer's Guild, for example). It's not perfect for everything, but it's not Facebook. (:

Doc Searles writes about proprietary "silos", and this seems another good example of the sort of thing he's talking about. The technology, backed by companies that are (understandably) geared toward making money, encourage the fragmentation. But the answer, such as there is one - is it yet another technology? Is our mindset so fundamentally geared toward this sort of thing that we don't/won't operate outside that paradigm? I caught myself thinking "perhaps there should be an official Carolingian forum site where these things can be discussed and everything else is just a side conversation." But I don't really know if we need one ring to rule them all, or if we should really be looking at something other than rings.

Yaas. This is part of why I've been thinking laterally about the recent Google+ argument -- that the issue isn't Google+ per se, it's that we're just plain thinking about social networks wrong. We need to be thinking about common protocols, not products.

This is another example of the same basic problem: people have been going out and building products without (often deliberately without) thinking about how they should work together.

How this applies to the Barony, I am not at all sure. But I'm pretty sure that the gut-reaction model of, "Create yet another new thing, and force everybody to use it" is just going to fall flat. We need to recognize the way people are really communicating, and figure out how best to work in that ecosystem...

This is why I wish we had a shared weekly Baronial meeting, like where I grew up. There was a lot of talk about this a while back when it looked like we were going to stop meeting at MIT, but it never went much of anywhere.

Council is fine for people who've been the Barony forever and/or are interested in business stuff, but it's boring and not all that useful socially for new people. Everything else is mostly separate meetings. The Waytes meet the dancers, and the belly dancers meet the fencers, and the fencers sometimes meet the heavy fighters, but things are pretty much separate, and there's not much of a sense of being a Barony as opposed to a bunch of separate activities. Events are good, but aren't always conducive to more casual interactions.

I wish we had space, effort, and scheduling that would let us have one weekly meeting that included most of our activities at least some of the time and would also be conducive to large-scale random crafting, classes, and one-off activities as well as random socializing. With the amount of inertia we have, though, it's hard to get there from here.

I KNOW RIGHT.

I've brought this up before as the model from my old Barony- meeting every week: Folkmoot, where garb is encouraged, the first week of the month, business meeting 3rd week, other stuff and/or general schmoozing the other weeks. Included in the baronial meeting is a) dance practice b) small baronial courts c) A&S schmoozing and (at the time, at least) d) fencing practice. It fostered a distinct amount of shared experience.

WhenEVER I have brought this up, and I try REALLY hard to not be like "Well, in Nordskogen..." like it's the One True Way, people say one of two things:

"That's not how WE do it in Carolingia! and OUR METHOD WORKS." (Obviously not working so well, or we wouldn't be here, would we?)

and/or

"OH MY GOD COUNCIL EVER WEEK SHOOT ME FIRST." (which just prove they are not listening.)

Drives me up the fucking wall that alternative ideas aren't even considered. What's the definition of insanity again?

I think you're correct that inertia is the big problem, in several different dimensions -- activities that are used to being separate and focused; peoples' over-busy lives, that don't permit easy introduction of anything new; and general lethargy and burnout.

That said, the idea seems immensely practical at this point -- we're now just plain small enough that we *can* do this in a practical way that would have been more difficult when we had 200 seriously active members. So the question is, as you say, how to get there from here.

My suspicion is that we should start smaller, rather than being over-ambitious. Instead of trying to do it weekly, we should probably try to do it *once* -- a relatively ad-hoc gathering of whatever activities and people want to join in, deliberately trying to drag the right number of things there. (Too many and it'll become too unfocused, and activities will starve; too few and it won't get critical mass.) Try that a few times, playing with the formula and getting it right. If we can make that work, try to bump it up to monthly. If that proves to be fun, *then* we can see about weekly. But taking it one step at a time is a lot less daunting, and quite a bit likelier to succeed...

Functionally, part of the difficulty is that many people out there have started up new unofficial channels in whatever social medium they prefer. I hate to be heavy handed on this regard, but it is sometimes necessary for an organization to pick one (or -maybe- two) official channel(s), and then to promote them in such a way that postings made to other channels are culturally reinforced to link back to the authoritative channel. This suggests using a channel that can be pointed at (so, a lot of email based solutions are out, necessitating preexisting connections to the channel to receive communication), but even more necessitates that someone be responsible for putting into the official channel those things which are currently spread across many linkages. And also that person needs to aggressively promote the heck out of the one channel.

Yep -- I was actually thinking along similar lines. I have this vague concept that we might rebuild the Minuscule, focusing on a freer flow of communication (that probably gets digested into the "newsletter"), with associated "preferred" conversation forums, but RSS feeds that can be picked up in whatever your preferred aggregator is.

That's very hand-wavy, and likely has complications -- the devil's going to be in the details for something like this. But I do wonder if an approach like this might be an improvement...

I was the one who started the Facebook groups and (largely unused) Twitter feed, specifically so that no one else would go ahead and do it first. If Google Plus had groups or pages or whatever I would start it there too, so that I know who owns it. And if there are other mediums out there that people are actually using on which people have started using accounts, I would like to know about them ASAP. When I step down as senseschal, the new seneschal will be made primary moderator of everything I "own" with explicit instructions to do the same when they step down.

Why yes, I am still knee-jerk paranoid about the whole carolingia.org mess.

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