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Corrente organizing and communications tools

One of my many character flaws is that I simply put new site functionality out there, and wait for people to explore it. Obviously, that's dumb, since not everybody wants to fool around with computers and websites just for the fun of it. Everybody is not an early adopter!

So, in this post, I want to explain the tools that we now have on the site, and how they might be used to organize events or campaigns. The scope supported is, I think, what is called "guerilla marketing" (a real marketer can correct me). I don't, for example, have the tools to automate an LTE campaign, or a Howard Dean-style bat, or any of that. However, what we have already shown, though the Fiscal Sustainability Conference and Denver Meetup, is that we can bring like-minded people together, on the ground, at a specific time and place, by creating great content. That has to be good for something. I'd like to see a lot more of it.

Now, I can't claim all of these tools are without flaw -- and please let me know of any issues, which I will fix if I can -- but taken together they would allow a group that wished to organize a project -- say, for NOTA, or for Plantidote of the Day, or for feminist erotic literature -- to self-identify, communicate, and plan. If we need to do more, like, say, build a separate website... We can talk about that.*

Here are the tools I have in mind:

  1. Corrente Groups
  2. Events
  3. Locations
  4. Corrente Mail
  5. Corrente Chat

Corrente Groups. Just like any registered user can post, any registered user can start a group (think "Birds of a Feather" session at a technical conference, or a SIG (Special Interest Group). People can find out what groups are available to join in the Join Groups link in the top menu bar, or on their account page, or on the form they fill out when they register.

Click "Start a Group" under Communications tools in the middle sidebar to start a new group and set up the ground rules. The form looks like the typical blog posting form with some additions, which indeed it is. The first addition: How to handle memberships, which can be accepted immediately, only after moderation, by invitation only, or simply by administrative fiat. Second: The default role for new members. It's not likely that every member will be a moderator, but if that's what you want, you can do it. Third, you can decide whether you want the group to be visible at the "Join Groups" link and the account pages, or not.

Having started a group, you will now see, when you post, the option to publish to all of Corrente, as now, or only within a group to which you belong**, or both. This feature would allow the "Feminist Erotic Literature" Group, for example, to publish here privately while allowing Corrente to maintain its reputation as a family blog. This feature would also allow a "Plantidote of the Day" Group, for example, to publish a number of posts for review by the group, which would never appear on the front page until the group decided that they should. And this feature would also allow a NOTA group, for example, to deliberate on policy proposals in private, should they choose to do so.

You will be able to keep up with material posted into your group at My unread group posts at the top of the screen, in the lower menu bar.

Events. Since an event is a post like any other, except with some special features, you can create an event to organize around, and have it appear to all of Corrente, or only to your group. Nothing says that events have to be in RL or on the ground; people could meet here at a certain time to chat, for example (see below). [WARNING: For "repeating events," like "Every Tuesday at 9PM," the event post and the main Calendar display work fine, but the listing in the right sidebar goes all wahooni-shaped. I'm not sure yet if people use this often enough to make it worthwhile fixing.]

Location. Events, and user profiles, also have locations. This one needs a bit of testing, but what should be happening is that you enter a street address into the appropriate fields, and a Google map is grabbed and put onto the event page.

Corrente Mail. I really like Corrente Mail, as opposed to email. For one thing, I don't have (let me see...) 16524 pieces of unread Corrente mail; for another, I like the fact that you can really have a conversation using it, since the exchanges are all exposed on a single page; and finally, I really really like that I'm not buying into Google or Yahoo's data mining operations.*

Corrente Chat. In my technical work, I've used chat for one-on-one and small group organizing with success. What's nice about chat is that there's a record of exactly what was said, and since we are all very articulate with the keyboard, it's a fine medium for us. Since the sidebar chatbox is a little constricting, I've added the All Chat link in the top menu bar, which gives a full page version of chat, and adds file uploading functionality. This is nice, since I can envision an event planning chat, with one person designing a brochure, say, and then uploading it for others to look at.

Finally, there's one of those "You'll like this sort of thing, if this is the sort of thing you like" features I added into ordinary posts (though not, alas, to Corrente Chat or Corrente mail). It's called CSE utilities, and what it does is allow you to e.n.c.r.y.p.t. small bits of text and put them in your posts. This is nice if you don't want to put your street address out for all the world to see in a post, but do want to put it into a post. There are two boxes. In the first you type a password, and remember it. In the second you would type, say, your address. Then click in the post where you want your address to appear, and instead "[CSE]" will appear, when the post is published. Then send whoever you want to be able to read your address the password. (I should stress that I've never used this, and in any case, steganography is the most effective form of encryption ("skim milk in his diet"), so we're not talking anything serious here.)

So, I'm really a writer, and couldn't organize my way out of a paper bag or even, perhaps, into one. But I hope this list of tools inspires others who are more gifted than I am to see how Corrente can be used as a platform to help achieve some of our hopes and dreams -- or perhaps just have fun and some happiness. Readers, the country demands bold, persistent experimentation. It is common sense to take a method and try it: If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something!

Oh, and I realize all this needs testing and adjustment. So, you're guinea pigs, OK?

NOTE * I should say that I'm not opposed to using media like FaceBook as one-way transmitters outward for publicity. I do think its crazy to use them for anything other than that, since they're in the business of data mining: Sucking up as much data as they can about you, your views, all your associations, and repackaging and reselling your data to others, you know not who. And there's also that Facebook's venture capital came from In-Q-Tel, a CIA front organization. And the same goes for Google Mail, Google Groups, and all that. They are, one and all, in the data mining business. Why help them along?

NOTE ** More precisely, to roles within that group, like "Group Member."

No votes yet


Submitted by lambert on

Look under communications tools in the sidebar.

I should say, if this wasn't clear, that it only works between Corrente members.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

would never dream of having a mail account at the mercy of the reckless maniacs in charge of IT at the Mighty Corrente Building. God knows what nefarious purposes they would use it for, and in the extremely unlikely event we found out I'm sure we would see no response aside from Uncle Lambert blandly assuring us such incidents were rare and isolated.

Count me out, pal. Nice try though.

danps's picture
Submitted by danps on

I was hoping you'd pick up the "rare and isolated" language from the Gawker link. Subtlety fail.

vastleft's picture
Submitted by vastleft on

"Corrente Mail" is what any other site would call "private messaging." Seems confusing to call it "mail."

Submitted by lambert on

... when I called it that. Which is why I experimented by changing the name. And now people do use it. Which makes sense, since it's a good tool.

My point, to repeat, being that we've got a useful suite of tools here for organizing events, whether in virtual or real space, and they are here for people to take advantage of. Doubtless they can be improved, but only experience will tell us how.

wuming's picture
Submitted by wuming on

Hi Lambert,
Have you thought about incorporating task assignment/to do lists? I believe that Basecamp has an API that will let you incorporate it into other sites.

Submitted by lambert on

Let me look into that. There are project and workflow modules, perhaps that might work. Thanks for the suggestion... And what task(s) would you like to take on? Heh heh heh...

Brian.Nelson's picture
Submitted by Brian.Nelson on

Putting tools out there for everyone to explore and use is really the best way to get your stuff seen and to perfect it. Users will always tell you what problem exist and how to improve.

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coyotecreek's picture
Submitted by coyotecreek on

Can we set up a group and throw it open to all comers to begin - and then later limit discussions, etc. to the group rather than to the front page at large?

We want to start a NOTA group and invite EVERYONE. But as the group develops it might be better to limit viewership as we develop the group and its purpose and how it will operate.

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

As the group develops it might be better to limit who can post while continuing to allow EVERYONE to check in on what's being discussed.

Submitted by lambert on

... you can publish publicly (ie, on the front page) or to the group only.

You can also control the nature of the invitations sent; see the post.

gqmartinez's picture
Submitted by gqmartinez on

I always get all giddy when I see that I have a message waiting for me--it could be my long lost love or some such person. But, oh wait, I really don't have any messages. Its always such a let down.

Its not really so disappointing, but I've become accustomed to not bothering to check if I have messages even though it says I have unread messages. As an organizing tool, it can be harmful to get people in the habit of ignoring the "you got mail" message.

BTW, I'm happy to share my info with data mining organizations. Anything to help deliver me better, more appropriate "Erotic Literature" can't be that bad.

Submitted by lambert on

There is something new. Resetting the counter is on my list. Meanwhile, that's what I do, and it works fine.