Though I had prepared a slide set on online communities for a 1 hour presentation to a team of Extension agronomy agents and specialists (last week), we spent most of our time discussing their thoughts on how online tools and blogging can be useful to the members of the team.
This team has worked well exceptionally since its formation in 3 years ago. As teams should operate, each member is respectful of the talent and expertise of each other member. They know who to call for specific crop, variety, or irrigation problems and questions. In the discussions prior to my portion of the meeting, I often heard
These comments are indicators that this team is ripe for online collaboration, online community building (aka social networking). During the conversation on online tools, these points were made:
"When I get these kinds questions, I always call (fill in a name of an agent or specialist)."
"Wouldn't it be nice to know what (fill in a name of an agent or specialist in Alabama or surrounding states) is working on".
- Internet use and Internet behavior is changing to a "come to me" use.
- Communication failures abound, particularly email misuse.
- The team needs to know what others (members of the Alabama team and other specialists from neighboring states) are thinking.
- There is a portion of the farmers who do not use the Internet. One approach is to develop for the web 1st and print 2nd -- not leaving those out who do not use the Internet completely out of the knowledge loop.
- There is a need to help those who are not using the Internet to learn to use and be convinced of what's useful. (This comment is akin to John Dorner's post: "My audience doesn't use the Internet").
- The team wants to post information on the web faster and easier than they currently do.
- Using a newsreader, such as Google Reader, is imperative to keeping up with what is new on the Internet. Instructions to use Google Reader can be found:
- RSS in Plain English
- YouTube, Slideshare, and Flickr offer learning resources that Extension professionals could find useful. Examples are:
We covered a lot of ground in 1 hour. However, there were several online tools that I simply did not have time to discuss.
- Del.icio.us or Diigo: Share bookmarks so you know what each team member is reading. Del.icio.us is my favorite online tool for sharing knowledge--knowing what my colleagues are reading; and hopefully, they find it helpful to know what I am reading.
- Twitter: Build relationships on the team by knowing what members are doing AND it's fun.
- Facebook: Build a community or group based on interests.
This group of individuals, working as a team, sees the need for using these online community tools. Now is the time to support them in their adoption of whichever tools they decide to use.