Day two was a little more mellow than day one. Many of the attendees had already met and connected, and the Cisco Systems’ Vineyard Conference Center started to feel a little like a college campus.
The first breakout session I attended was about Joomla, which is thepanelist.net’s content management system. Plone and Drupal were also featured over the two days, but the Joomla is most relevant for our purposes. Ryan Ozimek, a board member of Joomla’s foundation, was the speaker. He’s also the founder of CEO of PICnet. He mentioned that Joomla is the only open source CMS approved by Congress.
He said that keeping connected isn’t easy, so ease of use and accessibility are key. He then walked the audience through Joomla’s features and asked if any current Joomla users had questions. My question was why uploading photos was so unnecessarily complicated and if they’re working on improving that, to which a handful of people in the audience said, "Yeah!" He said that there are more user-friendly features in the works. He also gave me his business card and I asked if this was the number I was supposed to call at 4am when Joomla logged me out of an article and lost all the work I’d done. He laughed (nervously?), was a great sport about the whole thing, and seemed so genuinely sweet it was hard to remember that Joomla is evil and ruins lives.
I then heard Alexandra Samuel talk about "Bringing Your Community to Life." She said that with online communities, it’s important to have a plan going in and incentives for making the plan come to life (she came prepared with chocolates and iTunes gift cards to encourage our dialogue).
She also emphasized the importance of a great invitation into a new community and the tone of community rules. "Give dos, not dont’s," she said, "engage your community in rule setting and make them fun."
Then came the interactive part. She asked us all to write our own advice for bringing an online community to life on sticky labels. Volunteer "animators" from the audience (who later received iTunes gift cards) sat us at tables with like-minded people. For example, my label said something to the effect of leveraging existing relationships, and so did all of the other people’s labels at my table. Other table themes included "social proof," or showing that others are involved in your online community, bringing online relationships offline (and vice versa), and ensuring that your community is one with an emotional attachment to the cause.
Sitting at our groups’ tables, she said that making connections is what it’s all about. Effective animation involves promoting conversation, connecting with like-minded participants, planning proactively and implementing reactively. She advised us to balance quantity and quality in our online communities, to renew participation with fresh invitations and to invite volume but gently inhibit over-participation.
In summation, she recommended putting together a plan to engage people in online communities instead of just going off the cuff.
After lunch, the 21 project teams presented their causes one last time and all of the attendees voted.
Ushahidi’s David Kobia and Erik Hersman
The grand prize winners were David Kobia and Erik Hersman from Ushahidi. KnowMore came in second and Social Actions came in third, but as I mentioned before, all of the projects deserved to win, and all of them received funding. KnowMore’s Joe Solomon thanked me for being a sponsor and I said, "Thank YOU for saving the world."
KnowMore’s Joe Solomon and the Global Lives Project’s David Harris
All in all, the 2008 NetSquared Conference was an extremely successful event!
Disclosure: You know you’re at a techie conference when someone from the audience answers a question "Twine combined with SlideShare," and everyone says "Ahhh." You know you’re really at a techie conference when someone from the audience answers a question "Hashtag drupal hashtag KLone hashtag skrapbuilding" and everyone dies laughing. Sigh, humans. I’d have thought by now you would have scampered back to your own little star system.