Hello OpenRSA readers,
Another extremely long and stimulating day today - during which the coding really got underway (more on that later). Friday will be a big push to get the prototype online in preparation for a first preview in the evening, so I don't expect to be able to blog at all, but I must get this wireframe out for feedback!
The front page that Liz has outlined here (click on it for an enlargement) shows what we're asking people to do with this simplified collaboration prototype. The headlines, as I've said before are: propose, discuss, and support.
Below that quick explanation, we're planning on showing a list of the most actively and recently discussed projects.
The two 'directories' here are for 'Projects' and 'People' - which both lead to a searchable list of people or projects organised by name, newness, geographical location (a google maps mash-up) or category tag - which is also represented as a 'tag cloud' of keywords on the front page.
Although 'folksonomy' is all the rage these days, we were hesitant about using it in an unconstrained way - allowing fellows to tag themselves and their projects without providing a category guideline of some kind. However, fellow Helen Westropp's excellent advice was that - due to the specificity of the fellow's professional vocabularies and terminologies, the tags fellows use will be recognisable to each other - and provide excellent indications of where multi-disciplinary approaches are at work. I'm excited to see what emerges in the tag cloud!
A project page (right) shows how each project will be represented on the site. Here the project has been described (all we are asking for is a title and a 30 word blurb) . Discussions can then develop - either by 'starting a new online discussion' - which creates a new thread underneath the project blurb, or by proposing an offline meetup - which is also listed beneath the project.
Others can either comment on the discussion thread, or sign up to attend the meetup, or start their own - and doing any of these actions automatically adds them to the list of people 'involved in this project discussion' - represented on the right column (2.5).
The main 'support' activity here is recommending the project to others - by typing their names into the 'recommendation' box on the right. This will fire off an email to the recommendee, providing a link to this project from the recommender. A similar function will allow fellows to invite each other to online discussion or events.
We are also keeping all this information (who recommends or invites what to whom) so that we can eventually start suggesting potential collaboration matches. For example: 'fellows who recommended this project to you are also involved in project X...' (amazon style), and will allow us to infer lots of other interesting interrelationships between the people and projects amongst the fellowship.
Finally, allow me to introduce 'Norman', our dummy fellow for the day. Each fellow, like Norman will have a 'profile' page showing all the kinds of information you'd expect from a useful web directory: mugshots, a short bio, his 'tags' - or categories of interests, events he's signed up for and a google map of where he's based (if you want to stalk Norman), online discussions he's involved in, and projects he's initiated.
You can also use Norman's profile page to introduce him to other fellows - just start typing their name into the 'introduce this person to...' box on the right (5.4) and you'll be able to select from a list of all fellows in the system - which will then send them both emails saying 'Norman, Simon thinks you ought to meet Norah... ' and providing links to each other's online profiles.
There is one final detail that we're hoping to be able to fit into the prototype stage... although time is running out now: 'aggregated feeds'.
We know that many fellows have blogs, use flickr, youtube, del.icio.us and countless other online tools to publish text, photos, video, links etc. etc. We want that activity to be reflected here so we are hoping to implement an 'aggregation' box on each profile, project, event and discussion page - where fellows can post 'feeds' from their activities around the 'Net, and see them collected on the RSA Networks site.
We are excited about the potential of this approach to allow the RSA Networks site to act as more of an expanding platform for participation and collaboration - than as yet another 'walled garden' type of social networking site (like Facebook) where we end up trying to lock our users into using the tools we provide. The web is full of great tools, and the fellowship are bound to have their own methods and preferences for what they use to communicate... we hope that this approach will help us facilitate rather than 'own' those collaborations.
In any case, this is getting a bit too philosophical - we are in the middle of frenzied site building for a pre-pre preview on Friday night at the RSA, so now I'm going to batton down the hatches and get on with it! Having said that - feedback is essential at this stage. Please do email me or comment with responses and ideas.