Blog Post

YouthActionNet Update

The YouthActionNet® team have been pretty darn busy over the past few months. Chicago seems a long time ago... Although the video of Cathy dancing at the bar keeps the memories fresh. (note to self... must post that.)

Apologies for the lengthy post, but I felt I should provide some context to our project...

Our proposal to MacArthur outlined the creation of an Idea Incubator and its integration into our YouthActionNet® Marketplace, essentially the social networking heart of our site. We have been deep in the development phase of the Marketplace for the past 2 months and actually began spec-ing out the Incubator well before the check arrived from UC Irvine. This has resulted in simultaneous agile programming against two extremely large and complex functionalities. That agenda has also resulted in my needing "medicinal" happy hours with some regularity.

We are now at the point where we are launching the marketplace to a cohort of "friendly" users to undergo as much testing, experimenting, editing, etc. as possible. I would be interested to hear from any other DML winners (or HASTAC & MacArthur folks) who might be willing to join this group. Your experience and input would be invaluable to fleshing out user expectations and experience. Feel free to drop me an email if you are interested.

Viewed in a certain light, it could be said that the Marketplace is "Yet Another Social Networking" site..., but our goal is to specifically serve and target young social entrepreneurs & allow them to network and learn from each other. We feel this is a vital and important resource to our existing program beneficiaries, as well as allowing for them to connect with the larger, and ever growing global community of young social entrepreneurs. We have been having interesting philosophic conversations around "site migration" v. "multiple residency." Our goal is not to recreate a wheel, or replace one that works perfectly well, but rather, to provide an additional spoke. A spoke that works in collaboration with other spokes. And here endeth the metaphor.

As mentioned, we have simultaneously been developing the Incubator, and within the next two months will also be rolling it out for user testing. I will certainly be back at that time to see if there is any DML interest in participating in that phase.

Overall, the YouthActionNet® website has been a unique, for us, learning experience. We are one project within a larger organization and our efforts to integrate emerging technologies into our site redesign have sparked much internal conversation around how this site could, should, and ultimately, will be managed. "Open Source" and "User Generated Content" are not terms that engender immediate confidence. It has been an interesting endeavor to bring the organization along with us on this journey.

I found myself surrounded by people with similar issues when I attended the NTEN conference in New Orleans a few months back. In almost every session someone raised the issue of how to get organizational support and adoption behind Web 2.0 tools. In my experience it is all about comfort zones, learning curves, and the occasional well-placed bribe. (not really. ...well, just that one time...)

Next blog post will discuss: multi-language environments with limited admin resources, integrating Creative Commons icons, local institute micro sites, and building out e-mentoring. Post title will be something like: How to lose your mind in 3 months or less.


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