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Thats a Wrap

I have learnt that even though online communities can sound like just a digital space, it couldn’t be any more human. Each time we interact online we shape it, explore it, and communicate with others without time or distance being of issue. The Internet has connected us like never before and allows the individual to be empowered by information, by ideas, by a movement.  I walk away with the idea that the most effective online spaces are framed with the end user in mind, operating the way someone would intuitively think. I see digital communities as a bigger version of the teams we have been operating in and have a clearer view of the communicative and operational struggles groups go through when trying to achieve a task.

There are many principles of design that go into a product, however, some I feel are more important than others with regards online communities and networks. For example, accessibility, if less people can access the platform or it is difficult for them, the weaker the network is. Efficiency is paramount to achieve things within a desirable time frame and to create more results with less effort. Finally, as I mentioned before, good design makes the product understandable, for if you are not able to do this no matter how innovative or well detailed the product is, it will never be used.

Before this class I never considered how useful and how powerful online networks can be and will use them in future as a valuable resource, as I hope the students after me will find also. The best advice that I can give future students is to be organized, communicative and present. Time management is imperative as the project is spread over 9 weeks, and although this seems like plenty of time in the beginning, the panic sets in as you get closer to the end.  One of the biggest challenges in this class is effective team coordination so be very open about team communication from the very first day. The last and most obvious piece of advise I offer is to simply make sure that you show up to class and your group’s meetings and things will go a lot easier and smoother for you and your team. Best of luck to the new class, hope you have as much fun as we did!

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Posted in Community, Group 7
This post was originally published at the Project Community blog: Ceire's Corner

Of all the themes…teams !

             All of the themes we have worked on so far have their own benefits and applicability, however I have found Teamwork to be the most helpful. It was a crucial class to have earlier on, where we focused on how we operated as a team and what our roles are within the unit. Teamwork is the foundation on which we make our ideas and must be well organized in order to progress in a project. It is much easier to successfully reach a goal when all of the individuals have set tasks, a mutual respect for one another, and a clear idea of the “bigger picture”. Each team member has their own strong and weak areas, and it is important that people are placed in a function where they can contribute the most to the group to the most extent of their abilities. 

               All of the skills we learned throughout this team building process can be carried over to meet the needs of our NGO, for what is Solidaridad but just a bigger team? For example, we can apply the learning process we went through customizing appropriate communication methods for our own group. We explored different networks we can utilize for communication and collaboration, and played with the idea of incorporating some of them for our final product. We talked about how differences in size change the group dynamics, something to consider when detailing the needs of the rapidly expanding Solidaridad. 

              We want to create a framework for a social platform that is user friendly, efficient and effective. We want something that is intuitive for the end user that makes immediate sense to them when they are sifting through information. This can be achieved through uncluttered graphics with clear labeling and organization to make it easy to navigate. The information can be separated in a “river delta model” where you start out more generally with the region you are interested in, then the supply chain and then make your way to something more specific. Despite all of our unique ideas and opinions, as a team we see its clear that thinking about the platform from the frame of mind of the user is the key to creating a successful social platform. 


Posted in Community, Group 7
This post was originally published at the Project Community blog: Ceire's Corner

Sharing Ideas

A designer’s creations are only as good as the ideas behind them, and therefore it can be wise to cultivate the thoughts of others. This is hard to accept sometimes for a perfectionist such as myself, as I like things done in a particular way. Yet is undeniable how incorporating others opinions into my work enhances the final result, a synergy between the best of my ideas and others. Crowd sourcing on the consumer end can create a superior product because it has the wants of the user in mind. A small example of this is the exercise in our kickoff week where we built necklaces to the taste of our client after receiving feedback from him. Its also a simplistic solution, a relatively easy way to find guidance in a design process that can be frustratingly abstract at times. Every individual is wired differently and constructs unique solutions to the same problem, and it is after gleaning the best of multiple solutions that you can achieve a superior result. In an attempt to do this, however, including more people in the equation can cause a clash of interests and ultimately become a pitfall instead of a benefit. Likewise, some of the important creative ideas in society have not come from the input of the crowd, but from the mind of an individual thinking outside the box. For example, Galileo changed the way we think about the universe, and Bill Gates (not even a college graduate!) has become one of the most successful people in the world thanks to his unique products. Despite its possibly useful capabilities, the effectiveness of crowd sourcing in a project is dependent upon its nature and is not applicable to every situation. It may be more useful for a company designing a simple domestic home product to crowd source the end users than someone designing highly technical machinery for a niche market who would require more expert advice most likely. However we have found that if applicable, crowd sourcing can be a very valuable tool and it would be wasteful to leave it untapped.

Posted in Community, Group 7
This post was originally published at the Project Community blog: Ceire's Corner

Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing

In previous courses, I was not asked to participate in much group work, but rather everything was graded based on your individual performance. For a perfectionist, being able to work in my own style, in my own time, is an ideal environment. I have found myself using the saying “If you want something done right, you do it yourself”. However, there is no denying that teamwork is an essential skill in the workforce, and I find myself lucky to be developing these skills here. Teamwork can strengthen your quality of work because you are pulling from all the best assets of individuals, yet it can also be a stumbling block as conflicting interests pulls the team apart. A balance is required, and obtainable, but needs a certain amount of experimentation from the team to find this place.

We are at a point where the period of testing the footholds is over, and we must dig in and start making some distance on what seems like a mountain of a task. I was told this week that there are four stages of being on a team; “forming”, “storming”, “norming”, and “performing”. I feel like we are somewhere in between the storming and norming phase, and need to improve a few things before moving on. We have some good ideas and capable individuals, now all we need to do is bring all the components together. So far we have found that quick, open, and frequent communication is the best way to achieve tasks. Facebook is an easy way to rapidly communicate and discuss meeting times and objectives for the week. Google doc is another great tool to compile collective information as the project progresses.

As every group has experienced, not everything is working exactly as it should yet. We have faced some challenges in “getting the ball rolling”, and transitioning from a stage of gathering information to a stage of producing ideas. We have had issues deciding how to frame the social platform, as we are still in the process of getting feedback from Maarten. A lack of urgency as the 9 weeks draws to an end can be a pitfall for our team, as some tasks could be time sensitive. A preventative measure would be to set more definite schedule for tasks that is decided upon at our weekly meetings. Another idea Efe mentioned to me is to have quick additional “blitz meetings” where the sole purpose is to briefly touch base with each other and keep updated on current tasks. 

Collaboration must transcend cultural barriers and varied backgrounds, something I think our group has done a good job in executing. Despite our different origins, we have had no major problems understanding each other and our ideas. I would attribute this to the fact that everyone speak fluent english and have worked with each other previously in the initial weeks.

Probably more prominent than cultural differences, is different personalities in the group. For example, I am personally a vocal character and urgent about time frame, while others can be more methodical, laid back, and deliberate. One of the benefits of working in a group is that once a harmony is made between all extremes, good quality and timely work is sure to follow.

What seems to be more of a challenge is the actual task we have been given, and the size of the groups we are in. This assignment has definitely caused some degree of “confusiasm” amongst our group, as we were originally not as clear about the overall goal as we are now. The difference I have seen between this course and others I have taken is that there is no one clear path to get the answer, and thus we must fabricate a solution on our own. I am used to solving problems with particular set formulas and methods, without any creativity, ultimately reaching the single correct answer. It is perhaps that we have mistaken this freedom with the feeling of being “lost”, and we must learn to take advantage of the flexibility we have been granted.

As Chris Corrigan from the video this week mentioned, teams larger than 5 can sometimes hinder the innovative process. He also pointed out that odd numbered groups tend to think more creatively, while even numbered groups achieved concrete tasks more effectively. To remedy this, our group has decided on a structure where we are broken up into two groups of three, with one leader acting as a liaison between them. The groups are divided based on our top three priorities of the project at the time: they are currently research and communication, organization and structure of the social platform, and visualization and aesthetics of drupal and the video presentation.

Our teamwork skills is still a work in progress, however I feel that after taking the time this week to reflect on how we operate,we will improve the way we interact with each other. Hopefully an increase in efficiency and a certain amount of balance will help us on our way from the “norming” phase to the “performing” stage. 

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Posted in Community, Group 7
This post was originally published at the Project Community blog: Ceire's Corner

Solidaderos Group post Week 4

·Explored potential strengths and weaknesses of crowdsourcing for you NGO challenge. Research and least 2 examples of potential crowdsourcing options and critically review the strengths and weaknesses of each, giving examples and reasons for your conclusions. Provide a final recommendation to your NGO on the use (or not) of crowdsourcing.

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·       Source: https://sites.google.com/site/crowdsourcewiki/home/companies-using-cs

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·       Crowdsourcing is the act of outsourcing (taking a task from internal to external), this outsourcing can bring new and fresh ideas to a challenge or a concept. Internally in business you can get to caught up in your way and ideas, crowdsourcing in this respect is  very useful for companies to get fresh and new ideas. Especially when a problem exists which a solution is not clearly apparent, however, not all individuals will believe in models which the business or NGO is structured by. Crowdsourcing also means sharing, and sharing can be open source or closed source is considered simply. Open source systems such as Linux is entirely open and is a good example of crowdsourcing a business or a solution to the expensive monopolies companies like Apple and Windows have in the operating system market. 

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·       In regards to our NGO two ideas stick out in relation to crowdsourcing and both would benefit their core business. One perhaps is already used at some level as the moment but an expansion of the system could drastically improve the work they do ‘on the ground’, the second relates more to the Linux type system, however, obviously not an entire operating system.

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·       The more simple illustration of the first option for our NGO is a project community set-up. Offer credits to students from relevant studies to help. Regardless to building schools for a month or working on a team with such an issue like we have at the moment. This option entices students to help and apply what they know outside in a relevant manner. Of course not just students would be able to volunteer but it would be an open sourcing systems of signing up and getting internships, work experiences etc.

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·       The second would involve.

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·       Volunteers

·       Students for ECTS credits

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·       Creating a targeted, open source system of information sharing. 

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·       ·       Identify if, where and how the “me, we, network” continuum is present in your work for your NGO. How do individuals need to be empowered? If you have identified crowdsourcing as an option, what are the group size implications? Give examples and if possible, tap your team’s connections and networks and get some first hand examples from other contexts that might apply to your NGO. Document this online somewhere and share the URLs with your instructors.

·        ‪“Me” is important because it concerns unique ideas and personal responsibilities. Individual motivation and ambition is the driving force behind innovation. They need to be able to share individual ideas with others and collaborate with the appropriate people to achieve a task. It is in this culmination of ideas that they become empowered. Must create a social platform that is cohesive but separated into specialized areas so you can communicate with the individuals needed. These principles stand for both the NGO and our work as a group.

·       We is intrinsicallyimportant because you can obviously achieve more together than you would alone. Each regional organization has its own operations, projects and information. What we aim to do is create a platform that will allow them to access all information available to their region, while simultaneously giving them the flexibility to gather smaller groups of people for particular tasks. Crowdsourcing is an approach we suggest the company uses so that the platform is tailored to their individual needs and goals. There have been issues in the past with cultivating everyones opinion as it was not time efficient.  However, if you separate a select few members from each department and verbally discuss what is needed with them, you would be able to get a clear idea of action points without polling the entire company. Other than crowdsourcing the company could define its goals and frame the social platform around what it is trying to achieve ( top down power vs top up ).

·         “Many” is a key component to connect Solidaridad’s  10 organizations, as collaborative international conversation leads to transparency and movement of ideas. Our platform will enable all of the organizations to have access to each other’s information and progress with a larger vision. It will attempt to transcend language and cultural boundaries to result in a more cohesive organization.

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Examples ….

 Facebook ! groups are handy to target a certain subsection of people and achieve tasks. Obviously this would not work on a company wide scale as too many people would have something to contribute. However this method can be a feature on the social platform.

      

Model mayhem

     http://www.modelmayhem.com/

Website I use for my modeling hobby. Basically operates as a specific facebook for models and photographer     

    Salesforce

      http://www.salesforce.com/eu/

  This is the CRM that Ceire’s dad’s uses at this company. His company is the middle man between big companies and customers in the Solar Installation Industry. This system is synched a few offices around the world. 


Posted in Community, Group 7
This post was originally published at the Project Community blog: Ceire's Corner

Are you on Facebook? Do you have Skype?

I have always grown up with technology, yet it is only recently that I am taking advantage of online spaces and networks. I attribute this to the fact that my travels have led me to meet a lot of new people from various parts of the globe. Both during my semester abroad in Barcelona and here in The Hague I find myself continuously connecting with peers and adding new names to my Facebook. Despite the international diversity at my apartment in Amsterdam and in IDE, this website seems to be a commonality that we all have. Out of convenience and efficiency, Facebook has become the default for a very quick way to stay in touch.  For example, Sunday I went on a boat trip for interns in the canals Amsterdam, and afterwards joined a group of them for lunch. At the end of our evening, iphones were passed back and forth to add each other on Facebook, and talked about creating a group so we could meet up again. The number of groups I am involved in on Facebook is also climbing.  For example, I belong to a sorority in Maryland and I have a Facebook group when I connect with them, and here I have a group where I organize meeting up with my flat mates.

In addition to its social application, Facebook has extended into an academic tool for me as well. I use it as a collaborative space for my school projects to keep up to date with my other group mates about our progress and meetings. The IDE open innovators group serves as another method of discussing ideas pertinent to the major with my peers.

The other online spaces I utilize generally involves communication and a sharing of information between specific groups.

 I have found Google docs to be a very useful platform for group work, as one document can be edited and viewed by all members involved simultaneously.

 Linked- in is another useful means to fabricate networks on the more professional level, with many of my contacts being past employers and professors. Here you get the opportunity to display your resume and all of your achievements in one area, with the possibility of important connections being able to view it.

Skype is a technological venue that I have only become more involved in the past year. It started when I went abroad to Barcelona and wanted to remain in contact with my friends in the states. Eventually I was adding people that I had met throughout my travels and expanded my contact list. I have even used it to have interviews with potential employers who were a commute away.  

Outside of academics and socializing, I use an online platform called “Model Mayhem” where I pursue a hobby in modeling. The website allows you to connect with other models and photographers in the area, and I have efficiently found some good work from it over the years.

There are some social networks that I use but don’t necessarily interact with other members. For example, I have a Pinterest account and use it from time to time, yet I never use it to share things with others. Change.org is a website for petitions that I sign when I receive an email about I cause I care about, however I never have contact with affiliates on the site. I find that the most valuable tools that I use are the ones where I can collaborate with others to achieve something. I am curious to see how the role of these networks change throughout my life, and how the connections that I have shape the way I communicate with others.

 

Posted in Community, Group 7
This post was originally published at the Project Community blog: Ceire's Corner

Thoughts from the Technologically Challenged

One of the most beautiful things about human beings is the uniqueness of each individual and how we can pull together our strengths and weaknesses in different areas to achieve something bigger than ourselves.

Technology is one area unfortunately where I have never had a natural strength. I am the person who stumbles through blackboard, or can’t figure out that the reason why my Webber schedule says we have class till 10 a clock at night is because I never changed the time zone on my computer when I came over.

Yet although I don’t find technology easy right away, I have become proficient at some tools that I need for academia. For example, over the past few years I have gotten very good at working out power point and Prezi. I have come a long way from my first presentations, picking up skills from formatting to visual appearance, animations and media add-ins. There are certain tricks that save time that I wish I had known sooner, so if anyone would like a little help with putting together a presentation I would be happy to help. 

Another example is when I was taking computing for Civil Engineers at University of Maryland, where I learned to work with Microstation and ARCGIS programs (very similar to that used by the State Highway Administration and various other organizations). At first I found the systems were not very intuitive and confusing, with more controls on it than I would ever know what to do with. However, by the end of the semester I felt very comfortable with both systems and felt really proud of myself for doing well in a difficult class that was in an area outside my comfort zone. 

Although my skills do not match up with a particular unmet need of the groups, I can generally offer my power point tips for any of our upcoming presentations.

I am in a sense a particular type of technology steward, as I do have the capacity to learn the technology but also understand what the technology looks like from the point of view of someone who is not well versed in that area. I only hope that as the year continues I become increasingly knowledgeable and skilled at all of the online tools that we will come in contact with.

 Example of ARCGIS

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Posted in Community, Group 7
This post was originally published at the Project Community blog: Ceire's Corner

Beginnings

Going into this week’s kick-off I wasn’t sure what to expect starting a new major in an unfamiliar country. However, after meeting my peers over the week and getting an idea for how we will operate together, I felt much more comfortable with what we will be doing over the next few years.

The interviewing and teamwork activities we did gave me an insight on what roles individuals tend to play in groups, a look into their diverse personalities and backgrounds, and an opportunity to make new friends. Everyone in the program has different qualities the group can tap in to, for example, I can contribute public speech skills.

Although there was not much focus on the detailed structure of the individual classes, I achieved a firmer grasp on the overarching concepts and theories that will remain constant themes throughout our university careers. In the future I am eager to learn how to structure and manage an online community to make a concrete contribution to a design project.

Although we have only just started our project we hope that we will successfully fabricate a visual plan for an Internet social platform that is efficient, user friendly and seamlessly connects Solidaridad’s 10 organizations with pertinent content. Overall, I have been increasingly optimistic about this course and I am excited about taking classes unlike any others I have taken thus far. 

#openinnovator 

#proj com 

image 

Posted in Community, Group 7
This post was originally published at the Project Community blog: Ceire's Corner

First Post !

Hey I have really enjoyed my time here in Holland so far and I am excited about this coming semester in Project Communities

Posted in Community, Group 7
This post was originally published at the Project Community blog: Ceire's Corner