I'm amazed at the number of people who have joined and added content to OAC here on ning. Truly awe-inspiring. However, I have to say that I worry a lot about the platform. I never liked Facebook much and Ning seems like a poor imitation of Facebook. Will OAC devolve into people answering quizzes: "Which anthropology network am I?" I personally prefer Google Groups because of its simplicity, and the fact that people can use it as they like: via e-mail, via RSS, or via the web. I find that something like Google Groups encourages conversation in its simplicity, whereas Facebook/Ning seem designed to create walls: Why do I have to invite "friends"? Why do they have to acknowledge my "friend request"? Do I post content as a blog post or a forum entry? It seems that layers and layers of unnecessary complexity have been added to what something like Google (and Twitter, which I also like) makes simple: conversation.

And yet, the tremendous activity already here seems to belie my concerns, so maybe Ning doesn't suck as much as I think it does?

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Comment by Bill Guinee on June 21, 2009 at 10:58pm
I am new to OAC but, as the only anthropologist on my campus, I like the possibility of forming some community of anthropologists online. I am not certain that there is much point in the friends functions, but it does seem useful to be able to directly and privately interact with others under some circumstances. I have also just dropped by Google Groups and searched for "anthropology." I didn't find much of interest -- the groups tend to be rather specific, either in very tightly drawn topic or for particular people: "anthropology at the University of Mars."
Comment by Olumide Abimbola on June 1, 2009 at 5:40pm
Coming in quite late...

I share some of the concerns, particularly that it might become annoying because of the requests and confirmations etc. etc. That was actually one of the reasons I left Facebook. But I think things are still a lot in the early stages. I think the dusts will settle soon and we will see what functions people find most useful.

I consider this experiment a huge success already, if only because I have been able to get people who do not like social networking sites not just to sign on but to also get them talking to people with similar interests. The way people have embraced it seems to show that there is some sort of need for a site through which anthropologists can meet and talk.

I join others in saying we should wait and see as things turn out.
Comment by Kerim Friedman on June 1, 2009 at 1:20am
The problem with Wikis is that they need A LOT of editing and a large number of people monitoring for SPAM. 300 members may sound like a lot, but it isn't a lot for wikis where studies show that even when many people contribute content, only a very small percentage do most of Diversity editing work. But we could register a site on Wikia, Jottit, WetPaint, or some other wiki hosting service and see how things go...
Comment by Sheila Dorsey Vinton on June 1, 2009 at 1:15am
It would be helpful to be able to sort members by location as well as alphabetically.
Comment by Paul Wren on May 31, 2009 at 8:39pm
I was just checking out the Sociologists Without Borders Ning network, and notice that they have a separate SSF website which provides the more permanent material (essays, resources, their journal). WE may need to do the same.
Comment by Paul Wren on May 31, 2009 at 8:31pm

I did some thinking over the weekend (while stuck on airplanes), and came up with a list of some potential uses for an OAC website, and a list of the likely tools we would need to support them. When I revisited the OAC here, I was astounded to see 300 members! I was also pleased that some of the uses and tools I envisioned were already appearing (groups are sort of looking like divisions or SIGs, as I anticipated), and the blogs and forums are a great place to share timely info.

The largest shortcoming I see is related to your initial post: How do we share resources in blogs and forums? The answer is "not very well."

Whether we are collecting general resources for the broader cooperative, posting our own works, or posting collaborative material for the other members of a particular Special Interest Group, we need a an infrastructure with more permanence, like a Wiki that can be organized and indexed.

Is there a way to integrate Wiki functionality into ning? Alternatively, we could consider a separate Wiki for the OAC that we can post links to easily.

I still have not learned all that can be done in Ning, but we definitely need this ability.
Comment by Francine Barone on May 30, 2009 at 12:17pm
Yes, that's odd - clearly overlooked.

I've quickly perused the links regarding Google Wave. I can't help but get slightly pushed away by Google's apparent intention to take over the world one API at a time.

Also, and I forgot to note this earlier, one of the benefits to Ning is that, well, it works. I have an 8-year-old laptop and I'm connecting to the Internet via USB modem at a whopping 100kbps. I find that nearly everything from Google is a time-wasting energy hog: Gmail, Docs, Calendar and Friend Connect all lag my PC so severely that I can't use them properly.

Does anyone else have this issue with Google or am I the only one with antique hardware?
Comment by Francine Barone on May 30, 2009 at 12:01pm
Oh, well, I guess that only works for forum posts! Retraction ...
Comment by Francine Barone on May 30, 2009 at 12:00pm
I believe that you can edit your comments within 15 minutes of posting them by clicking anywhere on the posted text. I guess it takes 15 minutes for electronic ink to dry.
Comment by Francine Barone on May 30, 2009 at 11:14am
Ironically, I'm usually against Web 2.0 feature-packed interfaces. I dislike Facebook nearly as much as MySpace; I also have my qualms with Twitter (ahem). Although it forms a significant part of my ethnographic research, I've never been that interested in the intricacies of online social networking in a personal sense. Having stumbled into it like this, however, it is starting to grow on me. Much in the way that I slightly warmed to Twitter when I realized that there were anthropologists twitting about, I think it is the community which makes the technology or interface worthwhile.

If we could disable the inclusion of the stupid aps for user pages (what's stupid to me might not be stupid to others who join up, though), it might make for a generally maintainable, streamlined and simplistic approach. I admit that there are a lot of modules - forums, blogs, groups, photo, video - and that might be overwhelming to some and underwhelming to others. I honestly think it's too early to tell.

In the meantime, I'll check out Google Groups.



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