In conjunction with the Northeast Beat social network on Ning, volunteer Dan Haugen is leading an effort to create our first large multi-neighborhood Issues Forum – NE Minneapolis Neighbors Forum. While our first set of neighborhood forums serve smaller one or two “official” city neighborhood areas, this area covers at least 13 neighborhoods. (Although, the area probably has a similar population as our Highland Park and Frogtown forums in St. Paul because the cities defined neighborhood or districts in their own way – Minneapolis has 81 neighborhoods and under 70 neighborhoods associations while St. Paul has 17 District Planning Councils.)
We’ve found that local identity is crucial to a successful forum. People who live in NE Minneapolis have a strong sense of identity. We also are open to what our volunteers actually want to do. There is no one right way to connect neighbors online, just lots of wrong paths to avoid.
I’ll add the public tell a friend e-invite below when it is available to share.
A few notable things to watch – we will set it up so new topics will generate Tweets for people who prefer to follow the forum that way instead of by e-mail, e-mail digest, the web, or web feed. We will also add the tag #nempls to those tweets to make the forum accessible to the organically forming local Twitter community in that part of the city.
One of the synergies we hope to explore is how our catch-all multi-topic e-mail-based/web accessible online public space will complement the Ning-based social network. Northeast Beat now includes headlines from our forum (by using the forum’s web feed). Commercial hosting services like Ning need web visitors in order to generate ad revenues, while we know from experience that giving people the ability to publish by simply pushing “reply to all” via e-mail can double or triple your participation rate. Now neighbors in NE Minneapolis can have the best of both worlds and not be cleaved off into isolated online spaces by technology formats such that none of them have a critical mass of local people for sustained participation.
On that note, I should mention that our Participation 3.0 discussion draft suggests we should further develop our basic social networking features to add location aware connections with e-block clubs and other “friendly” features that encourage more organic neighbor to neighbor civic interaction before the audience required to successfully open more public neighborhood Issues Forums is gathered.
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