Pulling insights together

CCN - screenshot

All the insights gathered in the co-design exercise that we have conducted here – www.ruralnetonline.org.uk – have been pulled together to produce a prototype for ruralnet|online 2.0. This prototype is a fully working system for the Rural Community Carbon Network and is live here: www.communitycarbon.net. It was launched at collaborate|2008 on 10/4/08. Click on the image above to view an annotated screenshot which describes each area of the 'root' page.

The Community Carbon Network is truly innovative and draws on the ideas expressed here over the last 3 months. The key factors that guided this implementation are:

  1. – a recognition that in any interest area (such as rural development) there is already lots of activity going on that is being carried out by individuals and organisations;
  2. one cannot expect the online elements of this activity to stop or move to another online place;
  3. there has always been a lack of 'joining up' within any interest area but Web 2.0 technology provides new opportunities to greatly improve this situation;
  4. As well as linking existing activity up, we have a role, a duty even, to provide the 'means of production' to anyone or any organisation who wishes to contribute to an interest area that we support. The means of production include the technical tools and online space but also the awareness and skills to participate effectively;
  5. Web 2.0 technology empowers the individual and small organisation. It is very accessible, easy to learn and disentangles content from the way that content can be used and delivered to users. Joining with others into groups or coalitions is no longer a pre-requisite to taking effective action. Increasingly there is trend for groups to form in an ad hoc fashion based on the ability, that Web 2.0 provides, to identify and aggregate people, ideas, services and information based on what individuals and small organisations are actually _doing_ at any particular moment in time.
  6. Providing web space and the essential tools to those who need them now costs very little once systems are in place to largely automate the whole user registration process. So we should continue to focus on:
    • the delivery of online services not online systems (such as Experts Online, xPRESS Digest, Active Brokerage etc)
    • the empowerment of individuals, groups and organisations so that they can participate in the new online world through awareness raising, training and 'as required' support services

    So, what does the Community Carbon Network (CCN) look like and what does it do?

    We have pulled together various bits of technology and techniques to create the CCN. This same set of technology and techniques will form the basis of ruralnet|online 2.0 and we are able to replicate this for any other network. Each network will have its own domain name and branding and will share the services and other resources. This continues the 'Networks Online' philosophy established in 1998.

    At the heart of CCN is WordPress Multi-User (WPMU) running on servers we manage and backup. Each network has a 'root' site at: www.owndomainname. Then you can set up as many sub-sites/blogs at userid.owndomainname as you need (up to 20,000).

    At the time of writing the CCN has: www.communitycarbon.net as the 'root' site:

    CCN - screenshot

    and we have one sub-site configured as an individual's blog at: lowcarbondiary.communitycarbon.net


    and one sub-site configured as website: rccn.communitycarbon.net


    All sub-sites operate in their own right and the owners have complete control of all aspects of them. They are likely to be marketed using their own sub-domain name url. Sub-sites will also be abl;e to incorporate shared services eg direct feeds from xPRESS Digest or access and/or registration for the Experts Online service.

    A Green Bar helps tie all the sites within the network together. This contains a link to the 'root' site; a drop down lists all the sub-sites and a link to the latest posting over the whole of the network in contained in the Green Bar.

    The 'root' site is controlled by the network manager. It is an 'aggregator'. It is setup to pull together the latest activity from all the sub-sites (blogs and websites). It also pulls in other relevant activity going on elsewhere. For example, Twitter users can place insights, thoughts, hints and tips straight on to the aggregator page from 'within' Twitter. The aggregator page for CCN also pulls in relevant news from xPRESS Digest and answers from Experts Online.

    Root pages for any network will morph and evolve organically according to network needs and the success (or not) of specific external feeds. The external feeds used and the filters applied will be modified as the network grows.

    Finally, the root page includes a custom search. At present this is based on the Google Custom Search which is configured to search all of the sub-sites/blogs associated with the network, Experts Online, xPRESS Digest and selected, key external sites. Again the scope of this search will modified according to the needs of the specific network.

    For more details on how the system works or to explore how this methodology could be applied to your network please contact Rob Mannion on 0845 1300 411 or r[dot]mannion[at]ruralnet.org.uk

    Thanks to everyone who has contributed so generously to this co-design process. We have invented something new that wasn't there before!

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