Friday, 7 December 2007

Some questions and answers about the ComPart Flowers

>Some time ago I posted an introduction about the ComPart flowers on the I-collaborate blog (which by the way is a very interesting blog). Two people gave some interesting comments and asked some questions. I am posting my reactions on this blog, because I assume they are of interest for you as reader of this blog.

Joitske Hulsebosch experienced some problems with bandwidth in Southern countries, especially with Delicious and wiki. The way we try to tackle the bandwidth problem is to keep the wiki’s as “light” as possible avoiding (large) pictures for example. For delicious of course it remains a problem when the set of tags gets (too) large. Therefore we try to be efficient with the tags and seek specificity using “cleaver” combinations of tags. But of course even then for some partners in the South the bandwidth problem remains. That is why we will be transferring the most important information which can be found on the wiki’s and blog’s by way of memory sticks. The idea is that when a colleague visits a partner organisation the information on the sticks will be downloaded on the computer of this partner, who in that way also can stay updated, unfortunately a little later though.

An anonymous person asked a couple of questions, a first one about the handling of the scattered information among the “numerous” online services. Indeed this is a challenge. For all services which will be used by normal users as wiki, blog, delicious and google we use one shared password and where necessary one shared username. So if you know the username and the password you can access and contribute to these services. Of course this password, at a certain moment, will get “too known” outside the circle of intended users. As soon as we get such indications we will change the password and inform all who have to know, and if we forget someone they will have to ask ;-)

For the administration of these services we use other passwords only known to the admins. The same applies for services which will not be used by normal users as Conduit and feedburner.

A second question was about how we handle sensitive information. That is indeed a “sensitive” issue which leads to many discussions. What information is sensitive and why? The starting point however is that all information is public unless there are clear reasons to keep it private. A sound principle I guess for our type of organisation, working with public funding. But of course we also use private versions of the tools with passwords only known to those who should have access. Anyhow we try to avoid working with more than two or three different passwords as to have everything as accessible as possible. And in certain cases we just do not let the information get beyond our firewall.

A third question was how participants would decide on the way they would like to get the information and avoid double information. In fact that is all up to every individual user. Anyone can choose whether or not to subscribe to email alerts or feeds, using an I-Google page or not, to have a daily look at the wiki’s or not. And of course the idea is that anyone who gets to information on the web which is of their own – or for that matter their colleagues – interest, is stimulated to tag that information in Delicious, because this tagging is the “motor” which makes the information flowing (in a selective way).

And of course it would be a good idea to follow anonymous’ suggestion to write up some usage-scenarios. However we do not have them yet. Our idea is to construct the whole system by doing and sharing our experiences and in that way learning how to improve or way of using these services.

To end I want to thank Joitske and Anonymous for their interesting contributions. I hope it will stimulate others to react on the postings in this Blog as well.