Communication Strategy

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How we communicate both with each other and with those beyond our community is critical. The first six of our seven Principles require that we communicate effectively with each other in an open manner.

Who We Are

The Identity Commons community can be viewed in a number of different ways:

  • An affinity network of individuals
  • An affinity network of Working Groups, connected both through individual connections and partnerships but also via the Stewards Council

As a branding exercise, we should also try to segment the community outside of Identity Commons.

Network-Centric Communication

Given our makeup, our internal communications strategy needs to be network-centric. We need to focus on leaving a trail -- frequent, often short communications that act both as a source of information but also as a visible pulse that shows that our community is alive. This visible pulse is critical for both the community itself to see as well as the outside world.

Assessment of Current Strategy

Our communication currently consists of:

  • Mailing lists. We have a community-wide and a Stewards Council mailing list, and most of our Working Groups have their own lists. If you are on any of the lists, then it's certainly clear that our community is alive and thriving. It's also easy to see a list of all our lists. All of our lists are archived, but the archives (like many mail archives) are mediocre at best. We should investigate using MarkMail both for superior archiving and for analytics. As an internal communication mechanism, our lists seem to work relatively well.
  • Wikis. We use Wikis heavily. The Stewards Council and many of our Working Groups are diligent about using Wikis to capture knowledge. All of our Wikis are open. However, it is not easy to find a list of all our Wikis. As with our mailing lists, if you're active on a Wiki, it's easy to see how much activity happens there. We should check our analytics to see how frequently pages such as Recent Changes are accessed.
  • Telephone. The Stewards Council holds monthly phone calls, and many of our Working Groups also hold regular calls. Most of our groups take notes vigilantly and publish them openly on their Wikis.
  • Backchannel through email, phone. As with any good network, a lot of communication happens behind-the-scenes. This is a good practice for helping strengthen relationships, but it's a bad practice in terms of catalyzing the network. We need to explore better ways of being more transparent with our backchannel. Possibilities include an IRC channel and Twitter.
  • Quarterly reports. There's strong consensus that quarterly reports from Working Groups is a good thing. Bylaw 6.2 requires that each Working Group demonstrate some activity in a public way (posting to the Wiki) at least twice a year, but in reality, we should expect much, much more. However, many of our Stewards have complained mightily about having to submit quarterly reports often, and getting these reports is like pulling teeth. One of the criticisms has been that the audience/purpose of these reports aren't clear. Another criticism is that the template is not effective. These problems are easily fixed, but the real question is, are there better ways for Working Groups to let others know what they're doing?

Strategy

In addition to the things we're already doing well, we should also be doing the following:

  • Blog. We have a blog on our Drupal site, but we don't use it. We should encourage all of our Working Groups to blog more regularly.
  • Aggregate. Planet Identity is excellent. We should be pointing more people there and giving Pat Patterson more love. We should also see if Pat would be willing to include the Identity Commons logo on his blog. We should consider offering Planets to each of our Working Groups as one of our services. Finally, we should look at aggregating other activity as well, including Wiki and possibly mailing lists and backchannel.
  • Who's Who in the community - how do we find the people and what they are involved in. Mark Dixon has the Whodentity listing that could be brought into IC and updated.
  • Transparent backchannels. We should get an Identity Commons Twitter account, and we should aggregate Twitter accounts of folks in the identity space, possibly through Twitter Groups. We should actually be using Identi.ca and its Twitter bridge, because it supports both OpenID and oAuth. We should also consider an IRC channel or a Skype room for group chat, although again, we should be using Pibb for this.
  • Twitter hash tag - #idcommons was determined to be it.

All of these things have ramifications for external-facing communications, but they are mostly internally-focused. For externally focused communication, we should be doing the following: