One Laptop per Child has a near limitless pool of goodwill and potential volunteers. But using or leveraging those volunteers is not an easy prospect.
Free software projects work on the principle that debugging software is an infinitely distributable process. Ideally a potentially limitless number of people can work on improving and creating software. Creating Open Content and Open Educational materials aren't necessarily as easy to distribute component tasks.
Discovery is the process of discovering stories and media of our successes. The information from OLPC that gets out now is very limited. It's usually technical information about the XO or business information about 100,000 laptops to this or that location. This is important information, but this isn't the information that %catalyzes% volunteers and participants.
The stories that %catalyze% volunteers are the stories of a girl crying when the Learning team asks her about her laptop. She's crying because she used to go home by herself and now she has her XO, and it keeps her company at home. This girl now calls the XO her best friend and talks to it like a real person.
Stories like these are amazing tangible prove of what effect we have when we deploy laptops.
- Discover media; photo, video, stories; of classes, activities, materials, projects, children and families; from deployments, of our successes, and document the prevailing need for OLPC.
Discovery is a process of communicating with deployments, both gathering existing information (like photos from the field) and encouraging new media to be produced/recorded (like the Nikon Sponsorship).
We have new willing volunteers emailing us daily on how to get involved with OLPC. What they lack are system of defined tasks or projects. This is a stated problem that will in one way or another cost man hours for OLPC. The key is integrating this task creation into other simple tasks and existing projects.
I call this procedure factoring. When a new problem is discovered or enhancement is suggested in software we put it in one central system; trac. When a new project is considered or problem needs to be fixed, it needs to be documented on the wiki. This is roughly what we are doing.
- Describing projects as a series of tasks with measurable results and that are actionable.
There is little-to-no participation structure for OLPC projects. Software collaboration has established and well defined tools that are social and software that enable collaboration. Open Educational Content and other massively distributed projects have such tools.
First: Massively distributed projects must be discovered and facilitated Second: Working on these projects must be encouraged and rewarded
Currently OLPC and olpc's community has a habit of collisions. If it appears that someone is working on a task, no one else jumps right in. But there is no established way of creating a project and then handing it off, or accepting volunteers.
Process of Factoring
The process of factoring might look something like this: 1. Someone thinks of a great project: Implementing Coloring books on the XO 2. Said someone creates a page on the wiki saying that this should be done and provides a short list of existing coloring book content
- Under the current system step 3. would involve the page sitting on the wiki with no responsibility
- Under the new system the page is either Orphaned or Owned (depending on recentness of updates). The Maintainer of the page will be notified if/when certain goals aren't met, or that certain important fields aren't filled in on the page.
- The goal is to break the Project down into individual Tasks, what I call Factoring.
- Some task may include things like: contact copyright owner to get copyright status. This is a task that an individual can do
- Broadcasting is choosing and feeding media streams of Discovered and Factored information.
The technical venue of this information is trivial. There are certain categories that content falls into and examples of easy to manage streams of content:
- Micro-bloging: Services like Twitter and tools like identi.ca provide 160 character descriptions that can be subscribed via email, blog, cellphone and many other venues. This could provide quick updates about OLPC projects, links to larger articles, and pushing recruiting.
- Publish a quarterly update and publish online and also do a short print media run. Use it for community building and to have something on-hand to pass out at events.
Get control of Media channels CAA Projects
- websites (laptogiving)
- Inspire creation
Analysis and presentation of concise vies of data, heuristics, process, statics, rosters and top_100s. Think process of tracking and Barnstars.
Perhaps, most importantly, visualizations help to create focus and draw attention to critical areas in poignant and clear ways. Furthermore, it helps to quickly guide people through a massive amount of information. Whether it's someone looking for "the best" material, or it is for volunteers to get a sense of what's most in need of being worked on, or for a country to grasp just how many educational resources available to them (and perhaps, how many need to be translated), in any case, visualizations are useful and important.
Add quote from Edward Tufte (<http://www.edwardtufte.com/tufte/>).
- ask how they would like to be rewarded
- success stories come from community and deployments
- fresh streams of new success for fb, blog, etc
- sharing the value of impact of a community
- Blog-o-sphere contribute newsletters for X area
Acknowledging and place-holdering emails for volunteers that we can't take care of at the moment. Show them progress, ask them to be patient by explaining.