Multimembership and Online Communities

Multimembership and Online Communities

by Sylvia Currie -
Number of replies: 5
More and more online communities are engaging in multimembership practices. So the "management" aspect becomes more of a group effort and is not just about individual preferences.

For example here in SCoPE we have experimented with a number of different tools and strategies to:
  • increase awareness of our members' activities
  • create shared outcome resources that capture our work together
  • highlight and promote individual and community activities and accomplishments
  • provide opportunities for casual conversation/socializing
  • bridge activities with other communities/projects
  • share information about events of interest to all members
Most often ideas come from participants in the context of an event. For example, someone might take the initiative to create a mind map of our seminar discussion and several people will step in to help. Here's an example of a map created for the Learning the Art of Online Facilitation seminar facilitated by Nick Noakes last year. The forum description shows his notes about creating the map.

Other times it's more a decision by the people involved in organizing the event. For example in this seminar Bron, Sue, Jeffrey, and I planned ahead of time to use Voice Thread, a wiki, and the mulitmembership survey. We also agreed on the tag "multimembership" to use in our blog posts, Twitter, Delicious, and wherever else we talk about this seminar. As part of a larger mini-conference for the Facilitating Online Communities course we also use the tag FOC08. As you can see from this Tweme's page we didn't always use the multimembership tag. It does take up a lot of characters!

As community coordinator I try to find ways to highlight and organize what is created by the community members. For example this year we held an online conference called Shaping Our Future: Toward a Pan-Canadian Research Agenda. I created a "community account" to upload presentation slides to Slideshare, and also created a Pageflake for the conference as a way to pull everything into one place. (Looking back I see it's pulling in more than just the conference presentations. Oh well!) I've started to create community accounts so that everything in the community isn't labeled Sylvia's presentations, Sylvia's bookmarks, Sylvia's this and that. tongueout Also, I can easily hand that account login over to somebody else.

There are quite a few things to consider in any group effort, whether it's an online community, a student project, support for f2f events, etc (and I'm sure many more than I've listed here):
  • The individual who creates a resource to use in the community takes on a responsibility to manage it. Sometimes this involves managing editing access, such as the mind map mentioned above. Also this could involve editing, formatting, organizing, etc.
  • Because of the nature of services that might come and go, or go from free to paid, these resources could vanish.
  • Individuals who have administrative access to create a resource also have access to delete it! There can be considerable effort invested by a group to create a resource and the history can easily be lost.
  • Discussions can easily turn to the technology itself, taking away from the real topic. Sometimes there is a bit of a learning curve!
  • In order to involve as many people as possible it is useful to find ways to organize access to the resources in a common space. For example our seminar VoiceThread is embedded in the forum description.
  • Using a "community account" for online services has its advantages.
This is a long explanation to get to the questions, but I hope these examples help to illustrate the issues.

What are some ways to facilitate multimembership in communities? How much of a role should a community coordinator take in managing multimembership?
In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Multimembership and Online Communities

by Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers -
Hi Sylvie,
You asked us "What are some ways to facilitate multimembership in communities? How much of a role should a community coordinator take in managing multimembership?"
Great questions.
For me, I think recognizing that there are new comers and there are older members and that has advantages. One can get fresh ideas -- that may have been said, but it is good to have them said again -- especially for new comers. From everyone, one can receive offerings about what memberships work -- links, interest tags, etc. just by asking, being interested, and having some mini-conferences discussing these items.

I think that the community coordinator can lead in a style that works for each coordinator, be authentic, share, organize new questions if there are lull, show refection about and/or enthusiasm for what is happening, but mainly initial the first e-mai through Scope in a timely, introductory fashion at the beginning of the e-conference, announcing the topic and range of questions (which can be expanded). The coordinator could acknowledge e-mails from participants and as you stated make sure the wiki is saved in a way that won't be "deleted" as you mentioned could happen, and probably just engage with others. There are likely important tasks that I have missed as I have never done this task.
Jo Ann

In reply to Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers

Re: Multimembership and Online Communities

by Sylvia Currie -
Ah yes, a good reminder from Jo Ann that repeating information for the sake of the newcomers to a community is so important -- and that revisiting and refining these practices as a group is essential.

I just checked out my email copy of The Daily, which is generated daily as part of the Connectivism and Connective Knowledge course. This is a nice example of managing multimembership for groups. There is a 2 step process for course participants.
  1. Course members login and submit their feeds from their blogs
  2. They add CCK08 in the subject heading of posts they want included in The Daily.
Each day Stephen Downes, co-facilitator, selects posts for the highlights section and adds his commentary (not a small commitment!). Links to all other posts are included at the bottom.

Similarly with the Facilitating Online Communities course Joao Alves created a Nebvibes page for the course, so we can see all blog posts at a glance. This was not an easy thing to organize with the ever changing course roster, plus some feeds are from blogs that were created specifically for the FOC08 courses and others are from blogs that include posts on a number of different topics.
In reply to Sylvia Currie

Re: Multimembership and Online Communities

by Vance Stevens -
This post strikes a chord. Being a multimembership person myself I'm only now happening on this discussion, through a post by Sylvia to Twitter. I'm surprised to see that this is the last day of an event that's been going on for two weeks. I've probably been aware of is at some point in the past few weeks but let it slip due to all the other memberships I follow, the CCK08 seminars for example,, and the Training of Trainers event earlier this week (URL handy due to Cristina's post on Twitter just now: I'm being interviewed for a FOC08 session on Sunday so if this seminar is a part of Facilitating Online Communities then I am participating in this SCoPE event obliquely, I think smilingly to myself.

In May 2009 Webheads are putting on their biannual Webheads in Action Online unConvergence, I think I really like Sylvia's post because it's a kind of manual for how to set up such a conference and link its parts together. I am also involved in this year's EVO sessions at Again the big challenge here is aggregating all the multi-memberships.

I already tag a lot of my posts 'writingmatrix' because that was a great experiment that some fellow teachers and I did recently to try and get students in different parts of the world communicating by aggregating their content through this one tag 'writingmatrix'; see I think I;'ll start using the 'multimembership' tag frequently in certain posts that I make in the near future, just to see how it aggregates in other people's tag searches.

Actually writing this is getting me thinking about this topic in a way that I might share through my Musings blog at When I post there I'll tag it 'multimembership' so you can find it (done, tagged here and at http://delicious/tag/multimembership.
In reply to Vance Stevens

Re: Multimembership and Online Communities

by Jo Ann Hammond-Meiers -
Hi Vance,
Thanks for you great "put the multimembership" tag and aggregate for the writingmatrix. I think you are setting well written ideas for people like me.
I am also on CCK08 -- and dancing as fast as I can in that membership. I find that I really like the scheduling of the Elluminate sessions and the Ustream -- as I can book them off specific time in my clinical practice -- that runs hour by hour. It is difficult to really connect "with the connectivism folk as there are so many". I connected with Nellie Deutsch through the Scope and have joined her ning -- she is in the CCK08. However there are many people that I would love to "aggregate" and tag too -- and this is so new I'm having trouble assimulating the information in a stream -- more like hit and miss -- with at least some hits. I think the "loose ties" concept is really sticking to me.

This contrast with my Athabasca University Planning and Management course in Distance Education and Technology -- where there is a cohort, there is social software on Me2U, and there are specific papers to complete in a schedule.
Cheers Jo Ann