This website is an initiative of J-Lab.

Who's Blogging

Michelle Ferrier

MICHELLE FERRIER Dr. Michelle Ferrier is an associate professor in the iMedia graduate program at Elon University in North Carolina. She is interested in the intersection of community advocacy, education and journalism.

Visit Locally Grown

Project Blog: Womens Community News Franchise

This project sets out to create a complete infrastructure, to be franchised, for those who want to launch hyperlocal news sites. Services will include a Web platform, software development, market analysis, some content, and legal and marketing assistance. Such an infrastructure, says former editor Michelle Ferrier, will permit citizen journalists and community members to "focus on what they are most passionate about - building their community conversation through good local information and networking."

The Wonderful CMS of OzOff to find some wizards

Friday, August 07, 2009

CharlotteAnne of NowCastSA of San Antonio posted a great piece on what she’s looking for in an online community content management system on “Choosing the digital printing press.” CharlotteAnne says:

“So instead of starting by looking at the ‘stuff’ that’s going into the box, we get to think first about people and community and function. We can choose a CMS by how well it can help users, consumers and content creators build our online community.”

Not that either of us has found one yet that suits our needs, but she dreams big about what she’s looking for in discreet, manageable chunks for those developer friends among us. Her list, bulleted (see her post for the details):

  • Flexibility
  • Friendly
  • Social
  • Comments=Co-Authors
  • Wikis
  • Email/RSS/SMS
  • Blogs
  • Widget Embeds
  • Taxonomy
  • Who/What/When Calendar
  • Touchy Feely
  • Bilingual

Do we still have any developer friends after this list? Then take a look at CharlotteAnne’s post cause we’re headed to Emerald City. And there are enough of us out here traveling this yellow brick road to make building such a robust CMS thing realistic ... and yes, profitable. Any takers?

   • Posted by Michelle Ferrier on 08/07 at 02:58 PM

What you do comes before what you call it

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

One of the first things someone asked me when they found out I’d gotten the New Media Women Entrepreneur grant was what I was going to call it. “Do you have a URL yet?” she asked.

I remain evasive on that question, because I know the trap that I can fall into searching for a domain name first, compromising based on what is available, THEN trying to fit the business model to what the name may suggest. Sounds backward, but oftentimes searching for a domain name is the first activity because it looks like a legitimate business activity.

But what are you branding? Words have meaning and domain names have meanings (or not, if the word is a neologism) associated with them. Is the name representative of what you are delivering?

And so I’ve pushed back, focusing my energies on finding a platform/technologies that will nurture the types of online connections and conversations that I’d like to see in my model…and letting the name evolve from that.

I’ve been asking myself:

  • What do you want people to be able to do?
  • What are the uses you expect people to have of the technology? How is it better/different than what is currently in use?
  • How will I know when I am successful? What activity demonstrates that the technology is working

I know these don’t sound like questions of a journalist trying to reinvent the business. They’re not. They are questions designed to focus my attention on the larger purposes of the journalistic/community building enterprise…beyond delivering data and information to building the knowledge and capacity for action of the community.

And a choice of a platform affects the larger architecture of the franchise model. Do I use a blog-type software that perhaps embodies ease of use for the franchisees but feels like a push model (traditional content delivery model) to my community? Is the software representative of the collaborative writing space that I’m hoping to model in the community’s actions? Does an open-source solution philosophically match the contributory nature of the environment I want to simulate? Or would a proprietary solution help ensure that there’s motivation by *someone* to continue to build out the software? Each of these questions has consequences and compromises as to whom the tool best serves.

So I’m a philosophy in search of a platform. I’m looking for an architecture like the franchise model that embodies independence, yet collaboration, collective development, yet independent practice. The ultimate solution lies in the in between, the spaces between the either/or models I’ve seen to date.

   • Posted by Michelle Ferrier on 08/05 at 09:16 AM