A quick review of the Socialist Alliance on the web and some proposals about our egroups

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Coming up to this conference we should avail ourselves of the opportunity to review our use of digital media and consider how we can tweak it for better use.

At our last conference in 2006 we ran a workshop on this topic and at the time a lot of the suggestions emanating from that discussion seemed very grand. Nonetheless in the two years since then we have advanced farther than I would have expected at the conclusion of that exhange.

So what web tools do we own and deploy at the present time? How do they function? What’s their utility?

Our present main national web tools are:

  • Socialist Alliance national web pages
  • Various campaign egroups
  • Locality blogs
  • Socialist Alliance Wiki and Resources Hub
  • Alliance Voices

Supplementing these resources are a mixture of other web activities

  • Some localities utilise adjunct wikis where they publish files for online sharing and downloading . Example- Newcastle.
  • The Socialist Alliance photostream on Flickr
  • Socialist Alliance TV — an online video channel which not only aggregates Socialist Alliance related videos but powerpoint digital presentations and slideshows.
  • The Activist Toolkit which is a generic source of information pertaining to web platforms and campaign skills.
  • Paltalk which we now use a lot for our national discussions

While a lot of what we have done has been very experimental, we have nonetheless managed to explore what could be of ongoing use to our day to day work.

Our handicap is how limited is the use we make of these platforms and the general level of confidence among the Socialist Alliance membership in using them.

Nonetheless we have found that when comrades recognise the utility of these tools they try to master them and when they do, they customise them for their own political use with such creativity that enriches our web presence overall. If there is a failing it isn’t that the tools aren’t available or are too difficult to use, but that we assume that they can only be operated with specialist knowledge. That’s a mistaken view because if you can handle an email program — composing text, adding attachments, formatting emails, etc — most of these platforms are more or less within your skill range.

But just because these tools are there it doesn’t follow that we have to use them all the time. That’s another lesson I think we’ve learnt. What we’ve found is that sometimes some of these tools can be very useful — locality blogs can be very useful during an election campaign for instance — but at other times they may lay idle. That’s OK. Our perspective should be about democratising our share of the web and not about running a ongoing presence devoid of membership input.

On our discussion eGroups

While there are no imperatives about what we should be doing online I think we need to review the use we make of some of our national campaign egroups.

The way we have set them up now imposes a lot of responsibility on each group’s moderator. Can we reduce that burden by reducing the number of egroups we run and establish clearer protocols on how these groups should be managed?

Since we seem to prefer “closed” group discussions, what measures can we engineer that can protect these discussions a bit more from being “outed”? We have followed a willy-nilly policy of establishing “official” Socialist Alliance egroups following requests and NE approval, but is that the best way to proceed?

My personal view would be that rather than grow any number of egroups, one all-in national Socialist Alliance membership - announcement only or strictly moderated — egroup would be preferable except in those areas where we have ongoing campaign caucuses. That would mean that we close down all idle egroups. If any new discussion egroup was thought to be warranted it could then be promoted within the core national egroup — but later closed down after it has served its initial function or lost momentum.