We’ve had a number of conversations with alpha testers and with others that suggested it was an opportune moment for redoing the site and relaunching – perhaps as a beta test. Jim and I thought it was a good time to catch people up on what’s been going on and what we are thinking about going forward. We still believe — based on comments from people we continue to meet — that the core idea of Collaborating Minds is a good one. We just have to make it work.
The challenges that have been identified
Here’s what we’ve heard from participants or observed ourselves.
- Site is too slow. Move into the late 20th century please!
- Filling out the profile is valuable, challenging (in a good way) but too long.
- The group is too small to achieve the diversity benefits
- People like a balance of structured problem-solving and unstructured, and we haven’t hit the balance right
- There’s too many pieces/ features of the site, and many don’t get used.
- Being on the site is more isolating than it should be. People don’t have ways to engage with others on the problem-solving, although they did find some ways.
- Too hard to find data on the problems. Many times people said “it would be good to have information of type X as part of the process” and were not aware that “information of type X” was already provided, but not easy to see.
- Too hard to know what to do next (some said “how about putting a ‘next’ button somewhere!!”)
- That hitting the synergy (more than the “balance’) between an effective problem-solving team and a community is challenging.
In addition, we continue to face the challenges that Jim and I feel most directly: this is a lot of work for two people part-time (community building, technical work)
Some good things that we’ve learned
- No shortage of problems out there
- We can probably find allies/clients by solving problems that are of strong interests to specific members of our group, because they are often of interest to funders and/or others too.
- That networks grow best when people already know others who are in it and so have a cluster they are already comfortable with (thanks to Joe Oliver of we.impact.com for this insight!)
Our plan for moving forward
Recruiting a bigger group of people for the next round
We had about 30 participants in our alpha test, and we are grateful to each for however much they participated (including a few who just said “the process of joining scared me away”). We would like to aim for about 100 people for the next round and to recruit by clusters. This means asking people to bring in some of their friends. We will be simplifying and changing the joining process, so it will be much less onerous for people to participate than what alpha testers experienced.
Broadening the Cminds development team
We would like to broaden the set of people who are actively involved in developing Collaborating Minds. Jim and I know we don’t know all the answers — we don’t even know all the questions. We intend (see below) to involve the whole group in helping us solve our hard problems, but we also know we would benefit immensely from a few people who wanted to be hands-on in executing what needs to be done. It could be people with skills in software, in community building, in raising money, in whatever. Unfortunately, we’re not in a position to pay someone now, but we hope to find people who find this intriguing and are in a position to participate; we’ll be looking for them through our networks and through people all over who are interested in networked problem-solving.
We are also thinking of putting together an Advisory Board of people to help us think about important issues and to help us connect to more people, but that depends in part on whether the people in the Cminds community want to have that.
We are rebuilding the site with less stuff. It will be less complicated internally and externally, and we will do what it takes to make it run much faster. The user experience will be much better.
Problems or issues
In the next iteration, we expect to tackle two issues. One will be something of social importance that is also of interest to organizations we would like to turn into investors/ key customers (such as Gates Foundation or Aspen Institute). The other will be related to the business model for Collaborating Minds. Jim and I have ideas about how to make this work so that we (and you) can be paid for your participation, but we are not happy with our solutions. We know that turning the problem to the group will yield good ideas (we are intending to practice what we preach/ “eat our own dogfood”/ bootstrap ourselves).
Becoming more visible
We want to be more visible, and doing things like blogging and speaking are ways to begin. We are looking for opportunities and welcome the chance to tell our story now. So if anyone reading this knows of opportunities, we’d be very interested.
More details will be emerging soon. We are very interested in the thoughts of anyone who has been involved with Cminds so far (and those who haven’t).