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Citywide info-sharing public meeting notes

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Anonymized notes from July 22 Somerville online media makers’ meeting, Design Annex, Union Square

We introduced the core goal of OneVille: to engage people in the community in everyday efforts to support the success of every young person in the city. particularly using common technology!

We’ve been learning by doing for the past few months –

Figuring out existing communication issues in the city as we figure out how to complement existing efforts.

What we’ve seen: some issues of public information that could support youth and families, not always getting to people who need it.

SO: we are here to brainstorm with all of you: What do you think we might do together to make Somerville a community where everyone regularly gets (and shares) information about opportunities available for youth and families?


Resistat – idea of sharing data with public – idea of using tech to do that; data visualizations; turned into stuff public can talk about. 311, mayor’s somerstat.

Who’s in the resistat community? A self-selecting group so far. Young people. Missing out on English language learners and elderly people.

Somerville Local first: 170 members of Somerville local first, 20 artists, 20 non profits. Locally owned, independently operated. Sustainability. Strong local economy. Posters, fliers, web social media.

Health alliance, community health agenda. Involved /w initiatives – how to connect w/ youth, create healthy community.

School committee.

Somerville family and community connections – Somerville family network, Somerville community partnerships for children, and part of public schools, funded by state – kids and families, pre natal through school age. Arielle, with her.

SCAT– interested in getting everyone’s voice into community, intro’ing neighbors to neighbors.

Somerville Journal – info out to as many people as possible.

Community event website, Somerville4kids

Yourtown producer for Boston Globe – 3 months here.

Video forum theatre – kids online discussing a script – software engineer – kids, media, technology.

Tech/web since 1995 – event planning, social media – skill share –

Resistat – data driven discussions out to the public – community outreach –

HomeInc – nonprofit in Boston – media and tech w/ young people 1900 students through library dept. – last summer, 10/12 high school kids producing show that airs on SCAT. Cable show airing in Philly and elsewhere. Webpage where all shows posted –

Journalist – interested in trying to find the people in media who are talking about kids.

Somerville local first – 170 members, 130 locally owned businesses – sustainable economy in Somerville, local green fair. No specific things around youth but can be connection to community.

Representing school system—also on board of Somerville Voices that does blog.

Ward 5 – covers some citywide stuff and brings it to ward 5 residents – tech is something I believe in – can enrich people’s lives.

Difficult sell on older people who aren’t computer literate – but bringing to children. Also used to be teacher.

Question posed: What media helps youth?

Kids are part of a trajectory of use of media to sell products and to provide cultural context for lives – those that have economic investment in that are underwriting that. The consumer side of media. But the potential of media: what can it do for kids: must step outside: making media intentional, understanding the power people can get out of intentional use of media.

Kids today: getting more of it from hulu.

Ads popping up in the corner. Time shift – prime time doesn’t matter as much as it did.

Advertising catered. Consumer can say ‘is this relevant to me or not?’ Can cater to kids.

They have more choice – if watching Animal Planet, not available before. But kids more involved in making TV now b/c costs going down. Great to get in schools – b/c kids see everything constructed. Nothing real about television.

The video games. Kids in summer school hadn’t thought about them as things people make.

2 courses in high school that teach them how to make games.

Discussion of augmented reality.

Most of you are involved in some way in producing media – benefiting directly or indirectly – our BHAG at OneVille – big hairy audacious goal – getting all of us to support the education of every kid in Somerville.

Things in different languages – getting info to their parents – sometimes info they need, whether it’s ‘where’s the library’ or ‘when’s the farmer’s market,’ are not always available. What’s the role of people like you guys who make blogs, email lists?

Just implemented googletranslate, is very proud of it. People who constantly criticize the website – older people will – b/c demographic that doesn’t use computers – only focused on small proportion of public. She says to them, “My friend at Journal does good job of print.”

Feedback on her googletranslate use – at first she thought no point in having it, b/c users’ home computer is probably set to their home language. But through conversation w/ others, she heard that if you are using a ½ hr public signup on a public computer, you wouldn’t have that. So, googletranslate is a very simple widget you can put right on your blog. Changes the entire website on their language.



I went on Corey Booker’s website to see his budget -- realized I just put in the code and make a widget.

Somerville Schools’ website has babelfish. – we put some googletranslate on there – great for people to comment in their native language and we can respond back in English.

We’re thinking about translation, and access. Internet connections at home, access at home. Are we doing enough to bridge that gap.

What are the stats on this?

City hasn’t done comprehensive study. Our users are self-selecting – looks like most people on Facebook but not checking our website. More checking our blog.

More a push toward web 2.0.

Define for the group: what’s web 2.0?

Anything when you can respond right away.

Interactive: people want to feel like they are involved – readers can tell her how they feel about a story, right then, pro and con. It’s not my website any more – really comment driven. Had an artist from Gilman Square say she didn’t like music on there. So she did an online poll. People said they didn’t like it. She listened. And then something actually happened!

Made Resistat blog so you could leave a comment, and traffic jumped up a hundred percent.

And people want to see what others are thinking, feeling.

Since I don’t understand youth in Somerville – seems to us that it’s really about opt-in media – people are skilled at ignoring marketing messages and tuning out. So blogging is really important to us – people able to opt in.

People who do know youth – are they [youth] opting in?

Kids are blocking stuff out. In fact they are the best ones at ignoring obvious marketing messages.

But they also buy into it. Consumers of brands.

They see what’s in a video, as more authentic –

Solely socially motivated. Stuff on TV is less of interest to us. If it’s on facebook or a kid at school wears it.

We try to position our work “to make it a better party.” A socially oriented set of values, as a trend. How to do that with youth? To make socially progressive values cool.

Interrupt-driven media – media interrupting you and you don’t even know if the person even cares! Vs. opt-in where people seek out experiences and find them.

There are tons of computers around and people know where they can go. They exist, in neighborhoods, libraries. The computer in my hand (smartphone) is far more powerful than what I had as a kid.

Kids he teaches can’t afford iphones. Can afford metro pcs and pay as you go plans. Access is different. But less than you imagine. History – Somerville had the first technology center in country.

Computers available in the library.

Mystic center – they have computers there – but not always open. And, used to have a teacher and now they don’t have the money for one.

Nationally, 44% of people below poverty line used library to access internet. 17% of the 44% didn’t have another way of accessing the internet. 35% of people total accessed the internet via public library last year.

We know from youth risk behavior survey – that kids have TVs in their rooms. We could tap into that survey to add questions about their tech use. Would have to bump questions about something else in order to put some tech use questions on there.

Possibly ask Comcast or RCA how many subscribers they have in Somerville.

Somerville still trying for the google wireless thing. Still interested in the customer base. . .if they become a finalist. Maybe now would be a time – to partner to approach the city to look at some kind of broad based effort to reach out to more people with broadband.

Going to add internet radio to SCAT. Setting up Boston Free Radio – access but not so limited – some commercial stuff but anyone would have access to doing shows. Getting the rights to all the music – copyright free.

Loves the idea b/c USAID actually goes into countries and huge project is setting up community radio stations – studies about it promoting civic involvement, political activism.

In public health: if we need to get a message out we rely on the different language outlets.

The immigrant communities – need to work on that –

Getting radio on phones –

All the Brazilian stores are playing music on radio stations.

Podcasts on SCAT!

Do podcasts really work?

For our conference – people who wanted to come and couldn’t, could see the lectures.

Podcast = recorded radio program that you can download/stream later on.

Immigrant/low income families do have computers but sometimes they don’t work, don’t know how to work it, click, there are viruses, people are looking for computer repair, and that’s another cost, don’t have the money to fix it.

Used to work for Family Network – was organizing events, at all of them w/ her kids. Many times she was alone, nobody else participating. I signed up on most of the websites, I google, look, participate. But very sad to see that other immigrants don’t participate b/c the information is not there. Collaborate for those people w/o the resources to participate. Consuelo used to say put on bulletin board in the parks. But they are empty.

People need info in writing, on computer, by mouth. Need to collaborate, and use the newspaper.

Papers in a backpack.

Choice listserv – constant blast of opportunities for parents, including free events, science fairs – vs. the paper in a backpack, never advertised that science fair.

Calendaring a nightmare. Somerville Voices has a calendar. Schools have a calendar. Journal has a calendar. All separate, all updated at a separate time.

Even if you were on computers you would have to search for half an hour to figure out stuff.

We were told we couldn’t advertise SCAT programs in backpacks. Told no outside things can go into backpacks.

And so much information that you couldn’t get it out w/ all the fliers in the world.

For e.g. if there were Tufts volunteers to post at regular intervals on those boards. And a series of regular calendars that people agreed to. . .

W/ a kid w/ special needs, I was able to hear hey, the resources are here and there. I started collecting all the emails that I got. Put on my website. Some parents like it, but we need to collaborate.

Is there a way – many of the people in this room are already producing calendars.

No resource to share stuff – if we want stuff to be aggregated – content aggregation – taking lots of info and putting it in one place. Who’s gonna own the calendar? Great ideas here – but who will actually manage it? is it OneVille? Someone has to own it, has to have an organizational home, some level of structure. Otherwise it’s just a good idea that someone works on and then it goes away.

She is at 18 different meetings! No time to run a calendar.

Some technical assistance required. Some is human to human contact – how can we cross post on your list, link to your blog, share your calendar on our website.

Things people can do on their own if they knew these things existed.

But we want to talk about our messaging on our website, and SCAT about it on its website. Oversaturation would = nothing to no one.

But if there’s info of use to lots of broad audiences – like something that goes on an email list – you have to be on it. Or, somebody has to forward it to you, from that list.

Right now we have 40 or 50 places to share.

I don’t know where those bulletin boards are – would like to know where they are, to post a piece of paper. Doesn’t know who to contact for the Choice listserv.

Everyone has those content standards. Social media is designed to be sharable.

If someone wanted to create a twitter feed that had everyone’s information feed in one place, would be very useful.

Lots of people on Choice listserv sharing stuff. A giant social calendar is the same – needs people to curate content and share it to some central source. Once in some central source, no reason why it couldn’t feed to the print newspaper and people could go grab from there, what’s relevant to their people.

Likes to step out – if I followed everything wouldn’t be able to process all this info! So resorts to trusted friends, trying to find ways to filter. Not everyone can process all this info.

Discussion at Somerville Voices – about their calendar – could you scrape listservs and sign up for what you’re interested in and it would come to you? A simple solution.

It requires human effort to get the stuff in a central system and make sure you then make it available for other people. And then, is it too much information?

Smart aggregation: filtering so people don’t get totally overwhelmed.

Takes human beings.

But people can tag stuff to make it just show up – Courtney has all the Ward 5 information.

Tagging is marketing. And mine is filtered – everything on my website is Ward 5.

“Curation” is the overused word of 2010: but that’s where we’re heading: people trust that it’s something useful.

Somerville moms listserv. Directed toward particular demographic. [moms now talking about how it’s too product oriented.]

No incentive to fill that void.

Choice listserv—you share stuff even for free, without getting paid, because you want to, you see that the other kids are in your kids’ community.

And, you have a real relationship with them.

School is putting hrs into payment for stuff in backpacks.

How to make whatever happens last forever?

Has to be some resource owning it, keeping it.

But ownership requires restrictions and controls.

Nonprofit ventures though. . .

Need to have some control – aggregation – some control – but also signups for those things that you want. But also, people who share stuff to the hub, can.

I disagree – putting it in hands of one person is a disaster – if they move out of city, etc. there has to be a technological solution and my first guess is Google. They’re only going to get better. Some kind of calendar where everyone can contribute.

In my website, I subscribe to the museums – I have soccer team; different people from the city that collaborate w/ me in the calendar. That’s an easy solution.

Google will never crawl these things automatically b/c it has problems of context and domain – googletranslate is kind of formal but also really maybe too colloquial for things like handouts in schools. But it also uses fairly formal language in other weird places; not the most appropriate for all translations. Google itself is similar – it doesn’t know what you’re looking specifically for events like ‘I have a kid of this age range that wants this event.’

But they have somebody in there working on that. We can count on them to get better and better and more targeted.

There are already things – a technical counterpart to this – microformats, metadata – get you part of the way there. Can now mark something as “event” and make it more findable.

No matter what you do you have to market it – somebody won’t invest their time and effort unless you make this a really serious thing. So many times directories that don’t get updated, somebody felt it was needed. Even if you have a perfect calendar you’ll have to remind everyone, send them incentives, get them in the habit.

How to get adults and parents in the community informed? But also, how to get the kids involved? a googlecalendar – kids aren’t going to use it. What role would you want us to do, with you.

How to get paper to those bulletin boards, is crucial. A list of the bulletin boards, and see who is most interested in carrying paper to the bulletin boards.

Also, a calendar of some sort – for kid stuff, grownup stuff, but some tech and also some participation in the planning and eventual execution.

City web: Globe, journal, SCAT, as a hub.

Somerville News has a calendar and so does the journal.

Conversation on tech.

Somerville Coffee party.

Living conversation – why hasn’t it happened yet? What are the obstacles?

Privacy stuff w/ my kids. Parents as gatekeeper.

Translation in Somerville needs to be improved – we could get together to do info share about how to put that googletranslate widget at the top of your blog.

And another conversation about, ‘is that enough.’

No. you can make it Spanish but there are so many dialects.

To engage us with an organization we will want to see, what’s the plan. We’re happy to engage in the conversation – but we have limited funds – will need to know what’s the organizational structure here, who’s doing what.

As a next step will mock up a calendar and invite you all to look at it and see how you can be improve it. Will put it up on new Facebook page for the city, go live with it very soon. Will recruit us all to help with that.

One thing we can do: everyone here if you signed up on eventbrite – we have your info that way.

Do we wanna meet again?

We have a tighter agenda for the next meeting now.

We were trying to see who’s out there, what you’re interested in – wanted to see what you wanted to talk about!