Common Problems -- Common Solutions

See all of NetSquared's blog posts

Common Project Visions:

Collaboratively identify common problems and common solutions

A number of project proposals share a common vision: creating a space where our respective constituencies can share common problems and collaboratively identify common solutions.

I also see that our projects share a common problem = Engaging user participation!

I bet we can help each other overcome our common obstacles to fulfilling our common vision.

Common Project Obstacle:

User Participation

Every project I have reviewed that shares the collaborative vision has also identified user particiaption as a key obstacle.

Makes sense. We can't get to the place where we can identify "common" problems and "common" solutions -- unless/until our respective constituencies share their individual problems and individual solutions. For those of us whose vision is collaborative, user-made content -- user participation is vital to fulfilling our vision. Our first hump is "getting started" together.

Since it looks like our projects share this common problem of user participation -- I bet we could help each other overcome our common problem. By sharing our individual solutions!

Overcoming our common obstacle:

Sharing our individual solutions

We've all probably noticed, there is alot of stuff 'out there' about engaging user participation. I've certainly reviewed that stuff avidly. I have found that it is general and abstract. For example, one piece of advice I have encountered is: "Expect the Unexpected." Hard to apply to one's own project. So, I'm thinking the more specific we can be in sharing our individual problems and solutions, the more useful we can be to each other.

Here's a few things I have learned the hard way, from my own experience:

  1. Users DO participate and ARE participating -- you might not recognize this fact because they are not doing it the way you intended or planned
  2. Be diligently open and watch for this unintended way of participating
  3. Listen for what these unintended ways of participating are telling you about how to engage participation to better serve the purpose of your project
  4. Continually refine the design of your tool to find that middle ground between what you intended and how your users are in fact participating
  5. Meeting your users half way is how to get started on the collaborative adventure


In the case of SElearninggames, the primary tool is intended to be the wiki. A wiki is a space where users can all see and collaboratively create evolving content by editing wiki pages.

During the initial PlayTest period -- almost all participation was in the "backchannel." Very few folks edited wiki pages directly. People used the wiki Discussion feature. People sent me Private Messages. People commented in other forums.

At first, I was frustrated because nobody but me could see what "we" were saying. At first, I interpreted that backchannel communication as 'non-participation.' At one point, I tried to 'force' the backchannel into the fore, by literally copying and pasting PM's into the wiki pages. That didn't help much.

I finally woke up and recognized these backchannel communications as user participation. I finally woke up and began to listen to what they were telling me about how to redesign the tool to meet my users half way. Every iterative redesign will get us closer to working together as a learning community.

Most of us have not adequately estimated the time and cost involved in the continual redesign of our respective tools before we get to the point where we are fulfilling our project's vision.

Open Invitation

Let's use this blog as a place where we can tell each other more about what we're up against. Let's tell each other what we've tried to resolve our user participation issues. Let's tell each other what works and doesn't work. Something you've discovered might work for my project. Something I've discovered might work for your project. I believe we can help each other fulfill our visions - sooner rather than later.