The web is an agora

Marie Connelly and I worked together on growing the communities for global health professionals by Harvard and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. So it was great to hear her voice again in today’s Community Signal podcast on building ethical communication platforms, which I strongly recommend.

Having an online presence is being part of a public conversation. It baffles me when organizations only have part-time people (sometimes interns or very junior) “manage” their online communications without clear strategy or processes.

The goal for the GHD platform, which I joined in late 2007, was to provide a free, open, and secure space for global health professionals to share practical information and connect. We wondered, should we just create a group in an existing social media platform? But beyond the technical and legal arguments for building an independent website, we really wanted to co-create with and for our end users with shared goals and rules. This informed the content and features that are now the foundation for these online conversations. We pushed for real names and free membership. We advocated for (and got) a Creative Commons license (thanks to PartnersHealthcare’s legal team and Paul Farmer!). There were not many websites to look to for information on community building and management, although Wikipedia, as well as listservs and PLoS, were inspirations. When Marie joined, she took our community work to the next level.

Publishing accurate and reliable content and nurturing meaningful exchanges online take a lot of work and resources. For those who grapple today with these questions, listen and read below for inspiration.

Nieman Lab Foundation: The fake news wars go viral with Melissa’s List by Ken Doctor.

The problem: Even typically reliable sources, whether mainstream or alternative, corporate or nonprofit, rely on particular media frames to report stories and select stories based on different notions of newsworthiness. The best thing to do in our contemporary media environment is to read/watch/listen widely and often, and to be critical of the sources we share and engage with on social media.

Melissa Zimdars: False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources (make sure to read her tips for analyzing news sources.)

The Coral Project, journalism and community tools by Mozilla, NYT, WaPo, and the Knight Foundation.

Andrew Losowsky: After the election, news organizations need to listen more than ever. Poynter

But despite the potential for efficiency gains, algorithms fed by big data can also amplify structural discrimination, produce errors that deny services to individuals, or even seduce an electorate into a false sense of security.

Nicholas Diakopoulos, Sorelle Friedler: How to Hold Algorithms Accountable in MIT Technology Review


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