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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Progress in MN in a neighborhood email list kick-off

Last night was a thrill in Minnesota. It was caucus night as part of the "Super Tuesday" in our presidential selection process.

Like many of you, I am about to volunteer to host a local forum - in this case E-Democracy's second neighborhood forum in Minneapolis (in the area where I live - ). Walking the talk.

While I've recruited a bit online and last weekend the neighborhood association included a plug in their print newsletter sent to the few thousand households in the neighborhood, registrations sat at 25 people. Last night I signed up 116 more members so we can now open to posting.

Last year, the Canterbury, New Zealand launch reminded us of the importance of promoting paper sign-ups at the right public events to recruit people. What might you do in your community to bring in new members?

Here are updated sign-up forms/templates you can all use in your in-person recruitment efforts:


* US Word: (if you want to change text)

* UK/NZ A4 Word: (you can adapt text)

More details:

The upload process is pretty easy - all you need to do is type up the results in a spreadsheet with columns for "first name," "last name," and "e-mail" and send them to us:

I'll report back on how the Standish Ericcson Neighbors Forum opening goes. One caution is that in-person recruitment may be too effective and bring in people who don't want a lot of e-mail or are not quite sure what they signed up to receive.

My plan:

1. Type the results into a spreadsheet to prepare for uploading to GroupServer.

2. Send a Bcc: e-mail to everyone confirming that they are about to be added to the online group. Letting them know that they can easily change their settings to digest or unsubscribe and add a few lines to get them excited about what is next.

3. Add the new e-mail addresses while the group is still closed to public posting.

4. Send a "Want only one e-mail a day? Digest option" note. Setting digest is super easy via e-mail.

5. Send a "How to change your password to something you'll remember" post

6. Send a "We about to open, but first let's each invite someone on our block to join"

7. Ask keepers of area e-mail announcement lists (police departments community policing list, neighborhood association, local city council member) to pass on the invite and provide announcements to the forum when appropriate. I think it is easier to get e-officials on a forum before you launch.

8. Send a reminder about digest mode with a sample digest and introduce the web-based no e-mail option as an alternative (I want to keep as many people on digest as possible). By keeping the group on moderation initially you can stop the lemming effect of one person saying (if often not so nice a way) take me off this darn thing leading to a series of me-too replies. It may only be five to ten people, but wayward unsubscribe efforts sent to group by mistake creates a false impression of a negative movement.

9. Keep group on temporary moderation for the "Introductions" phase to manage _voluntary_ introductions over a week or two. I strongly recommend a series of introductions both when opening forums and re-introductions every year or so. This humanizes the forum and builds trust and accountability to real, known people. You'll find roughly twice the number of people are willing to say hello than post their opinions on a regular basis. People who post introductions have now broken the ice and are more likely to post again. The first call will generate 10-15 or so introductions, but don't stop there - thank those how found it easy to say hello and you'll prompt another 10 or more people to say hello.

10. Make the "Introductions" topic "Sticky" via the web so it is listed a top the web view to help new and prospective members get a sense of who's who.

11. Open to the forum to a fully unmoderated mode for general discussion and exchange of announcements.

12. Tune in particularly closely to early rule violations - off topic posts, uncivil behavior, etc. - and act decisively early to put the whole group on notice that the forum charter and rules will be enforced. This will actually improve self-policing and reduce the management required over the long-term.

13. Keep the setting, "moderate new members" in place to avoid fly by night posters, but actively set them to unmoderate with their first legitimate post.

14. Down the road, introduce the opportunity for participants to upload a photo to there member profile page which will stick their picture next to there posts on the web view.

Steven Clift
Chair, E-Democracy.Org

Steven Clift
Ericsson, Hennepin
Info about Steven Clift:

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