I am sure we all agree that the OAC depends on individual members caring enough to share their thoughts with others and the Admins team would like to thank all of you who have contributed to the kaleidoscope of our common life here.

We have been discussing for a while how we might encourage people to pool thoughts about ways of developing the OAC site. One idea is to open up a thread of the main Forum for a limited period. If something comes of it, we might do something similar twice a year. So please come forward with your observations and recommendations. Do not hesitate to comment on the discussions we hope will follow.

Here are some topics on which we would particularly welcome feedback.

We have altered the features, look and access to the main page. What do you think?

We have an enormous number of Groups, many of whom are dormant. How might we regenerate particpation in more of them?

Some aspects of the site, the Press and the Wiki, are concerned with generating and storing durable content. How might they be improved?

Do you have any comments on the governance of the OAC?

English is obviously the main language here, as elsewhere, but we are making an effort to open up to other languages, e.g. by adding a Portuguese section to the Press. What more could be done?

Would you like more accessible technical information to aid your participation?

What features would you like to see added or strengthened? How?

This by no means exhausts the possible range of topics to discuss. So let's hear from you, the members. The floor is open.

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Some javascript code to improve accessibility on Ning http://pastebin.com/JVfzvKyb All of this goes in the Custom Code section and it does a couple of things. It adds a label to the search field, adds a heading above the site navigation as a way for screen reader users to easily locate the site navigation, and it sets the editor toolbar to be keyboard focusable.

We are also importing a library we wrote to host YouTube accessibly. That can be found here: http://wac.osu.edu/examples/youtube-p...

Jacob, I'm not sure if you have taken hold of my initial comment and gone running with it or what is going on.

My initial comment wasn't anything to do with Javascript. Yesterday the discussion tab did not link to anything, it wasn't a Javascript issue it was a no link issue. This was possibly something within Ning I'm really not sure but I am sure it was not Javascript. This has happened on more than one occasion and with more than 1 OS browser combination. I only use NoScript on my Ubuntu/Firefox combination yet this has happened on all my combinations. It should be easy for people to deduce this is not a Javascript issue.

Everything else you mentioned, outside of that discussion tab, is valid. I just thought I had better clarify my above point as it appears to me you are running with something and mixing it with other problems.
I hope we can leave room for some others to join this discussion.
Interaction with owners may generate new ideas and interest.

It is also hugely expensive in terms of admin labor. The solution is to use automated systems as a primary filter and nudge, then talk one to one with those whose behavior indicates continuing interest.

The basic algorithm is

1. Compare date of last activity with current date.
2. If the difference is greater than a specified amount of time, e.g. one month, go to next step.
3. Move group to archive and [this is new] send a message to the person who created the group to notify them of this step.
4. The message to the creator of the archived group includes a link that allows the creator to reactivate the group.
5. Admin interacts with those who reactivate groups to see how they would like to proceed.

* Group creators get a an automatic nudge if there has been no activity within a specified amount of time.
* Admin has its burden reduced by having to interact only with group creators who take a positive step to show continued interest.
There are many alternatives to Ning but the problem, as Fran has pointed out, is one of how to migrate existing Ning data (member profiles, pages, discussions, groups, blogs, etc) to that alternative platform. BuddyPress has made a lot of progress in that direction, but the import from Ning plugin is still not perfect. Another plus of BuddyPress is that the Press and Wiki would not have to be hosted separately, but could included within the BuddyPress installation. All of our initiatives could then be in one place and with a single login.

But as Fran and Keith have pointed out, the problem is also one of organization and politics. We're still left with issues of governance, coding, moderation and layout, not to mention maintenance and security work. Having said that, however, I still think it's worthwhile to figure out whether BuddyPress is even a viable option. Only then, I think, could we have a real conversation about whether or not it's possible, let alone desirable, to leave Ning and under what conditions.

To do that we first need to see if we can actually manage to port the existing Ning data in a way that preserves the work that we're already done. Nobody wants to start all over. I've managed to set up a working installation of BuddyPress, and import some of our data, but it still needs a lot of work. Fran is also helping me with this. But I would welcome anyone with some experience in this area to help us sort out these issues.
Main Page

We have run with the menu bar in pretty much the same configuration since we started, and perhaps it could be reorganized somewhat. We consolidated Forum, Blogs, and Chat under the "Discuss" pulldown primarily because we were running out of space in the memu bar, but I think we could revisit the layout and consider getting Blogs and Forum their own places. As for the "Discuss" link not working and then later working, I personally fixed that link last week.

Recent Activity

While I agree with Fran that the current activity feed allows us as admins to know almost instantaneously that someone is acting strangely on the site, I also agree with Michael that as a user of the site I only concern myself with the addition of new content. I'm not interested in seeing the groups that each new member joins, nor do I care when one member leaves a comment on another members profile page, since it is clearly not meant for me. I do think we all want to see when new members join the OAC, and I believe that in order to remove the "X joined group Y" messages, we would also lose the "X has joined the OAC" notices. I am also not aware of a way to have Admins see something different from regular members, at least not in this context.
Hello all,

Sorry for joining in late……Unfortunately I cannot chime in all the technical issues that seem to be the main focus. After all I can’t even give good advise on how to prevent spam. (no pun intended) I can however express what the OAC has meant for me and perhaps even a way or two to increase activity.

As I have stated before, OAC is a way to allow the non-academic and academic alike to be on the same playing field. Being a working enthusiast of anthropology, this means that I can share my ideas, experiences and soon my work with those who have already been tested and accepted in the field of anthropology. This exposure I am hoping will help me develop my skills by being critiqued and allow me to build a portfolio of experiences. I became aware of the OAC when I was working on a research paper for my Intro. to Archaeology course in college. I decided to major in Anthropology when I found Criminal Justice to be to dull and dry. Anthropology presented a vision, a new way for me to see the world and the OAC allowed me to see it at work.

Being a Corrections Officer, I’m part of a culture; a community that more are less shares the same ideals and perspectives. The same is true being a weightlifter and a former Marine. I can easily identify with these communities. As a member of OAC, I am now learning the language and norms of a new community. A community of individuals with professional and/or sincere interest in Anthropology.

As with all communities there can be intruders. Those that for whatever reason expose and prey on the community’s flaws and weaknesses. Regardless of how successful the intruder is, it is the character of the community that will either suffer are grow in strength as a result of what actions they take. And this is where the OAC, I believe has to be careful. How do we deal with intruders? In whatever way, it must not be discouraging to new comers with the potential to contribute to the community. And as I am sure you all know, a good way to prevent this in making sure that whatever change is made in the OAC, it is not overly drastic when compared to the problem being addressed.

Now as far as encouraging more activity especially with the groups, I believe Jacob’s idea about a rating system can help there. If possible, perhaps groups can be rated as too how active they are. Is this a possibility? Group members would be able to rate the groups they belong too, once a month for example. This would encourage group leaders to be more active and regulate their groups more. In addition, hold groups accountable for goals and/or rules.

Example: Group leaders should create objectives for their membership to accomplish, and give a time line. These objectives do not have to be too demanding. Perhaps member summaries on prescribed reading, or even a collective study about the same issue but from different perspectives.

The goal of OAC is to create productivity. As I have learned, and I am sure, you Anthropologist know, anthropology is a lot of mental work, and mental work is hard work. (as my sociology professor once said)

I hope that perhaps we can generate more discussion on increasing activity. And for one last note, perhaps a map that details where on the globe does most member activity come from. This is more for entertainment value but would be interesting to see. Well hope my perspectives help some.

Steven R. Vasquez said:
Hello all,

Sorry for joining in late……Unfortunately I cannot chime in all the technical issues that seem to be the main focus. I can however express what the OAC has meant for me and perhaps even a way or two to increase activity.

Anthropology for insiders and others

Welcome, Steven. You are not late. We have a couple of weeks for this. Some issues do require technical solutions (most of which pass me by), but I was worried that members might think you have to be a geek to participate here. I am particularly glad of your testimony as someone who welcomes the chance for interaction between professionals and those with a less defined interest in anthropology. I have certainly benefited from engaging with your posts on what it might mean to conduct anthropological research in prisons as a correction officer. Let's hope that your example will encourage others to express what they already get out of the OAC and would like to see more of.

In all conversation people tend to talk in narrower terms than they would if addressing strangers and this is true of anthropology as an academic discipline. Those of us who have made a career in the discipline have to make a special effort to reach out to people who haven't. Students might provide a bridge, but this is not always the case since they are learning how to write like an insider. There is a saying, you can tell someone is a master of their subject when they start talking English. It's a problem, especially if we appear to be a clique only interested in our own internal discourse.


It is clear that the health of the Groups is strategic, since this is where individual members choose to make sub-communities. As you say, the issue of animating them is at least as much social as technical. There will more on this topic, so I leave it for now.


One of the issues is helping members to find their way around the site. For example, we post monthly Site Statistics at the bottom of the About tab. This contains a Map Overlay of visitors to the site provided by Google Analytics which you can explore in some detail. To take the last month's stats, visitors from the US accounted for 30% of the traffic, from the UK 14% and Canada 6%, that is half of all visitors were from the three leading anglophone countries. This proportion is higher than it has been in the past and it goes with a decline in rates since the summer, suggesting that we are failing to keep non-Anglophones actively engaged with the OAC. The static membership of almost 4,000 would give a different picture and a year ago there was much more non-English activity here than now. Fran put up a visual description of the proportion of members from each country, but it is more useful and interesting to look at trends and the site stats allow us to do that.

The next group, in order, each account for 2-4% of visitors: Portugal, France (mainly me!), Italy, Germany, Brazil, India, Spain. Countries 11-20 on the list, accounting for 1-2% each, are Australia, Netherlands, Japan, Greece, Norway, Romania, Turkey, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark. With these numbers one individual can make a big difference. India is the biggest anglophone country by far and we have had spurts of joining and posting from there. Brazil and Portugal are a strong component of the OAC and we have tried to encourage that by starting a Portuguese section of the OAC Press.

Language policy and research

It will be interesting to see if non-native English-speakers contribute to this discussion. It is not likely that an exclusive conversation between anglophones would raise the question of what it means to post in a language other than your own and what else a site like this might have to offer for people in this situation. But we sure need to find out, if we can. In any case, I conclude that we are rapidly losing what was obviously our prime initial asset, our ability to draw in members from all over the world. But then maybe activity isn't the whole story. Reading is important too and occasionally newcomers have expressed their delight at the feast the OAC already provides. The OAC network is a social experiment that provides plenty of scope for anthropological research on itself. Soon Daniel Miller will be sharing with us his research on Facebook. Maybe that will stimulate interest in such questions. If I were asked for my angle on the OAC, I would say that there has never been anything like this before and as such it offers an amazing opportunity for doing reflexive anthropology.
Hello all.

I wasn't going to say anything for a while as I got the impression that my participation was taking this thread in a direction outside of its scope or its intended path. I do apologise for thinking of the technicalities but I do find it doesn't matter what language we communicate in technical issues affect us all. Anyway I am posting now simply because Keith's last post struck a cord that I think is important.

Majority Languages

The idea that English is the apparent main, or only, medium of this community will never change while the community is structured like it is and we think how we are thinking. While it is true India is theoretically the biggest "Anglophone" group on the planet it has to be said that more people in India are unable to communicate in English than there are those that can. This is apparent, to me anyway, from watching the Commonwealth Games on TV. I don't know about the media from other countries but the Australian media is showing material that is not sport related and many of the people they are talking to cannot communicate in English. We should be taking this opportunity to encourage people from places like India to open discussions in Hindi etc (or people from China to discuss things in Mandarin etc).

The point of the above paragraph may seem cryptic but I assure you it isn't, I am simply trying to suggest we stop thinking like English speakers with absolutely everything on the front page in English and put some things in languages like Hindi, Mandarin, Arabic, etc. I know this idea is not at all simple but machine translation is getting better so it may be helpful to create some sections with translations of other majority languages. Even if it is just a paragraph at a time at least it may show we are not being typically Eurocentric (I mean that with all due respect) when it comes to language usage. Another possibility is a link to a Google Translate page for various languages (e.g English to Russian or English to Hindi etc.)

Approximately just under 1/2 of this planets population lives in India and China and while I realise many don't have access to the internet many do and by far the majority of them are unable to communicate in English without a (hand held or machine) translator and even then it is difficult. Whatever we can do here to make it easier for them to communicate can only help to attract their attention to the OAC as a truly Open and positive place to be.

Sorry its 11.20 pm, I hope what I said makes sense in the morning.
Thank you, Steven and Michael, for bringing us back on track with some wider themes and new points to address.

Member Map

As Keith mentioned, we keep updated stats on where most site traffic comes from. I like the idea of making this more interactive. Some time ago, I thought it might be useful to have a map where members could tag their fieldwork locations or where they live. If this sounds worthwhile (at least in entertainment value, but also in utility), Ning has an application that is fairly easy to install and we could try it out.

Alternative Languages

I have just installed an automatic machine translator using Google Translate. This can now be found on the right hand column of all pages. I've only tested it a few times, but it seems pretty effective. Hope it helps to move us forward.

Francine Barone said:
I have just installed an automatic machine translator using Google Translate. This can now be found on the right hand column of all pages. I've only tested it a few times, but it seems pretty effective. Hope it helps to move us forward.

Wow, Fran! I haven't been keeping up with machine translation. I just checked out French and it is near perfect, maybe a bit Anglicized, but that makes it even more accessible to me. I hope that members with other languages will try it out and let us know. But for me this transforms the whole exercise.

We must make sure that Nathan places a notice on This Week at the OAC. If that is directed towards new content, we should consider a box where the Admins can post notices of new developments affecting use of the site
Hi guys,

I just found this website. I looks great to me so far. I like the translation tool. :) As for your question:

We have an enormous number of Groups, many of whom are dormant. How might we regenerate particpation in more of them?

A quick thought. I am actually not familiar to this website enough to comment. But I am trying to contribute as a newcomer to thank you for your work.

It looks to me that the "groups" function separate members into smaller groups completely.

After I chose a couple groups, I landed on these group pages and lost the sense of the big picture. The groups I join in happen to be not so active yet. Actually there are so many groups and members and there should be some updates in some of them at any time. If somehow and somewhere in one page we could present the list of the groups (in the order of popularity), with one or two newly updated posts following the title of the groups, this might give a sense of the dynamics of the whole community. Rather than a sense of in-activeness brought by the few groups one chose to join in.

Maybe there are such things already. ... just try to comment. It is a great website!





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