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Challenges of building communities online – Part 1

After seeing the Sydney Bioinformatics Symposium announcement, Jonathan Arthur got in touch to see how the site could help the bioinformatics and computational biologist community at the Westmead Research Hub.

Like many other institutions and regions, Westmead has bioinformaticians dotted about, all of whom would benefit from sharing information about resources, methods, tools, etc. Not only does this help people get useful information and advice faster, it stops people feeling professionally isolated and that they have to solve every challenge on their own.

I suggested that Westmead staff could have profiles on, tagged with “Westmead”, “Sydney”, etc. This would make it easy for anyone to see who’s working at Westmead and get a sense of the level of bioinformatics and computational biology activity there.

We talked about how to encourage people to share profile information in an era when many folks have a personal web page plus a presence on Linked In, FaceBook, etc. We figured a practical strategy is to have just enough information in a profile so that interested people can link through to further detail.

When it came to things other than just profiles (such as information about resources specific to Westmead) we realised that one of the challenges of building communities is to figure out what information gets shared with whom. What is shown to the world? What is kept within the organisation? What is kept at the group or project level, and what is private?

As usual, more questions than answers, but I’m going to put this to one of the gurus of knowledge management and community building, Stan Garfield, author of the excellent Communities Manifesto...


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