Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Connecting Emerging Communities In 2015, Part 1

Connecting Emerging Communities In 2015, Part 1: Learning More About An Emerging Topic.
Connecting Emerging Communities In 2015, Part 2: Google Searches & Google Docs.
Connecting Emerging Communities In 2015, Part 3: People In Emerging Communities.

When you’re interested in or working on something that's new to the world, it’s fun to connect with other people who are also involved with that emerging topic.

The problem is, how do you find other people interested in a topic that most people have never even heard of? How do you connect with like-minded people when most activity related to the emerging topic is happening hundreds or thousands of miles away from where you live?

Connecting emerging communities is an issue that’s important to millions of people and a wide variety of topics -- and it has relevance to the topic of civic hacking for hundreds or thousands of people in NE Wisconsin.

In the next few posts here, I’ll present a few thoughts about connecting emerging communities in 2015 and will relate those ideas to civic hacking in NE Wisconsin.

Friday’s post will look at how a person interested in an emerging topic can learn more about that topic. If you want to connect with an emerging community, or you want to help build an emerging community, you should first know a decent amount about the emerging topic and whatever community already exists around that topic. So your first step is to learn more about the emerging topic.

The basic steps I recommend for learning a lot about a new subject are:

  1. Search with Google
  2. Keep notes from searches
  3. Organize the notes
  4. Find info about topic background, resources, people, organizations, next steps
  5. Read books or research papers
  6. Read topic news
  7. Visit forums and community websites

I’ll go into more depth about the above steps in Friday’s post. For today, I’ll just point at four items for you to learn more about -- they’ll help you get more out of Friday’s post. Those four items are:

  • Google searches with “double quotes”
  • Using Google Docs / Drive, Evernote, Simple Note or similar tools
  • Using copy / paste on your computer
  • Wikipedia entries

Double Quotes: Do a few Google searches without double quotes, then with double quotes. Try it using a two-word search, like “robotics kits”, then a three-word search, like “beginner robotics kits.” Look at the number of search results and what sites are in the top 10 or top 20 results. Read this webpage about how double quotes affect Google searches. (That webpage may not be 100% accurate because Google continually changes how their search engine works, but it will give you a general understanding of how double quotes work.)

Research Notes: If you are trying to learn about a new subject you’re really interested in, it’s probably worthwhile to have one or several tools to help you remember what you learn. I usually use Google Docs to record info of interest to me; other people use Evernote, Simplenote, a word processing document, or other tools. If you don’t already have a favorite tool, take a look at Google Docs today and consider trying it for a few days.

Copy / Paste: When you do online research and find info you want to capture for later use or reference, copy / paste is an efficient way to transfer that info from a website or online document to Google Docs or other Research Notes tool. Use your cursor to highlight the online text or content you want to copy, then hold down the Control key (Control or Ctrl if you're on a Windows computer, Command if you're on a Mac) on your keyboard while you hit the C key (Ctrl-C). This copies whatever you had highlighted. Then switch from the website or online document where you copied the content and go to Google Docs or other research notes tool. Place your cursor where you want to put (or paste) the info you copied. Now hold down the Control key and hit the V key (Ctrl-V). If you haven’t used Ctrl-C with Ctrl-V before, practice that a few times.

(Why Ctrl-V for paste, you ask? The best answer I’ve seen is that in the early days of personal computers, it made sense to use C for ‘copy,’ and it made sense to use X for the related function ‘cut’ because Xing something out was an intuitive link, plus the X key is right next to the C key. The Undo and Paste functions are conceptually related to Copy and Cut, so the V key (next to C) was chosen for Paste (plus, P made more sense for the commonly-used Print function) and Z was chosen for Undo. The four related functions and keys are located next to each other (Z, X, C, V), and the four Ctrl keyboard combinations are easy to touch-type.)

Wikipedia Entries: A crowdsourced encyclopedia will never be 100% accurate, but Wikipedia is the best single source I know of to find basic information about a wide range of topics. If you don’t already use Wikipedia, click here right now to go there and search for a couple entries of interest to you. While you’re reading the entries, pay attention to the basic format of a Wikipedia entry, how it summarizes a topic, breaks it down into its main components and how the entry links out to other Wikipedia entries or to other websites.

Friday’s post will go into more details of learning about an emerging topic of interest to you.

If you’re a civic hacker in NE Wisconsin, or you’re considering becoming one, use the above suggestions to learn a little more about an aspect of civic hacking that’s of most interest to you.


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