Public Lab Research note

Opening up PLOTS: thoughts on community growth and accessibility

by warren | May 15, 2012 22:10 15 May 22:10 | #1995 | #1995

I've been working on these thoughts for a while and although I haven't gotten very far with them, I thought I'd just put this out there and perhaps kick off some discussion or ideas.

Now that we are more coherent, established, and growing, I feel that we ought to look for ways to draw in newcomers to our community, and to give people opportunities to adopt these technologies, adapt and improve them for their own purposes.

Most importantly, we should invite others to share in the responsibility of making this community thrive. Many recent newcomers have diverse backgrounds; some are scientists, activists, teachers or programmers. Many may also be unfamiliar with communally-run efforts such as our own and will need invitation and encouragement to join in and become active contributors.


I've been brainstorming some strategies for and possible challenges to community growth:

  • Think about the work you do with PLOTS. What tasks or skills are accessible and even adoptable by others, specifically newcomers? What kinds of expertise could you share and how can you create opportunities for others to become involved?
  • Think about the information you research, collect, produce, and interpret. How can you make this information more accessible to others, specifically newcomers? If you were not directly involved in using the information, would it be available for others to leverage and would others know howto do so?
  • Conversely, what information, tasks, and skills are inaccessible to others, and specifically to newcomers? Consider what may be inaccessible due to:
    • legal/copyright/patent reasons
    • expense
    • access to equipment/facilities/software/hardware
    • legibility & lack of documentation, learning curve
    • high time commitment
    • need for formal expertise or credentials
    • format; file formats, media types (internet v phone v in-person)
    • lack of incentive or interest

Finally, at the recent PLOTS staff meeting, we outlined some of the steps in the process of developing a single tool, with the hope of better understanding the process and how to bring new tools to maturity:


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