This stage of a project is a bit like preparing for an international trip: trying to collect together bits and pieces, addresses, contacts, passport, loose change…and do I need anti-malarials? The equivalent in this project is getting to grips with the current status of groups in dgroups. The international community who use dgroups are very mobile – in and out of organisations, in and out of communities and groups – and sometimes changing names and emails. As with all online communities, it is sometimes difficult to keep in touch with these movements. Our situation is made more complex because of the handover from Bellanet to Igloo, the organisation which now supports dgroups. Bellanet started dgroups, and pretty much kept up to date with the changes until they it was closed down last year. However it has been harder for Igloo who haven’t got the history, nor people who have experience of how Bellanet operated.
So our priority has been to fully understand the reality of groups – how many are currently active, how many are dormant (not currently active but likely to be in the future) and how many should have been closed but weren’t? I have to confess here, for example, that when I was at OneWorld several groups were started for projects I was involved in that shouldn’t be still be there – but still are because I didn’t make sure they were closed. There is also the important issue of what we are calling ‘orphan groups’, groups that don’t currently connect to a current member of the dgroups partnership. Bellanet, for example, set up lots of groups. Those ‘owned’ by IDRC transferred out of dgroups to an IDRC server but lots of groups, including some large active ones, aren’t currently linked to a member.
We are clear that all groups that want to migrate to the new dgroups will have the opportunity to do so which is why we are spending a lot of time at the moment sorting out these issues. We have started the process by contacting the creators of dgroups, who are working through the lists at the moment.
We are also keen to re-activate the peer-support groups that were busy in the past but have been less so recently. Peer-support is an important way to share knowledge and spread limited resources between larger and smaller communities. We have contacted all the listed administrators: we are placing bets on how many bounces there are.
Meanwhile, we have also been focusing on the email system, making sure the new platform can support the email functions that have always been – and will continue to be – a central part of dgroups. The four of us in the migration team are experimenting with a trial environment at the moment and, as planned, we will invite a small number of people to join us over the next couple of weeks.