Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) joins Dgroups

As of September 2011, the Dgroups partnership welcomes the Rural Water Supply Network (RWSN) as new Dgroups member.

RWSN is global knowledge network for rural water supply technologies and approaches. As it reads on their website:

RWSN focuses its work in specific areas where it believes it can make a significant contribution.
RWSN’s aims to:

  • Maximise impact of investment through application of cost-effective technologies
  • Reduce well drilling costs through improved drilling operations
  • Improve sustainability of supply chains
  • Mobilise additional resources, by supporting self-supply solutions at household level water supply facilities
  • Standardise handpumps with appropriate selection, procurement and simplified maintenance
  • Dissemination of Knowledge – equitable sharing of lessons learned, best practices and latest development in technologies
RWSN Secretariat is hosted by the Skat Foundation in St. Gallen, Switzerland. Contact person for Dgroups is Sean Furey.
Read more about Dgroups and its current members.
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Dgroups partners meeting 2011

The 2011 Dgroups partners meeting will take place in Rome on 27 September 2011 in the context of the Second Global AgriKnowledge Share Fair.

The Share Fair will be an exciting and “out-of-the-box” event, offering participants creative and innovative learning and sharing opportunities, and equipping them with tools to better influence future rural development activities. We are glad that the Dgroups partners meeting can be held during this international gathering as this will provide Dgroups members with excellent opportunities for networking and learning.

A draft agenda for the Dgroups partners meeting is available on the Dgroups wiki.  The participation and active engagement of current Dgroups members – as well as potential partners and interested organisations – is key to the success of the partners meeting and the discussion on the future development of Dgroups.

Besides the partners meeting, Dgroups will also organise a technical session during Day 0 of the Share Fair on 26 September 2011, which is dedicated to collaboration technologies and knowledge sharing tools and methods. This will be a perfect occasion for Dgroups members and users to participate in a hands on, practical session on the new platform about to be released and already available in beta version at http://next.dgroups.org.

Dgroups members and users that plan to attend the training session and the 2011 Partners meeting should register using the Share Fair registration form.

More updates on the programme of the  2011 Dgroups Partners meeting will be available in the coming days and the final agenda for the meeting will be circulated by the end of August 2011.

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Dgroups new look – More than a facelift

During the two online technical sessions organised in the context of the 2010 Dgroups Partners meeting, representatives from member organisations as well as groups administrators had the opportunity to preview the new look and improved functionalities of the redesigned Dgroups website.

For the  sessions, Damir Simunic of WA Research prepared a video to show the new look and feel and demo some of the new functionalities of the site.

In his presentation of the new platform, Damir highlighted the following elements:

  • The process of  developing and deploying the new platform has been taking much longer than expected; employing world-class designers was a learning process. Nevertheless, we believe the final result was worth the wait.
  • The redesign is completely focused on making it easier for administrators to manage groups, as admins are the primary users of the site
  • The technical objective of the redesign is to simplify the user interface (for example, number of clicks for common tasks are reduced, ‘announcements’ feature is now merged with ‘discussions’) and modernize the platform to use the most modern browser technologies available (HTML5, CSS3, etc), while still working for older browsers.
  • In the process, we wanted to make Dgroups beautiful for admins, to make them proud and happy to show it off to their colleagues.
  • Thanks to new technologies, the platform elegantly scales from large desktop screens to mobiles form factors – Dgroups’s first entry into mobile space;
  • The video show off some of the new user interface features like drag&drop attachments and pasting; large user avatars; significantly simplified means of adding new members; modern tabbed design, and many more
  • .

In the Q&A part of the session, some of the issues discussed comprised the following:

  • Track status of messages: this will be possible with the new design, similar as it is now to track invitations to groups;
  • Stats and tracking usage: This has always been high on any admin’s priority list, and the new design will provide the technical background needed to implement many of these statistics in the near future;;
  • Improved options for content sharing: “hidden” urls for RSS feeds to allow server-side subscriptions without the need for passwords;
  • improve Dgroups integration with other sites and platforms, a API will also be further development
  • Compatibility with older browsers: The new site is designed to benefit from the most modern browsers. However, Dgroups has always been about inclusion, and it will also work on older browsers; obviously, features that only new browsers provide won’t be available on older ones.

We’ll soon provide the link to the test site to all Dgroups administrators. The date for the full roll out on the new platform will depend on the results of this test phase, the feedback received and the improvements required but if all goes as planned, by end of January 2011 the new site will be launched.

It is very important to note that the January launch is about modernizing the user interface – new additions will be coming continuously during the whole year and beyond.

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Dgroups partners meeting 2010

As agreed by the Dgroups Board, the 2010 Dgroups partners meeting will be held on line in the week beginning 29 November 2010. It will consist of a series of online conversations, through emails and other e-tools, where Dgroups members will have the opportunity to discuss and interact with each other, with the Board of the Foundation and the hosting technical platform, and address issues related to the Dgroups partnership and platform.

Being this a virtual meeting, we envisage a process that run across several days, with a combination of synchronous as well as asynchronous conversations supported by different electronic tools. In particular, we envisage the following process:

  1. by Thursday 25th November 2010, we will be circulating and make available through the DG-Partners list the different documents that will have to be approved and discussed;
  2. between Friday 26th and Tuesday 30th November Dgroups member will have the opportunity to comment and discuss on the documentation circulated through an email based discussion on the DG-Partners list;
  3. on Monday 29th (5pm to 6pm) and Tuesday 30th November (9am to 10am) the Dgroups members will be able to preview the new Dgroups platform in 2 live sessions of one hour each with Damir Simunic of WA-Research
  4. on Wednesday 1st (9am to 10am) and Thursday 2nd December (5pm to 6pm) there will be 2 live sessions of one hour each where the Dgroups members will have the chance to discuss with representatives of the Dgroups Board.

We’ll be using a series of different online tools. In particular, we’ll make use of the following:

  • DG-Partners dgroups for email based discussion
  • Dgroupshelp wiki for sharing of the documentations and collecting relevant feedback
  • Dgroups blog, to communicate and engage with a wider audience in the discussion
  • AT&T connect for the live sessions both on platform and partnership – details will follow

We welcome the participation of  representative of Dgroups members organisations, potential members and interested organisations and dgroups users.

Stay tuned here for further updates in the coming days!

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Dgroups: Still going and growing – and blogging again!

Welcome to the revived Dgroups blog!

There have been a number of important developments in the past few months.  The new Board of the Foundation has been busy since its election in April 2009, while WA Research has keep on improving the platform and its performances – unfortunately in both cases the communications have not been at the same level as the efforts and the work done. Let’s then try to catch up and take a snapshot of how things are at the moment.

Numbers don’t lie..
As of  June 2010, Dgroups counts 2035 active communities. During the past 20 weeks, more than 70 new groups were created, with average frequency of 3.5 per week. As evidence of increased use of Dgroups, this year is seeing the weekly creation surpassing 15 groups per week, which did not happen in 2009. Equally, number of new groups per week rarely falls under five per week. As of June 2010, these groups are used by 139.336 registered users, up from 113.619 since February 2010.

Thanks to the work of Damir and colleagues at WA Reasearch, the performance of Dgroups has been improving significantly over the past months. The service is stable, most email delivery problems are resolved. A good email sending reputation has been established with large Internet service providers, and we are seeing less and less spam blocks. Email delivery to users is now almost instantaneous, even though weʼre sending about 2.3 million messages per month…

Technical development and web user interface redesign
A large number of usability and stability improvements have been deployed too – and the user interface has been translated and made available also in Portuguese, Mandarin, and Russian.

However, the most important think is the one yet to come: a major visual redesign is currently in progress, and we have great expectations from the preview we could see! A staging web site should be made available during the next months, and we hope to deployed into production in Autumn should there be no major objections or problems. Once the new design is final and in production, we’ll focus on adapting organizational skins to fit the new look and feel.

Support system
We have reintroduced the old support system that proved to work fine in Dgroups1. This is a cascade support system, where users rely on groups admins; admins on the admins peer-support group and creators; creators on their peers and on WA Research as last option. The email address support@dgroups.org has been closed, but we’ll make sure we’ll have a good help file (on the Dgroups help Wiki) and a lively Admins Community.

Partnership and annual meeting 2010
As a follow up from the 2009 members meeting, we are working on the finalisation of several legal and policy documents – such as Terms of Use, Creation Policy etc. We are also drafting a new business plan, and try to ensure that the level of membership stays high enough for sustaining the existence of Dgroups as a whole. Still lot to do needs to be done in this reagard, and we hope that different members can play an active role in this matter. A milestone in this sense will be the next Partners’ meeting, currently planned for the second half of November.

Future Blogging

When I  logged in onto the blog dashboard I saw one comment awaiting  moderation, saying:

“It seems this blog died??? not sure if there is a new blog. the wiki too seems rather dated”

Well, we’ve listened. From now on we will resume regular blogging. In the next post we’ll explain the new management and coordination arrangements for this year and continue with the updates. In the meantime, you’re very welcome to drop by here, and share with us your ideas about Dgroups, what you like and dislike, how you use it and what’s in it for you. We’ll do our best to keep the conversation going, and ensure transparency in the way things progress.

Pier Andrea Pirani

Euforic Services

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The Global Mechanism joins Dgroups

As of July 2009, the Global Mechanism (GM) joined the Dgroups Partnership.

From the GM website:

The Global Mechanism (GM) was established by Article 21 of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD). It began its operations in October 1998.

The GM is a subsidiary body of the UNCCD. Its original functions of general broker and match-maker have evolved over its first ten years of operations, in the wake of the changing international financial architecture, its new modalities for resource allocation and the increasing importance of domestic budgeting processes in developing countries.

As a consequence, the GM is increasingly specializing in providing a range of financial advisory services to the country Parties to the Convention in close cooperation with International Finance Institutions (IFIs) – in particular the World Bank Group, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the regional development banks. The European Commission and bilateral donor agencies are also long-standing partners of the GM.

The Global Mechanism is hosted by IFAD offices in Rome. Contact person for Dgroups is Maurizio Navarra.

Read more about Dgroups and its current members.

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Dgroups platforms updates

As you might have already noticed WA Research has recently released some new updates in functionalities and features to further develop the Dgroups platform.

  • Public interface
    From the Dgroups homepage, users can now login to their groups or join new groups in a much clearer way.
  • Directory of groups
    When clicking on ‘Join a group’ users access the public directory of groups and can see all the groups created in Dgroups. From here they can join or request membership to the different groups.Still missing – but in the pipeline – is a search function that allows to browse the directory more easily, also filtering by subject or region.  WA Research is currently working on a this and it should be soon released.
  • Russian and Chinese interface
    Dgroups is now available also in Chinese and Russian. Thanks to FAO and Yuriy Nesterov in particular for volunteering to translate!
  • Admin can edit users profile and reset password
    As possible in D1 and long-awaited in D2,  groups administrators can now edit member data. By clicking on any member of a group where you’re an admin, you will notice green bar with ‘edit’ and ‘edit public profile’ links above member information. You’ll also see the ‘reset password’ link, to send your users a new password to login onto Dgroups.

More functionalities are currently being developed and tested; toghether with working to ensure 100% reliability in the email distribution, these functionalities include the possibility to track the status of different messages, statistics and bouce report, improved site navigation and usability.

We hope to announce some of these rather soon. If you have feedback and suggestions on how to further improve Dgroups, please drop a comment below!

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