That's a very good point Ben,
It only takes one individual to come up with an innovative idea that will improve the way we do things. I'm all for keeping things open -- its a cornerstone of WikiEducator's success.
mmmm thinking out loud here --- perhaps the notion of three collaborators should not be specified as a requirement for setting up a workgroup but rather an indication of traction and refinement for a good idea before submitting to the WE Council for approval in the case of community wide decisions?
I think our "oversight committee" is the community (if you know what I mean). Our challenge is to design processes and systems which enable the community to function as the "oversight committee" before final approval --- Perhaps this means a minimum criteria checklist for the WE Community Council to ensure that the community has been adequately consulted, that the proposal is a good idea etc.
I believe the process needs considerable consideration. I know we have had initiatives started that seemed to have people engaged, interested and a shared agreement to importance. Yet the participation never materialized. In one important initiative it ended up being only two of us driving the initiative forward Quality Assurance and Review. In the end I wonder why this initiative never gained community participation. I believe participation is very important to "ratifying" new works. I believe our process needs to have an early step to gage community involvement. I don't see an initiative driven by one or two people as a community initiative. I don't have an answer for this, I just believe it is important to have a good cross section of the community involved early in the process, so not too much effort is applied before it gets to the "oversight committee". The other side to this would be to let one or two drive an initiative forward, have a quick process for "ratifying" the workgroup outcome with the knowledge that it then moves into a commenting / annotating state where it is open to periodic amendment... Sometimes works need to be almost complete before the community becomes involved. We are considering this commenting / annotation approach within our online legal publishing and it seems to be an approach that is gaining traction. Here are two good examples of commenting / annotating and existing publication;
I agree -- process needs careful consideration. I wouldn't offer a conclusive response to the challenges of community involvement and engagement in different initiatives, but I do have a few hunches.
- We need to do a better job of educating and supporting our community in participation -- that is helping educators develop the skills and confidence in how this all works. Its quite daunting for newbies -- and its not only a technology issue. Open transparent collaboration is a cultural change for many educators working in the formal education sector.
- I wouldn't be too hard in judging the QA & Review project in terms of active engagement --- this is an innovative development that in hindsight, was a little ahead of its time. Nonetheless we have the foundations in place to take this to the next level.
Watch this space -- WE is beginning to rock in ways we haven't experienced in the past. Its a maturation thing -- mass-peer collaboration on the development of educational materials is an order of magnitude more complex than developing an encyclopaedia article. WE has very relevant experience in this field and we're building on our experiences. Three years ago WE had 1 registered user -- we're now on the threshold of 10000 registered accounts and learning by the day :-)
In response to your first bullet: "We need to do a better job of educating and supporting our community in participation" I propose that we add the section "Supporting Official WikiEducator Workgroups" to our guidelines. Not every Workgroup would need support, but it seems like the guidelines should describe a mechanism/criteria for regular evaluation of Workgroups, a process to identify a Workgroup that is struggling and then specific actions that the Council/community can take to offer support.