For a group of about 30 of America”s most senior mediators who want to stay in touch and collaborate remotely and securely, Adroit built a “walled garden” website. Only members can log into this private online social network and see its contents, but all members can see most everything that goes on within it.
- jointly draft texts online
- upload and download digital files of any kind (photos, documents, etc.)
- share a calendar and event details
- blog long threaded discussions and commentary
- tweet short squibs, and
- send one-to-one private messages.
We built this site on by customizing free open-source software called Elgg. We assembled and modified existing piece-parts of code from the open-source community to tailor this tool for these users. That meant building up the “walls” (so that others could not gain access) and flattening the “garden” (so that all members could see each others” activity). It meant making login easy and recovering passwords even easier. We created accounts for members ahead of time so that they could start using the site immediately. We built FAQ and feedback loops into the site, and introduced it with a handy roadmap of its functions. And we honored requests that members be given the option to be automatically emailed every time something on the site changes, keeping people informed without requiring them to investigate.
Unlike Facebook, this kind of site allows for joint coauthorship and document-sharing. Unlike LinkedIn, it’s less about networking with new business connections than thoughtfully collaborating remotely and securely with colleagues you already know. And unlike Google Wave, it’s an intuitive tool that isn’t being phased out any time soon.