Storing Community Documents Online
…to all of you cohousers who keep your various official documents, minutes, site map, consensus log, new-member orientation materials, etc. on-line – what software or product are you using, and how well does it work for you?
Muriel at Shadowlake Village, Blacksburg, VA
At Nubanusit Neighborhood and Farm we store everything on Google Drive. We’ve created a folder structure and assign permissions based on folders, i.e. each team in the community has its own folder and team members have edit privileges on that folder but everyone else has just view permissions. We have an admin user id who owns all the folders and is the only one with edit privileges on the main folder. This keeps the structure nice and tidy.
Permissions sometimes cause problems but generally things work pretty well. We have written custom scripts to assign permissions. This makes things easier when someone joins or leaves the neighborhood or a team.
When writing meeting minutes, the minute take opens up a Google Doc in the appropriate folder and types the minutes right there. They are immediately available for others to view and/or edit. We use a naming convention for files so that things are easily searchable, e.g. “TeamName Meeting Minutes YYYYMMDD” or similar.
We try to have docs and spreadsheets in the Google format, although sometimes we upload other formats such as pdf’s for maps.
The biggest problem we have (and have not entirely solved) is changing ownership of documents when someone leaves the community. We are trying to move to a system where that person goes through documents they own and reassigns ownership to the admin id. However we haven’t done that historically and we still have lots of files that are owned by ex-neighbors and even deceased neighbors.
ubanusit Neighborhood and Farm, New Hampshire
Old Oakland at Swans Cohousing Association is trying out XWiki (http://www.xwiki.org ). I can’t speak for the entire community, but so far I am loving it. It is like Confluence but free (open source, can be run for free but you can also pay them to host it for you). I am personally managing the installation, however if you are a non-profit (or maybe a not-for-profit?) you can request free hosting from the XWiki folks: http://www.xwiki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Hosted/ (far-right, see the “Request” button).
IMHO wikis are the way to go for this type of information. Modern user-friendly wikis like Confluence and XWiki give you control over the information architecture, user access management, and allow for relatively risk-free collaborative editing (in the sense that any change can be rolled back). The cost is that a group of someones need to be relatively competent application admins to manage users, document visibility, and related issues.
The main thing to consider with a wiki is how difficult the learning process will be for your community.
So for example, if you tried to implement MediaWiki and had to explain to everyone how to edit in wiki markup language, that solution would have been DOA in our community. It was important to me to pick a solution that had a What You See Is What You Get (WYSIWYG) editor, like you see in Word or Google Docs. I also ran a series of very basic trainings to get everyone up to speed on how a wiki works.
FWIW we do not do any online calendaring at this time.
This is a software platform specifically designed for cohousing–it has multiple calendars, a discussion board, a whole bunch of cool features. The Mosaic software, built by Sean Davey at Sonora Cohousing in Tucson, has a community dinner reservation and built-in budget system; separate calendars for general events, dinners, guest room, whatever you want; and every work team has their own email address, web page, and email archive. There is a space for general meeting minutes and general document archives. No need to use separate programs for calendaring, email, and archiving.
Mary Baker, Solid Communications
Sonora Cohousing, Tucson
Bellingham Cohousing (WA) now uses a WordPress plug-in called DMS (document management system) but this only works if your website is on WordPress. We just switched, after 16 years of using an FTP document repository.
Takoma Village recently switched to using Association Voice. It’s good for storing documents, forms, and information. We still have to use CalendarWiz for all our space reservations and team reminders (license renewal dates, etc.). And the email is primitive and expensive (apparently). Photos very small but does have albums.
It wasn’t my choice. i prefer WordPress because you can control the look and look and feel, and it does everything. But others weren’t able/interested in learning it so I was the only one who could post information. With Association Voice, we have a team of 4 people who meet together with their laptops and work on the site. The goal is to have our whole history of minutes and team notes, resident photos & bios, contact information, etc., on the site. Sections can be marked for residents or public.
They are now working on forms for meal sign ups, submitting reimbursement requests, etc.
The company will do some programing but that costs extra and it can only be within limits. They have templates that a lot of people use so changes can only go so far.
We got a deal for reasons I can’t remember and pay $50 a month plus the programming (which isn’t necessary) and extra storage. I don’t know what the storage fees are.
BUT as I said before, Groups IO has amazing features including a wiki, files, photos, calendar, database, and I don’t know what all. You can also upgrade when your files get too large.
I’m sensitive about the importance of being able to buy more space or services as you grow because we have an incredible facilities wiki on Google that doesn’t give the opportunity to add more storage. And efforts to download the info has not yet been successful.
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
Tags: communication, community documents, living in cohousing, minutes, Resources