TransitCamp: Moving the Metronauts Community Online

Metronauts already has a website, of course, but there’s more to an online community than a website: it’s about enabling and fostering collaboration. The Metronauts site is a place for people who are passionate about transit in the greater Toronto area.

There are a three main collaboration features on the site: conversations, projects and events. Conversations and projects are similar to blog posts in that you can create one, add tags (using your own folksonomy), and add comments to one started by someone else. You can vote for your favourite conversations to improve their karma (popularity). Events are a bit more structured, in that they have information such as date/time and location that can be fed into calendaring formats.

This isn’t just for "official" (if there were such a thing) Metronaut website people to add conversations, projects and events; anyone in the community can participate, such as Rannie Turingan’s project for a visual essay contest. Events can be big ones like today’s TransitCamp, or smaller events focused on specific transit topics. Any other page on the site can include embedded video, photos, slides and other multimedia.

Ideas for publicizing the efforts:

  • Flash mob of Metronauts on a busy transit route in order to raise awareness of transit issues.
  • Volunteer advocates to help distribute transit information at major stations: the Metronauts Ground Crew.
  • How do we engage drivers in the conversation to get them involved and interested in transit?
  • Create Facebook events for things such as "take transit to work day", where you can invite your Facebook friends who typically drive to try out transit.

Outstanding questions about the site:

  • What should the Metronauts site be? When to use the Metronauts site directly versus linking to a social networking site such as Facebook?
  • What is the role of a Metronauts site moderator?
  • How do we syndicate or blogroll external blog posts onto the site?
  • How do we involve people who aren’t particularly tech-savvy, both in terms of presenting simplified interfaces and training/mentoring? This is a classic problem with any sort of user-generated content site, where more than half of the population isn’t even visiting the site, and a large portion of the remainder are spectators or occasional commenters.

Metrolinx is also seeking engagement with the community, both through the Metronauts site and through other venues that they might use to allow community involvement in the transit planning process.

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