Re: community communications: how to do it
From: Sharon Villines (
Date: Sun, 31 Oct 2010 07:29:52 -0700 (PDT)
On 30 Oct 2010, at 9:39 AM, Jude Foster wrote:

> How has your community worked out its business, personal, team communication
> system?  

When anyone actually works out communications, let me know. I think this is one 
of the most difficult problems in diversity. Diversity includes widely varying 
communications ability, preferences, tolerance, capacity, you name it. 

And everyone has proof that the whole problem with communications is this 
medium or that.

The one thing we did at Takoma Village that has helped enormously was to 
establish one bulletin board in the frint hall of the CH as the place where all 
current and emergency information that is relevant to everyone can be found. 
Items there are limited to THIS WEEK. RIGHT NOW. That means it changes often so 
it attracts your eye. It is never the same old, same old.

At the very top, above eye level are the annual schedule for membership 
meetings and board meetings and a small white board where people write their 
guests' names.

At eye level, a large white board with (1) the week's schedule of events, (2) 
reminders for this and that, and (3) Thank You's. Alicia is our detail person 
with perfect handwriting who transfers this information from the online 
calendar (we now use CalendarWiz) and other sources to the whiteboard. 

Beside that are various things thumbtacked up. Results of the most recent 
workday, agenda for a meeting, thank you cards from  a guest, found keys and 
earrings, why the internet is down (again), etc.

That has been a major success since it's inception 8-9 years ago. In an 
emergency it becomes command central. Alicia recently quit for two weeks 
because someone (we hope a teen exercising their new found freedom to behave 
independently) was randomly erasing parts of it. Not having it caused 
dislocation system wide.

Passwords are currently driving me nuts partly because we have transitioned 
into new web services and I'm the person who maintains most of them and helps 
everyone get connected. The same username and password are used by everyone for 
most of the following but not all.

1. Website — a public and a members-only section.

2. Google Wiki — the newest and I think the best reference and storage idea 
ever. It is fabulous. We keep our user manual there. It started as a Facilities 
Team resource but is expanding. It will soon become the Wikipedia of Takoma 

3. A guest room calendar that was designed by a former member that sits there 
by itself with all the features we need — queue and time limits on reservations 
but that's all it does. And if it breaks, it's dust.

4. Calendar Wiz for reserving CH room and for announcing any off-site events as 
well. This has tons of features we haven't fully explored yet. It doesn't have 
a queue feature or allow you to limit reservations to 4 months into the future 
so we still have two calendars.

5. Cubbies for each unit. We discourage wholesale copying to put flyers in each 
cubby but these are used for individual passing back and forth of things.

6. YahooGroups email lists for all members and for each team, plus special 
interest lists. Some teams use their lists actively, some rarely. Special 
interest lists ebb and flow. Parents with children in residence, exercise room, 
landscaping, etc.

Our 12 year old YahooGroups list is now a sea of impossible-to-search messages. 
tens of thousands. I have to contact Yahoo and ask if it is time to just start 
a new list. I get anxious that it will disappear. I can no longer trust that 
when I search and announce, "these are the only 10 messages on this topic we 
decided in 2003" that that is true.


Mastering a medium is less of a problem than 10 years ago but the transition to 
a wiki, for example, and the different passwords necessary are a nightmare for 
me because I'm the one who helps people with access problems. Google wiki 
requires that everyone have a google account. We set up a general account for 
people who just read but it has no entry privileges because we need to know who 
entered what. That requires an individual account and password, etc. 
Fortunately the skills and interest in entering are usually accompanied by the 
ability to figure out the username and password.

We have some "email should be absolutely banned from the face of the earth and 
is the source of all evil" and some "email should be required because it is 
inclusive and is the reason we are able to tolerate diversity at all" people. 
The evil power that is ascribed to email is matched only by the glorification 
of face-to-face. The contradictions in the logic I find mind-boggling. 

Communications comes down to people contact. How much can people tolerate? What 
purpose does it serve? How much diversity can be accommodated? Tower of Babel. 

And values. Is face-to-face more important to you than inclusiveness? We have 
people who are becoming more and more exclusive. They don't care right now what 
is happening at the other end of the community and they don't want to hear 
about it. This cycles for all of us, but in a residential community it affects 
communications of information necessary for living as well as of personal 

The desire to withdraw can extend to not sending that email about the purchase 
of a blah-blah that is supposed to be available to everyone and isn't because 
they don't know it exists. Segregation was maintained for decades by simply 
restricting communications, so this is a big issue if we want inclusive 

> multi-generational (with all that implies)?

Multi-generational is big and a whole other topic. It affects communication but 
not in the way it did a few years ago — "over 60 can't do computers." It is big 
because people with young children in residence consider them to be the center 
of community life because they are the center of their own lives. As I approach 
70, there are three generations of children below me and everything is about 

Sharon Villines
Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC

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