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Tools That Work: Ning and MailChimp
Category: Tools
Resource Type: Link
Date Posted: 01/08/2010
Screenshot of COSEE Alaska SEANET site

How do you communicate among hundreds of ocean scientists and educators spread across the largest, but most-wired, state in the country? How do you add in the many scientists who do their research in Alaska’s seas but have home institutions in many other states? COSEE Alaska identified the development and support of SeaNET, the Network of Scientists and Educators in Alaska, as one the highest priorities of their project.

COSEE Alaska staff decided to begin building the communications network with a combination of a listserv and a social networking site. For the listserv we chose MailChimp, the cousin to Survey Monkey, the popular online survey tool. MailChimp is a marketing tool with the capability of sending out mass emails and managing a variety of mailing lists. COSEE Alaska staff liked the customized formatting for messages and the fact there was no cost for a list of up to 500 email addresses. For social networking we chose Ning, which has a more professional look and feel than Facebook, but which can be customized with an attractive format and provides for easy postings of calendar events, announcements, blogs, and photo and video galleries. We chose to set up SeaNET as a public site, with these types of content available to anyone who visited the site and the additional opportunity to join as a group member and interact with other members through a forum and sub-groups organized around specific topics.

Since the launch, SeaNET Program Manager Marilyn Sigman has been posting new content about Alaska ocean climate change and Alaska Native knowledge about climate change approximately every two weeks, including updates to a calendar of conferences, science outreach events, and trainings; a round-up of recent science news items; and highlighted educational resources. COSEE Alaska’s website links directly to the Ning site, serves as an archive for the postings, and also links to the calendar that is maintained and updated on the Ning site.

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