We think it is time for a SuSanA mobile social group. Will it be Whatsapp, Telegram, Slack or other?... Whats your say?

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  • Chaiwe
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We think it is time for a SuSanA mobile social group. Will it be Whatsapp, Telegram, Slack or other?... Whats your say?

Dear All,

The SuSanA forum has continued to grow over the years, with continued interaction from different WASH enthusiasts from across the globe and our membership base now exceeds 13,000 individuals and organisations. As one way to increase and improve engagement for users, the SuSanA forum moderation team is prompted to think about and is willing to hear opinions about creating a SuSanA Whatsapp or Telegram group. How do people feel about creating SuSanA groups on either platforms?

Whatsapp and Telegram are both instant messaging platforms that are designed to make communication easier and convenient. Telegram allows users to share any type of files up to 1.5 GB while Whatsapp restricts the number of images, videos and document-type files. Additionally, each app comes with access to group messaging, although you can invite more people to a group with Telegram up to 200,000 compared to a restricted number of 256 on WhatsApp. Telegram also has the unique feature of channels similar to the experience that you get on apps like Slack or Microsoft Teams.

In the business space, where these collaboration tools are becoming more popular, channels are a familiar way for groups to stay up-to-date with what’s happening in a specific environment. Any files that are sent in those channels or instant messages are also saved to the cloud, so you can transfer files from one contact to another with ease with no need to re-upload between conversations.

As SuSanA continues to strive to connect sanitation experts across the globe, and provide a voice for all members. Making a decision on this is best achieved through a broader consensus. Please feel free to share your thoughts (pros and cons) and opinions on creating a SuSanA group either on Whatsapp, Telegram or other and how this could complement the current forum arrangement.

Regards,
Chaiwe 

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Comment by moderator (EvM): There is already a social Whatsapp group called Poo Crew for informal chatting. Anyone can join it but it's close to reaching its limit of 256 members.
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Chaiwe Mushauko-Sanderse BSc. NRM, MPH
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  • Elisabeth
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Re: We think it is time for a SuSanA mobile social group. Will it be Whatsapp, Telegram, Slack or other?... Whats your say?

Thank you for initiating this thread, Chaiwe. I feel that Slack could be a good option for us. Whilst people might say "oh not, not another app!", I think it has its merits:
  • It can deal with larger groups
  • It allows threaded conversations
  • It allows several channels
  • It doesn't need to know your mobile phone number
  • It works on mobile phones as well as on computers
And I don't think it will be a competition to this discussion forum, rather complimentary. It would be used for:
  • Quick informal posts and chats
  • Some social interactions
  • Posts that are not meant to be findable with Google searches
  • To alert people to discussion thread of the SuSanA forum
  • Quick questions by newbies
I used Slack for the first time last year as part of our Wikipedia edit-a-thon Wiki4Climate . It worked well, and the basic version of Slack is for free. If you want to see what it looks like, join the Wiki4Climate Slack channel here . 

Whatsapp has the advantage that many of us use it already. However, I think Whatsapp will eventually loose its popularity (as will Facebook). Also, I don't think it is meant for larger groups. The official group size limit is 256 (although apparently it can be extended beyond that).

Telegram and Signal are similar to Whatsapp but lesser known. Apparently Telegram is less secure against hackers. See e.g. this article .

If we plan to open up a new Slack channel then the strategic question is:
  • Should it be SuSanA branded, or should it go beyond SuSanA? In particular: should it include water supply as an equal component, or should it focus purely on sanitation and hygiene? So should it be a WASH communication platform, or a sanitation one? Could it perhaps be a joint effort between several players, e.g. SuSanA and RWSN.
Regards,
Elisabeth
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  • reidharvey7734
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Re: We think it is time for a SuSanA mobile social group. Will it be Whatsapp, Telegram, Slack or other?... Whats your say?

A SuSanA mobile social group would be great in whatever format. But how about Zoom? Meeting face to face can be wonderful.
All the best,
Reid
Anthony Reid Harvey, ceramic industrial designer
Niagara Falls, NY USA
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  • Chaiwe
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Re: We think it is time for a SuSanA mobile social group. Will it be Whatsapp, Telegram, Slack or other?... Whats your say?

Thank Elisabeth for your feedback. Slack looks really good and seems to accommodate a lot of what we are looking for. What do the numbers look like currently with respect to usage? and is there a fair distribution of users across the globe? 

Reid, I quite like the idea of Zoom meetings (or webinars). Of course, we do have SuSanA  Network meetings at least once or twice a year (virtually now on account of Covid) so maybe the question may arise as to how this would be different? Do you have any suggested objectives in mind to set something like this apart?

Chaiwe
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Chaiwe Mushauko-Sanderse BSc. NRM, MPH
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  • depinder
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Re: We think it is time for a SuSanA mobile social group. Will it be Whatsapp, Telegram, Slack or other?... Whats your say?

Any mobile platform that has a larger number of participants, will be best. One of the shortcomings of a mobile platform is the length of a post that you can make. Discussions are hampered and sometimes mis communication happens because of language use. 

A selective use of mobile option with be better. I suggest only news and announcements are made on the mobile platform. That people can check and be updated. Discussions and long commentaries should be encouraged on the web platform.

Zoom meetings and webinars should be rolled out by Susana. 
Please initiate this on priority.
Allocate a weekly zoom meet for 45 minutes to each working group in rotation. In addition invite any Working Group to take special sessions
Depinder Kapur is an independent Senior Development and WASH expert. He was till recently leading the Sanitation Capacity Building Platform of National Institute of Urban Affairs in New Delhi that is focussed on non sewered sanitation systems( scbp.niua.org). He has worked with AKRSP, SPWD, CARE(Director NRM), Oxfam(Program & Advocacy Director), WaterAid India(Country Head) and WSSCC(National Coordinator).

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Re: We think it is time for a SuSanA mobile social group. Will it be Whatsapp, Telegram, Slack or other?... Whats your say?

SUSANA members are most welcome to join The Sanitation Conversation on Clubhouse.

For those not familiar, Clubhouse is a free audio only app that allows users to talk and listen in real time.  The app brings together anyone and everyone with shared interests in ‘rooms’ managed by Moderators. This allows anyone who wants to speak to do so.

Clubhouse is only available on iOS for iPhone at the moment, although an Android app is being trialled in the UK Google store. That will expand in due course.

PM me if you would like an invitation.

https://www.joinclubhouse.com/club/sanitation-conversation
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  • JKMakowka
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Re: We think it is time for a SuSanA mobile social group. Will it be Whatsapp, Telegram, Slack or other?... Whats your say?

I am personally not a big fan of these mobile channels, but I think Telegram would be the better option.

It is available in countries that block other options and the clients are open-source and thus available in countries that block the Google Playstore. It also does not require a phone number to be shared (which is quite vital for privacy of the users). It can also be used on a PC without the need to link a mobile phone.

Last but not least, it can be relatively easily integrated and bridged to other services, which might be interesting in the medium term.
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  • paresh
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Re: We think it is time for a SuSanA mobile social group. Will it be Whatsapp, Telegram, Slack or other?... Whats your say?

I think we need to first decide the central purpose of such a move. If the purpose is to make it easy for people to make and read posts, contribute to ongoing discussions, then the most popular of the platforms should be used. As a member of the 'Poo Crew' Whatsapp group pointed out, they are able to participate in the discussions on WA as they can do it passively. In that sense, getting people to add another application that they otherwise do not use is asking too much. 

To add to Kris's list of advantages of telegram,  unlike Whatsapp, old communication is visible to newly added members. This is a big advantage for a dynamic group like ours. I don't know if slack offers this feature. 

Regards
paresh
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Re: We think it is time for a SuSanA mobile social group. Will it be Whatsapp, Telegram, Slack or other?... Whats your say?

With so many members from around the world a real time chat space is not a good solution. I have been operating the largest knowledge sharing platform in the water sector with over 115,000 members for over ten years at TheWaterNetwork.com . Slack is appropriate for small teams that are actively working on  a project together, it gets expensive fast if you want to scale and does not have a good content management engine or good Q&A. I would be delighted to provide SuSana the same platform that we use for The Water network. It is highly configurable so does not need to be as complex and comprehensive as the water network without sacrificing functionality. Let me know to whom I can give a demo.

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  • Elisabeth
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Re: We think it is time for a SuSanA mobile social group. Will it be Whatsapp, Telegram, Slack or other?... Whats your say?

Hi Trudi,
Thanks for reaching out. I'll check with Finn Staack (SuSanA secretariat) if he wants to make an appointment to receive a demo from you.
However, I think our two systems are not really very compatible. Looking at the link you provided I see mainly a news feed that looks similar to Newsfeeds from Linkedin. Secondly, I see something that is probably like a discussion forum but it requires a login for reading. Even if the login is for free, this would go against our grain: we've always said we want the posts on this forum to be findable with search engines; a login system for reading would prevent that.

I am impressed as it seems you have found a workable business model where you don't rely on an external funder but generate your own income. This is something we have not yet achieved with SuSanA (the bulk of funding for the SuSanA secretariat has been from the German ministry BMZ since 2007). See also my post about future funding here

The SuSanA network will probably never grow as big as yours. After 13 years, we have now reached nearly 14,000 members (for stats see here ).  I would see an online chat tool as something that might appeal to perhaps 5% of our members, so let's say 750 people. For that, Slack might still be workable. The idea would be that it would go hand in hand with the discussion forum. 

But the jury is not yet out, and I think we need to collect further brainstorming inputs. So thank you again for your post!

Regards,
Elisabeth
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Re: We think it is time for a SuSanA mobile social group. Will it be Whatsapp, Telegram, Slack or other?... Whats your say?

Hi Elizabeth, Our platform enables knowledge management, communications, smart help desk, Document management, events, tasks... What you see on TheWater Network is how we have configured it. It is open access and all posts in all public groups are discoverable by google and can be read by anyone. Each community can be configured for the use case you prefer. So please recognize that the points that you make are not valid for our platform. In order to understand it best is to have a 30 minute demo.
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  • Elisabeth
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Re: We think it is time for a SuSanA mobile social group. Will it be Whatsapp, Telegram, Slack or other?... Whats your say?

Hi Kris and Paresh,
I agree with the advantages you have mentioned for Telegram over Whatsapp. However, I see further advantages with Slack in the fact that the search functions are better, and threaded replies can be used. Kris: was there a particular reason why you dismissed Slack?

The overall purpose of having an online chat channel (in parallel to the forum) would be - as Chaiwe pointed out in her starting post - "As one way to increase and improve engagement for users". To spell that out a bit more, I foresee its purposes as this:

It could be used
  1. ... for "social" messages; messages that are not meant to be preserved forever.
  2. ... to draw some attention to new forum posts that are particularly important and are in danger of being overlooked. 
  3. ... for informal, quick questions or announcements.
  4. ...by novices who feel they are not qualified enough yet to make a "proper" forum post, and who want to test the waters first.
Are there other purposes that I haven't thought of yet?

I don't think it's a problem to install another App. We all have so many apps on our phone, what's one more app... You could decide if you wanted push notifications from the App or if you just wanted e-mail notifications.

Thanks for the inputs so far, please keep them coming. We're still in the brainstorming phase.

Regards,
Elisabeth
Head moderator of this Discussion Forum
(with financial support by GIZ from July to October 2021)

Dr. Elisabeth von Muench
Independent consultant located in Brisbane, Australia
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Twitter: @EvMuench
Founder of WikiProject Sanitation: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Sanitation
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