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In my institute, there was no online (or otherwise) platform exclusively available for the current and graduated PhD students. So I created a Facebook group with a vision that the group will allow sharing and dissemination of:

  • Useful information such as conference calls, seminars, webinars, colloquia, etc.

  • Inter/intra department equipment related information (such as availability of an instrument, technical advice, etc).

  • Queries or information related to drafting manuscripts, graphing tools, and software.

  • Information on post-doc and other career related opportunities.

  • Provide a platform for networking with students of other departments with a scope for inter-disciplinary collaborations, etc.

  • Any other information useful to the institute research community.

This is my first experience as a group admin and I'm quite anxious. Is there something I could add to the scope of the group? In general, I am seeking some advice on how can I make this group more valuable to the members.

Thanks!

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    Have you made sure that people find facebook the best platform for that? I try to keep my personal life separate from my job, and my facebook presence falls into the former domain. Oct 14 '20 at 6:02
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    @lighthousekeeper Yes, there is quite an active group for all students (undergrad, masters and doctoral). However, the group and has less scope for discussions pertinent to the research students. Oct 14 '20 at 6:05
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    As someone has before me, I would caution against using Facebook. At least in my environment, more and more people are avoiding it (for the reasons, see the news). You might say: but I will reach most / all but a few people, which is true, but to those trying to avoid a controversial platform (and company) it will be extremely unfair to lock them out of all group communication.
    – cheersmate
    Oct 14 '20 at 6:53
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    @user3024069 That does not necessarily imply that most people in your target gorup would like the idea of a facebook group (I surely wouldn't). Consider alternatives like an email list or slack. Oct 14 '20 at 7:23
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    A Telegram group would be better for several reasons. Privacy and secrets not covered by this comment.
    – Alchimista
    Oct 14 '20 at 10:20
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Do not use Facebook. Academics view it as unprofessional.

Events should be managed using a calendar application.

Most other functions you want to achieve are traditionally achieved with email lists.

When setting up a platform, you do not want it to do as many things as possible. You want your platform to do one thing and do it well. That is the Unix Philosophy, and it works.

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    Things are developing beyond the outmoded restrictions of the 'Unix Philosophy'. Also I disagree that all academics view Facebook as unprofessional in their discipline - in the field I am in there is a FB group run by and visited regularly by academics. It is very useful. Maybe it is field-dependent. I should point out that though I understand the benefits of the Unix Philosophy, things are moving on from "do one thing and do it well" to "do multiple things maybe not quite as well". We may not like it, but that's how things are going. I have learned to embrace the change for the best.
    – C26
    Oct 14 '20 at 9:02
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    things are moving on from "do one thing and do it well" to "do multiple things maybe not quite as well" Do you have an example? One that does multiple things at the beginning, rather than matures that way?
    – user2768
    Oct 14 '20 at 10:35
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    @user2768 I don't understand why you're talking about mainstream online companies: Anonymous Physicist mentioned the Unix Philosophy, and my response was related to things that are Unix-like. When I said "things are moving on", I specifically meant with regard to Unix-like systems. Maybe I should have been more clear. One look at the work of companies like Red Hat/Canonical and their OSs e.g. Fedora, RHEL, Ubuntu and derivatives will show the way things are going and those OSs that utilise the 'Unix Philosophy' e.g. Slackware, are being increasingly left in the past.
    – C26
    Oct 14 '20 at 14:22
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    2/2 - it would have been better to just say "do one thing and do it well" which can relate do anything one wants. If you tie it to Unix you introduce a very specific element to the topic.
    – C26
    Oct 14 '20 at 15:07
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    I agree with the sentiment to not use Facebook, but please god I don't want to be on more mailing lists. However, I good calendar management is a good idea. It frustrates me to no end my dept won't invite us to events, but wants us to add the "departmental calendar" to our goo cals; which just clutters them more, when all I'm looking for is the weekly lunch. Oct 14 '20 at 17:34
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I deleted Facebook several years ago, but that's not where I'm going with this answer, although you will get people who don't have or want a Facebook.

Facebook is a poor way to share persistent information. The newsfeed rapidly scrolls past, and comment threading is rather poor, and not built for information-dense sharing like you might get when working through a tricky problem. When you post "Abstract deadline next Friday!" it will disappear within days, potentially not being shown to people who log on a few days later.

Furthermore, if this page is for the entire institute (I assume you mean university), you are going to get many posts from every discipline. I don't need my page full of physics seminars and pharmacology retreats.

For this, I would suggest Slack (or, hesitantly, Discord). For one, Slack already has an air of professionalism, and many groups I know use it internally.

But with Slack/Discord, you can create channels for: e.g. announcements, deadlines, events, software help, writing help, and memes/off-topic. That way each topic is canalized, and if I don't want to help people write, I can just skip that channel, and I can totally ignore the ones not relevant to my field.

I hesitate to recommend Discord because it is very confusing for non-technical people; even more so than Slack, IMO. And, as of right now, it will be mostly gamers who have it installed. Many other types of people will have Slack, and it has decent integrations with cloud services like Google and Microsoft. I suspect you would have more difficulty setting up Slack in some fields compared to others. In that sense, Facebook is a good choice for ease of accessibility.

That said, Discord does have some powerful tools to, for example, tag someone as a physicist, which allows them to see the physics channels and nothing else. Discord is also seen as much more casual; but others on this site have posted they've had a lot of success with it (but when their field is on their profile, they're all in computer science!).

I said in a comment, calendar integration is also critical. I and many others live off their Google Calendar or similar. So if you have a nice calendar system, where I can sign up for an event (then you can see how many people are gonna come), and sync it to my calendar (but not the other, irrelevant events), I would use your system much more. Discord has some decent tools for this, not sure about Slack.

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    Slack is great, but it hides everything older than the last 10,000 messages unless you pay, so for an active group it may not be a good solution to preserve information.
    – GoodDeeds
    Oct 14 '20 at 18:32
  • @GoodDeeds I've never needed to go that far back (but obviously it would scale with the size of the group), but good point. Oct 14 '20 at 18:44
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    The question was not "which platform shall I use?" but "what advice can you give me for managing my Facebook group?". Also many users here underestimate how unwilling people are to move from one type of social media to another if they're not already using it. All that will happen is the group will lose users.
    – C26
    Oct 14 '20 at 20:10
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    @C26 It's called a "frame challenge" and is pretty well-established on the SE network. Plus, someone else might come to this question having not yet picked a platform, to whom my answer could be useful. As for the "not already using it" point, that's why I suggested Slack, because many researchers already do use it! Thanks. Oct 14 '20 at 20:14
  • @AzorAhai--hehim this doesn't look like a frame challenge to me, it's answering an entirely different question. A frame challenge would be Q: "what can I add to the scope of the Facebook group to improve it?" - A: "as well as X & Y, you don't only add to the scope of the group yourself, you ask others and get in additional people. You may want to amass a small admin team". What has happened here is the OP has asked, "how can I improve my FB group" and the answers have been, "by not using FB". Not helpful.
    – C26
    Oct 15 '20 at 8:57
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Leaving aside the fact that FB is evil, from the outside looking in, it appears nondeterministic. Not everyone sees the same messages, and you can't guarantee that any member will see any given message. Finding old messages is hard.

The software that powers Stack Exchange, or at least a version of it, is available to universities very inexpensively as Discourse: https://www.discourse.org/ Someone else has already mentioned Telegram. If I had a limited budget and a graduate student who spoke Unix, I'd look into CoSy: http://cosy.sourceforge.net/

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I think the first thing would be to involve some staff in the group, if only one or two members. If one asks to be another admin [they may not do], it's worth considering, but it will be useful to have someone else on hand who can feed back with greater immediacy to the faculty.

You already have a handle on most things which will be useful to students in your department. It also might be a good idea to drop in information on journals and podcasts which may relate to your field, as well as information on publishing for other members of the department. You may well find as time goes on that the group will find its own natural identity and momentum, and you already have plenty of good ideas on how to make it useful to the other students. It sounds like you are involved in music, so some relevant events could be posted when appropriate [you mention "instruments", but this could relate to scientific purposes as well, I am aware].

It can be tempting to make a group like this private, but I think it would benefit the department to make it publicly viewable and postable. This way, if any future students or people outside the department wish to contribute useful information, they can do so. If this becomes open to abuse, you can just close the group and make posting for verified students.

Above all, as the admin, it's good to reach out and ask open questions of the student base as to what they need and what you can do to improve things in the department for them, if only relaying information to the staff base. It may also be a good idea to use the group as an occasional base to organise intra-department online socials.

Things like this can either take minimal time and effort or sometimes they can get very popular and overwhelming. In such cases another admin would certainly be a great asset and also, in such a case, I'm sure there would be one or two keen students who would be more than willing to assist.

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