Neighborhood network builders- a summary

2012-05-08 / The Work Department

As part of our research for the Commotion Human Interface Guidelines, we interviewed four people who have been involved in building community wireless networks around Detroit (see earlier blog posts). Based on these interviews and our experience working with various users, we recommend that Commotion developers and organizers implement the following concepts:

Building successful software

Our interviews confirmed that users expect long-term reliability, speed, and ease of use when using wireless devices. The Commotion user interface should:

  1. Walk a user through the setup process.
  2. Work well across platforms, browsers, and devices.
  3. Be as fast as using a non-mesh WiFi access point.
  4. Help users understand mesh network security.
  5. Allow for easy monitoring of network status in terms that users can understand.
  6. Offer troubleshooting suggestions when a network does not work correctly.

Building a successful neighborhood network

  1. Start with dedicated individuals and neighborhood institutions (community centers, housing complexes, churches, and schools).
  2. Offer clear and accessible guidance or training for how to create a network without deep technical expertise.
  3. Give neighbors the tools to teach others about why a network is useful and how to use it.
  4. Engage young people as managers and/or promoters of a network.
  5. Offer simple but useful applications for neighbors to use in the early stages of a network. These should be applications that concretely improve their lives or communication with one another. Introduce more advanced applications only once a community has some experience and comfort using simple applications.