This month's First Thursday online meeting turned out to be an introduction and experiment for me in the use and benefits of an EtherPad.
Pamela Mclean has been 'hosting' these meetings on a EtherPad for a few months now. A major benefit is that it is a public forum where people can post during the month at a time which is convenient for them. This means that this format can be more inclusive.
People can post apologies or contributions before or after the agreed one hour online real-time typed discussion. For example, Pam had previous had an email from Sam, a regular contributor from Rusinga Island, who explained that it was unlikely that he could get online and join in and told us that:
"I have been working and monitoring the women over the food trade as we agreed initially. Good, all seems applicable because they all believe in revolving fund as we agreed. Although we are able to avail vegestables, beans, peas and other edibles."
Pam herself was travelling but was able to set up the meeting well in advance and can view the archive after the hour long 'real time' typed meeting. She can then also add her comments to the general debate.
The EtherPad enabled me to briefly meeting with Steve from Columbus, USA and to catch up with Andy from the UK (who was able to give me some technical help with photo problem I was experiencing).
The structure of signing in and writing a brief introduction for yourself (having chosen a colour for your text) I found to be a useful tool. this will be helpful when there are more people attending. This is because as these introduction are left in the main text box new-comers can easily refer to these instead of having to struggle to read the whole 'conversation' as they need to do for example with Skype.
All in all I found using the EhtherPad to be a useful and stimulating experience and I look forward to developing this format and to applying it to First Thursday and other suitable situations where this form of communication lends itself.