A question from a new sumApp user prompted this post. He’s a Kumu user who saw potential in the interface, but was skeptical that people would be willing to share personal and relationship information.

I understand the concern. Data privacy is always an issue for our network mapping clients, and tactics for addressing that concern are always contextual. But in all cases, my baseline strategy is ‘Give them something to see & interact with as soon as possible – and build from there’:

Here are the steps to take, using sumApp and Kumu:

  1. Be sure you have a real reason for people to be on the map – Is it a way to connect with others at an event, or people have potential shared interests & reasons to collaborate, or what?. There has to be some kind of relevant glue.
  2. Ensure that the final map will be private (visualized in a private Kumu account) & make that clear in the ‘ask’ (both in the email & in the ‘data use’ text).
  3. Have some ‘influencers’ go first for you to map and then share that map with the rest of the map population, before asking others to participate – for instance, let’s say I have a population of 150 people I need to map.  I’ll load all 150 into sumApp and, before inviting the entire population, I’ll have my client contacts and/or other friendly influencers go in, fill out the survey & indicate their connections to the whole population of 150.
  4. Then pull that preliminary data & map it in Kumu. That gives you something to show the rest of the 150, so they can see what you’re doing with their info.
  5. Include a link to an embed of the Kumu map (in a password-protected page) into the sumApp welcome text and the email invite.
  6. Even better find an opportunity to show off the map in person to some or all of the population. You’re basically saying ‘here’s the beginning of our network map, (and here’s why we’re doing it). Now we need you to add your part to it & here’s how. . . ‘
  7. Be SURE TO load the entire population of 150 in sumApp & include them on the map from the beginning – even tho you don’t invite them to take it right away. That way, when they see the preliminary map, they’ll see themselves floating off disconnected. They usually want to rectify that – everyone wants to feel included, even on a visualization.
  8. We’ve done this exact process with as many as 1,250 people & it worked surprisingly well.

Of course, all this assumes the overall population has some kind of meaning to the people you’re mapping – that’s why it matters to them not to appear disconnected. If what you’re doing is some potentially-nefarious snooping that doesn’t potentially serve the population and they can’t see what you’re doing with it – then, of course, even these tactics aren’t going to work so well.

It’s true that at first there’s usually some resistance or hesitation. We see at least a little push-back with every map we make. But – in my experience – having something to show is what makes all the difference.

When you see a network map including yourself and/or other individuals who are meaningful to you – that engages your imagination in a special way. It stimulates your network imagination more than just seeing a network map of utterly irrelevant people does, and far more than a list of known people does. So, unless your purpose raises suspicions – most people end up participating when there’s something personally meaningful to look at.

That’s why we made sumApp be what we call ‘evergreen’, so you can add to it incrementally as you gain acceptance. You need to start SOMEWHERE and let people see their way into it. The all or nothing approach is sometimes necessary & sometimes best – but we don’t think the tools used should be the defining factor. We think you should be able to approach the process as emergently as you need to.

Otherwise you might just spin your wheels forever, trying to convince people who aren’t able to see what you see, and aren’t inclined to give personal information to something they can’t see the sense of.

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