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The successful deployment of a MAZI Zone can be more challenging than one can imagine, for many reasons.
In this space we invite you to co-develop guidelines on how to address some of the most common challenges, based on real life experiences from deploying MAZI zones in different locations and among different communities.
Until now we have identified the following five important requirements for a MAZI Zone to succeed in engaging its target audience (those in proximity with it):
The most important step for a successful MAZI zone deployment is the clear understanding of the underlying networking concept and how the value of its functionality will be communicated to the potential users.
For example, a typical question is "Why is this MAZI Zone useful if Internet access is already available?"
So, if in the place where it will be deployed there is already Internet connectivity of good quality, one is faced with the decision whether the MAZI Zone should allow those connected to it to stay online (through the local Internet connection) or get them "off" the Internet when connected to the local network.
This is one of the first important decision of a MAZI Zone's admin: Offline or online mode?
Offline mode: many people need to stay online and being disconnected when joining the MAZI Zone can be a strong disincentive to engage (and could feel "deceived" if this situation was not well communicated beforehand).
Online mode: Local applications are offered as complementary, but it is important to communicate clearly the URL because after leaving the MAZI home page, users will not be automatically redirected to it and would need to type the URL to have access to the MAZI Zone. In this case, it helps if this URL is a non-typical Internet URL, ideally one that resonates with the interests of the target audience.
In both offline and online modes, it is important to provide appropriate information in the Splash Page, appearing automatically the first time a user connects to your network, similar to the kind of splash page internet users see if they connect via a cafe or hotel's free wifi: they will often see some promotional material about the service, and click on an 'I agree' button (agreeing to terms of service) before connecting to the internet.
But note that in the offline mode, the splash page might not appear automatically for certain devices and in general the overall behaviour differ from device to device. Since version 2, the MAZI Toolkit has integrated the nodogsplash platform, and so stays tuned to the latest updates of the most advanced free software in this space.
When a MAZI Zone is deployed in public spaces, available to be accessed by strangers, make sure that you prepare beforehand a printed sign with the details on how to join your MAZI Zone (i.e., the network name, SSID, and the local URL if needed). Here are some draft examples of the first deployments in different contexts:
Figure 1: A MAZI Zone called "Bio-internet", which was installed during a full-day event organized by the NeNa1 cooperative housing project in Zurich. See here for more details.
Figure 2: The sign for a MAZI Zone installed at the Berlin's Prinzessinnengarten.
We have prepared a few templates for such signs and posters, but these really need to adapted to the specific context, so don't hesitate to create your own, and feel free to share them also!
In addition to the visual elements, it is also important the selection of an appropriate SSID, especially if there is not a common space where everybody is present. Ideally, it must be informative of what your MAZI Zone is about and generate both curiosity and trust. It should also remind, or even include, the local URL to make it easier for people to type it.
A QR code provides also an easy way for people to visit the local URL.
If possible, a projection of the online activity that takes place in the MAZI Zone can play a key role. See for example, this hybrid poster including the projection of a shared NextCloud folder with "live" images from the event uploaded by all participants.
Before inviting strangers to join your MAZI Zone, make sure that you have tried it out yourself with a few friends at home, or even better in the same environment where it will be deployed. But even then, if there is the option, do approach "friendly" people and show them step by step on their screen how to join the MAZI Zone and use the different available applications.
It is very important that you are confident on how your MAZI Zone works and known issues with certain devices. For this, it can be very helpful if you install and use regularly the MAZI toolkit at home or at work for things that can be actually really useful, like sharing files, quick notes, etc.
When the basic initiation process is successful and people do join your MAZI Zone, what will they do? How will they interact between them?
Clearly, the attractiveness and clarity of the portal's main page will determine the success of your MAZI Zone. For this, it is highly recommended to take the time and adjust the various pieces of text to the certain situation and replace the names of the applications (Etherpad, NextCloud, etc) with the specific function that they are supposed to serve (e.g., Notes, photo sharing, etc).
Since version 2.0, you have the option to replace the default MAZI portal page with one that you will design yourself using Wordpress. This is a very powerful option that practically poses no limits on how the entry page of your MAZI Zone will look like.
As the MAZI toolkit is including more and more applications and more experience is gained in different environments we will further develop our initial set of framings describing concrete scenarios and including the corresponding "snapshots" that you can easily import in your MAZI zone. These could serve as a starting point for the customization process of the framing that is closer to your scenario.
To stimulate engagement it will be also very helpful if you allow people to view part of the content or activity in your MAZI Zone through displays or printouts. A well placed display with an appropriate scenario for interactivity can be a game changer regarding engagement in your MAZI Zone. Applications like the Guestbook and the Interview archive are particularly suit for such presentations since people can instantly see the outcome of their contributions.
People like to participate in online platforms where something is already happening. So, make sure that you have inserted already some content in the different applications that you make available in the user's portal to bootstrap the process.
Also don't forget to keep an eye on what's going on and facilitate the interactions, especially in applications like Etherpad that can become quickly messy.
More examples of signs, posters, SSIDs, etc will be made available soon (feel free to add yours)