Saturday, July 24, 2004

Too Darn Hot to Blog - Helps one be Less Blog-Obsessed!

Since I returned home I have been trying to catch up on my blog reading. This is not working well. I have tagged a bunch of things to read/review/blog but I'm not getting through to the point of blogging. Now I'm heading out again tomorrow for a client gig through Friday. Catch up? Nope. Ain't gonna happen.

As I've done before over the past few months, I find it helpful to stop and reflect on my blogging. What is it acomplishing for me? For others? How does it fit into my life? One of my current personal persuits has been to try and work less (work=loosely defined as me sitting at my computer either doing paid client work, blogging, reading, etc.) I totally let go during vacation, and I'm VERY happy about that. So I want to keep paying attention to balance.

Here are a few observations from the now-slightly-less-obsessed-blogging-woman:

  • I think "catching up" is not productive in blog reading unless I have a ton of free time. I am going to mark all my subscriptions "read" and go from there. Let go. Ahhh...
  • I need to examine how much I want to blog others' good stuff. Other people do a good job of that. If I just blog it, without some throughful reflection or review, I'm not sure it adds value. But I'm not sure about that. Thoughts?
  • When it is 96 degrees in Seattle (VERY unusual) one should head to the basement with a cool drink and turn off the computer.

So... I'm going to save all the stuff I have blogged as a draft. If it gets up next week, fine. If not, I'll share my cool drink with you.

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Friday, July 23, 2004

Attention Canadians Working Abroad in NGOs. Blog Opportunity!

The Civiblog Project
The Citizen Lab is organizing a new project called Civiblog that involves making available to Canadians working for NGOs abroad free blogging space. For those who don’t know, blogs (or weblogs as they are also called) are online (ie Internet-based) daily journals.

We are looking to find as many Canadians as we can who are working for NGOS abroad to write blogs that will be hosted on the Civiblog community of sites.

(One example of such a blog that we've already created is the Kandahar Chronicles, written by an MSF logistician working in Afghanistan, which can be found here:

There will be one major "meta-site," maintained by us at the Citizen Lab, that will link together all of the participants and house a collection of constantly updated resources that participants might find useful -- things like reports on staying safe in zones of conflict, job postings, travel advisories, etc. We anticipate hundreds of Canadian-NGO bloggers creating over time a virtual community that will benefit everyone.

The site is currently under construction, but can be viewed here:

Participation costs nothing. The blog space will be free. Participants can update their blogs as often or as seldom as they like and it is up to them to decide what they are able or want to write about.

We will also make available space on the blogs for digital pictures and videos to be posted for those who have the equipment.

It’s a great way to host one’s own website for free so that friends and family can keep in touch.

If you are interested or want to hear more, please contact the person in charge of the project, Graeme Bunton, at

Ron Deibert

Ronald J. Deibert
Associate Professor of Political Science
Director, the Citizen Lab
Munk Centre for International Studies
University of Toronto
1 Devonshire Place
Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5S-3K7
Phone: (416) 946-8916
Fax: (416) 946-8915

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Thursday, July 22, 2004

Project Harmony Armenia - Online Facilitation Train the Trainer's Guide

Online Facilitation Train the Trainer's Guide

For the last two years I have had the honor, pleasure and great learning opportunity to work with the Armenian School Connectivity Project of Project Harmony Armenia. This spring we completed the second phase of an online facilitation training project (blended online/F2F/online). As part of our work, we created a train-the-trainers resource kit which is now on the ASCP website. Here is their introduction:

Project Harmony has begun to establish a legacy of helping individuals, groups and communities use online communication to address real local needs. Through topical online events, collaborations and partnerships, Project Harmony seeks to support change through the connection of people with shared needs and interests. One way is through the Internet using online communication and community.

Moving to this new way of communicating and blending it with our more familiar face-to-face interactions asks us to try some new things and work in new ways. This guide is designed to help trainers introduce these new ideas and ways to leaders who can then support their own online initiatives. It has been created out of the materials and experiences of Project Harmony staff and Full Circle Associates from 2002 - 2004.

This guide is not meant as a precise, step-by-step set of instructions. It is a toolkit of resources. You can determine what you need and select the appropriate pieces. You can and should adapt any piece to your situation. You may discover other pieces and can contribute them back to this guide, allowing it to become a "living, breathing" resource for connectivity-based interaction in Armenia.

This guide assumes that the user has a base knowledge and familiarity with online interaction. The PowerPoint presentations, for example, do not contain all the content and information, but instead offer you a framework to organize YOUR knowledge and experience.

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Amy Jo Kim on Conversational Interfaces

In her post Conversational Interfaces Amy Jo picks up on something that has been emerging in my work in Africa where Internet connectivity is far inferior to mobile phone connectivity. So when doing distributed collaborative activities (learning, work, play) mobile messages make up the more day-to-day "connective tissue" of the interaction while the web based discussions carry the heavier content load. What is the interface between the two? She writes:
I've been thinking lately about conversational interfaces for mobile phone apps. People use their mobiles to engage in 'extended aynchronous conversations' -- so it seems natural to use the extended conversation as an interface metaphor.

One inspiring example of conversational interface design is the work of Jellyvision, the creative minds behind the hit game You Don't Know Jack. JellyVision is kinda a one-trick pony, but it's a REALLY GOOD TRICK. Check out their ICI demos and the Jack Principles. Thought-provoking stuff.

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An Online Environment for Democratic Deliberation:

deme-principles.pdf (application/pdf Object) (Eye yi yi... haven't had time to read, but want to pass this along...)

This paper elucidates the experience and thinking behind our new web-based environment for asynchronous group deliberation: Deme (pronounced "deem"). Deme grew out of participation in and observations of group decision making and community democracy, and is being developed within a university-community partnership to enhance civic participation and to bridge digital divides. Civic decisions in the low-income, multi-lingual community of East Palo Alto, California, have mostly occurred in face-to-face meetings. This leads to a number of problems for community engagement that are amplified in a town where many people work odd shifts, have long commutes, and do not have good sources of local information other than Internet-based ones. Deme addresses these issues with a web environment aimed at making asynchronous text communication compatible with tasks that are ordinarily performed in face-to-face meetings. It has been designed for, and in collaboration with, small to medium-sized civil society groups that currently use email or message-board systems. We describe four criteria for groupware aimed at groups that ordinarily meet face-to-face: supporting the group's overall needs, comprehensive task support, enhancing group participation, and facilitating high-quality decisions. Deme's features are described with reference to these criteria.

Groupware, Online Deliberation, Social Software, Civil Society.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2004

PlaNetwork Journal Launches

PlaNetwork has posted their inaugural issue of PlaNetwork Journal, "a quarterly online publication for in-depth articles by those engaged in applying new technology to benefit the public interest." I have not read anything - yet! Their description:
The influence of information technology on fields as diverse as environmental science, biology, ecological design, alternative economics, distributed democracy, social network theory, and interactive forms of art is transforming the landscape of the possible. Over the past four years, PlaNetwork conferences have been a meeting place for researchers, software designers, entrepreneurs, independent scholars, artists, and activists working at the intersection between technology and societal transformation.

PlaNetwork Journal is a place where practitioners can present their work and ideas to those outside their own field who share their concern about the challenges facing the ecosystem and democracy.
In the July 2004 issue:

"Anybody Can Be TV: How P2P Home Video will Challenge The Network News," by Drazen Pantic -To be a real-time video journalist, all you need is a blog, a camcorder, and a laptop with WiFi.

"Earth as A Lens: Global Collaboration, GeoCommunication, and The Birth of EcoSentience," by Bonnie DeVarco -How might a dynamic, collective, 3D "GeoBrowser" transform our relationship to our planet?

"Interactivity and The Open Society," by Hardin Tibbs - In the digital age, liberal society must find new, appropriate ways to measure and value freedom.

Special Section — Social Networks: Where Software Meets Citizenship

"Network-Centric Thinking: The Internet's Challenge to Ego-Centric Institutions," by Jed Miller and Rob Stuart -When advocacy groups embrace digital democracy, the reverberations shake the whole organization.

"The Social Web: Creating An Open Social Network with XDI," by Drummond Reed, Marc Le Maitre, Bill Barnhill, Owen Davis, and Fen Labalme -New open standards introduce long-term, trusted links between people, groups, and bits over the Net.

"Indymedia's Independence: From Activist Media to Free Software," by Biella Coleman -The global, decentralized, grassroots network applies open source principles to reporting the news.

"Call for A Social Networking Bill of Rights," by Duncan Work -A social software pioneer suggests how "six degrees" websites ought to treat personal information.

"The Democracy Aid '04 Campaign," by Kajsa Klein -Why shouldn't a group of Swedish activists use the Web and MoveOn to influence the U.S. elections?

"The Pavilion: Into The 21st Century A Laboratory for Social Experiment" by Randall Packer -Exploring the esthetics of interactivity, inspired by Billy Klüver's art and technology masterpiece.

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MBA Student Suvey Project: The Blog as a Meaningful Business Tool

Matthew Lin wrote me and asked to help publicize his survey. If you leave your email addy at the end, he'll share his report. Here is his email:
Dear Nancy,

My name is Matthew Lin, an MBA candidate at University of New Brunswick at Saint John, Canada. I am currently conducting a research on how weblogs are being used as business tools, and their particular implication for small and medium enterprises. I have designed a questionnaire in order to survey individuals who publish weblogs or can describe the reasoning behind their company’s weblog. The survey will be posted online for one month, starting next week. I am seeking your assistance to promote this survey to your readers, in hope of gathering a good cross-section of business weblogs. Please spread the word!

The survey is available at:

Additional information about this project (e.g., objectives, hypotheses) are available upon request.

Thank you for your consideration. If you are aware of others who might also be
interested in posting this questionnaire URL, please feel free to forward this email to them.


Matthew Lin

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Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Back from Vacation

Ahhh, mostly offline, totally playing since July 8th. That is good medicine. Now to reenter my online reality... and a new Blogger interface! Things changed while I was gone! Pictures and stories from vacation slowly getting online at

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Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Where is my place in this network?

"Where is my place in this network? What is my community within the network that allows me to hone and grow my practice of online group facilitation?"

These questions came up for me after seeing Joe Cotherel and Jenny Ambrozek's initial data from their survey of key informants in the "online community" sector. Seeing the historical antecedents, the ever changing influences over the years, has caused me to think about where I sit in that network and how I contribute to the practice.

Joe and Jenny are working on their final report, which I hope to share here and on Many2Many a bit later this month. If you want a sneak preview, you can see their slides from their presentation at the Infonortics VC Conference last month.

(Also posted on Many2Many)

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The Art of Conversation

Via David Gurteen: Art of conversation: "Do you feel that many of the conversations you have are superficial?

Would you like to engage in conversations that show people who you really are?

The historian and thinker Theodore Zeldin... has set up a charitable foundation in England called 'The Oxford Muse', which invites people to have more challenging conversations - both with themselves and with others."

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The Community of Practice Ecosystem

Miguel Cornejo shares his paper The Community of Practice Ecosystem - On competition, cooperation, differentiation, and the role of blogs..
This idealized ecology model may never exist in practice, but points toward specialization and cooperation. A single conversation and repository core (or a coordinated multicore system) relying for specific services on outside specialist resources, and actively linking to relevant content in the creative “fringe” of blogs. These blogs would keep the alternative and dissenting views solidly backed with content, thus ensuring the liveliness of community debate.

In real life, the most probable ecosystem will include some sort of collaboration as described above, and a number of initiatives or resources that refuse to collaborate or coordinate with the bigger, wider network. Thus evolution, and creative destruction, will persist, with the community’s practitioners acting as judges and tools of the usefulness, and ultimately the success, of each competing option.
Full document at Knowledgeboard.

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Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Internal Channel 9 Team Email Thread

Internal Channel 9 Team Email Thread on Content Planning offers a fascinating peek into an internal email conversation at Microsoft. I asked Robert Scoble if it was as neat and clean as shown on the Channel9 site and he said some clips/garbage may have been taken out, but that there is a pretty clean email practice in the organization. Fast return, on topic writing and clip out the garbage. Wow. I wish that practice was more widespread.

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An Example of the Complexity of Blog Based Conversations

Liz Lawley blogged on blog research. Elijah Wright responded via email. Liz asked to bring the conversation public and it was back on a blog. Alex Halavais responded (with a blog with comments in a second column with quite a bit of space. I liked that). Elijah and a few others post comments. A reader pleads for more context and then Alex provided a summary with some more context than Liz's original post.

This story exemplified three things to me:
  • the complexity of following a conversation in blogspace, both from an attention standpoint and a technical standpoint. Think of the different ways readers might have tapped into the conversation, followed, or gotten lost. Without a rather sophisticated grasp of RSS, trackbacks and the ways things are loosely woven together, most would not follow this. (Tags on to my thesis that it is easy to start blogging from a technical standpoint, but it gets complex quickly.)
  • the subtle impact of how comments are displayed in my perception of the conversation (Alex's comments-on-same-page give a completely different feel than the comments on Corante M2M). Seeing at least three comment formats in simultaneous play between Liz's, Elijah's and Alex's was very helpful.
  • the care and passion with which some participate in the conversation. This demonstrates significant connection and reciprocity.

For me this is a really good example of how people move a medium forward, how they evolve a mode of intellectual and personal connectivity, and how embedded it is in practice -- a practice which may remain inaccessible or invisible to others.

I'm not suggesting we dumb down bloggging. Just noting that complex and subtle practices create by nature an exclusion which may or may not be desirable in different settings. Context is QUEEN!

It seems to me like I'm ready for more conversations about these practices of blogging between people. More than the tech talk. I'd love to sit behind some folks who do this and watch how they do it. Ask them what they are thinking. Ah, for a ton of free time!!! Any pointers to people who have done this?

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Monday, July 05, 2004

The Spirit of Paulo Freire in Blogland

Christine Boese, Independent researcher summons the spirit of Paulo Freire into her inquiry of blogs and the potentially controlling counterforce of organizational control when blogs show up in the workplace. Check out her paper, The Spirit of Paulo Freire in Blogland: Struggling for a Knowledge-Log Revolution
Weblogs and knowledge-logs, or “blogs” and “klogs,” have emerged into the bubble online world as a notable (and often non-commercial) social phenomenon. While some hear echoes of Web homepage voices from the mid-1990s, the blogging phenomenon during the Iraq war may have taken Web cybercultures in new directions. This qualitative and exploratory research considers the viability and social effects of the altered web page phenomenon of blogs and klogs as they affect the lives of information workers, in public Internet spaces, and with implications for private intranets. It combines ethnographic observations from a single case within the Iraq warblog phenomenon with the standpoints and personal observations from the author’s professional experience launching a klog inside CNN Headline News shortly after the war. It seeks to gain insight into the utopian and often unnecessarily technologically deterministic promise of a knowledge-log revolution and find points where the movement falls far short of that promise. While knowledge-logs can appear as efficient groupware tools for organizations, klog interface features allow political openings to change corporate cultures in ways most groupware never intended, with a goal of a dialogic, critical pedagogy through workers helping and teaching other workers outside the realm of “official policy.” Personal blog sites of journalists in the employ of large, knowledge-commodity organizations such as Time Warner release this same tension into public spaces and reveal the very real disruption on a large scale that klogs can create on a small scale. Ideas and models presented by Paulo Freire and Michel de Certeau are used as a lens for one possible interpretation of the events studied from March to November 2003.

Are blogs a tool of liberation?

Via e-Literate

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From Contentious: 10 Cool Ways to Use Furl

I love practical blog posts. I enjoyed Amy Gahran's 10 Cool Ways to Use FURL, the collective URL tool.

Here are her first 10. Check the article for her pitfalls and recommendations as well.
1. Periodical or blog support: Links die. That's just the way the Web works. Online publications include a lot of links, and print periodicals list more and more URLs (for stories and advertisers). Creating a Furl archive to support your publication can help preserve the value of older links.

2. Discussion group support: Some online dicussions mention a lot of links – articles to check out, recommended sites or services, etc. Hunting through archives of postings can be exceptionally tedious, and often fruitless. If you designate a "furler" for your discussion group (someone who creates a Furl item for every link referenced in the discussion), finding those valuable nuggets can be much easier later on.

3. E-learning reference: The e-learning experience often yields references to online resources and examples that come from both the instructor (or course creator) and the students. Why not save and organize all that valuable material in a Furl archive, where topics relate to specific sections of specific lessons?

4. Editorial planning support: Journalists and other writers who produce stories for publications get their ideas from somewhere – often from items they find online. Typically, writers gather their ideas in preparation for a story meeting for each issue, and then sit down in a room or conference call, pitch them, and get assignments. Often in this process a lot of stories get e-mailed, faxed, or printed and passed around the group. That part of the process might be handled more effectively through a Furl archive.

5. Project collaboration or committee support: Similar to the editorial meeting described above, in the planning phase of many kinds of projects collaborators or committee members seek new ideas, useful resources, and relevant examples. A Furl archive can be a good way to collect, organize, comment on, and share such material.

6. Rudimentary blogging: Many blogs are little more than link filters. That is, the authors mainly link to relevant items, perhaps with a short comment, rather than write article-style entries. If that's all you want to do with your blog, why not just create and syndicate a Furl archive instead?

7. Research support: Journalists, scholars, and others who conduct project-focused on ongoing research can use Furl to support their work. For instance, this is what my "drinking water" folders in my Furl archive are for.

8. Telling friends about cool news stories: We all do it – see a cool story in the news, copy the text, and e-mail it out to a bunch of your friends. Probably some of your friends are sick of getting those e-mails. Why not offer them a webfeed instead, that they can check out at their leisure in a more organized fashion?

9. Online bibliography: Many white papers, research reports, theses, and other documents contain bibliographies or footnotes that feature Web citations. Again, links can die – but you don't want your audience to lose access to the source material. Creating a Furl archive for each such publication can help preserve your source materials for future reference.

10. Clips file: Many writers, designers, and others have samples of their work online, and they periodically want to show examples of their work ("clips") to colleagues or prospective clients/employers. Organizing all this stuff in a Furl archive is a more reliable and convenient way to store and distribute such materials than keeping a filing cabinet stuffed with paper and making lots of photocopies.

Well, there is one suggestion that really rings true for me that I can't resist posting:
* Furl needs real group access. Right now, only an individual can create a Furl account. However, you can provide access to that account to a group simply by setting up the account with an e-mail address designated specifically for that account. This is easy to do if you have your own domain and can create new e-mail addresses for it, or are willing to create a free e-mail account for it (Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.). That's not much of a hassle, but Furl should recognize that groups such as project teams will want to be able to access the same archive.

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BlogTalk 2.0 Weblog Aggregation

via Stephen's Web ~ Edu_RSS ~ July 5, 2004. I have been playing offline and haven't had a chance to read much, but there are a lot of tempting links. That said, the lovely weather has been more tempting!

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The 7 Person Conference Bike

Estee Solomon Gray points me to a great laugh and a whole other level of collaboration hardware! The 7-Person Conference Bike!

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Another View: Blogging as Parallel Play

Michael Feldstein chimes in on Denham's post, noted in the previous entry. I like the suggestions that are emerging in this interplay, thus want to capture much of it directly.

Blogging as Parallel Play
This post is an illustration of why Denham Gray is right in his position thatthe blog is not the be-all and end-all to online purposeful conversation (e.g., learning communities, communities of practice, etc.). There are lots of great points in this post, but he gets to the heart of the matter near the end:

A cursory look shows little sustained turntaking, blog writers seldom reply directly to comments in their own blogs and themes ‘die’ quickly as individual writers move on to the next big item. Bloggers offer opinions rather than ask questions - inquiry and exploration are essential ingredients in knowledge formation.

One of the reasons is the very nature of the format. Responding here to Denham’s post on my own blog, I am obliged to address my regular readership primarily. If I addressed Denham directly, it would sound a bit weird. The context of my blog is an existing converation between me and my readership, of which the author of the post to which I am responding may or may not be a member. Rather than entering into a conversation with him, I am simply quoting him in the conversation that is already in progress (or, perhaps, the monologue that is already in progress). In contrast, were I to post a comment on Denham’s site, it would be weird for me not to respond directly (e.g., “I agree with you completely, Denham."). I would have entered his virtual parlor, so to speak.

While conversations can (and occasionally do) occur over trackback, from what I can see they (a) usually don’t last very long, (b) are very difficult to reliably stimulate/cultivate, and (c) rarely support sustained exchanges between two or three conversants, even when they do get hot. “Conversation” through blog strikes me a bit like parallel play in toddlers. We don’t blog with or to each other; we blog next to each other. Sometimes I pick up what you do in my play, and occasionally the kid next to me may, in turn, pick up on what I did. But we’re not primarily engaging each other.

On the other hand, this lack of direct engagement may be precisely one of the features that make blogs work. To begin with, I don’t need to follow social conventions and respond within the bounds of what Denham wrote. I am free to go off on a long tangent, covering whatever his post has triggered in my thought process rather than whatever I feel that I have to say in direct response to him. Second, if I’m not entirely comfortable with direct conversation, then I can feel safe within the intimacy of my blog/diary and choose not to look around to see what other people are saying in response to me. (In my blog, I get to decide whether I want to allow comments or trackbacks.) This can be liberating and valuable.

In an ideal world, you have both blogs and discussion boards. For example, in an online learning class, I’d like to implement a “trackforward” feature, where you can selectively pull an entire blog post (presumably by RSS) directly into a discussion thread, taking the conversation out of blogland (and off of the home turf of the original blogger) and into a common sandbox where everybody is invited for supervised play together.

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Denham: Knowledge exchanges in the blogosphere

I'm in a gatherer mode today - bringing together some links and blog posts that reflect some of the thinking I'm doing in my work. Commentary at the bottom.

Knowledge-at-work: Knowledge exchanges in the blogosphere
Denham writes:
Do blogs really provide an easy, effective medium for deep dialog, creative abrasion and sincere knowledge exchanges?

IMO voicing, personal publishing (= push?), journalling, ephemeral commentary and cross-linking to like-minded blogs, is but a small facet of effective exchange.

At times I think k-logs are hyped by a few evangelists. If you look closely at the record, things are not all that rosy

* reciprocity is very poor - bloggers tend to say this does not matter, it is more important to be heard, to 'voice' or 'push' and publish your view - but reciprocity and a compact record help preserve the memory and emergent meaning

* 'community' happens from individual enclaves - bloggers retreat to their personal spaces to reply, the common 'space' is then fractal, distributed and walled - it lacks cohesion and persistence

* the 'record' is fragmented even categories and RSS feeds do not produce a coherent easily readable discourse that flows

* empathy is low - most times it is about branding and spreading memes and personal opinion rtaher than engaging in dialog.

Feel you need a more neutral container, a safe 'knowledge' space to commune, a 'Ba' to build trust and sustain dialog, equal edit access to encourage true collaborative writing (annealing / refactoring / facile annotation), an easier turn-taking flow to practice persistent conversation before you can have full sharing, develop the cohesion & trust to enable creative abrasion, supply sufficient context for sharing meaning and a pull space for deep listening / reflection.

K-logs are great for gathering news, RSS certainly helps with being informed, blog tools assist with finding memes - somehow I still feel blogging lacks the structures to engage in deep dialog. A cursory look shows little sustained turntaking, blog writers seldom reply directly to comments in their own blogs and themes 'die' quickly as individual writers move on to the next big item. Bloggers offer opinions rather than ask questions - inquiry and exploration are essential ingredients in knowledge formation.

I don't question the basic belief about the social construction of knowledge. But I do question a few of these points. For example, I would not say that empathy is always low. I think empathy is much a factor of one's network (extent, quality or lack thereof) than the medium in which the interaction takes place.

I agree that we are still seeking the structures that bridge from information sharing to sense making. No new opinion from me on that. Flog that blog!

As to bloggers offering opinions rather than asking question, I'm not sure of the extent of that behavior -- I have no data. I have seen that when I ask questions in this blog, I get responses. And I try to respond. (There are some tool issues involved, as well as time!)

What I am wondering about outloud now is how I use my blog. Do I come at it from a more social construction from past experience and thus get a more community based experience out of it? Does my past inform my blogstyle? How do I find others who share this communal approach in a more explicit way?

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Saturday, July 03, 2004

Weekend Fun: Play 20 Questions

20Q Login is the place to start. Thanks to David.

The computer beat me. I was thinking of zucchini.

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McGee Amplify's on "Don't Practice? Don't Preach!"

Jim McGee exemplifies how sharing experience and trying to understand those experiences makes us collectively smarter when we try and talk about tools and how we use them. Look at the role of self reflection and awareness as you read this bit from Jim:
I'm one of those, for example, who finds web-based discussion less satisfying than blogging. Denham, on the other hand, appears to prefer web-based discussion. But he has made the effort to try the alternatives and can ground his preferences in that experience. You need to "go native" long enough to grasp what makes each of these new experiences worthwhile in their own right. You can't stop at the metaphorical level. And you can't stay detached.

There are two reasons I prefer blogging over web-based discussion. First, it allows me to get my own thoughts in order at my own pace. I lose the thread in threaded discussions. Second, blogs make it easier for me to find and link to others' thinking. The conversation moves at a slower pace and in chunks I find more satisfying.

All of these tools ought to be in the repetoire of any knowledge worker. But that requires a commitment to experimenting and working with the tools long enough to discover their signature rhythms and styles. That runs counter to software marketing practices that emphasize "out of the box experince" over time enough to learn how to use the tools and fit them to your needs. Those of us who are scouts in these new territories need to think about how to ease the transition for the settlers who will follow.

What I learned reading this echoes something Lilia mentioned last month at a gathering in the Netherlands -- this need to organize one thoughts and resources. It struck me that my entry into the online interaction world was to see others' thoughts and then to discuss them. I never had that "organizing" thing in mind.

Jenny Ambrozek asked me in email a while back about how the way I went online has influenced my development and thinking. I've been chewing on that. The event that triggered my deep dive was participation in Howard Rheingold's Electric Minds - right from the get go. It was the contact with people I did not have in my F2F life, and the conversations this contact enabled, that changed me. So I was clearly "conversation" centric from the start, not information or idea sharing out. My attention over the years has been around this and the social structures that support connection and conversation.

But dang, when someone points another perspective out to me, even better, with examples, I get it. I get it even better when they help me understand not just the functions of a tool, but their experience of those functions. Then I can expand my repetoire of how I use tools. Now THAT is social, friends. It ain't the software, it's the people. I'll keep repeating this, so fair warning, dear reader. Fair warning!

FYI, this references both a post here and on Many2Many

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Kismet: Scoble Blogs on a New Multimedia Tool, Winov

I blog about video, then start cruising my blogroll and look what I find! Check out: Video fun over at Winnov where he talks about Winnov's new Cbox.

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Video for (Development) Communication

In this week's The Drum Beat there is a great article on "Video for Development Communication. First, if you don't know about the Drum Beat, run, don't walk your fingers to It is an amazing resource on the application of communication tools and processes to development needs. Elizabeth Wickett, documentary filmmaker and sociologist consultant for development projects wrote:

Video is an essential tool for planners in agricultural innovation or infrastructure projects such as water and sanitation. Video has an important mandate: to capture voices and communicate their ideas to planners, especially women's voices in societies in which social interaction is bifurcated along gender lines."

Video can be a powerful part of an online experience as well. Look at how the Microsoft Developers Network are using it - for me it is putting a human face on what I generally charactarize as the borg. How is that changing my experience of Microsoft? (Scoble's blog, btw, does the same thing in text, so I'm not saying the only way to do this is video.) Take a peek at Andy Carvin's interweaving of video in his blog.

This past Spring working with Project Harmony in Armenia, I took a series of video clips of the project staff telling their highlights of our project. My motivation was they did not quite appreciate how unique and powerful their work was. Now I an "carry" their voices to tell the story. And then report back the impact of their work on others. (Which reminds me, I need to process that video and get it on the net!)

Bottom line: how do we decide when to augment text for a different experience? What does it add? When is it a waste? Are the individual perceptions of video significant? What of bandwidth? Lots of interesting questions. If you have any great pointers, please post a comment!

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Friday, July 02, 2004

New Ways of Conceptualizing Online Events

Starting July 12 you can check out what looks to be an innovative online event: Global PR Blog Week 1.0. I'm not totally clear on their approach, but it seems to be a combination wiki/weblog event that invites anyone to present on issues related to blogging and public relations. Here are a few interesting peeks into their preparation:

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Building a network online: where to start?

From David Wilcox: Designing for Civil Society: Building a network online: where to start? David wrote:
A development worker responsible for building a regional network of people involved in local social, economic and environmental projects (known as regeneration in the UK) got in touch today to explore ideas for using online tools. The network already has a content management system for its website, but needs day-to-day interaction and buzz.
A few years back I would have bubbled with enthusiasm for various possibilities.
Instead I found myself saying 'well, there are a lot of things that you can try but you'll probably find they don't work very well...' Fortunately she was fairly well-versed in the field, and had a strong sense that the hype was fading, so it was a useful conversation. Here's some bits of it, and other things I thought of later."

David quotes a number of useful things -- so check it out. But the tip off lesson for me is the line that the "network already has a content management system." This sets the technological tone. What about the human process tone? Why do we often start with technology? Why don't we start by identifying the types of activities that support networks and groups, then work back to the ways to help support those activities. Go to the heart first.

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Thursday, July 01, 2004

Into the Blogosphere

From Liz Lawley - Into the Blogosphere. As a blog crazed woman, I feel it my duty to point to blog research. I think it is part of the disease!
This online, edited collection explores discursive, visual, social, and other communicative features of weblogs. Essays analyze and critique situated cases and examples drawn from weblogs and weblog communities. Such a project requires a multidisciplinary approach, and contributions represent perspectives from Rhetoric, Communication, Sociology, Cultural Studies, Linguistics, and Education, among others.

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Don't Practice? Watch your Preachin!

danah posted on Many2Many something that I want to pick up and run witha bit farther:
"This is precisely why it’s bloody hard to study/discuss these technologies without being a practitioner. Distance is valuable as a researcher, but it’s also limiting. You need to engage with the culture at a deep level in order to study it. Because digital technology cultures are so peculiar, you need to be involved at an intimate level. Being a lurker is just not the same. It is the practice of engaging with these technologies that makes you able to move beyond the metaphor."

I have been harboring a bit of inner burn over the past few months as well. It stems from the ease of condemnation people seem to be able to conjure about things they have not experienced, or perhaps more importantly, not experienced in the same way as another. "If it didn't work for me, it's bad. I don't care that it worked for you."

I seethe when a “blogger” or a “wiki person” condemns as inferior a web-based discussion and call it a controlling environment. It may have been inferior to them, but for others it is a very freeing, useful and even preferred medium. I boil over when a web-based discussion person dismisses the possibility that bloggers experience “community.” Just because something gets a label slapped on it like “social software” or “old style” does not make it universally better or worse. There is far more subtlety in the context of each instance and deployment. There is the unseen ways in which users bend technology to meet their needs, irrespective of the intention of the designer. This is not taken into account.

There is insufficient experience and practice to slap labels around and make claims that completely ignore a key factor of online interaction technologies.
  • They are designed for a group experience.
  • They are almost always experienced by an individual in the isolation in interaction with their computer.

My experience is not your experience. Further more, it is hard to even describe OUR experience. We romanticize the concept of group interaction, but in truth, it is imperfect, online and offline. And online we don’t see the consequences as quickly nor are our communication antennae, trained for millennium to F2F communication, as attuned to online communication. I think we are getting better. I see changes. But I can’t see if you are smiling, frowning, curious or pissed off as you read this. And if I want to communicate and engage with you, that matters to me. (If I just want to spout and publish, well, you are out of luck!)

Circling back to danah's observation about the need to be involved at an intimate level, I want to chime in with a big AMEN. Intimacy means being ready to let my perceptions aside for a moment and get a peek into yours. In means slowing down, experimenting, diving in, risking failure and god forbid, being wrong.

Or perhaps better, being both right and wrong which is how the world works. Context is everything and my right may be your wrong and visa versa. That’s life.

Also posted at Many2Many

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Prensky on Digital Natives and Changing Business

Capturing the Value of "Generation Tech" Employees I have been spending some time thinking about the impact of full integration of "digital natives" into organizational dynamics. I have worked with lots of 40, 50 and 60 year olds struggling to be a successful distributed team member and collaborator. And struggle is the word. Not just in the skills, but having the new work processes fit into an old structure -- lots of tension. The few early adopters have not had enough clout in most cases to help their organizations evolve. Now will this generation bring enough weight to cause organizational change? Prensky suggests:
This generation is better than any before at absorbing information and making decisions quickly, as well as at multitasking and parallel processing. In contrast, people age 30 or older are “digital immigrants” because they can never be as fluent in technology as a native who was born into it. You can see it in the digital immigrants’ “accent” — whether it is printing out e-mails or typing with fingers rather than thumbs. Have you ever noticed that digital natives, unlike digital immigrants, don’t talk about “information overload”? Rather, they crave more information.

The youngest workers don’t need to adapt to fit into the agile, flat, team-based organizations older executives are striving to design. They just do it: They communicate, share, buy, sell, exchange, create, meet, collect, coordinate, play games, learn, evolve, search, analyze, report, program, socialize, explore, and even transgress using new digital methods and a new vocabulary most older managers don’t even understand. Blog? Wiki? RTS? Spawn? POS? Astroturf? How do these sound when juxtaposed with cross-functional cooperation, team-based management, and 360 feedback?

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Using Mentoring to Improve Online Discussions

Using Mentoring to Improve Online Discussions

By Bill Brescia, Ph.D. First published in the November 2003 'Mentoring Connection', IMA's online newsletter". Some basic common sense advice about a mentoring approach to facilitating online discussions. I appreciate the lense of the mentor - it is building capacity, not pure enabling without growth.

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For Faculty: Fostering Participation, Interaction, and Community in an Online Environment

Although the discussions for this online conference from 2001 are no longer available, the residual page contain many links on facilitating online learing. Here is the one with the most facilitation-oriented resources: Discussion 1: Fostering Participation, Interaction, and Community in an Online Environment

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Denham's Reflections : On messages, posts & documents

I had this blog post from Denham Grey bookmarked earlier in June but wanted to come back to it. I really enjoyed Denham's reflections about his experiences and preferences in online communication which reflect the role of identity, context and group. These ideas (or experiences) become issues of exploration as we jump media from web based discussions to blogs/comments and wikis.

I'm actually glad I came back later because the comments add to the value of the blog post (something worth mention on its own!)

Denham frames this in terms of genres, a term that has been creeping up in a variety of conversations in my life, so I want to dig into this a bit more.

Bryan Alexander commented: "For one, you're touching on deep ideologies here - individualist vs collective, individual vs social, almost right and left (think libertarian and communitarian)." (Ah, does my bridge theme recur here?)

Today while working on the CoP Technologies report, we talked about the different development paths of centralist vs decentralist collaborative tool development. Again, more echoes.

I keep sensing some patterns, but I can't quite articulate them. But the persistence of these ghost images, or my attention to these issues, is consistent. It is like trying to hold a set of sometimes conflicting continuums within a system -- always seeking a balance point but unable to actually describe the balance point. Does this sound/feel familiar to anyone?

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Matthew Clapp - Getting Sensible about Collaboration and KM

Dang, after a day of no blogging while in meetings it was fun to start my blogreading with a lead from Stephen Downes to an article by Matthew: Collaboration First, Then Knowledge Management .

I work with distributed teams and the challenges, symptoms and indicators Clapp talk about ring true. Collaboration is tactical first, strategic second and shoe horning it into a knowledge repository goes counter to the needs of the team IN THE MOMENT of getting work done.

Clapp offers some advice which addresses meeting team needs (pay attention to his advice to pilot before big investments in technology!!) but still begs the problem of moving team-mined knowledge and insights out across an organization. I guess we aren't there yet!

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