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Thursday, December 30, 2004

My Friend Thomas in Sri Lanka

Sunday evening and into Monday morning, prior to leaving on an out-of-town-trip, I followed the S. Asian earthquake/tsunami stories as I have friends, clients and colleagues in the region. Just before I left Monday morning, this one came through, allowing a small breath in a sea of sorrow. And the Various Journeys Continue . . .:
"The seaside of Mutur town is obliterated, but most of the town itself along with the NP House/Office is unscathed. Most families, I've spoken to, however, have suffered some loss. Our landlord lost a daughter, an aunt and several other relations who were traveling on a train to Galle for a wedding. Another friend I spoke with tonight lost his parents and twelve other extended members of his family. The loss at times seems overwhelming; yet we find a way not only to survive, but to thrive. The outpouring of members of the community to each other, which crosses ethnic and religious lines is wonderfully inspiring, even inspiriting, as I just mis-keyboarded. Relief supplies and volunteer assistance are literally pouring in with much more positive force than the destructive impact of the Tusamni. The big wave did it's destructive work in less than a minute; the reconstructive work, rebuilding the devastated community, will last lifetimes, as people find in tragedy new ways of learning to live and work cooperatively together. At least that is my belief as to what positively can come from this horrible event."
After I came back and read/watched more, I felt numb. I can't even imagine this.

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10 Reasons Nonprofits Should Use RSS

Marnie Webb posted this great piece, 10 Reasons Nonprofits Should Use RSS. Read the whole article for the juicy details.
The argument we frequently find ourselves using is that none of that explains the reasons nonprofits should do it. Frankly, nonprofits should use RSS for the same reasons everyone else should. But here goes -- 10 reasons translated into nonprofit-speak.

1. It's a ridiculously easy way to read the web...
2. It's ridiculously easy to discover relevant information...
3. It's ridiculously easy to share the information you get...
4. It's ridiculously easy to participate in conversations...
5. It's ridiculously easy to control your own subscriptions...
6. It's ridiculously easy to allow people to trade your good content like it's a baseball card...
7. It's ridiculously easy for other people to lend you a bit of their web real estate...
8. It's ridiculously easy to avoid being a spammer...
9. It's ridiculously easy to contribute to web-wide conversations...
10. It's only just beginning...

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Give... Tsunami relief...

Indian Ocean Earthquake (Sumatra, Sri Lanka, India):
"On December 26th, a series of earthquakes occurred in the area of the western coast of Northern Sumatra, Andaman Islands and Nicobar Islands. The two strongest earthquakes had the magnitude of 8.9 and 7.3. The earthquakes caused tsunamis impacting nine countries in the region leaving more than 100,000 dead and a further 1M forced from their homes. Over 10 countries are affected as far away as Somalia and Kenya with Aceh province in Indonesia and Sri Lanka said to be worst hit.

In response Architecture for Humanity and launched a reconstruction Appeal. We set an intial target for rebuilding of $15,000 (enough to build a dozen homes, 2 schools or one mobile medical clinic). As of 7pm on December 29th we have reached $12,900 from 180 donors."
As of today, they are over $25K.

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Santy Worm and PhpBB Bulletin Boards

It's not as if online group interaction doesn't have enough challenges!! eWeek reports on a new type of virus identified by the Kaspersky has more details. Google squashed it by blocking the Santy search query. I saw the story here : Santy Worm Defaces Web Forums:
"The worm, known as Net-Worm.Perl.Santy.A or Santy, uses Google search to randomly find sites running phpBB and overwrites several different files to deface the forums.

By targeting the freely distributed phpBB, the defacement worm has become a major nightmare for some businesses that use the forum software to handle customer-service queries and other support issues."
I just finished writing the little piece I mentioned a few days ago on the history and skills of online facilitation. Ismael suggested that the technical side of it needed more emphasis in my piece (advice I used, thank you!). This sort of story reinforces that there are many risks that come with the technological territory!

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Chris' Gems on Linkages in Conversation, Leadership, Presence and Creativity

Like a little unexpected Christmas gift... 10 items of linkage focusing on conversation, transformative leadership, presencing and creativity". Thanks, Chris!

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Monday, December 20, 2004

Review my Draft?

OK, so I'll admit, I get really nervous when I am submitting something for a book that comes out of academia. I'm a practitioner. I don't write academic pieces very often. Yesterday, many of you helped me find some sources for a piece I'm writing for this book: Encyclopedia of Virtual Communities and Technologies. I'm doing a piece on the history and evolution of online facilitation.

I'm not finished, but have to complete my final draft by Wednesday night. I'd love to send it to a few of you for some feedback -- short turn around. Anyone game?

I also am wondering if it is kosher to post the draft here. (Besides showing rough, unfinished work. Which never seems to bother me!)

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Distracted Teleconferencers

Can't focus on the teleconference? Join the club brings no great surprises.
"Workers are sharpening their multitasking skills--but the boss might not be so happy about how they're using them.

Ninety percent of people who participate in conference calls find things to keep them busy besides following the discussion, according to a new survey from audio and video conferencing company Raindance Communications.

Topping the list of distractions: doing unrelated work and looking for materials being discussed on the call. A full half of respondents said they read and write e-mail and instant messages during such calls, while just more than a third said they take the opportunity to fill their stomachs. Twenty-seven percent say they surf the Web during conference calls, while a third said they are guilty of pressing the mute button to talk privately with others.

So what do you do when you are leading or facilitating a teleconference? I wrote a bit about this on my website. Teleconference Call Tips. Have any to add?

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Gifting technologies

I'm late reading December's "First Monday." There is a cool looking article on Gifting technologies that has captured my attention (or what little is left of it.) From the abstract:
File–sharing has become very popular in recent years, but for many this has become synonymous with file–getting. However, there is strong evidence to suggest that people have strong giving (or gifting) needs. This evidence suggests an opportunity for the development of gifting technologies — and it also suggests an important research question and challenge: what needs and concerns do gifters have and what technologies can be developed to help them? In this paper, we discuss the existing literature on gifting, report on an initial study of gifting in an online sharing community, and suggest some ways the study results can inform future research into gifting desires — as well as the design of specific gifting technologies.
Oh, and I love the first line of the full paper.
Could the ability to give be one of the central features that determines the popularity and success of computer–mediated "sharing" activities, communities, applications, and services?
Isn't hat part of the attraction of blogging?

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43 Things (and I thought I was already busy!)

43 Things is in beta and I've been playing around for about a week, thanks to an invite from Lee. Some of you noticed my cryptic earlier post (where I was testing the ability to post to my blog from within the 43 Things interface -- I haven't yet figured out the utility of this, but hey, I'm slow.) So I figured I should say a bit more.

43 things is a new site from some folks here in Seattle that works on the premise of things we want to do -- so why do them alone? Find others who share a goal and coalesce around that.

So far, it is a tantalizing reminder of all the wonderful things we can do -- if only we had more time. I am both enjoying it and hating it. I enjoy the connection it affords around shared interest. I, however, am feeling guilty about all the cool things I'm not doing. Figure. I think I need a thing about not feeling guilty!!

It is still in beta. Holler if you want an invite -- leave a comment and to the clever thing of typing AT instead of @ to avoid the ole spam, spam, spam.

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Dan on Accountability

Dan's leap into blogging is allowing the rest of us a peek into some great stuff. Here is a snippet - check out the whole thing!Accountability:
"What's deeper -- and obvious -- is that the use of the term is often a strong signal of disconnection between people. When the term is thrown around loosely, my sense is it often means 'we've stopped listening to one another.' And that can happen for a lot of reasons, the greatest of which is loss of trust. It's a sign that we no longer believe what we hear from one another and can't seem to get through. We can't quite communicate what our world is like and how much we need them -- whoever they are -- to do what we need them to do. In this sense, accusations about others' lack of accountability is often code for a Dilbertian world of silos, shut down communications, and self-protection -- characteristics of what I would call the background 'default' culture of American business and government organizations. Hmmm. Pretty dark.

And if we want to change this? The answer, it seems to me, is in the relationships, the willingness in the hearts of people to try to understand the dynamics of how we are viewing each other and what that's doing to us -- all of us. Once that's found, the stereotypes fade in favor of real people who are discovering how to care about their work, their workplace, and what happens to one another. We have seriously positive capabilities and they can be liberated, but often to get there we have to go through the darkness of looking at how addicted we are to that background Dibertian world, how it prevents us from real contact with one another, which means dealing with reality, with tension, with conflict in the name of breakthrough."

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RIT Lab for Social Computing

Cool news via Liz Lawly about the new Lab for Social Computing:
"Welcome to the home of the Rochester Institute of Technology's Lab for Social Computing. This lab is part of the Center for the Study of Cyberinfrastructure (CASCI) in the Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences.

The purpose of the LSC is to engage in research, technology development, and education related to social computing--the use of technology to facilitate social and collaborative activities."
Congratulations to Liz and her group!

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Another F2F/Online Blend Offering

I'm a big fan of gatherings that allow us to extend and deepen via online pre/post wrapped around F2F events. I've hosted a few with colleagues and often use this design approach with clients. It is a kick to see more of them happing like Stowe Boyd's upcoming event. True Voice:
"Our interest isn't to just have a seminar, but to structure meetings that matter; to create a context around those meetings that is highly engaging and enduring. While we are charging $295 for the seminar, its really much, much more than a few hours of involvement. It includes a six week virtual workshop, and the opportunity to be selected out of the 30 or so attendees to have an even deeper and more strategic interaction with the True Voice team."
(Hm, now I can't find the exact spot where I copied this text from. Ah, this is the downside of posting drafts weeks ago, and finally getting to edit them today. Sigh.)

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Ozzie looks back, looks ahead

Ray Ozzie looks back at the launch of the company that created Lotus notes and forward to the future of online collaboration tools. Below are a few snippets. I have to admit, I enjoy these year end retrospectives. Lots of food for thought and fuel for 2005's imagination.
...Twenty years ago tomorrow, on Dec. 7, 1984, Mitch Kapor and I signed an agreement that began the development of a product code-named Notes.

...Fifteen years ago tomorrow, on Dec. 7, 1989, ... Lotus Notes Release 1.0 was born.

...The fundamental nature of the corporation was changing--catalyzed by a change in doctrine and deftly enabled by cheap commodity communications and information technology.

...By the late was changing--from vertically integrated powerhouses to a mesh of interdependent partners. The winners were companies that used information technology to create the most efficient and effective network of partners and suppliers.

...Peter Drucker projects the future of the corporation to be an extreme confederation of businesses--from the large to small to very small. These loosely knit confederations are held together by a common strategy--local economics--and a web of fine-grain alliances.

...The Wall Street Journal observed ...New jobs are being created, but they're in different organizational forms than the ones we're measuring ... more people, by choice or necessity, "become self-employed or form partnerships, rather than working for large corporations."

...the fundamental nature of work itself is changing--enabled by cheap, ubiquitous networking, communications, coordination and information-sharing technologies. The "virtual office" is more the norm than the exception.

... The new concept: a world of pervasive knowledge work, riding on the foundations of fiber laid by the ghosts of an Internet bubble past and enabled by cheap, self-service communications tools and technologies.

...New concepts appear almost daily, emerging from both the distant parallel universes of paper-bound corporate or academic research and the "just try it and see what sticks" petri dish that is today's Internet ecosystem. Those universes have brought us the likes of ICQ, Skype, Blogger, Wikipedia and Flickr.

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8th Virtual Communities Conference CFP

Harry Collier has posted the dates and call for proposals for the The Eighth International Forum on Virtual Communities in Loncon, 14-15 November 2005.
Offers of presentations at this conference are now being invited. We can only accommodate a maximum of 18 full presentations during this two-day programme, so we shall need to be selective.

This conference is an opportunity for attendees and speakers to share best practices. With a focus on various species of virtual communities, we plan presentations or panels on:

* Social Software and Social Networks
* Collaboration Tools: Helping Communities Work Together
* Communities of Practice
* Communities of Users
* Geographic / local area Communities
* Case studies of Successful Communities
* Core tools and technologies
* Communities as pressure groups / Flash communities
* .......

Those with appropriate expertise who are interested in taking part in the programme should contact the conference's programme management panel via Harry Collier of Infonortics...Because speaking or panel slots are limited in number, you are advised to get your detailed propositions in as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. Deadline for paper offers: Monday 30 April 2005."

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Sunday, December 19, 2004

Who coined the term online facilitation?

I'm writing up a small piece on the history of online facilitation and I'm trying to pin down who started using the term. I fell into this field and was using the term in 1997 - as an effort to look beyond the more traditional online community term of "hosting."

Does anyone have any sources/pointers to earlier uses? I'm SURE they are out there, but I have not had much luck in my Sunday morning searching.

Also, if you have any other interesting pointers to the history of online facilitation, I'd love to know about them. You will see down in the lower right hand side of my blog that my FURL additions this morning are all in this area. The RSS feed for my FURLs are also there if you are interested.

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Stephen Downes 2003 Predictions/Realities

Among other interesting bits was this section from Downes in his prediction reviews.He wrote in December 2003:
"The evolution of email will have as an unexpected consequence a resurgence in the widespread search for community on the internet. Historically, the most popular applications have always been those where people could share their thoughts in groups. Usenet dominated the early days of the net, email and mailing lists the nineties, web based discussion boards the last decade. Because community forums have been so corrupted by commercial content, people have found themselves cut off from their communities."

His December 2004 comment:
This phenomenon has emerged largely unremarked (I haven't seen a reference anywhere). But I have a sense that people, if they think about it, will discover that they haven't been reading their email so diligently nor visiting the online discussions so frequently.

I still can't find any quotes - but this is my own observation. Traffic on the mailing lists seems lighter - not so much in volume, because places like DEOS and others have become a haven for conference announcements, calls for papers, and other assorted palaver. Subscriptions to my newsletter via RSS on Bloglines have gone from none to 300 in the last year. But you'll have to make this call yourself - is email as compelling as it was this time last year?

I think I was right about the community aspect - people have been abandoniong email as their means of expression. But they have turned to their blogs, and blogs have become much more of a community phenomenon that I would have reported this time last year."

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Thursday, December 16, 2004

Lewis Thomas on Language

Fromn the Simultaneous Translation site comes this lovely quote from the biologist, Lewis Thomas in his wonderful book, "Lives of a Cell."
Language is simply alive, like an organism. We all tell each other this, in fact, when we speak of living languages, and I think we mean something more than an abstract metaphor. We mean alive. Words are the cells of language, moving the great body, on legs. Language grows and evolves, leaving fossils behind. The individual words are like different species of animals. Mutations occur. Words fuse, and then mate. Hybrid words and wild varieties or compound words are the progeny. Some mixed words are dominated by one parent while the other is recessive. The way a word is used this year is its phenotype, but it has deeply immutable meanings, often hidden, which is its genotype.... The separate languages of the Indo-European family were at one time, perhaps five thousand years ago, maybe much longer, a single language. The separation of the speakers by migrations had effects on language comparable to the speciation observed by Darwin on various islands of the Galapagos. Languages became different species, retaining enough resemblance to an original ancestor so that the family resemblance can still be seen.
– Lewis Thomas
Living Language
from The Lives of a Cell: Notes of
a Biology Watcher (1974)

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Ladder of Participation now available online

One more gem from David as I start catching up on all my "draft" blog items. Barrage coming! Fair warning!
Ladder of Participation now available online:
One of the most powerful models for thinking about how much influence people have in public programmes is Sherry Arnstein's Ladder of Participation, developed 25 years ago. Her eight rungs range from Manipulation to Citizen Control. I developed a version for The Guide to Effective Participation, but could never find an online reference for the original. However, it is now available in full as web pages and downloads.
I think that the ladder ((here), remains a useful way of thinking about power and control, though participation programmes are more complex these days. Back in the 1960s it was usually a matter of one civic power holder - council or agency - considering how much 'say' they would give to citizens. These days there is almost inevitably a complex partnership of interests, who may not agree among themselves. The result is often that promises are made about high levels of engagement, but the reality drops down the ladder.

When I amended the ladder I suggested that it was not really a matter of the higher up the ladder the better, but rather horses for courses. There's more explanation of the idea of stance here). Sometimes consultation on fixed options would be appropriate, sometimes a partnership among stakeholders, or support for key interests. Unfortunately things seldom work out that cleanly, and I think that Sherry may have been right to include terms like manipulation and therapy in her model."
If you haven't kept up with David's blog, it's worth subscribing. There are four or five other articles I could blog here, but you should go read his blog instead.

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Presenting to promote conversation

David Wilcox posted this bit over a week ago. I appreciated it for it's usefulness in F2F presentations, but I think the principles involved also apply in online interactions. Presenting to promote conversation:
"Geoff Mulgan, former head of Tony Blair's strategy unit, this evening provided a striking lesson in how to do a presentation that favours the audience - by chunking the content in a way that stimulates conversations. It was all the more effective because there was no Powerpoint, no exhortation, and no evident ego. Clearly some people can survive a tumble in the No 10 spin machine.
The occasion was a meeting of the Tomorrow Network, a free, loose association of about 2200 people treated by the Tomorrow Project to end-of-the-day meetings every few months, mainly in London. Not all at once, of course.
Tonight's topic was 'The future of the electronic media', which is usually a great temptation to fancy slides and baffling techie references. Instead we got 10 stories that provided different windows into the issues, based around technology, business, geography, power relationships, civil society, mentality, community, children, morality, time. The content was a crisp mix of anecdote, analysis, and hunch, all in 20 minutes. I'll do more later on one or two of them. My point here is that the presentation was - it seemed to me - designed specifically to prompt some conversations (and incidently offer at least 10 neat blog items). It occurs to me you could also take the structure and use the 10 categories for further research... a good jump start to some Spurling perhaps. Or do a mindmap - here's a start. "

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networked_performance: Simultaneous Translation

I'm not sure where I picked this up a week ago. It has sat in the draft pile but it looks interesting. networked_performance: Simultaneous Translation - A Networked Collaboration: "December 08, 2004
Simultaneous Translation - A Networked Collaboration. Distance and Time Through the Lens of Streaming Media.
Friday December 17 & Sunday January 16, 2004; Madrid, Spain 20:00 (19:00 Greenwich Mean Time. 2PM Eastern Standard Time); Concert and live internet audio stream. Developed by John Roach with Miguel Ramos and Willy Whip Performers: Carlo Giordani, John Hudak, The Same Room Left, James Rouvelle, Mike Rosenthal, John Roach & Miguel Ramos.

Simultaneous Translation is an international networked performance that draws connections between language and the internet. Just as language has changed over time and as dialects have evolved as groups of people moved geographically from place to place, so in this project, live sound will be effected by time and distance. Audio created by the participants in Madrid, the US, Germany and Italy, will be broadcast live on the internet. [Related]"

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Women Online Have New Tech Attitude

I've been interested in the area of women in technology since I became a woman in technology in 1996. Currently I volunteer with a program here in Seattle called Ignite which helps bring women working into technology into classrooms to talk with young women about their options. So I was interested to scan Women Online Have New Tech Attitude, According to Survey; Survey Reveals New Woman Emerging - ''Tif'' the Technology Involved Female
...according to Intel Corporation's "Women, Technology and Lifestyle" online survey of American adults, released today, women are catching up with men in the way they embrace technology....The survey reveals that women are using computing technology in their daily lives now more than ever.

Introducing "Tif" - the Technology Involved Female
A new, tech-savvy woman has emerged and Intel calls her "Tif," short for Technology Involved Female. She spans generations and backgrounds, from the young women who have grown up with technology, to women who have been exposed to technology at work, to motivated self-learners. Tif is closing the technology gender gap, with women at the youngest end of the spectrum actually surpassing men in their intent to purchase a laptop. Half of young women say their next computer will be a laptop as compared to 43 percent of men their same age.(2)

Closing the Technology Gender Gap
Technology has become increasingly important in the daily lives of women. The Intel/Harris Interactive survey reveals women (58 percent) feel as lost as their male counterparts(3) (56 percent) if they don't check email at least once per day. And, women continue to want more and more from their technology, with the majority of women (62 percent), like men (66 percent), enthusiastic about learning how to use new features on their computers.

Not often recognized as early adopters, women in the survey are revealed as leading the way with wireless Internet access, as more women than men believe this is one of the most important features for a laptop to have (39 percent women versus 29 percent men). While men (51 percent) and women (48 percent) agree that the airport tops the list of the most useful locations to have wireless Internet access, women (38 percent) are more likely than men (30 percent) to desire a connection in a doctor's office as well.
A few other stats from the survey:
  • women have become more reliant on their laptops
  • women still lag behind men in some areas including confidence in their decision to purchase computers
  • they are nearly three times as likely as men to believe that the opposite sex overstates their knowledge about computers (32 percent women versus 10 percent men)
Clearly this is a survey with a marketing purpose, and it has a slant that I took as slightly patronizing. But the reality is that women have more clout as users and purchasers of technology than as women working in tech fields. So lets weild the power!

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Welcome to Blogging, Dan

My friend Dan Oestreich, a leadership consultant, has jumped into blogging. Today we have been messing with his new blog at Oestreich Associates. Welcome, Dan!

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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Watermark: Holiday Linkage

Sharon Montana finds some fun holiday gems at her Holiday Linkage

I am becoming addicted to the "Make a Snowflake." My Secret Santa name is Tumbleflump Berry-Pie!

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Test post

I am doing 43 things.

Hm, playing with the blog integration at 43 Things. This is, as you might have guessed, a test post.

Scratching head.

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The Digital Divide Network Launches New Website

Attention activists! The Digital Divide Network has launched a new page to host their 3000+ member community. RSS feeds, discussions, news... chow down!
"You're looking at the new and improved DDN, the Internet's premier resource for bridging the digital divide. Use DDN to build your own online communities: publish a blog, share documents and discussions with colleagues, announce news and events and submit an article or two. Connect with colleagues from around the world to share ideas, form partnerships and develop new strategies for bridging the divide."

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Flashbacks, Common Sense and Kawasaki’s “The Art of the Start”

When I first started reading Guy Kawasaki’s new book, “The Art of the Start,” about six weeks ago, I had just come back from an exhausting overseas trip. I was not the brightest ember in the fireplace. I looked at the chapter names, “Causation,” “Articulation,” “Activation,” “Proliferation,” and “Obligation,” and wondered what the heck I was going to be reading. My natural tendency was to go to Activation and Obligation, being a bleeding heart Pollyanna, but I decided to ignore my normal business book reading patterns and, well, really read the darn book. (I’m a skipper, scanner and kismet reader. In fact I find great rewards is opening a book to any page and finding something that is relevant to me in that moment to a degree that either makes me scared or think I’m a total putz. Go figure.)

The start was a bit slow and the book got put down. Clearly exhaustion is not my best review mode. Four weeks later I picked the book up again and actually started reading. Guy has ditched biz-school speak, seasons with some cool-speak and sauces liberally with humor. Thank goodness. Think about it. Most business books are read on airplanes. If you can find a reason to smile or chuckle while being crammed in a tin can and reading a business book, chuck it. Life is too short. This book is easy to read.

The book follows the list of usual suspects for a start up. This is where the flashbacks started for me. In 1996 –97 I was part of a start up. I really do wish this book had been around when that adventure transpired. What I find to be “no-duh” common sense now that I’m older (read: stressed, wrinkled and wiser) would have been very useful. The flashback was helpful because it reminded me that this is the type of book I will pass on to my son with his dreams of being an entrepreneur. That is the book’s strength. It is straight forward, pragmatic and fairly basic. Don’t get me wrong, the basics are ESSENTIAL. Too often that’s what we skip. But the book won’t be full of surprises for the start up veterans.

Since I no longer work primarily in the business world, I was reading the book with the eye of a social venture or NGO start up perspective. How can this book help those in the non profit world? The concepts are mostly applicable, but I think the language differences between the two worlds is a challenge. That said, I can imagine a conversation or book club discussion around the book with folks from entrepreneurial NGOs would be fantastic once some of the complementary terms were sketched out in NGO-speak.

So what did I like? Not like? I’ll start with the shorter bit: the not-liked. I wanted more stories. Context is everything to me today and the book tended more towards catchy snippets. Almost too easy. There were more stories as I moved through the book, but yeah, I want more. I was non-plussed by the label of the “mini chapters” because they diminished the value of this consistent piece at the end of every chapter that provided a quick but tasty focus on some issue relevant to the chapter. I somehow expected something more there, but can’t put my finger on it, especially when I value straight-forward communication. I guess I can contradict myself. The tables had useful content but the labeling layout surprised me. Again, I expected better. This is in direct contrast to the thing I liked best.

OK, the fun part. Yeah, the thing I liked best. I can’t help myself, but my favorite part was the inside of the book jacket. Yes, the book jacket. Guy created a contest to find the design for the front of the book. On the inside are some of the other entries. I refuse to say losers, ok? It was the perfect example of walking the talk on branding in Chapter 9. In fact I liked Chapter 9 because four pages in, Guy was talking about how to make adoption of your product easier. Now THAT is branding. Of course I swooned at the community section of the chapter because after all, that is my religion. What can I say… I’m not objective in this area.

Most useful? The chapters on Bootstrapping, Recruiting and Raising Capital. Nuts, bolts and a few truffles thrown in for good measure. And I was reminded why I am now joyously a soloist. ;-) What I sensed in this area was a thread on leadership that was never really articulated, but was present. Guy, what does leadership look like in a start up? (I think this would be a fascinating topic and conversation.)

Finally, chapter 11, The Art of Being a Mensch. If there was 2% more mensch-hood in the world I think we’d be ready to entrepreneurally figure out how to make this world a better place. Or at least perhaps not destroy each other and the world. So yeah, I’m a Pollyanna. I’m glad to see that Guy has that gene floating around in his system as well.

Should you read this book? If you are thinking of a start up, yes. If you want flashbacks from doing a start up, take the appropriate cautions (I had chocolate truffles on hand.) If you are an old hand, skim for fun.

Oh, and one more thing. The title, “The Art of the Start” is clever. But in reality, Guy has put more of the practice on the table. I don’t deny there is art in the start, but without practice, it ain’t doodly squat.

The Book via Amazon
The Book via CEO Reads

Disclosure: I was asked by a member of one of the communities I belong to if I would like to be part of an experiment with this book. A group of bloggers were asked to read the book and then blog about it. I was provided the book at no charge. I was not paid and if the book sucked I would have stopped reading it and would not have posted. Life is too short!

Logistical observation: I have three books given to me by the authors to read and, if I choose, comment upon them. I know and like two of the authors. The third I don’t know. But his colleague gave me a date by which they’d appreciate the post. Guess what today is? Bottom line, sometimes a boundary or parameter is just the trick to move someone to action! That said, Christian, your's is next! I'm half way through and am enjoying it!

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Monday, December 13, 2004

Northern Voice Speakers and Schedule Announced!

I'm looking forward to meeting some folks I read and comment with at Northern Voice next year. Here are the speakers. I'm interested in an an informal add on (Blog Walk like our friends in Europe?) the day before or after around blogging for community issues. Anyone interested?

Speakers and Schedule Announced!

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Shelly Farnham on Social Computing and Search

I had the chance to meet Shelly last week and liked what she had to say. So I started browsing. Found this! She touches on an issue I've been noodling on a lot lately, the conversational intersections in networks.

Social Computing and Search
I have been lurking at the Search Champs meeting hosted by MSN Search here at Microsoft…generally exploring the question “what does social computing have to do with search?” The quick answer is it’s all about the social metadata: how you can use collaborative filtering (Amazon), collaborative tagging (de.lic.ious) or FOAF social filters (what are my friends looking at: Eurekster) to focus search results on the content you care about.

My thinking on the social aspects of search has evolved a bit following a few conversations I have had in the past couple of days….over whiskey sours at El Gaucho David Weinberger was asking why MSN wanted to “do” search, implicating why bother when Google already did it so well. I asked him, well, what does he like so much about Google? He said that Google did a good job conveying a sense that it valued community input in determining the ranking of search results: that as people point to each others’ content, they are implicitly voting for it, and Google ranks results accordingly.

I walked away from that conversation mulling over the value so many Internet users place on the democratic proliferation and uprising of online information…and how important it was to provide people with the sense that they were collectively self-determining the value of their online content.

Later I was telling Brady Forrest (blogging afficianado in MSN Search) how I had created a fake blog recently as a joke on a friend of mine, and I asked Brady how would I go about ensuring my fake blog would appear in Google search results. That’s when he told me about Google bombing -- how could I have never heard of Google bombing!? -- where many people would link to a site (such as a biography of George Bush) using descriptive key words (e.g. “miserable failure”), so that any searches on the key words “miserable failure” would bring up a biography of George Bush. He then broke out his trusty sidekick (we were drinking whiskey sours at the Lower Level, our favorite, local, wi-fi-enabled bar) and showed me how George Bush’s biography was the first search result under “miserable failure”, with Jimmy Carter and Michael Moore as close seconds because a whole other set of people started linking to them in a “miserable failure”, Google bombing war.

That’s much more than just implicit voting on the value of online content. That’s a higher order level of conversation between networked collections of people, a give and take of the reinterpretation of information on this large scale, collective action level. It’s entire hive-minds arguing about who’s the miserable failure….

It’s crazy to think search engines could capture that level of conversation. (And, being research minded, we tested, while sipping our whiskey sours, and yes both MSN Search and Google bring up George Bush and Jimmy Carter under “miserable failure”.)

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Emerging from the Writing Huddle

My last week was spent in an intense "writing huddle" with three colleague/friends. All of us were staying at my house so we were talking and thinking about our subject matter (technologies for communities of practice) every waking hour. With the exception of a break for a field trip to Microsoft Research (Community Technologies group and Social Computing group - Thanks Scott, Marc, Shelly, Danyel and Tamara) my head was totally consumed with trying to find ways to talk about the intersection between communities of practice and technology. You know, it is hard to organize the huge range of technological options in an easy to use manner. It is complicated stuff, to say the least. My brain hurts. But I think we made some progress. We are finishing editing a chapter of a book CEFRIO is putting together as a guide to CoPs, so hopefully this will move us further in our work.

In any case, I have a stack of draft blog posts -- most of which are aging beyond use. I am contemplating junking them all and starting fresh.

Actually, I am more in the mood to think about holiday cooking!!!

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Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Help With RSS and Aggregator Tech Description

I need help. I'm working on some simple descriptors for RSS and RSS aggregators in the context of technologies for communities of practice. As I've been searching and writing, I realized I know enough to simply be dangerous, not useful.

Can you help?

I'm looking to improve upon the following:

RSS Feeds

Short definition:
RSS (really simple syndication) feeds are XML files generated when specified web content is updated. They contain a list of items that describe the content. RSS is based on an XML file format.

Key Function:
RSS feeds act as a subscription service. They provide an an easy way to distribute a list of web based headlines, update notices, and/or content (often called "feeds") to other websites or tools that aggregate and organize those feeds for reading (RSS aggregators or readers).

Key Features of RSS Feeds:
RSS syndication - the piece of programming on a content website that summarizes changes on that site and make that information available to subscribers. (I think I have this all wrong. It isn't a feature, it is what it IS!)
Usefulness of this feature to communities:
RSS can form the basis of subscription and alert functions for new discussions, wiki and blog posts, static content, calendar items or any updated web content. This is critical for distributed communities as a way to both garner attention towards the community and allow the members to select what they want to pay attention to.

Shared feeds - the ability to aggregate individual feeds into a community feed. (NEED TO FIND TERM FOR THIS).
Usefulness of this feature to communities:
Shared feeds allow a community to collate their individual content into a shared "feed" for either internal and/or external use. This can be important for internal community functions or to provide a "window" in to the collective activity of the community.

Secify feed components - Feeds may be specified to contain a link back to the original site/content, headlines, publisher, date and time or it may contain all the content as well.
Usefulness of this feature to communities:
The publisher can limit a feed to headlines as a way to "force" the reader back to the original site, or provide full feeds for maximum individual flexibility. This allows some discretion about how to weight something towards a community or individual experience.

Feedback? Suggestions? Again, the focus here is RSS in the CONTEXT OF A DISTRIBUTED COMMUNITY - not just RSS in general. TIA!

(My key Source:

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lee LeFever: Comparing Social Networking to Online Communities

Lee, in between jetting around the country working his fingernails to the bone, had time to come up with another of his wonderful compare/contrast pieces, this time looking at the issues of how identity are manifest in online communities as compared to social networking sites.

Comparing Social Networking to Online Communities:
"Perhaps the most compelling difference in my mind is the use of the member profile to represent member identity. What enables many of the differences I outline below is the way in which social networking communities use the member profiles or member homepages to build identity."


owever, I do see opportunity for traditional online communities to take a new look at member profiles and how they can be used build identity. Participation in discussions should not be the only way to have an identity in an online community.

There are some great points to dig into, but I have to be brief. Meeting starts downstairs at the kitchen table 2 minutes ago. That said, I agree with Lee's premise about the importance of looking at identity as a key to understanding and maximizing social and business interaction in distributed, web based settings. I think the line between online communities and social networking will totally blur as we explore those affordances that bridge, or create a connecting "cloud" between technical interaction applications.

I've been "heads down" this week at a F2F with Etienne Wenger, John Smith and Kim Rowe where we have been analyzing technologies for distributed communities of practice and this very same idea of identity and how we manage it both as an individual and as a member of communities -- often many (Etienne talks about this as multimembership) -- has been front and center.

I'll have more on this soon! And READ LEE'S ARTICLE!

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Monday, December 06, 2004

Shel and Robert Right a Book Via Blogs

Makes sense to me!
Announcing a corporate blogging book: the Red Couch project
"Tonight, while at 41,000 feet in an airplane from Seattle to Oakland, it hit me: do the entire thing on the blogs.

And I meant THE ENTIRE THING. I called Shel last night while driving along 880 (remember, we didn't yet have a formal deal, or even a proposal yet). I told Shel I'm not going to accept his emails anymore. Huh? I told him we're going to do this whole thing on the blogs. He pushed back. That is the craziest idea he's ever heard, he told me. He thought it would mess up our ability to really discuss the book openly. Could we discuss people in the industry openly? Why not? I asked. We SHOULD be transparent. Especially given the content that our book would be pushing."

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Saturday, December 04, 2004

Cooperation Course - News for Those of Us Who Want to Participate

Cooperation -:
"Stanford students and anyone anywhere interested in learning about the emerging interdisciplinary study of cooperation is welcome to participate in this group blog.

This group blog is the online extension of the classes held at Stanford University (every Wednesday, January 5-March 16, Wallenberg Hall, Room 127, 4:15-5:45 PST). The lectures and class discussions will be streamed and archived in audio and video and available for podcast. This blogspace is for registered students and interested others to discuss the weekly reading in personal blogs and in comments to the stories posted by instructors. A wiki enables registered participants to add their notes and to contribute to class discussions remotely."

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Ethan on Turmeric, pygmies and piracy

Ethan Zuckerman posted an amazing piece tracking on how western musicians and companies have been benefiting from traditional music -- without credit nor payment to those musicians. It is a fascinating trip down a labyrinth of myth, rumors to reality. A great read.
"What do pygmy lullabies and turmeric have in common? As 'traditional knowledge', they're both badly protected under US intellectual property law. And, as a result, they're an easy target for savvy IP 'pirates', those folks smart enough to stay out of the well-patrolled waters of US intellectual property and set sail for the untroubled IP seas of the developing world. It's the sort of thing that makes you want to say 'Arrrrrr!'"

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Wilcox: Hands up if you are a knowledge activist

Designing for Civil Society: Hands up if you are a knowledge activist

If your job or passion is to do good communications work using new technology, how do you think of yourself? Others may call you variously a blogger, online journalist, community manager, information worker, editor, researcher, even hacker. Perhaps we'll find some shared interests wearing the badge of knowledge activist."
Makes a lot of sense to me. I like this idea, David!

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Experimenting With Sharing FURL Bookmarks & RSS Feeds

I have been using FURL to research projects and simply gather sites that I find interesting. I see too many sites to blog them all (both from a review time and quantity perspective). But there are some damn fine resources out there.

To share them, I have made my FURL bookmarks public, put them at the lower right of this blog (below the ginormous blogroll!) and am posting the RSS link here in case anyone is using FURL and likes to subscribe to other's FURL collections.

If you keep a FURL or (I have an account there, but have not kept up with it - it seems to run very slow for me)tab running that covers online facilitation, online groups, social networks, social software or any such permutation, I'd love to know about it to add to my feeds. Thanks!

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Thursday, December 02, 2004

Stanford's"Toward a Literacy of Cooperation" Course

I've been seeing reference to Stanford's Cooperation Course Goals & Assignments, being facilitated by Howard Rheingold, Andrea Saveri and Dr. William Cockayne.

Might "cooperation studies" be the beginning of a new narrative about human social behavior? Rooted in the zeitgeist of Darwin's era, the scientific, social, economic, political stories of the 19th and 20th century overwhelmingly emphasized the role of competition as a driver of evolution, progress, commerce, society. The first outlines of a new narrative are becoming visible in biology, sociology, economics, computer science, mathematics, and political science – a story in which cooperative arrangements, interdependencies, and collective action play a more prominent role and the essential (but not all-powerful ) story of competition and survival of the fittest shrinks just a bit. The evolution of cooperation, the dynamics of social dilemmas, the economics of peer production, the design of institutions for collective action, the structure of social networks, the forecasting power of prediction markets, the power of distributed computing – can these frontiers in previously unconnected disciplines be mapped onto a broad interdisciplinary discourse? This course is a first and very wide look at this possible new discourse, research field, policy tool, meta-narrative of human behavior.

The overview is here and the sylabus can be found here. I wish I lived in the area!

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More Multilingual Online Interaction Experiments!

Sebastian Paquet, in commenting on yesterday's post on multilingual online interaction, pointed me to CommunityWiki: MultilingualExperiment. I am all a-goggle (not a-googled!) Scroll down to the botton and take Seb's hint to play with the little check boxes.

, are you reading this??

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Thinking About Communications Channels

On a roll today thinking about online communicatin, Jack Ring posted a link to this definition of communications channels from Principia Cybernetica.
CHANNEL: "That part of a communication chain in which signals are transmitted from a sender to a receiver. Unlike other processes in a communication chain (e.g., encoding, decoding, translation, transformation), a channel involves a single physical medium that spans the difference in time and in space which separates senders from receivers. A memory is that special case of a channel in which the sender transmits signals to himself at a later point in time. A channel is characterized by the physical properties of its medium and imposes a constraint on the capacity for communication: (1) its selective capability to store, retain, and transmit certain kinds of signals, (2) its sensitivity to non-systematic distortions and decay (see noise, equivocation, redundancy) and (3) its capacity to transmit information. Primary channels in unaided human communication are audio (largely verbal and musical), visual (largely non-verbal and iconic) and tactile. In modern society channels are differentiated mainly by the technical devices used, e.g., writing, printing, telephone, photography, television (video and audio channels), satellite communication, computer networks. Each has its own limitations and properties. It is well established that the social reliance on particular channels of communication profoundly influences how a society administers itself, develops and expands. (Krippendorff)"
Jack focused on this line "It is well established that the social reliance on particular channels of communication profoundly influences how a society administers itself, develops and expands." Great food for thought.

[Thanks to Jack Ring via the AOK List]

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I've known Sue Thomas online and off for about 5 years. Her contributions to understanding life online are extraordinary for three reasons. She lives fully online meaning that she immerses herself (not that she lives ONLY online). She takes time to critically and sometimes painfully reflect on her experiences. And most importantly, she shares what she has learned.

Recently she wrote an article for trAce, her online professional (and, I sense, artistic) home. In Walter Ong and the problem of writing about LambdaMOO Sue reflects on why it is so damn hard to explain online interaction experiences to those who have never had one of their own. (Bolding below is mine.)
"At trAce I often speak with people who live and work online about their perceptions of how the net has changed them and the worlds in which they move. In every conversation the transient nature of connectedness is taken so much as a given that there is hardly any need to define or describe it. Everybody knows what it is, how it feels, the energy of it, the occasional despair at its tricks and limitations. We talk about it using the common shorthand of the net - emoticons, acronyms, program code - because the language itself is the key to the concepts and experiences we are discussing. But the problem is that, despite no specific intention that this should happen, it has evolved into a secret cultural discourse which is unintelligible to the uninitiated."

Sue goes on to talk about Walter Ong's work on orality and text based literacy.
"Because Ong’s analysis convinces me that LambdaMOO and places like them are unique in that although their sole method of communication is textual, the communication that actually takes place there is oral. MOO life happens, as Ong describes of a real-life oral community, "as it really comes into being and exists, embedded in the flow of time." Its characteristics are therefore those of a group which shares physical space and human experience, and it is equally fractured and transient. Furthermore, it uses tropes and vocabulary that are also embedded within that experience and unintelligible outside it."

This set off bells for me. I recognized this shift between text created for an article or a novel, and text that "happens" from me as I participate with others online. It is oral. The back channel chat that Liz mentions is an example: how the form allowed the question to surface over the questioner. The question is the story that is passed from teller to teller in pre-literate times. For a moment, it embodies the speaker as he or she experiences typing it into the chat, but through the medium it becomes "of the group. " I'm reminded of an article Stowe Boyd wrote recently about “real time,” and his experience. ”But more important, the idea that there is some high-order benefit in being able to collaborate asynchronously. Its always a crude approximation of real-time interaction, because the players are unavailable.”

I can recount experiences for when the asynchronous has created more of a reality than real time. When the players were “available” but in a way I struggle to express. We have different experiences of what Sue called the “embedded flow of time.” And for each of us, it is real.

That is what makes this whole experience almost inexplicable. It is experience rather than the reification manifest in text.

(Also posted on Many-2-Many)

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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Free the Genie Games

Ah, nothing like a creative whack upside the head. This site is a keeper! Free the Genie Games:
"Free the Genie is a deck of 55 creative thinking cards that help aspiring innovators get unstuck, out of the box, and achieve extraordinary results. There are an infinite amount of ways to use this brainstorming tool, but since you're obviously late for something, here are four simple ways to get started."
[via Dave Pollard]

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Wikis Acting Like Sticky Notes

Wikalong Firefox Add on and Wikalong Redirection Tool are two new Firefox extensions that allow you to add wiki notes to any webpage. I have been playing with the Wikalong -- there is a growing one beside my Bloglines reader page and I've started one on my website. You can subscribe to any wiki too. Here are the details:

Wikalong Firefox Extension: "Wikalong is a FirefoxExtension that embeds a wiki in the SideBar of your browser, indexed off the url of your current page. It is probably most simply described as a wiki-margin for the internet."

Wikalong Redirection Tool: "Wikalong is powerful extension for Mozilla Firefox browser brought to you by John Cappiello and others.

This tool allows you to access Wikalong resources without using Wikalong extension. (ie. when your system or browser doesn't support it)."

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Conflict Resolution and Development in Online Communities

Olaf Brugman has an intriguing series of essays on his KM site that I've skimmed, but not read deeply. They are on the list for a slower, more thoughtful read, but knowing my time, I wanted to pass along the links.
Goiaba Knowledge Bridge: Conflict Resolution and Development in Online Communities

In a series of articles, disfunctional conflicts and conflict resolution in online communities are explored from a spiritist perspective.

The conclusion is that adopting a spiritist perspective offers a new look on the conflict resolution and community development, especially because the spiritist perspective focuses on roles and responsibilities of individual group members, based on spiritist understandings of 'principles to live by', and on how people are related.

The following articles are available:

1. A spiritist perspective on knowledge management and social development

2. Short introduction to spiritist philosophy

3. The Case of the Dysfunctional Community

4. Community Design Revisited

5. Conflict versus Harmony"
I am peripherallly familiar with the community conflict case in #3, and almost cringe to read about it. That is a testament to the challenge of conflict in distributed groups. I was happy to see in #5 the point made about communities needing both conflict and harmony. Both are important in my experience. So we need to be attentive to the balance point.

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Finally Creating my Blogroll

Ok, ok, so it took me six months. I have a ton of serious writing to do, so what do I do? Play with my blog. Uh oh. If you think I missed you on the roll, spelled your name wrong or got the wrong feed, let me know. I'm still in serious fiddle mode with categories and what I want public/private (mainly for the fact that 420 blogs is too many to fit!)

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BloggerCorps - Now A Reality

November 15th I posted about Rebecca MacKinnon's proposal for BloggerCorps. Well, now it exists: "Matching bloggers with activists and non-profit groups who want to blog and need help getting started."

If you are a blogger and aren't already hooked into a place where you can share your savvy, check it out. And one more on top of that -- find ways to connect existing and related activities so that we don't do too much duplication and more connecting!

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Bilingual Wiki Work

Much of my work the past few months has been in multilingual settings. I have been attentive to online interactions that include the possibility that English-only is not the only way to go. I think it might be good to start pointing to examples of multilingual distributed interactions and collaborations.

Seb Paquet has started a bilingual planning wiki for a Montreal social software conference.

What I'm wondering is are people translating their own stuff? When they find stuff in only one language left by others, are they voluntarily translating it? I'm curious about the process.

Here is one snippet that shows me the group also has questions:
Je propose que nous fassions deux Wiki, un anglais, un français à partir de maintenant, alors que la base de la base est en place. Rien ne nous empêcherait d'aller voir ce qui s'écrit de l'autre coté. I suggest the creation from now on of two wikis - one french one english - that we would mix from sometimes and we could look the other side anyway to check both evolutions. Its too heavy this way.

I propose that we create a single wiki, which could have multiple pages in French and English as we like it, peacefully existing alongside one another (just like Montrealers). Care should be taken to link related pages across languages. / Je propose qu'on se dote d'un seul wiki, à pages multiples en français et en anglais à notre convenance, existant pacifiquement côte à côte. Il faudra veiller à faire des liens entre les pages au contenu relié. -- Seb Paquet ++
Maybe Seb or someone participating will leave us a comment or two. Si vous plait. (I don't speak French. I can handle Portuguese and some Spanish. Other than that I know 2-4 words in quite a few other languages!)

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