Thursday, March 30, 2006

When Blogging is a Lifeline

Real time updates on the release of journalist Jill Carroll in Iraq: Mental mayhem: Jill is released!!. A great example of 1) citizen journalism, 2) human voice and 3) blogging's ability to spread news across blogs. (That's why I'm linking to the post!)

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Too to bear

Kris Krug shares a Comprehensive Listing of Tools, Plugins and Add-ons for Social Bookmarking ‘Change, Culture, Creativity, Communication’. Phew. Almost like eating too much at a wonderful, delectable, dare I say, delicious buffet. Now if there were only enough time in the day to explore each of these.

I have been away at a fantabulous retreat on technology in service of communities for change and my head is exploding with ideas about the role of feminine in technology stewardship, computer jewelry and a bunch of other stuff. But one piece that resonates from yesterday with this list from Chris was how we explored together to see how existing tools can be applied for a cause. Related to Penguin day last Saturday. It's all a swirl. More after some sleep.

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Sunday, March 26, 2006

Penguin Day - Seattle

Yesterday I was at Aspiration Tech's Penguin Day (notes ), a one day immersion into free and open source software (FOSS), in this case, for the non profit section. The event piggy backed on the NTC conference that finished Friday.

It was a delighful mix of F2F networking, good information on FOSS and some fun activities, including
Yoga for Geeks from Sarah Pullman, Speed geeking (definition). I think I got whiplash!

I was riveted by Allen Gunn's speed geek offering of a npo FOSS social networking app. I'm drooling, seeing the possibilities for other parts of the NPO , voluntary and CoP sectors. Mmmm.. When will it be done, gunner?

I was also impressed by the great Drupal deployment by the Chicago arts group (I need to find the woman's name!) and instantly thought how this could also be deployed in other cities off of all the great thinking and FOSS work done by the team in Chicago. Reuse, recycle, reinvent. LOVE IT!

Thanks for the pix, Kris!

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Friday, March 24, 2006

Family Oral History Using Digital Tools

One more quickie, then it is time for Friday leftovers dinner. Susan Kitchens has done something brilliant with Family Oral History Using Digital Tools. She is putting into our hands the ways to capture the stories buried in the hearts and minds of our families. (Now, I know, some of those stories you WANT to keep buried.) Yay, Susan!

Now it's time for dinner.

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Mind Maps on Us/Them: A Blog Conversation Survival Guide

These probably aren't going to be readable (but you can click on them for a larger image), but I'm giving it a try. These represent our visual notes from our SXSW panel on blog conversations. I have also put them on Flickr as they are a bit easier to read there.

Who we (the panelists) are
- through some short stories

Why we care about blog conversations

Our "Rules of Thumb" for blog conversations

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Troll Caps, Scribblers, Disemvowellers - Whadday do with blog comments?

As I'm finalizing the mind map jpgs from our SXSW Panel, Us/Them: A blog conversation survival guide, I keep on coming across lots of ideas about what to do with blog comments that people feel are disruptive/not helpful/etc.

Today Gail Williams of the Well points out 37 Signals solution, Introducing the Troll cap . From the thread on 37 signals there was a link to a couple of other examples of visual censure (not censoring!) in blog comments. I've got a couple of screen shots.

This comes on the heels of Clay Shirky's moderation wiki (which I'm struggling with because there seems to be no way to have a conversation about the effort, but that's another story!). Lots of people are thinking about this, which I think is a terrific sign. What troubles me is that most of the solutions put forth really are band aids, not solutions.

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The NTC Blogging Panel Blog � Blog Archive � Burning Questions, Notes and What’s Next?

Today Marshall Kirkpatrick, John Lorrance, Beth Kanter (in spirit but in emergency absentia) and I led a panel on non profit blogging at the NTC conference here in Seattle. Part of the session was breakouts for folks to think about HOW and WHY they might blog at their non profit, and what burning questions they had. Boy, did they have terrific Burning Questions. We haven't quite settled on how to continue this conversation, but in the short term, feel free to pop over to our panel blog and offer any answers or reflections on the question.

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Stories from the Field of Hosting: A Woven Story

I was part of a gathering in January that I don't full think I understand. I both calls me and not calls me at the same time. I've been trying to understand that. So I keep paying attention to the ripples that have come out of it.

There are quite a few artifacts from the event and today I was led to one I had not seen before, beautifully stewarded by Ashley Cooper.

If you are interested in facilitation, particularly the form of hosting in Open Space, check out: story. A Woven Story. I'm not going to pull excerpts because it is a whole thing that feels to me like it should stand that way.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

:: Who is an “aid worker”? :: March :: 2006

Elisabeth over at Dans le meilleur des mondes possibles has a poll this week for all of you who think you are an aid worker or think you know what one is. Now, this is not just about drawing a line in the sand. So first, pop over to Dans le meilleur des mondes possibles :: Who is an “aid worker”? and read -- all the way through the comments.
"Therefore, I’m asking all of you to give your opinions: What is an aid worker? Who qualifies, who doesn’t? I found a new pollster, happily, that allows for multiple responses. I’ve made two. The first one is for people who consider themselves aid workers. The second is for people who are not aid workers, but who would like to answer (I want to disaggregate the data).

I realize the list is not exhaustive, but the poll only allowed ten answers. Your theses, definitions, arguments, etc. are welcome in the comments section."
As someone who often works in support of or peripherally with aid workers, I personally don't think there is one definition that fits all. The practices and politics are diverse enough alone to make your head spin.

But what interests me here is how we self identify and thus put ourselves in or out of a community. Our belongingness or our outsiderness. It is a peculiar quality of groups and group dynamics.

I think about outsiderness and insiderness in online groups and I suspect, without the F2F reinforcements, we tend to feel more often like an outsider. I wonder if aidworkers, often working outside of their own organizations, feel like outsiders?

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Online Group Interaction: Looking Back, Looking Forward

(This was published yesterday on Cybersoc today. I decided maybe I should cross post it here at "home!")

Robin Hamman asked me to write about online community management and as I started to tickle-tackle my keyboard, I realized I’m not sure I believe in “online community management” per se, so I decided to subvert my topic right off the bat. I guess as an independent, I like to resist being managed. Like a community of people, I want to be supported and facilitated, but I chafe with too many restrictions. So Robin, I’m subverting the topic to Online Group Interaction, ok? (I know Robin is generous too, so I’m still on safe ground!)

This small act of subversion resonates with what I’ve learned about online groups of all sorts over time: communities, teams, ad hoc short term mobs and everything in between. I’ll use the term “community” for all of these for convenience sake, but my disclaimer is strong: not all groups are communities. Likewise, groups are like individuals: each has a unique finger print and context. So take my generalizations with a huge grain of salt, and, as choconancy, I advise a side of dark chocolate with your salt. (Hmm, sea salt chocolate covered caramels anyone?)

Back to the subversion. Community in 2005 was all about the community and rarely about the people or organizations that convened them. That is NOT to say their leadership and work was unimportant. But it was no longer a sustainable driving force like it used to be. Tara Hunt quoted a SXSW panelist writing "If the community kills us, we probably deserve to die.(metaphorically speaking, of course)" . I'm nodding in agreement.

So here we go….

A little of what I learned in 2005
It is hard to distill all the lessons of online community in a short essay. 2005 was a ground shifting year because of the continued rate of adoption of blogging, the ad hoc community response to disasters (some of which Richard Sambrook addressed as Monday's guest ), the increased number of people going online and that exponential growth in new ideas and possibilities triggered by the technical developments called “Web 2.0.” So I’ll pick a few.

It’s the people, stupid!
And it's the good people. I’m going to paraphrase a line from Craig Newmark’s presentation last week at SXSW, possibly stealing some thunder from his guest blog post on Friday. Craig shared that most people online are not doing bad things online. And more of these “good people’ are going online, diluting the effects of the few folks out there maliciously taking advantage in online spaces. This resonates with my experience. Without a doubt one still needs to take care with what we disclose online and how we protect our private information, but the examples of how people connect and benefit each other far far far outweigh the bad stuff. And the bad stuff gets the press. Like the preceding years, much of the good stuff has been ignored.

Look at the hundreds of thousands of goods spared from the trash heap via simple email intersections with Freecycle ( Reflect on how many people were found and reconnected with friends and family due to the Hurricane Katrina People Finder Project (, the resources mobilized – even in a time of donor fatigue – for the Pakistani Earthquake (building on the Tsunami work ( , and the life-grounding support shared by families with babies in the neonatal intensive care unit at Share Your Story ( Good stuff is happening. And it is happening through the intersections of people online who probably otherwise would not have connected.

Looking at the ad hoc disaster relief of online groups, the key lessons were that individuals can respond faster than larger organizations and work with finer grained data in their response. They have a role in disaster response, and those planning such responses should consider and include online community responses in the future. The action on newspaper bulletin boards in the US Gulf Coast region post Katrina changed how those papers saw themselves as both a community resource and as a channel for citizen journalism. From a forward looking perspective, US geeks should network with global geeks who have been doing disaster relief for years. There is much both communities can learn from each other. (See,, etc.)

The tremendous success of these ad hoc initiatives has, I suspect, helped get more non profits and non governmental organizations to think about how online interaction technologies can help them achieve their missions. More organizations began adopting online group tools and processes, from blogging, to wikis and web based forums, to distributed workgroups attempting to collaborate horizontally across a group of NGOs. These brought both success and challenges. Initiatives in the US like NetSquared, GlobalVoices, and others.

From a “management” perspective – or I prefer, a facilitation perspective – the ad hoc communities were a great place to learn about emergent norms and agreements. Many of them formed their norms and agreements as they went, with perhaps a few simple core agreements up front. Facilitation and management often bubbled up from within the community – which is a great model for ad hoc groups. I wonder about the sustainability as there is that pattern of “the same people volunteer all the time” and burn out. But that would be one of the things to watch for in 2006. I think we are getting better at community generated support.

From an online culture perspective humanity stayed consistent, creating pockets of “us” and “them” at every turn. Our online groups mirrored our offline practices, but now we have a more transparent lens. Political online communities, which feel like they are getting nastier each year, may either put the rest of us off politics, or cause a revolt to a more constructive form of engagement, both online and offline. The “performance” flamer still gets page views, but many of us have had enough of snark, baiting and outright attack for entertainment’s sake. Or maybe I’m just being a Pollyanna. It would not be the first time, but if we are to use the net’s power for something productive, like, let’s say, world peace, we need to be able to have productive conversations that may not lead to agreement, but at least a little better understanding of each other. From a practice perspective, I’d put this on the table as one of the key things for future learning. We aren't so hot at it offline. Naturally, we aren't so hot at it online either!

From a demographic perspective, the early adopters were out in force, trying every Web 2.0 widget and abandoning most of them at the same frenetic pace. Many of these 2.0 applications came with the label “community” or “network,” leading some to call 2005 the year online community finally bounced back from the dot-bomb. Those who have been running thriving communities since then may wince, but from a business perspective, community was no longer a dirty word. But consider this: while the early adopters try, adapt or discard within weeks, the second wavers take longer to settle in. I wonder about what has been discarded that might have been valuable to second wavers and how we can include second wave perspectives in online group interaction tool design. Danah boyd has written some interesting things about this.
“What they're doing methodologically is very unique in software development and is not yet part of the standard practices for developing social software, although it should be. Embedded observation allows developers to understand culture. They are doing a form of ethnography, the method used by those seeking to understand culture. They understand culture by living amidst the cultural natives, trying to understand practices from the perspective of the people engaged in them. They are trying to make sense of how the symbols came to be and how the culture is maintained. They are doing so in order to understand culture and to help shape the architecture to support the culture.
Embedded observation takes into account the cultural forces that can not be systematically tested or modeled. As a result, the designers are aware of social problems when they materialize and can work immediately to try to influence change. Their efforts at understanding culture and evolving the design alongside it create a meaningful bond between the users and the designers. “

My hope is this sort of embedded observation will be wider than the first wave adopter spaces. The power is in the second and third waves. The power is in the lurkers reading blogs and online community sites, even if they are not posting. Because they carry these ideas. They buy the products. So who is paying attention to them in the online community space? Things got interesting in 2005. Communities of interest started forming between networks of blogs written by people who aren’t geeks and edge-dwellers. Mommyblogging became a force to be reckoned with, as evidenced by the slew of advertising deals laid on the central bloggers. But more interesting is how those “A list” mommybloggers participated with a much wider network of the long tail. Community? Probably.

Despite much talk about digital natives and digital immigrants, the demographics of who is participating in online groups and communities really fascinates me. We see a huge flow of young people coordinating both their social life and personal identities online in places such as MySpace. At the same time, there are swaths of youth who deliberately choose not to participate. In a recent blog article about a presentation he gave to a university class, Ethan Kaplan (himself a young 26) wrote
“…an interesting thing regarding “show of hands” surveys during lecture:
  • About 1/3 had a MySpace profile.
  • Roughly 90% had FaceBook profiles.
  • o Five people, all guys had heard of digg
  • No one had heard of BoingBoing, Delcious, memorandum or NewsVine.
  • About 15 had the Arctic Monkeys CD. None had paid for it
  • Only a few had actually bought music in the last month
  • About 20 had heard about the Sony DRM scandal”

The dominant meme here for me is not technology, but community. The explicit community of MySpace and FaceBook, and the networked version with file sharing.

Recent Pew Internet data suggests that the middle-agers are just a few points behind the youth, questioning our assumptions about adoption. Some of them are blogging now, not just acting as consumers. Others are deeply engaged in all sorts of online group activities. Remember online dating? Alive and well. My take? When the reason is compelling, people will adopt. There are more compelling online interaction experiences available than ever.

That said, there was and continues to be some level of fear and even fear mongering around online groups, particularly those for teens. MySpace ( has repeatedly come under attack as a dark and dangerous place for teens. (, , . ) My older teen children use MySpace, FaceBook and other tools and I have to say, the fear mongering for me is a continued reflection of the US environment where fear is a political tactic. My message to parents: stay involved with and talk to your kids. These online spaces are part of their reality. Learn to leverage their strengths and guard against the weaknesses, but it’s too late to even think about throwing the baby out with the bathwater. The baby is too big and we can’t lift her!

Technology in 2005: Welcome Web 2.0!
In the past when we talked about online community it was dominated technologically by email lists and web based forums. In 2004, the idea of “community” and “blogs” started to emerge. In 2005, this trend solidified and created both some fascinating stories and some ticklish tensions. Then add on the weave of “Web 2.0” technologies (I’ll not quibble with terms right now but see and Emily Chang's eHub) . This is worth a whole separate post but some of the things we could explore include:
The community of web forums as distinct (and sometimes antagonistic) of the community supported by blogging tools
  • The overwhelming number of applications that, in theory, can help you track people and conversations, none of which do it very well
  • The way new tools ask us to yet again rethink what “conversation” means – what IS a blog conversation after all? What is a wiki conversation? How are the practices different from lists and forums?
  • The trend of communities hopping between tools and media, many no longer anchored to a platform – what does this mean for those less adept at hopping? What does it mean to a community’s ability to switch?
  • What will all this multimedia mean? Podcasts, vlogging, vodcasts, flickr – we used to aggregate around text, now we have a diverse playground of choices. Will we aggregate by our media preferences? Or still around the issues we jointly care about? Will this bring us together more or increase separation?

Looking forward, this proliferation of tools will either get us closer to our online interaction space nirvana, or will swamp up with options and we’ll stay in email forever (please, no!) I hope more tool builders will heed danah’s suggestion of embedded design and soon communities will be partners in designing their technologies rather than staying reliant on people who are a step too far outside to really understand their needs.

I also think 2006 is a good time to explore how our values are embedded in our tools and what responsibilities we have as tool designers to be both transparent and flexible about those values.

What if? Pulling out the crystal ball…
There are some interesting “what ifs” lurking in 2006. What if the bird flu pandemic hits and everyone starts seeing online group interaction as a must have to convene without travel? What would it mean to education if schools were shut down for the duration? For me, this is a reinforcement to the importance and urgency of understanding how to interact successfully online in a wide range of context and with a diverse set of tools. If you have not attained basic mastery of blogging, web based discussions, VOIP and web based conferencing, do it now. Invest in yourself. If you already have strong base competencies, help cultivate them in your group and seek more.

If more people are adopting online group experiences, the next question to ask is how do we do it well? What are the skills and competencies we need to have more hits than misses? Last year I took a stab at suggesting some of these competencies, and refined that a bit more this year. Based on the feedback I’ve gotten, I’m working more on this. I think it may be hitting a nerve. You can find the images and some of the text on my flickr page. As I start to talk to human resources folks, they look at me like I’m insane at first, then they start nodding their heads. I think this is a conversation that is begging to be had – across many industries and domains.

Because of having so many online interaction options, I have been thinking a lot about “the invitation.” What triggers people to engage when they have so many choices?

The second interesting “what if” is the potential rebellion to being “always on.” When does our “continuous partial attention” (Linda Stone ) start to kill us as multitasking erodes, rather than supports, engagement and productivity? When do the hundreds of potential invitations simply become spam and we turn it all off.? What corner will people retreat to? What will they reject and what are the implications? Think of all the governments investing in online civic participation. What if overload derails their work? Will it shut down eBay? Probably not, but there is a limit to our attention, the coin of cyberspace. I suspect 2006 will be a year when we are forced to deal with this. Um, we’ll have to PAY ATTENTION to attention.

As the curse/proverb goes, “May you live in interesting times.”

We do!

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Photos from Hetq Online

I subscribe to a Flickr feed of pictures about Armenia. I had not looked at it in a while. Tonight, I found Photos from Hetq Online, gut wrenching pictures of homeless people in the capital of Yerevan, children in a home for special needs children, and a variety of slices of life that tore right to my heart.

The photographer, Onnik Krikorian, also blogs at Oneworld,

I {{heart}} people who share their world on Flickr.

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Magic Groups - A ScreenCast by Zack Rosen

May I just say, I love wunderkind. Zack Rosen has posted a screen cast on Magic Groups exploring how CivicSpace can provide Yahoogroup like functionality.

I work with many international NGOs for whom email lists are the common denominator. Not everyone in the world has stable web access, but most can, by hook or by crook, access email. So a community tool that has email as the bedrock is critical. I'm happy to see this and look forward to learning more about it at Penguin Day here in Seattle on Saturday. Anyone else coming to it?.
Consider this:

* My job is to focused around developing web applications that help communities collaborate yet the majority of the day to day collaborative work I am personally involved in is faciliated by standard mailman mailing lists, not community focused web applications. Mailing lists are functionaly no different than they were more than twenty years ago when they were invented.
* Without a doubt the most pervasive and powerful organizing tool the Dean campaign grassroots groups used beyond Meetup to self organize was Yahoo groups. Yahoo's business is centered around 'user produced content' and community. YahooGroups (formerly eGroups) with 50M registered users is their #1 community tool. Yet the toolset has barely changed in the 6+ years since eGroups was bought and made a part of Yahoo.
* In my experience as a community organizer (DeanSpace, PeopleFinder) I have found that there are only two indespensable tools: wiki's and mailinglists. With both in place 85%+ of your web app needs are covered and groups are more than capable of self-organizing effectively.

So given all this, why does CivicSpace still not ship with working YahooGroups-like mailinglists and wiki support? Good freaking questions. Thankfully, I believe we are finally getting close to an adequate answer....

Behold dear readers, my fi"

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Welcome to blogging, Janet and Germtales

My friend Janet started blogging today. Take a look at germtales:
"Germ Tales is about the microbial Velcro that connects us all, that has made us who and what we are, and gives literal meaning to the biblical poetry of “Dust to Dust.” Life, from its tiniest manifestations, is the gathering of resources to make a greater whole, while Death is about dispersal. The line between the two is deliciously blurry. A bacterium dies, releasing genes quickly snapped up by neighbors and voila: Superbugs. An oxygen-burning bacterium refuses to be digested by another microbe and, lucky us, becomes the powerhouse mitochondria found in every nucleated cell. A dead whale sinks to the bottom of the sea and an eerie ecosystem found nowhere else forms, full of weird worms and other alien creatures.

I am fascinated by this march of life through life, through time. It’s not just the fun of being able to tell intelligent design-types that actually, ahem, we’re all descended from germs. It’s the excitement of being able to understand what’s really going on. "
Now if that ain't a juicy peek at an amazing first post, I don't know what is. Curious? Take a look. And Janet, welcome to the blogging world!

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Tree Bressen's Facilitation Resources

Are you a facilitator? Check out Tree Bressen's terrific resources on her website.

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Jory on "Outward Facing"

I'm doing a writing assignment today, so I have to have lots of breaks. I was browsing Jory Des Jardin's blog and found her post on the value of blogging. The Blogomatic! It slices, dices, and even transforms a career!. Lots of good stuff, but there is one piece I want to pull out, as it has relevance to any community, particularly communities of practice.

In communities we often think about IN the community. What we share inside the boundaries. But cool stuff happens on the edges, boundaries and borders, so our community's outward face is important. I've been suggesting blogs as an outward face to a number of communities and non profits lately, so I was nodding when I read:

Blogging rewards outward facing thinking. I've found it ironic that I've been asked to help companies with STRONG competencies in media to better understand Web 2.0. The problem is they've become so focused on the day-to-day of their business reality and have become stuck in the insular thinking that inevitably results.

Companies that claim they can't afford to allow employees to blog are saying that they can't afford external PR, market research, and connection with clients. I still don't have the magic time management formula for corporate workers who want to blog but can't find the time. All I can tell them is that blogging forces expertise. You must read and interact in order to have something to say. If you don't want to have something to say, don't blog. And don't read blogs. Sure, you can read trade publications, but the act of blogging enforces a deeper thinking of your craft. It's hard to blog about something that you haven't grappled with and come to a conclusion on in some way.

That said, bloggers are by nature more intuned to whatever community they are writing about. And they can establish quickly where they can impact it. The Intrapreneurism that companies require to now stay ahead of the curve is easy to cultivate. Encourage people to blog. It's hard to feel out of the loop and disengaged with innovation when you are blogging.

Nodding in agreement. What is your outward facing strategy? Both for "telling" and for "listening?"

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The Panel I Missed at SXSW

So... some of you have wondered why I did not blog anything from SXSW. Well, I got food poisoning and it ratcheted me down more than a few notches and I missed all the panels I really wanted to see. But luckily Badger live blogged the one I REALLY felt bad missing. (THANK you Liz!)

In 2005 I stumbled into the first "Blogging While Black" panel and live blogged it. It was one of those experiences that stayed with me for a variety of reasons. I learned a lot from the panelists. It gave me a tiny bit of insight into race and identity that I did not have when I walked in the room. And it connected me with some very cool bloggers like George, Lynne and Tiffany. It was also interesting that my live blog post was one of the most commented upon blog posts I've ever had. It gave me lots to wonder about.

Thus the 2006 panel was on my list. But my body had other plans. Read it all at badgerbag: messy, surly, full of books: liveblogging - Blogging While Black panel.

Blogging while Black panel at SXSWi

Moderator: Lynne D. Johnson -
GM of new media for Spin magazine
What has blogging while black mean to you since last year?"

I still have notes from a few other panels, plus the promised mind maps from our panel on Us/Them. After I finish today's client work, this is next on my to do list!

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Beth Reminds Us

Originally uploaded by cambodia4kidsorg.
The picture speaks for itself!

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Video Bomb - Halcyon At SXSW

Hey, I've been bombing with "digital explorers." I kind of like that term (far more realistic than "digerati" or, blech, visionaries.) When Jon Lebkowsky said to Halcyon, "shoot Nancy" my first instinct was to run. There is something about video, something irrevocable about letting someone capture you, that gives me pause. But heck, how can you say no to a guy with pink hair. Halcyon's zest for life that I've witnessed each time I come to SXSW reminds me that this is a gift to the world. So I said yes. Then I blathered on about phytoplankton. Thank gawd he edited that out. I appreciate the kindness! Video Bomb - Halcyon At SXSW:
"Halcyon interviews a bunch of digital explorers at SXSW1 2006 about how video is empowering the individual. Features: Eddie Kodel (, Craig Newark (craigslist), Jason Carlin (, Jon Lebkowsky, Eric Rice, Nancy White, Matt Mullenweg (wordpress), Dana Boyd, Srini Kumar (, Peter Merholz (adaptive path)"
Now, one last self deprecating comment. How did I get in with all these cool people? I'm the dork! Craig claims geekdom. I stand for dorkdom!

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The Treatment is Dialogue

Via Blogher I tripped across the blog of a medical student spending four weeks in a remote bush clinic in Galiwin’ku, Australia. The whole blog is a testement of why telling our stories is so compelling, but within one of the posts there is a gem that is worth surfacing again and again. lost in sasazuka - elective adventures:
diarrhoeal illness is the biggest killer of children worldwide, particularly those in underdeveloped countries. the oxford handbook of clinical specialties (OHCS) says 'southern diarrhoea is only an excuse for northern amnesia' ie the future of those born in the 'first world' is assured, at the expense of those in the 'third world'. this case was 'third world' medicine - dirty water & overcrowding, managed with with 'first world' knowledge and resources, yet it was still incredibly difficult and heartbreaking to treat.

i went home that night and saw a tv ad showing the plight of third world children, condemned to a life of diarrhoea and premature death due to the lack of clean drinking water. the ad called for donations to a community service group to help them build more wells, provide clean drinking water, and rescue these children from preventable 'third world' diseases. while ive never seen such ads calling for donations to help top end children in similar situations, i can't help thinking that the solution requires more than digging wells, or providing adequate housing.

to quote the OHCS again:
'if we want do do something for children, it is no good just doing something about the big killers, such as diarrhoea, and it's no good simply attacking poverty, for there is something dark in our human heart which needs addressing before purely statistical or biological interventions have a chance of success. there is only one way of influencing human nature, and that is through dialogue. so in this sense, the treatement of diarrhoea is dialogue.'
A few days ago I posted my ambiguity around "helping" and the possibility of misdirection or even harm. Kim brings it all back down to earth. The treatment of this disease is dialogue.

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Monday, March 20, 2006 - Three Free Passes!

The 2006 online conference is coming up March 29 - April 2. I'll be presenting the "Snow White and the 7 (make that 8) Competencies of Online Interaction" as well as a joint offering on Technologies for Community with Etienne Wenger and John Smith.

It's all online, so you can participate from anywhere. You can see the full line up of presenters, pre-conference hands-on sessions and blog yourself.

As a presenterI have been gifted with three FREE passes.

What to participate? Here's the deal. Be one of the first three people to post a comment ALONG with your participation intentions. In other words, what of your time will you commit? I ask this because the down side of free passes is people don't take them seriously and then don't use them.

So if you want to USE one, post soon!

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I'm guest blogging: what should I say?

Robin Hamman over at Cybersoc has invited me to join a group of guest bloggers on this week.
"Each day next week (20-24 March), will be publishing posts by a series of special guest bloggers to help mark the one year anniversary of (the blog, not the site which is 10 this year).

The guest bloggers are all leaders in their respective areas and should have some interesting ideas to share. Each of them will use their blog entry here to look back at the highlights of their chosen topic area over the past year and to look forward to give us a glimpse of what developments or changes they're excited, or worried about, happening over the coming year."
My topic is "online community management" but I think Robin would be ok if I subverted that a bit. Just to prove humans aren't so prone to being managed, eh?

I'm asking this waaay late because I have to write this this afternoon, but what are the big things you saw in 2005 in online groups? What do you forsee for this year? Write quick, because the one thing I know for sure is a community is smarter than any one of its members. And I need you!

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Sunday, March 19, 2006

Looking at Patterns of Online Interaction

After the 2006 Etech conference (see great notes by Nate Torkington), Clay Shirkey et al's wiki on online moderation strategies has been linked to in a variety of places, discussed on the online facilitation list and of course, piqued my interest. Like related efforts at CommunityWiki and Meatball Wiki, it seeks to notice patterns about online interaction, this time from the software perspective. In other words, what should tool builders be aware of as they buid tools for online interaction. At Etech, from Nat's notes, Clay said:
Social software is the experimental wing of political philsophy, a discipline that doesn't realize it has an experimental wing. We are literally encoding the principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression in our tools. We need to have conversations about the explicit goals of what it is that we're supporting and what we are trying to do, because that conversation matters. Because we have short-term goals and the cliff-face of annoyance comes in quickly when we let users talk to each other. But we also need to get it right in the long term because society needs us to get it right. I think having the language to talk about this is the right place to start.
I'd quibble and say software is nto the experimental wing, but rather the design and implementation of software. I'd also quibble with the word "users" but we'll save that for another day.

That said, I do believe we encode our values in the tools we build, so we'd damn well better pay attention. However, we encode far more (or less!) than the principles of freedom of speech. We code in our cultural biases, our believes and values. So when we remember that we are part of a global interaction, the US-centric model of tool building needs to be examined, and our practices discussed with our peers in other places.

For example, after hurricane Katrina there was a series of efforts by tool builders to better capture and organize missing persons data, connect people to material and volunteers to tasks. The tech turks invented some cool stuff. But did we look beyond our borders to know what international relief organizations have been doing now for some time? Did our focus on local response cause us to recreate the wheel a bit? Probably. What if these patterns had been on the table in easy sight?

Finally, there is the piece that is not coded in the software. This is not mechanical moderation. It is human facilitation. As we look at online interaction supported by internet based tools, we must keep an eye on our very basic human interaction patterns, born offline, and carried online in both successful and dysfunctional ways. Software does not trump our basic skills, but it can augment our intentions.

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What An African Woman Thinks

This was too good not to link to from What An African Woman Thinks. I struggle constantly with the tensions inherent in wanting to "do good" or "hel.p" I worry that too often I, in my personal ignorance, despite best intentions, do nothing, or worse, do harm. Take a read...
"It’s great that you want to do something meaningful with the little (or considerably more than a little) extra that you’ve worked so hard to accumulate. It’s great that you see that you can use your wealth to make the world a better place for folk less fortunate (term used loosely) than yourself.


How about shifting your deliberations about what ails the poor from glitzy, virtually inaccessible conference venues in countries that are notorious for their tight-fistedness with visas for people originating from certain parts of the world that shall remain unnamed but implied, and bring the dialogue to the poor, in their communities?

Helping The ‘Less Fortunate’101:


*Let the ‘less fortunate’ speak


*Really listen

*Ditch the concerts that marginalise the stakeholders. (Emotionally-charged pause. OK, Seriously??)

*Give the community a stake in the solution

*Refrain from offering pre-packaged, one-size fits all, ship-them-by the container-load solutions.

*Understand that sometimes it’s not about the right way to do things or the wrong way to do things but about the way you do things and the way they do things

*Recap of listen, really, really listen

*Understand that the ‘less fortunate’ are not just a statistic on a piece of paper in a file in a room in a building, somewhere. They are people with minds and hearts and dreams and aspirations

*Understand that no matter where the solutions come from, if the community that is supposed to benefit from them doesn’t take ownership of them, then you will fail ‘Helping The Less Fortunate’ 101.

That's my mantra for today. Listen.


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Saturday, March 18, 2006

Emily Gertz Launches OneAtlantic

(OK, fair warning. It is blog catch up time!)

Emily Gertz (also a writer with WorldChanging) has launched a dream-child project she has been working on for a while, OneAtlantic. From the site, here's what OneAtlantic is all about:
Global warming, air pollution, energy generation, preserving biodiversity and watersheds, economic justice and prosperity ... these are just some of the complex issues faced along the Atlantic coast. Although they cut across city, county, state and country borders, attempts to solve them are typically defined by those political boundaries -- rather than the geographic (and sometimes ecological) unity of the natural feature we share: the Atlantic Ocean.

OneAtlantic aims to look at these and other concerns with a cross-boarder emphasis that reframes the geography of the east -- looking for the interconnections, laying a foundation for support of policies and projects that will enable people to create a sustainable, healthy, prosperous future for the Atlantic coast.

OneAtlantic will combine media arts - journalism, photography, video, audio - to explore the region's interrelated environmental and economic challenges. It will highlight news from the region's press, publish original writing, and involve contributors from across the region.

Right now the primary focus is North America -- as your founding writer/editor is geographically located thereon. News and views from elsewhere around the Atlantic rim are most welcome and hopefully will become integral to OneAtlantic.
Way to go, Emily!

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Inspiration <<-->> Cultural Appropriation

By wandering link kismet I landed today on a free blog design site and clicked into this design, Mahakali. A while ago I was reading about Kali and I was drawn to the strong symbolism and female energy of this goddess. Then I stumbled upon the design from dreamLogic. I loved it. I loved how they talked about the inspiration of their design and thought, gee, this would be great for my blog (company branding be damned.)

Then another part of my brain took over. As an American living in a global world, particularly one that works with people all over the world, I wondered if I was culturally appropriating that which is sacred to others.

The net-enabled world creates new possibilities. Remix, mashups, working across time and distance allow the opportunity to "borrow" from any culture. For those of us that work across these boundaries, what should our practices be?

How do we "remix" deep respect? Should we? I don't know. What do you think?

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Thursday, March 16, 2006

The EdNA Digital Storytelling Network

(I know, I know - I have not blogged in ages, I did not live blog SXSW, etc. I'll explain later. But now I just need to dash this off!)

Interested in digital story telling? Want to learn how to do it? Check out this site (run on Moodle, I think) the Digital Storytelling Network. Here's their blurb:
Digital storytelling is an engaging strategy for building learning materials; communicating with networks; displaying portfolios; as well as a captivating tool for capturing and sharing project, team and organisational knowledge.

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This is the place to discuss, learn, explore and implement your digital storytelling techniques and applications.


Thursday, March 09, 2006

Are we strangers? A preemie parent's story on Flickr

Via my work on the March of Dimes Share Your Story online community for parents of babies in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) I was passed a link to a flickr photo set documenting the short life of Stuart, born too soon. Stuart Highlights - a photoset on Flickr is a beautiful testement to a baby who had a very short life, but it is also something larger for us, the viewer and us, those who comment and connect.

Reading both Stuart's dad's narrative and the comments of friends, families and flickr friends, I was struck by how images, words and conveyance via the internet helped us cross the chasm, even if for a moment, connecting between people, making us something other than strangers, anonymous beings.

It is powerful. It is moving. It causes us to think. To feel. Very human practices.

How can we leverage this connection to our humanness, our humanity, to cross other chasms?

Stuart's family - you have touched us. Stuart, you have touched us through the words and images your dad shared. Thank you.

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Monday, March 06, 2006

Stephen Downes Takes a Pause

It is always interesting and sometimes painful to see something from a colleague - perhaps one you have met briefly F2F, or only known online -- that gives you pause. Today when I opened up my daily fix of Stephen Downes' ~ OLDaily, I read this message:
"I have always tried to offer as much of myself as I could through this service and others in my work and in my own time. It has never been enough, which was made clear to me today, but I am tired and don't have anything more to give.

Accordingly, I am placing this newsletter and website on hiatus for an indefinite period. I will be back when I'm back.

Please know that I have always valued and held in the highest esteem the work that all of you are doing to try to make things better, especially for the young. My dedication toward your objectives, toward social justice and opportunity, toward a better life for all, is never wavering, will never waver.

It is time for a darkening of the light as I retreat and think about what I am going to do and how I am going to do it, but know that the light will never flicker and never fade. I wish you well in your endeavours, and I will be back to walk the long hard road alongside you.

-- Stephen
Stephen has been one of those people who never holds back his ideas, resources, opinions and pointers. If there is an example of someone living an open source or gift economy life, he fits it. But based on the tone of his message, I can't help but wonder what it costs him in his professional position.

That said, I left him a message supporting his hiatus. Taking a break, making space, reflecting, being silent: these are things that it is easy to skip in our fast paced online lives. Finding the balance of self and world is perhaps a rare gift.

Whatever the cause, Stephen, I support you in finding the next steps on your path.

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Sunday, March 05, 2006

Lucie and Allison: Useful, Human Voices

Two of my favorite colleagues in international development work for Bellanet -- and now they are blogging! I can almost hear their voices as they write, as Lucie did on this post on about a meeting on organizational development:
This basically led us to discuss the fact that for many of us, the walls of the "official" organisation have been broken down by the various communities or networks that we are involved in. We sometimes share more work ideas with colleagues located in another continent than in the office next door, and this has huge impact on "organisational learning" as it has been understood in the past. There is often more of a kinship with people doing similar work elsewhere than with our own colleagues. The analogy I came up with was that organisations are a bit like family... you can't choose your family members but you can choose your friends ;-) Anyway, it gave me pause. Maybe the term "organisation" needs a re-definition?
and Allison here reflecting on a MashupCamp :
One fellow OS community member, Chris Collison shares his thoughts on this kind of straw polling approach: "To do so in the middle of the offerings being made slows things down and seems premature until all the agenda offerings are made and to do so later introduces a level of complexity that also inhibits flow. Having people sign up for sessions gives an indication of interest, but in my experience, if a session is too big for it's space, the convenors usually find a way to swap with others or to relocate. In my opinion, well said, Chris.

Their voices are personal, their insights are both specific enough to help me get a sense of what they are talking about, but also generalized in some way to be more broadly useful. I keep thinking of the word "USEFUL" as a descriptor of their blogging practices. Human voice and useful. Not a bad combination. Hey women, are you coming to Blogher?

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Via the Bellanet Blog I found Orange, an open source collaborative film production project. The about text gives some insight into their goals:

With Blender originating as an in-house creation tool, the day-to-day feedback and interaction of both developing and using the software was one of its most outstanding features.

In the past 2.5 years of open source development, it was especially this uniqueness of Blender that has proven to be difficult to organize and maintain. The Blender Foundation itself has no intention to grow or expand into a company or studio; such a development would conflict with the public benefit goals. Instead, the Foundation aims at endorsing and supporting activities within (educational) institutes, universities and companies.

It is our conviction that establishing - content targeted - incidental, independent and temporal projects will be a strong boost for open source development strategies in general. Daily interaction of artists and developers can not only result in proof of concepts, but also in research of innovative solutions for the whole range of tools artists can deploy.

By keeping such projects content focused and temporal, it also is possible for a wide range of currently active volunteers to participate. Not many people are in a position to give up a career (study, job) to become full-time employed on the projects of their interest. But there are many active volunteers prepared and motivated to do this incidentally for shorter time spans.

Whilst Project Orange’s prime target is to create an outstanding movie short, the secondary goal is to research efficient ways to increase quality of Open Source projects in general.
As Graham noted on the Bellanet blog, it is cool that they are reflecting on their process - some action research if you will - to create value on a number of levels. I'm looking forward to the DVD!


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Friday, March 03, 2006

The Women Rule at SXSW!

Originally uploaded by Lisa_Stone.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

NGO Learning Wiki and Other Learning Resources

This week has been filled with connections to organizations and people looking at how learning is supported in NGOs (non governmental organizations - in the States we call them non profits - sort of the same). Greg had posted a comment today pointing to NGO Learning Wiki. I had a conversation earlier this week with folks from LINGOS, which is a coalition of NGOs seeing to share related learning offerings and practices. I've been active in a community I belong to on knowledge management and development (KM4Dev) where for me knowledge sharing IS about learning. And I've been a guest this week at CPSquare's "Foundations of Communities of Practice" workshop where learning is always at the core.

To see all these things keep popping up is a very good sign for two reasons. One is the recognition that learning is an engine for organizations. The second is that we don't have to do all our learning formally - that our communities are a rich place of learning. And third, when we do want more formalized learning, let's pool our resources. There is no need for constant wheel reinvention just so we can claim an effort as "ours" in an organizational context.

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