Saturday, December 30, 2006

Trying a New BookShelf

For years I hand coded a page of books that I like and recommend. Today I installed a new Amazon "astore." You can find it here --> Full Circle Associates: The BookShelf. Tell me what you think. Too much sell out ot Amazon? It was so easy to do.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

DOPA Dies on the Vine

Andy Carvin gives a good recap of the end of a bad piece of proposed legisltation. TeacherSource - DOPA Dies on the Vine . Phew!

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

January Online Event: Knowing Knowledge with George Siemens

The good folks at SCoPE are offering an online event with George Siemens January 10 - 30, Knowing Knowledge.

Facilitator: George Siemens
Description: This seminar discussion will launch SCoPE's Professional Reading Group Series. The book, Knowing Knowledge, is an exploration of knowledge - what it is, how it is changing, and what it means to our organizations and society. For information about the book visit
I recently purchased a copy of George's book, and if I can stop eating holiday cookies long enough, I hope to dive into it along with Jay Cross's "Informal Learning" which is sitting right next to George's book on my desk!

I also will have some other book news and information about upcoming online events that I'm either leading or supporting. Stay tuned.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Thinking About 2007 Resolutions - Important Days

For years I have been terrible about birthdays, anniversaries and important days. I have neglected sending holiday cards for years. In 2007, I want to be more aware and to do something for people on their important days. To help me I have created a Birthday Calendar on Google Calendar.

If you are a friend or colleague of mine, I'd love to add your important days to my calendar. Leave me a comment and I'll add you! I'd love to know your email too, so you might want to send that to me at nancyw at fullcirc dot com so I can send you a greeting.

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Or give the Sharing Foundation Ten Bucks

Hm, seems like more than one of my friends is in the Yahoo Charity Badge Challenge. I've given to both. How about you? Beth's Blog: Help Sharing Foundation Win Yahoo Charity Badge Challenge and Over A Thousand Cambodian Youngsters To School!

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Ten Bucks, One Minute and World Changing

My friends over at WorldChanging are trying to win the Yahoo Charity Badge Challenge. If they get the most individual donations (anything over $10 per donation) they get a $50,000 matching grant which will supercharge their efforts in 2007. How about it? Can you chip in?

As for holiday blogging, I'm still in relax mode. Perhaps some posts later this week.

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Friday, December 22, 2006

Fauxto - Playing with images online

CogDog (Alan Levine) kept me from answering email because he pointed me to Fauxto. Alan gives details, but if you are like me, go play. It is a great, free too to create and manipulate images online. Oh, if I had only had this a couple of months ago when I was without my computer/software and wanted to edit some images for a slide show! Wow.


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Warning: Blog May Be Down

I'm trying to back up my blog to a single file to contribute towards a research project. It will mean that I'll be removing the existing template for a short bit, downloading the single page file, then restoring the blog. (See Blogger Help : How do I create a backup of my entire blog?)

This may cause some havoc for those reading on the site in the next hour or two. Standby!

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December 22nd gives me joy

Living in Seattle, Washington, USA has many benefits. It is a beautiful place. It can also be a dark place. Far north, cloudy and wet. So when December 22nd arrives, the day after the winter solstice, I always take a bit of joy, even when writing in the dark of the predawn, lit only by my monitor and desk lamp. This morning, reading a few blogs before I settle into work, I came across Tree Fitzpatrick's post with a strong image of "leaning into the light." It is worth sharing with my fellow lovers of light:The Culture of Love: holding steady
"I am leaning into the day after tomorrow and the days to follow. The first full day of winter brings us one day closer to the light of spring. I am leaning into the coming light just the way plants will strain towards scarce sunlight in a shade garden."
For my colleagues in the Southern Hemisphere, as you begin your lean away from the light, tuck this one away for June!

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

Toast and Charitable Giving

Your Name On Toast :: Your Name, Except on Toast is another brilliant, fun and creative way to give money to charity and if you like, get a little linky love for your site. Check it out! Buy some toast! Way to go, folks from Atto!

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5 Things Meme Morphs into 5 Cookies

Shawn tagged me. So a second time it comes around. The 5 things meme game circles back to deliver another strike. Karl wonders what it would look like if someone did a social network map as the tag traveled across our blog networks. I think that's a great idea. Looks like at least one other person did too! Anyone want to take that on? It would have been easier if there was a tag that accompanied the game, eh?

Do I post another 5 things about myself? Tag another 5 people? This starts to feel a bit like a vanity game. Do I refuse?

No. Get creative, Nancy! I'm going to share the 5 cookie recipes I'm baking for the holidays. You would not know that about me, right? More useful than 5 more personal Nancy tidbits, right? So look below for the cookie goodies.

As for my next round of victim, er, friends, I have to be careful as many have already been tagged. Hm, lets go for Bev Trayner (bring on the learning!), Chris Carfi (bring on humane biz/customer relationships!), Joitske Hulsebosch (bring on humane development), Amy Lenzo (bring on the beauty) and Honoria Starbuck (bring on the art!)

OK, now the cookies. If you want an easy to print out word doc, leave a comment with your email address. We have decadent. We even have marginally healthy (whole grains, vegetables!)
  • Mocha Slices (adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe)
  • My Sister's Walnut Cream Cheese Cookies
  • My son's favorite Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • This years Gingerbread Cookie variant (again, with a choconancy twist)
  • And as always, our family fudge.

Cream Cheese Walnut Cookies
From Cesca
~ 4 dozen

4 cup all purpose flour
1 teas. salt
1 lb. butter
6 oz. cream cheese
1 cup sugar
2 Tabl. Vanilla extract
2.5 cups walnuts

Chop and toast walnuts.

Mix salt and flour together.

In separate large bowl, cream butter and cream cheese until pale and fluffy w/ mixer.

Mix in sugar and vanilla

Use wooden spoon, stir in flour mix.

Stir in 1.5 cups of the toasted walnuts - reserve the rest for later.

Divide dough in half. Roll each into a cylinder 8-9 inches long.
wrap in parchment, freeze at least 30 minutes until firm or overnight. (I make the dough for this one and the mocha slices one day, cook the next or keep some on hand over the holidays to whip out and slice and make the house smell wonderful.)

Role each log in cup finely chopped walnuts.

Slice into 1/2 inch rounds.

Bake on parchment lined sheets at 350 degrees until golden.

Whole Wheat Gingerbread People
These are the brown ones in the picture. We decorate with a simple powdered sugar/milk/cream of tarter thin icing, colored sugars and piped premade decorating icing.

4 cups white whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
1/3 cup cocoa powder
11 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup dark natural cane sugar (i.e. muscavado), or alternately use a dark brown sugar, packed
3 large eggs
2/3 cup organic unsulfured molasses (blackstrap)
large grain sugar (turbinado) for decoration
popsicle sticks (optional)

In a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, salt and spices. Set aside.
In a large bowl by hand (or with an electric mixer) cream the butter until it is light and fluffy. Add the sugar and mix again until light and creamy. Blend in the eggs one at a time and then the molasses. Add the flour mixture in two additions either by hand or on low speed. Divide the dough into two pieces, wrap each in plastic and chill for an hour or so.

Heat oven to 350 degrees, racks in the middle, and line a couple baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. Set aside.

Roll the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop roughly 1/8-inch thick and cut into gingerbread men (or other desired shapes). Transfer to baking sheets and arrange a popsicle stick underneath each (if desired), no need to press the stick aggressively into the dough, gently is fine – the cookies will bake right onto the sticks. Sprinkle with sugar (optional) and bake for 7 –10 minutes (for 3 – 4-inch cookies), less for smaller cookies, more for larger.

Makes about 3 dozen four-inch gingerbread men.

Mocha Slice Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes about 4 dozen
1 ½ cup all-purpose flour plus extra for rolling
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup cocoa nibs
½ cup finely chopped pecans

Sift together flower, cocoa, salt, espresso powder and cinnamon in a large bowl and set aside.

Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla. Gently stir in flour mixture until just combined and stir in cocoa nibs and nuts.

Turn dough out on lightly floured surface. Roll into 2 inch diameter logs. Wrap in parchment paper and refrigerate until firm or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 F. Unwrap logs and let warm a bit. Brush with water and roll in chopped nuts or decorators sugar. Cut logs into ¼ inch thick rounds. Space 1 ½ inch apart on baking sheets lined with parchment. The parchment really helps and is worth it.

Bake until centers are set, about 8-9 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies Variation #1

I received this recipe in the Cooking Conference in the venerable online community, The Well

1 cup shortening (I use butter)
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (or I have used pumpkin pie spice)
1 tsp vanilla
1 6 oz pkg chocolate chips (1 cup) (I like to use mini chips)
1/2 cup pecans

Beat shortening at medium speed with electric mixer until fluffy. Gradually add sugar beating well. Add egg and pumpkin. Again mix well.

In separate bowl add all dry ingredients and add to pumpkin mixture slowly. Stir in vanilla, chips and pecans.

Drop dough by tablespoons onto lightly "Pammed" cookie sheets (I use parchment instead). Bake @ 350 for 13 mins.

about 5.5 dozen.

Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies Variation #2
From a variety of recipes mashed together

1 cup canned pumpkin
½ cup butter, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 ½ cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon cloves
3 cups oatmeal
1 bag mini chocolate chips

In large bowl, combine flowr, oats, baking soda and spices.

In a separate bowl, cream butter. Mix in pumpkin and brown sugar. Add vanilla.
Gently stir dry and wet ingredients together. Add in chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto parchment lined baking sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes. Cool on racks.

Happy Holidays!

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I Owe Jim

I have four meaty posts from Jim Benson bookmarked for either a thoughtful comment or a blog post to add to the conversation. I owe Jim. Tonight, while dining out at a cool Seattle restaurant, he texts me about their amazing chocolate dessert. Oh yeah! And I remembered that I really wanted to respond to the posts, but I hadn't wrapped my head around them yet. Then I see yesterday's post about one of my favorite topics, the backchannel. In Value of the Backchannel Jim shares the story of his company's backchannel PRACTICE. I love stories about practice. So darn useful.

And then, tonight, I get a little SMS chocolate back channel. Mmmmm.

Thanks, Jim.

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Wiki Research

In the New Communications Review they are thinking about wikis:
We at the Society for New Communications Research are about to embark on a study of wiki use. Our goal in our project is to study how knowledge workers in creative roles (advertising, marketing, public relations, design, etc.) are actually using wikis in the context of their everyday work. This should enable us to make some judgments about what features are helpful and what features are not. At that point, we can start making recommendations about best practices for wiki design.
I'll be interested to keep tabs. I'm also collecting cases, stories and practices, mostly in the non profit and NGO. I'll have to carry some of these over to the NCR wiki!

See also Tech Soup's Non Profit Wiki and Andy Robert's Wiki Facilitation Page.

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Our Online Energy Consumption (and waste)

BBC's Bill Thompson has a great column on the energy we waste with our switched on, but unused online gadgets over the holidays. By making the point about the energy wasted in UK offices during the holidays, Thompson points out the larger issue of the carbon load we create with our gadgets. And our lack of awarness of the energy considerations.
According to research carried out by office equipment supplier Canon, based on figures from the National Energy Foundation and Infosource, more than six million PCs will be left on over Christmas, consuming nearly forty million kilowatt hours of electricity.

Together with the printers and other hardware they will waste enough electricity to microwave 268 million mince pies, pumping 19,000 unnecessary tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, at a cost of around £8.6m.

To a large extent this waste is a result of carelessness and a failure to think, as few machines need to be left switched on when they aren't in use. We have, as a society, been too lazy about this for too long and it is time we became much more aware of the energy costs of our hi-tech lifestyle.
As with so many other things in this world, it is the little things that do count. We have the slogans:
  • Think globally, act locally.
  • Be the change you want to see in the world.
So as you leave your office for a holiday break, act locally. As Bill notes:
"In the end, the cumulative effect of small changes are the key to changing our patterns of energy consumption and avoiding the coming crisis of global warming and massive climate change.

So turn off the hardware as you leave the office for your Christmas break - the only shining lights in the darkness should be the ones on the tree at home."
And while you are at it, consider the power of your action in other areas. Like an act of online kindness in how we communicate to each other.


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Tuesday, December 19, 2006 Beta Launch

Keep an eye on, a site to bring together activism, volunteering and donating to non profits. From their page: is a social networking service that empowers people to magnify their impact on the social causes they care about.

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

We Get By With a Little Help from our Friends

This morning I learned that my Blogs and Communities paper won an 2006 Edublog Award. In response to her congratulations email, I replied to organiser Josie Fraser that I was speechless. Thank you for even being in the company of nd the Winners of the 2006 Edublog Awards are: It is interesting that in the same week that Time Magazine declared "You" the person of the year, that I can credit "You" with the award. Well, not just for the award ("You" voted for it!) but for the thinking behind the paper. It was my priveledge to write up what I had learned from so many of you.

Like winner Christopher Sessums, I am indebted to so many, and not just for helping me learn and write about blogs and communities. For those of you who have blogged with me, read, or commented, I am in your debt for showing me that community and blogs do go together. I was a skeptic when I started my third blogging attempt in 2004.

So as Time Magazine applauds online communities, for people making and making meaning of their world by sharing online, I thank you.

I was inspired that Christopher took the time to thank individuals. I am going to try, but I'm already worried that I will miss so many. If you can help me remember, that would be great.

Lilia Efimova
(I think you got me started thinking about this, Lilia)
Bev Trayner
John Smith
Etienne Wenger
Dave Cormier (who eggs me on)
Jo Murray (who invited me to write my paper for the Knowledge Tree
Stephen Downes
Howard Rheingold
My friends at ShareYourStory
My Blogher buddies UK Friends where this idea started
* Lauren Gelman
* Susannah Gardner and here
* Melanie Morgan
* Beth Kanter
* Robin Hamman

It's true. I get by with a little help from my friends!

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Friday, December 15, 2006

I Baked the Bread. It was GOOD!

The No Knead Bread
Originally uploaded by Choconancy1.
As promised, here is evidence that I finally baked the bread I blogged about.

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Definition of a Community Technology Steward

Last week I posted a bit about technology stewardship, particularly community tech stewardship. Beth asked for a definition - a great question. So John Smith, Etienne Wenger and I batted one about for a bit. Here is what we came up with.

“Technology stewards are people with enough experience of the working s of a community to understand its technology needs, and enough experience with technology to take leadership in addressing those needs. Stewardship typically includes selecting and configuring technology, as well as supporting its use in the practice of the community .”

Crossposted on the CommunityforTechnology blog.

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Gustatory Cooperation: Soup Swap Day

National Soup Swap Day is coming. Did you know that? I wonder if it will grow internationally? Via Seattle Blogger Nerds Eye View I found this little gem of cooperation. On Tuesday, January 23rd, people in at least four cities will join to swap containers of frozen soup. You walk in with 6 bags of the same soup and walk out with a variety of 6 new ones. Yummy winter warmth, ready to thaw, warm and eat.

Besides likeing soup, I like the spirit of cooperation. Is it the food that motivates us? Would building food bits into our online collaborative systems make them more attractive to second wave adopters?

I'm only partially kidding. But I have a cold, so don't expect a lot of clarity of thought... ;-) I have bookmarked some great stuff to post about, but just can't organize the brain cells. Besides, I have to bake cookies. December priorities.

Oh, and yes, I'm baking the bread I posted about last week. I'll report back on the results. In the interest of cooperation! And no, this is not becoming a food blog. If I went there, I'd never get any work done!

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Need a diversion? A reason to remember that silly things are a useful part of life? Check out the Seattle based RealityAllStarz.

It's all about, well, I'm not sure how to describe it. All I know is I think I'm one of the oldest people playing, based on the pictures. Now I have to go take up some challenges!

Skip my descriptions. Go check it out and be prepared to be distracted from work for a while!


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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Wiki facilitation

Andy Roberts attempts to make sense of Wiki facilitation ! Bravo!

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Tagged with the "5 Things" Meme

Dan Oestreich threw down the gauntlet last week, after being tagged by Rosa ( take a look at who tagged her and who she tagged. The path is interesting). I've been mulling on my reply to "Five Things You Might Not Know About Me."

First, read Dan's. As always, poetic and thoughtful. This is an interesting form of disclosure for bloggers, who already seem to be comfortable disclosing things. We blog, right? I tend not to blog about family and personal very much, so I'll focus there just for a change.

I'm challenged to be poetic. But I'll try for thoughtful.

1. I used to play in a Bluegrass band in North Caroline (for my international readers, NC is in the SE US.) I played guitar and sang. I love singing harmonies, but now I'm out of practice. I also used to be very involved in musical theater. Uncured ham?

2. I majored in Botany, with a specialization in Marine Botany. Yes, I thought I was going to become a phycologist.

3. Although I'm good at being an extrovert, there is a strong introvert side of me. I like my alone time, thus working at home is a natural for me.

4. I played with trolls and matchbook cars in mud piles as a child in California. Dan's post about mud just brought back those memories, digging in the side yard where there was no garden, making ponds, roads and mud houses for our troll dolls, spending hours creating a little troll community in the land of mud.

5. Why not something physical and concrete while I'm at it. I'm tall. Like 5 foot 10. Online, we often don't have a sense of each other's physical presence. Oh, and the older I get, the wider I seem to get as well!

So who shall I tag? I shall spare my regular victims, eh? I think I might try and get Dave Cormier to post on his blog. It's been a while. What about it, Dave? Willing to play? Lee LeFever is fresh home from a year's trip around the world with his partner Satchi. I bet that gives him a new perspective. Game, Lee? And WELCOME HOME! Elana Centor will give us 5 things wrapped in a great sense of humor, right Elana? Close to home and recently back to blogging, Julie Leung, will you bite? And for the wildest "not sure if he will see this" Cyril, would you post a blog about 5 things we don't know about you?

Flickr Word art here.

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Analogies for Knowledge Management

On Chris Collison's learning-to-fly Yahoogroup there was a query about "Analogies for the potential of knowledge management." Chris himself posted a great reply:
I think it's like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle with most of the pieces turned face down.

Even if you have the picture on the lid of the box ("strategic vision"), there can still be a lot of failure, force-fitting and repetition, because the prevailing culture, processes, technologies, leadership behaviours make it easier for people to remain "face down" and not fit together.

Perhaps some of the pieces are missing too, and we need to look elsewhere to fill the gaps or 'think out of the box' ;O)"
Seems like an analogy for life too! :-)

Thanks to Lucie for flagging this post via KM4Dev!

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Therapeutic Suggestion & Verbal First Aid

Michael Dowd passed along this link, Therapeutic Suggestion & Verbal First Aid . It is a quick read that is useful for anyone interested in how we communicate with each other and particularly for facilitators (online or otherwise.) It focuses on the mind/body connection as we communicate with each other, particularly in moments of stress and physical pain.

I'd like to flag this as another example of why how we communicate matters. It is not about being the "nice police." It is about having an understanding of the impact of our communications. Make sense?

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TimeToMeet for Determining Meeting Times

Bev pointed me to TimeToMeet and we are playing with it as a way to schedule meetings, particularly for those of us who work across time zones and tend to make arithmatic errors. (How many times and I an hour early or late? Or when our day light savings time zones don't synch up?)

I'm still figuring out the interface and will have a better impression once we successfully figure out a meeting time. I have integrated it with my Google Calendar, which could be helpful. The Pro account gives you a way to publish and synch various calendars, but I'm not an Outlook users, so I haven't played with that feature.

They have a Meeting Schedule Secretary that I'm trying. Want to schedule a meeting with me?

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tiptina Foundation, Oh Holy Night and Brass

I don't tend to promote TV shows, but last week on Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip there was a storyline about musicians made homeless by hurricane Katrina. As a closer to the show, an all star line up of New Orleans musicians played the most amazing rendition of "O Holy Night." It was a dance of brass, of notes, counterpoint and, well, it was beautiful. They have put a link to the MP3 on the site, as well as a link to the Tiptina Foundation for donations. Take a listen, then chip in!

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When Geeks Gather to Wed - Ponzi and Chris

Groom's Cake - Perfect PeeCee
Originally uploaded by Choconancy1.
Last night I was blessed to witness the wedding of Latthanapon Indharasophang (Ponzi) and Chris Pirillo. I took a few pictures (there were plenty of people taking pictures), but I had to share the groom's cake. A perfect Pee Cee. And it was tasty, too!

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Blogger Update: Ready or Not

On my Blogger dashboard today I received this notice:

I read the FAQ. I hemmed and hawed. I host my blog on my own website, but I've enjoyed the new Blogger beta on my Australian Adventure blog which is hosted on Blogspot because at the time, FTP was not available. Knowing that sooner or later I'd have to switch, I finally clicked in to say "OK, I'm ready."

Well, I didn't need to worry about this yet. The next screen told me my blog was too big. Hm. How many posts does this blog have? Before this one, 3020.

Oi vey. I didn't realize it had grown that big.

Anyway, the upgrade to the new Blogger shall have to wait!


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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Shining a Light on Technology Stewardship

Between the ongoing work on the Technology for Communities report (someday, I promise, it will be done) my ongoing interest in individuals' and groups' technology configurations, client work and conversations with friends, particularly John Smith, BevTrayner, and David Wilcox. I have been evolving my understanding of what it means to "steward technology" for groups and networks.

This article, Web 2.0 Nonprofit 2.0 Widgets Org 2.0 Second Life jumped out for me as the words of a technology steward. In the article, Allan Benamer, a non profit IT director talks about focus when considering new tools, particularly the wave of "web 2.0" that often smashes us upon the shore more than carries us to new heights.

If you look at the language Benamer uses, it is attentive to the impacts of technology choices to his or her organization. It displays a community perspective, rather than just a technology perspective Here are a few examples:

  • Always look for new tech opportunities AFTER your learn the business.
  • Believe it or not, the people answering your phones at your front desk are quite often budding technologists.
  • Do not dismiss real concerns about work load.
  • Operate on the principle that all new gadgetry will in turn, create a cultural shift.
  • New stuff has to be demonstrably better than the old stuff.

Another article, flagged by Beth Kanter, a steward informs the non profit view of technology stewardship, gives a view in to a business technology stewardship perspective. Dave Pollard examines social networking with a focus on the activities that tools can support. This also strikes me as technology stewardship.

I think it is time to start tagging stuff with technology_stewardship. There are patterns to notice. Practices to talk about. What do you think?


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Nominations for Best Research Paper 2006 | The Edublog Awards

Oh. My. Goodness!

Nominations for Best Research Paper 2006 | The Edublog Awards

To whomever nominated me, THANK YOU! Just to be linked next to Jenkins, Mejias and Owen is a gift.

If you want to vote in this or any of the other categories, head on over. You have a week to vote.


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Blogs and Community – launching a new paradigm for online community?

In September, the following article of mine was published on the The Knowledge Tree. I decided I'd like to have a copy on my website, so I'm reproducing it here. I've added a little postcript to the end. Plus I learned yesterday that the paper was nominated for an Edublog award. More on that in a separate post.

Just a note to those seeing it as I first put it up, I have some work to do to put the graphics on my site, so it may be funky till I work out the tweaks. The tables about 3/4 of the way down are easier to read in the word/PDF versions. I'll also get a PDF up here as well, but in the short term I'll link to the copies on the Knowledge Tree site!

For downloads of hard copies (word and pdf, go to the Knowledge Tree site. Click to access the recording of the live gathering and conversation in which we furthered this exploration.


Online community has been an important part of the Internet, mainly forming around email lists, bulletin boards and forums. In recent years, the ascendancy of blogs has introduced a new platform for communities. This article looks at some of the emerging patterns of blog based communities and raises some questions for their strategic application.


Until recently, the term ‘online community’ implied a community who interacted online within some bounded set of technologies. In the early years, bulletin board systems (BBSs) and forums (also known as discussion boards) joined email lists as tools that enabled a defined set of people to interact around some shared purpose, over time. These were usually clearly bounded communities. The boundaries were created by the tools themselves – usernames, passwords, registrations or joining of a list. The technological act of joining was the most visible indicator of being ‘in’ or ‘out’ of the community. Communities could be public or private and visible only to those who joined.

Many of us interested in the application of online community to learning and work, ‘grew up’ in this era of bounded communities. We often brought with us our assumptions that online conversation, a core to our learning and work, would naturally happen in forums or email. We happily played with wikis as shared writing or repository spaces. We adopted blogs as personal publishing platforms, but community always found its infrastructural roots in forums and email lists, tools that many of us felt defined online conversation.

Then blog adoption accelerated. People began to blog in specific niches, from gaming, to politics, to third grade classroom curriculum, to chocolate; ecosystems of people writing about things they cared about. They started finding each other, commenting on each others’ blogs. RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and feedreaders began to offer new possibilities about how we discovered and read blog posts. Other Web 2.0 tools such as tagging and mashups created ways to aggregate and remix the individual offerings into a unique package, customised by each of us to our own preferences.

The game had changed. And with it changed some of our assumptions about what online community looks like, how individual and collective identity, power and control show up in these communities, and, at the core, the balance between the individual and the group.

I have seen rifts between those who prefer one tool over the other. LeFever (2003 & 2004) discussed the blurring of lines between blogs and forum software and the differences between the two; Levine (2005) talked about the importance of discoverability and how this often happens better outside of forums; Warlick (2005) cited four reasons blogs may be better collaborative environments; Owyang (2005) wrote on which tool is better for communities. These bloggers, and others, continue to wrestle with this question. In part, preference and familiarity play a role. But there are differences between the tools as we know them today. In addition, our imagination in applying those tools leads to new options every day. These are all signs of evolution; innovation, clinging to the familiar, rejection and adoption.

Why should we care about how blogs and related tools might engender and support community? How can we strategically use what we know to best deploy blogs in this way? That’s the path of exploration for this article. I’m not fully there yet, so I invite you to think with me about developing a strategic lens for looking at blog based communities. We’ll start by looking at three forms of blog based communities, then examine the implications and finally suggest how these provide a strategic lens for thinking about online communities.

What blog based communities look like today

As blogging has gained wider adoption, blog based community shows up in three main patterns with a wide variety of hybrid forms emerging between the three. The Single Blog/Blogger Centric Community, the Central Connecting Topic Community and the Boundaried Community.

Blog Based Communities
Figure 1: Blog Based Communities

By looking at the patterns we can start thinking about strategic approaches to blogs as a medium for community development. We can look at them in terms of their:

  • technology/design - the impact of how the blogging tools are deployed and their impact on the community
  • social architecture - locus of control and power, identity and interaction processes
  • the role of content or subject matter and
  • other issues such as scalability and lifecycle.

Single Blog/Blogger Centric Community

The first and most visible model is the hub and spoke model of ‘one blog/blogger’.

Figure 2: Single Blog/Blogger Centric Community

This is the first form of blog based community to emerge as readers begin returning to early bloggers’ sites, commenting and getting to know not only the blogger, but the community of commentors. The one blog is owned by one owner or organisation. There may be more than one blogger writing in a blog, but this is not an aggregation of blogs. It is best exemplified by well known or ‘A List’ bloggers, but has expanded to key bloggers in particular fields such as Stephen Downes or The Knowledge Tree, in e-learning,

Downes Stephen Downes The Knowledge TreeThe Knowledge Tree

or blogs run by an organisation such as Interplast or Anecdote.
Some of these have multiple authors, but they are all in one blog. Technologically, these communities rest on one blogging platform and a single blog. The features of that platform and blog represent the range of features available to the community. There is little opportunity for members to change, add to or adapt the environment. More blogging tools make it easy to have multiuser blogs such as WordPress, Blogger and Typepad.

The central identities of these communities are the blog owners. Their identities are the best known in the community. The commentors’ identities might emerge over time, but more likely, as commentors get to know each other, they share their personal details via private email, instant messaging and other forms of ‘backchannel’. David Wilcox of Designing for Civil Society notes that ‘…blogs are personally defined spaces’, (D.Wilcox, 2006, pers. comm., 26 August) which suggests that blogs allow us to get to know people better, providing a substrate for relationship and trust. This is quite different to a traditional online community where purpose brings people together and relationship and identity unfold over time, within the context of that purpose and not through a focus on an individual.

The power in this community is firmly in the central blogger’s control. If he/she were to take down his/her blog, the community would most likely shatter unless the members had formed alternate communication paths to each other. The blog owner can set the rules and norms of engagement. There is no expectation of democracy, although when bloggers close or remove comments, cries of ‘censorship’ still ring out. But there is no obligation on the blogger to either provide the option for comments, nor to allow all comments. That said, when comments are restricted or not allowed, there can be no visible manifestation of community on the site.

From a subject matter perspective, single blog centric communities are almost broadcast-like, with the central blogger setting the conversational topic. Commentors can respond, or go away, but unless they develop an influential relationship with the central blogger, they can’t control the topic.

What is interesting is how the community grows and develops over time. The volume of comments on a blog post may become overwhelming. It is unclear how far out these sites can scale from a community perspective, and they may become less community-like over time. Key commentors attracting their own set of readers in comments may be moved to create their own blogs. Or they may attract members to their existing blogs. Other commentors may add these other blogs to their daily reading, or shift entirely to the new blog. Links between the spin off blogs may show up in blogrolls, keeping a loose tie to the original blog, and forming a Central Connecting Topic Community, the second form.

Central Connecting Topic Community

Instead of a hub and spoke, the Central Connecting Topic Centric blog community is a network formation. This form is a community that arises between blogs linked by a common passion or topic. The boundary of the network is a combination of subject matter (domain) and membership (community). Beyond the visible membership of linked blogs is the wider and mostly invisible network of readers.

Topic Centric Community
Figure 3: Topic Centric Community

This form is exemplified by groups such as food bloggers, mummy bloggers, travel bloggers and political bloggers with a particular party or issue identification. They are often second wave adopters who would be hard pressed to attract the large numbers of readers as the early ‘A list’ bloggers did. They may be far less interested in positioning themselves, as they are in the topic they blog about. As these grow, they are more network like than community like. Communities form within the network as people find more specific niches and interests.

In topic centric communities both power and identity is distributed across the community. The existence of the community does not rise or fall on one blog. It can scale out and form subcommunities easily. Identity is manifest through the relevance, quality or amount of enjoyment a post provides to others. Personal details are not always disclosed on the blogs, but may be shared via private email and instant messaging. The rich network of perspectives allows the readers many views on an issue, rather than one that you might see in a blog centric community.

There has been some interesting work trying to describe how the articulation of norms helps define a blog based community made up of separate blogs (Wei 2005). Suarez (2006) tried to formalise a network of people who blogged about knowledge management by establishing a mailing list and a wiki to support the intersection of the community members.

Topic centric communities have no single technological platform, with each blogger selecting their own tool. What links them is hyperlinks, in the form of blogrolls, links to other blogs within blog posts, tagging, aggregated feeds (using RSS), trackbacks and comments. Some of these networks have been formalised, such as with blog rings, which share many characteristics with Boundaried Blog Communities. Blog rings are groups of blogs that have self identified as having a shared topic and then are linked with a piece of code that links one blog to the next in the ‘ring’. Thus you can start in one blog, but go from related blog to related blog simply by clicking on the blogring link. With the advent of blogrolls, the blogring may be less relevant than in the past, but blogrings usually have specific guidelines about how to, and who can, participate. Blogrolls, on the other hand, are individually driven links, outward, to blogs that a blogger favors, creating a much more ‘ad hoc’ way of linking to related blogs. Blogroll links are not always reciprocal.

It is interesting that other technologies are supporting the formation of these topic centric communities. Having a shared tag, a key word that bloggers can attach to their individual posts, can mark a post as relevant to a community, moving down to a finer grained level of association. So a blogger who blogs about many topics can help people find just what they want to find using tags. Tools that aggregate posts from blogs or even tagged posts can blur the boundaries of each individual blog, creating what appears to be a unified collection of posts, assembled on the fly as individual bloggers add posts. Groups may maintain a shared wiki or email list as an adjunct to keep information organized or communicate informally.

Some researchers (Anjewierden 2005, Vande Moere 2006) have been using tools to analyse post contents and interlinking structures between blogs to help visualise blog communities. This is significant, because many bloggers don’t realise the reach of their blogs or how their blogs fit into a larger network. I personally found my blog over time helped me to see connections to my network that I did not know existed prior. But it is hard to see that network all at once. I sense that when we can visualise our communities more easily, they have more impact in our lives.

An example of a community that decided to use technology to create an experience of a shared community is the Global Voices community, which aggregates blogs from developing countries in an effort to get the mainstream media to pay attention to issues in those countries.

Global Voices

The individuals still have and maintain their own blogs, but they also have biographies on the main Global Voices site, formalising identity in a new way. The members support each other in terms of improving their practice, advocacy when a blogger is threatened and generally learning from each other. This then becomes a bit more like the third form, the Boundaried Community.

Boundaried Communities

Boundaried communities are collections of blogs and blog readers hosted on a single site or platform.

Boundaried communities
Figure 4: Boundaried Communities

Typically members register and ‘join’ the community and are offered the chance to create a blog. This boundary makes them the closest form to traditional forum based communities. Examples include the huge teen oriented site,, Yahoo 360, March of Dimes, Share Your Story, and Farmer’s (2006) Australian free educational blogging sites Edublogs, ESLblogs, Uniblogs and Learnerblogs.

Often these communities have other tools such as discussion boards, social networking features, wikis and instant messaging built in. The blogs are part of the overall ecosystem. There is less emphasis on RSS and cross linking because those features are built into the technology in other ways. Because they are within a defined boundary, bloggers can see and easily access other blogs. They can, if they wish, link but mostly within this closed system and they seem to link less often outside of the community. This leads to denser and faster possible internal connections, possibly community building.

Share Your Story

Share Your Story, a site for parents with babies in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) started out as a discussion board based community and added blogs in July of 2005. Contrary to some worries about adoption of blogging, and blogging tools by what could be seen as a technological ’second wave’ adopter group, blogs were rapidly adopted as a way of offering one’s personal voice within the overall community. Blogs did not replace the forums. They offered a new community activity. The blogger has more control of the message than in a discussion board. They control the pacing by their own frequency of posting. The blogs are their more personal part of the site with pictures and reflections, whereas the discussions are the centre of information exchange and daily ‘chit chat’.

Power in boundaried communities is held in part by the ‘owner’ of the platform who can impose rules on the community, but power is exercised by bloggers in three typical ways.

The first is frequency of posting. The blogger can decide when to post. In some communities, frequent posting puts a person’s blog higher in the list of blogs, which may promote frequent blogging. The second is popularity or interest as measured by how many comments a blogger gets. As a blogger gets to be known in a community, more people comment. That blogger gains stature. Finally, the third is when there are social networking tools associated with the blog that help visualise relationship. These are often tools which allow you to add people as ‘friends’ or have them in your ‘neighbourhood’. This then makes their blog posts more visible on your blog and convey a sense of ‘who likes or is associated with whom’. A classic example of this is MySpace where users can define who can see what on their spaces, indicate who is a friend and in general show or not show one’s social network within the overall MySpace ecosystem.

Often there is more emphasis on the social connections and social networking, as evidenced by attention on who is commenting on whose blog. Where there are social networking tools built in, the ease of adding someone to your network, as displayed in your blog, leads to easy formation of groups within the larger environment, suggesting that many of these sites are networks containing communities.

Some of these sites have a central content or domain direction and people are given particular expectations about what they should blog about, frequency, etc. such as Blogswana. Others, like Edublogs, offer a specific set of terms of use, identify what is not allowed, and the rest is up to the participants. Content can be focused or all over the place.

Hybrids and Emerging Forms

The three forms noted above are really only the start. People are creative, and they will adapt and invent new uses. Blog mentoring communities are an example, where part of the manifestation of the community shows up in the blog, but other offline activity is a central manifestation of the community. ‘Live blogging’ communities tie face to face with the online for a time ‘delimited’ community, a community that manifests only for a short period of time associated with the live event. New tools which allow a person to ‘carry’ their identity across a variety of online platforms and create their own personal networks suggest that our static ideas of blogs, wikis and forums will be outdated by the idea of a personal network and information cloud, that we shape and which is shaped by those we include in our network. This suggests we are redefining community.

So, what do we mean by community?

In my home town of Seattle there is a neighborhood called Fremont. It has traditionally been the home of artists, liberal thinkers and a great deal of creativity. Close to the neighbourhood centre there was a desolate area underneath a major bridge that attracted nothing but problems. Instead of complaining about the limitations of this spot, the creative people in Fremont transformed it by making a giant cement Troll under the bridge.


It did not matter that this was not prime real estate. It was in the community, so they made the most of it. The Troll is for me a visible symbol of the heart, art and sensibility of the community. They took a bare patch of land and made it magical. That’s community. Online we also stake a patch of territory and make it ours. Regardless of what it looks like. So my caution to all of us is to never ever mistake the platform for the community. It is what people do with each other using the tools that matters.

Many have written about the definitions of online community (White 2005). The key indicator for us is that community is present when individual and collective identity begins to be expressed; when we care about who said what, not just the what; when relationship is part of the dynamic and links are no longer the only currency of exchange (Packwood 2005).

So how might these things show up in blog based community? How would they vary across the three forms?

  • Shared readership?
  • Shared authorship?
  • Shared competency or domain knowledge?
  • Individual and/or shared identity?
  • Relationship between the core and periphery?
  • How boundaries show up?
  • How power is manifest?
  • How learning is reflected from the individual (blogs) back to the community?

It is interesting using these questions because blog communities show up slightly differently than forum based communities. Boundaries show up differently and more permeably. Identity and power varies considerably depending on the blog community structure. What is similar is the flow of learning back to the community. People who blog share what they know. Others add in their contributions via comments. This echoes similar positive behaviours seen in successful forum based communities. So there is something about the underlying community ethic that bridges blog and forum based communities in most of the types of communities I’ve worked with or observed. These have almost exclusively been very topic or purpose driven, and rarely commercial. So I can’t generalise out to commercial sites.

…or do we mean network?

Because most blog communities are not bounded by a technological wall and have very permeable boundaries, they can grow far beyond the ability of a single individual to keep track of his or her network. They can change within days if a key blog becomes highly referenced in the blogosphere, totally changing the community dynamics. So are these communities, or are they a collection of nodes in a network, where some are more tightly related into communities? And if so, how might this be a design benefit?

Mendizabal (2005) has suggested that there are six functions that are played by a network. If we look at these six functions, we have another frame to analyse blog communities. They are:

  • filters
  • amplifyers
  • convenors
  • facilitators
  • investors and
  • community builders.

For example, people who tag their articles help others filter for specific content. People who point to key posts and resources amplify the work of others. Those who create a conducive environment for commenting, who organise blog events such as Blog Carnivals and web/blog rings are convenors. (A blog carnival is an organised effort to collect blog posts around a certain topic and post them on a host blog. Bloggers share the duty of organising these, usually picking one day a week or month to aggregate the posts.)

The facilitator role is a bit less obvious until people get angry and usually someone will step in to mediate. This is different from many forum and list based communities where the facilitator or moderator is a key role and identity. Investors are the providers of blogging software and hosting services, people who write bits of code that allow increased functionality, particularly tools that make it easier to track comment-based conversations (Convo, Co-Comment) and other goodies. Finally, in a sense, anyone who points to another blogger with a link, who invites comments, who responds to comments, is a potential community builder.

I’ve found this a useful way to assess what is going on in any community or network. It is useful to identify missing roles or nudge some energy from one role to another as a community building activity and could be a strategy for supporting blog based communities.

Mendizabal’s (2005) six functions echo some of the work Cross and Parker (2004) who describe types within a social network, i.e. Central Connectors, Unsung Heroes, Bottlenecks, Boundary Spanners and Peripheral People.

‘Central Connectors’ are people with dense sets of connections. We could think about the blogger in a single blog community as a central connector. ‘Unsung Heroes’ are people who ‘…engage selflessly in various aspects of their work and support the groups in ways that often go unrecognized’ (Cross & Parker 2004:71). In any of the three forms of blog based community, this might be the person who uses back channel email to point out a blog post, stimulate productive conversations in comments or take the time to read carefully and respond thoughtfully to a post.

‘The Bottleneck’ is the person who has ‘…become so central to a network that they end up holding the group back’ (Cross & Parker 2004:73). This could again be the blogger in a blog centric community who doesn’t respond to comments, takes unexpected breaks from blogging, or who shuts down comments without warning. This may be from intent or just the circumstance of growing so popular. In Boundaried Communities, this may be the community host who can’t get around to solving a technical problem, or who starts moderating and removing posts without clarity or adherence to the community rules.

‘Boundary Spanners’ are those who find the connections between people and ideas. Again, this role can be seen in all three forms, but particularly in a blogger in any form who is generous in finding related blogs and linking to them, sometimes called ‘linky love’.

‘Information Brokers’ are the people who notice and activate indirect connections. It is less clear to me how these show up in blog networks, since hyperlinks afford fairly direct connections.

Finally, there are the ‘Peripheral People’. These make up a very important and often overlooked component of all three of these communities. We might rename them ‘readers’. These are people who read, but don’t blog themselves. They rarely if at all comment. But they represent a powerful part of any community. In forum based communities, we used to call these people lurkers. In the world of blogs, they have gained a new legitimacy because readers are expected with blogs. There is no way we could provide enough attention to comments if every reader commented. Yet the posts created in a blog community touch readers. They stimulate them to action. They provide catalysts for learning. Not every person has to interact, by commenting, to gain value. However, that value may show up differently for different bloggers.

Bloggers who are concerned with popularity and the number of hits they get will blog to attract readers. They will write in styles and with content that captures attention which may or may not nurture relationship. Bloggers who are concerned about community may create posts that have more ‘insider language’ which may be less attractive to casual readers from the outside. This may be a pattern to explore in topic and community centric communities.

A lens for using blogs for community

With the perspective of technology/design, social architecture (including roles and forms of interaction), the role of content or subject matter, and other issues such as scalability and lifecycle, how can we use this view of blog community forms as a strategic lens for designing and nurturing communities?

First, it is helpful to get a glance about where the forms are similar or different. By looking across them at the technological and social architectures and how they accommodate topic or domain, we can see a few patterns. (I encourage you to add to this in the comments - ‘cos I can’t figure this out alone!)

Technological Architecture

Single Blog Centric
Topic Centric
Technology platform
Uses a single tool Blogs can be on a variety of tools, each controlled & customised individually Platform centrally hosted and controlled
Tool controlled by blog owner No centralized tool conventions Members may have some level of customization options
Community members have little/no control on platform May use webring link conventions as an ad hoc shared technology Site administrator ultimately can control/delete blogs

Network will not fall with the failure of one blog
Technological Boundaries
Clear central boundary around blogger Few clear boundaries Clear boundaries as defined by registration and log–in
Larger network unbounded Webrings offer some sense of boundary Varied use of RSS and tags
Connect to world and larger network with tags, RSS Aggregators offer some sense of boundary May allow non registrants to view, but rarely can they post or comment

Connect to community, network with tags, RSS
Comments may grow beyond an easy to read volume Highly scalable, but intimacy and community closeness may diminish with size Can scale if platform is robust
Comment spam may be a problem on more popular blogs, making commenting less desirable for members Focus may blur and subdivide with growth Can subdivide

The table titled Technological Architecture outlines the differences between single blog centric, topic related and boundaried communities in terms of technology platform, technological boundaries and scalability.

The main difference between the three forms from a technology perspective is that blog centric and boundaried communities all sit on a single platform. So if unified technology is important to your community, these might be preferred modes, since a topic centric community has no central mechanism except personal agreement to have a unified platform. If you want to distribute control and not have a centralised architecture, the topic centric model offers flexibility and avoids reliance on a single platform in the case of technological failure. So control and simplicity are some of the tensions in the technology architecture variables.

Scalability appears to be most problematic in the single blogger centric community. Although the readership of such a community can scale out, the subset of people who can participate by commenting may have a limit, both for the blogger to read/control and for the reader to wade through.

Social Architecture

Single Blog Centric
Topic Centric
Blog owner holds most of the power Power distributed across all the blogs Some community leaders may have more influence
Commentors can disrupt if they choose to
Site owner wields ultimate power

Blog owner primary identity Each blogger has unique identity Each blogger has unique identity
Frequent/valued commentors may build up identity Some bloggers may have more prominence/popularity than others (community leaders) Identity extended through participation in other areas/tools (forums, social networking, etc.)
Interaction Modes
Blogger to reader Blogger to reader Blogger to reader
Commentors to blogger Blogger to blogger Blogger to blogger
Commentors to commentors Commentors to blogger Commentors to blogger
Linking to/from other blogs Commentors to commenters Commentors to commentors
Back channel Linking to/from other blogs Linking to/from other blogs
Call and response may dominate over dialog Back channel Using other site tools (IM, forums, wikis, social networking tools, etc.)

Back channel

The table titled Social Architecture outlines the differences between single blog centric, topic related and boundaried communities in terms of power, identity and interaction modes.

In the social architecture, we see the most signficant set of differences around the issues of control/power and identity. This is a classic expression of the tension between the individual and the group that shows up in all social formations. From a design perspective, how might we intend the balance between indivdiual and group to show up? If we want an individual focus, blogs give some of that in all forms, but has primacy in the blog centric formation.
Interestingly, all three offer a range of interaction options, although the power dynamics changes with the relationships in those dynamics. For example, while anyone potentially could comment in any three forms, the blog centric blogger could most easily prevent that interaction within the community. Power is key here. The topic centric community has the most distributed power. The boundaried community power distribution ultimately depends on the choices of the site administrator. In the single blog centric power clearly sits at the centre, as does identity.

Content Domain

Single Blog Centric
Topic Centric
Archives Search across blog archives Search within online space

Driven by blog owner Blogs may contain domain related material AND other material.

Focus on domain strengthened with tagging and categories

The table titled Content Domain outlines the differences between single blog centric, topic related and boundaried communities in terms of findability and purpose focus.

Finally, in the content or domain area, power again raises its head. While topic theoretically can be quite focused or wide ranging, the control of the single blogger can trump the options. Topic centric is again the most flexible, but boundaried communities can or may not be flexible, depending on the site rules. However, boundaried communities offer the chance to be ‘a little of both’ when they set a general topic, but allow members to subdivide and even expand the topic focus.

With blogger centric communities, there is a question of what attracts community members, the blogger’s personality, or the topic. Blog researcher Lilia Efimova (2006) suggests …’[t]he communities formed around an author-centred blog are likely to depend more on the connections of blog-readers with the blogger personality than the topics she covers’ (2006:para.10).

If you want the topic focus to be emergent and flexible, don’t rely on a single blogger community unless that single blogger chooses to be open and emergent and responsive to the community participants. If you want a clear focus, like The Knowledge Tree, stick to the single blog form.


If you click on the tag ‘blog_communities‘ it quickly becomes clear that this is a topic that many are thinking about and working on. In doing research for this article, I asked my network for their sources via a blog post and in 24 hours I had more than I could ever hope to scan and still have a chance of finishing this article. It is a rich vein, with much to mine.
Some of the exciting areas of exploration are from a structural perspective, looking at blog community formation patterns through the exploration of links between blogs and comment patterns over time. Another area is the exploration of blog communities within particular domains, with some great work being done in the education and business communities.

How do these lenses work when we look across different genres (edublogging, workteam blogging, customer support blogging)? The non profit and non government sector is awakening to the possibility of blog communities for many aspects of its work.

Technological developments that allow us, as members, to see our blog communities such as Blogmapping and Frapper put the power in our hands. We don’t have to wait for someone to do the research. Tools make us experts as well.

And finally, what are the other questions that emerge from this way of looking at blog based communities? What surprises await us as we observe and learn more? What happens when our options for community membership overwhelm us? When we fully see both the positive and destructive power of these communities? What happens when we move beyond text?

Community is alive and well in the blogosphere. It is emerging in a variety of patterns and manifesting in all sizes and types of communities. By beginning to explore their shape and interaction patterns, we can begin to think about how to intentionally nurture blog based communities for specific purposes. Much like the lessons for forum based communities which emerged in the late 1990s, we are now discovering what works, why, and what might happen next. It is still new. The patterns are not stable. But they suggest ways to think about the role of technology, power, identity and content in designing online communities.

Like the artist community in Fremont with their Troll, when a community sees a gap or an opportunity, they join together to fill it. So this exploration of the form and function of blog based communities is just beginning. We see a new tool, and we begin the creative process. The canvas is up, the paints are in front of us. The next step echoes Howard Rheingold’s famous email tag line ‘…what it is —> is up to us’ (H. Rheingold, 1997, pers. comm., 28 April). As the godfather of online communities, (he coined the term ‘virtual community’), Rheingold puts his finger on the pulse of possibility, yet again.
Let’s continue this conversation in our live online ‘gathering’ on 25 (US) or 26 (AUS) September, as we hop across time zones to converse together.

Nancy’s Web 2.0 Glossary - (For detailed version see Useful Links below)

back channel - communication (email, instant message) sent personally to one or more individuals as opposed to a public conferencing forum. Back channel is rarely documented, but has a big impact in online interactions

blog roll – ‘A list of recommended sites that appears in the sidebar of a blog. These sites are typically sites that are either on similar topics, sites that the blogger reads regularly, or sites that belong to the blogger’s friends or colleagues. The term “blogroll” also evokes the concept of political logrolling (when legislators promise to vote for one another’s pet bills) — which is not unlike bloggers’ habit of reciprocating links by posting links to blogs that link back to their own blogs.’ – Social Signal

mashups - ‘Website or Web 2.0 application that uses content from more than one source to create a completely new service.’ Wikipedia

RSS - (Really Simple Syndication) – At it’s simplest, a mechanism to allow you to subscribe to updated web content such as blog posts and forum messages. ‘The RSS formats provide web content or summaries of web content together with links to the full versions of the content, and other meta-data. This information is delivered as an XML file called an RSS feed, web feed, RSS stream, or RSS channel. In addition to facilitating syndication, RSS allows a website’s frequent readers to track updates on the site using an aggregator.’ - Wikipedia

tagging - ‘Tags are the keywords people add to articles in their blog or to web pages via social book marking tools like, Technorati, Yahoo ! My Web 2.0, etc.’ - Wikipedia

Useful Links


Australian free educational blogging sites

Blog Communities tag

Blog Community Visualisation - samples include


Blogswana -

Designing for Civil Society: David Wilcox on technology, engagement, governance


Nancy’s Glossary - Full Circle and Associates -

Global Voices community

Interplast -

KM Bloggers Network

MultiUser Blogging Tools

Wordpress, Blogger and Typepad

Share Your Story



Anjewierden, A. 2005, ‘Blogtrace’. Retrieved 14 August, 2006 from

Cross R. & Parker A. 2004 The Hidden Power of Social Networks: understanding how work really gets done in organizations, Harvard Business School Press, Boston.

Efimova, L. 2006, ‘Author-centred vs. topic-centred blogging’. Retrieved 14 August, 2006 from

Gurak, L.J. Antonijevic, S. Johnson, L. Ratliff, C. & Reyman, J. 2004, Into the blogosphere: Rhetoric, community, and culture of weblogs. Retrieved 16 August, 2006 from

LeFever, L. 2003, ‘Blurring the Line Between Weblogs and Discussion Forums’. Retrieved 16 August 2006 from

LeFever, L. 2004, What are the Differences Between Message Boards and Weblogs? Retrieved 16 August 2006 from

Levine, A. 2005, ‘Conversations: Tree People and Cave Dwellers’. Retrieved 16 August 2006 from

Mendizabal, E. 2006, Understanding Networks: The Functions of Research Policy Networks, ODI Working Paper 271, June 2006, Overseas Development Institute. Retrieved 25 July, 2006 from, J. 2005, ‘What’s better to build community blogs’. Retrieved 16 August 2006 from

Packwood, N. 2004, ‘Geography of the Blogosphere: Representing the Culture, Ecology and Community of Weblogs’ in Into the blogosphere: Rhetoric, community, and culture of weblogs, eds. L.J. Gurak, S. Antonijevic, L. Johnson, C. Ratliff, & J. Reyman. Retrieved 16 August, 2006 from

Suarez, L. 2006, ‘Welcome to the KMBloggers Community’. Retrieved 16 August, 2006 from

Vande Moere, A. 2006, ‘About Information Aesthetics’. Retrieved 14 August, 2006 from

Warlick D, 2005, ‘Four reasons why the blogsphere might make a better professional collaborative environment than discussion forums’. Retrieved 16 August, 2006 from

Wei, C. 2005, ‘Formation of Norms in a Blog Community’ Retrieved 14 August, 2006 from

White, N. 2005, ‘How Some Folks Have Tried to Describe Community’. Retrieved 14 August, 2006 from

Postcript: December 2006

What has been useful for me out of the thinking from this paper is creating a framework to look at blogs as they exist within networks, communities and teams. The forms are NOT meant to be a taxonomy, but a perspective, a way of talking about what we observe. From it, we can use our insights to make choices about how we design and participate in groups and networks through our use of blogs.

Note: Edited December 19 to correct authorship of the ODI paper to Enrique Mendizabal.

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Hacking Email: 99 Email Security and Productivity Tips

Hacking Email: 99 Email Security and Productivity Tips
is a great primer on email. When working with groups around collaboration practices and barriers, email is the commom denominator and one of the 7 circles of hell. Tips like these from the ITSecurity team are very useful for both the heaven and hell of email.

So next time you need to brief friends, colleagues and team members on email, remember this article.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

It is Friday:Nancy Needs...

C small h O c1 Orange L A T E


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Thursday, December 07, 2006

"Make Sure Everyone Has Access to This"

This video on the NYTimes site probably won't be accessible for a long time, so pop over and see not only a great, easy bread baking recipe, but a beautiful act of knowledge sharing. The baker's last line was "Make sure everyone has access to this. That's the goal."

Here is the New York Times Video.

The recipe for the bread can be found here. Food bloggers are another great example of knowledge sharers. With passion.

Tags: ,

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Fred Turner on Cyber Pre-history

Via the DIY Media Weblog comes a link to a video of Fred Turner that is of interest to those of us interested in the history of online interaction and how that history can help us be more effective today.
"DIY media today is a hybrid of the social group formation capabilities of the Internet, which were manifested two decades ago as virtual communities, the production capabilities of affordable digital audiovideo tools, and the broadband distribution capabilities of the Web. That cyber-prehistory context is the subject of this video of Fred Turner's talk at Harvard's Berkman center on his new book, From Cyberculture to Counterculture: Stewart brand, The Whole Earth Network, and The Rise of Digital Utopianism"

Tags: ,

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

First Time Blog Visitor Guide

Tony Karrer has a great link on the top of his blog that links to this, eLearning Technology: First Time Visitor Guide. Great idea. Tony, may I steal your idea, with credit, of course?

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Monday, December 04, 2006

growing changing learning creating

I stumbled tonight on to Tom Haskin's blog, growing changing learning creating. When I found a post on Community Healing, I was hooked. Tom is also writing a lot about collaboration, which I've also been focusing on lately.

By the way Jim Benson has a great post looking at very specific collaboration practices in his work team. I appreciate these kinds of posts because they help me examine the more conceptual stuff in a contextual, pragmatic way. Thanks, Jim. I asked him in comments how some of those practices might look at the community and network collaboration levels.

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WOLF - Workshops for Online Facilitators

I stumbled upon this blog a few days ago and left a comment, wondering why it had gone silent. I had enjoyed the postings. Roy responded that it is a workshop blog. I hope to learn more about WOLF - Workshops for Online Facilitators.


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Northern Voice 2007

Julie Leung reminds us that the Moose is on the Loose again...Who can resist a moose with an iPod.... Northern Voice, the fun, down home blogging conference returns for it's third run in Vancouver, BC, Febrary 23 and 24. This time they are moving to larger digs at UBC. The speaker submission date is passed, but registration is open. I submitted a proposal and promptly forgot what I submitted. Duh. I am ripe to be turned down for such flakiness. But that doesn't matter. This is one of the few conferences I'd go to no matter what. That's saying a lot from cheapie me.

Julie captures why I like NV. It is down to earth, family friendly, diverse, and less filled with the air of early adopter superiority, while perhaps valid, sometimes is such a bore. And did I mention, it's affordable. Now we just need to set up a "can I camp on your floor" mechanism. We did ride sharing last year and I hope we can do it again this year. Remember you US folks, you will need your passport to get back into the states this year. :-(

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Cinderella or Cyberella?

David Weingberger pointed to this interesting looking book, Cinderella or Cyberella?.

From the book promo site:
Cinderella or Cyberella: what is the future for women in the knowledge society? Cyberella is fluent in the uses of technology, comfortable using and designing computer technology, and working in virtual spaces. Cinderella works in the basement of the knowledge society with little opportunity to reap its benefits. Promoting women’s empowerment through ICTs is one of the critical development challenges of the 21st century.

David also has notes from a presentation by Nancy Hafkin.
The major challenges: ICTs for poverty reduction and for empowering women. ICTs for women's health, well being and income. ICTs applied to existing business and enterprise (as opposed to ICT-enabled businesses). E.g., Muhamma Yunus Grameen VillagePhone is exemplary. But she'd like to see more of things like Anastasia in Uganda, a 78-yr-old illiterate chicken farmer when she came in contact with a project called Rural Women Earning Money [pdf]. Using sound and graphic interfaces, it showed them many techniques and skills for improving the fficiency, productivity for increasing the income of their existing enterprises. In Anastasia's case, it helped her be a better chicken farmer. Anastasia has gone on the road as an evangelist for the program.

Why single out women? Because otherwise the myth of gender neutral technology will cause us to ignore women's situation. While there is growing awareness of the role of gender in development, but not enough yet.

The existing constraints: Little access. Gendered access. Public access in non-women-friendly spots. Lack of education. Language barriers. Geographical location. Lack of disposable time. Limited mobility. Lack of appropriate content. Technophobia. Gender socialization about technology.

There are also policy-level constraints: Women are absent from IT policy. [I missed some points.] "Are the technology choices being made making technology equally available to men and women?"
Thanks David. Now I have to put the book on my wish list.

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Digital Identity Mapping

Fred Cavazza has a very interesting graphic on Web 2.0.

Digital Identity Mapping
Originally uploaded by fredcavazza.


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If You Facilitate a User Community, Read Kathy's Post

Do you facilitate, lead, support, design or mess with an online community focused on users of a product or service? Go to How to Build a User Community, Part 1, read and then watch for part 2. Important context from Kathy, "I'm talking about user communities--people using a particular product or service--and not just any community."

Don't miss the comments with stories from other communities. As a teaser, here is her graphic:

In looking at that diagram, there is one nit I would pick for those who might take it too literally. What this diagram does not account for is the emergence of subcommunities in larger communities. That is another way in to the dilemna Kathy is addressing about a lack of mid level answerers. I believe this is becoming more relevant as communities move out of strictly email/forum environments. Change the tools, change the dynamics. I wonder if that's what she'll talk about in part 2?

There's a lot more to say, but it's time for breakfast!

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Juicy Studio: Great Web Accessibility Testing Tool

I've tried to become more attentive to web accessibility issues over the years. My main website is not too bad, but today I was pointed to another tool to test colors, Juicy Studio: Colour Contrast Analyser Firefox Extension and my blog fails miserably. Time to change.

Here is a bit about Juicy Color Contrast Analyser. It is super easy to use if you use Firefox as your browser.

Determining the colour contrast between foreground and background colours is a time consuming task, but is greatly aided by colour contrast analysers. The problem with colour contrast analysers is that they don't automatically go through all of the possible colour combinations in a document; instead, it requires a judgement call by the person evaluating the page to decide whether colour combinations look like they may be problematic, and then to enter those colours into a colour contrast analyser.

I've written a Firefox extension that reveals the colour contrast of all elements in the DOM. If you evaluate websites for colour contrast, this extension will be useful for saving you time, and also take out the guesswork required to determine which colours to test."
Loadaveragezero is another fantastic resource on web accessibility. Watchfire's WebXACT (used to be Bobby) lets you test single pages. Not as wonderful as the old free Bobby full site test, but still useful. It also looks at privacy issues as well.

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Friday, December 01, 2006

The Flat Classroom Project

Via Will Richardson comes a pointer to the Flat Classroom Project, a collaboration between a high school in Camilla, Georgia (US)and Dhaka, Bangladesh where students are discussiong Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat.

This is a fun project to observe from both a tool and practice perspective. Nice use of a wiki, well organized, judicious use of widgets and images. Wikispaces, Protopage, Bloglines, a nice little time zone clock (looks like ClockLink) and clustermap help the group have a sense of each other and keep track of things. So there is an awareness of balancing group and individual, togetherness and separateness over time and space, and of course, the interplay between the student's interactions, their participation, and the content they use and create together.

They have crafted a code of ethics , rubrics, and it looks like teams and subgroups. I have to look more at that page. They have little audio messages between the teachers and students. WOW! (Using enjoyed reading their resource on virtual communication. Now we just have to wait and see how the conversations go between the students!

Very cool.

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