Thursday, May 31, 2007

I missed my third blogaversary

Full Circle Online Interaction Blog: Restarting my Online Community Link Blog
- That was the first post, May 26th, 2004. I was offline on May 26th this year. So a few days late!

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Community Nudges: Everything is Miscellaneous

Everything IS Miscellaneous
Originally uploaded by Choconancy1.
I was given a copy of David Weinberger's new book "Everything is Miscellaneous" which I have been wanting to read. I brought it with me on my trip and had been asked to partake in a book discussion about it on The Well's public conference, InkWell.vue. But I have been so wrapped up in F2F conversations, I've not had time to read.

Well, I got a community nudge. The Inkwell conversation has started and I got sucked in. So today I started reading the book over lunch. Notice the bookmarker I am using....

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Communities: Dancing with fire?

Originally uploaded by pteronophobia182.
The ongoing conversation about communities, networks, groups and individuals is always fascinating to me. I deeply appreciate the new possibilities unearthed for networks in the digital era, the flexibility personalization allows the individual, particularly for self directed learning, but I cannot let go of this voice inside of me that affirms and reaffirms the value of community. Particularly of community in the larger contexts of networks and individuals. They are a productive and interdependent set of forms; an ecosystem.

Martin Dugage wrote:
Why is it that the strongest advocates of a networked economy fail to see the importance of communities, which they wrongly equate to social networks?
Perhaps our resistance or worries about community may come from the fact that communities are like dancing with fire. There is something exciting and beautiful about them. When we have sufficient practice, we can dance with fire. When we don't we get burned. They can and are both "heaven and hell." But we can do things within them that most of us simply cannot do alone.

This is just a simple analogy and full of holes, but it just came to me when I saw this picture of my niece, Ayala, fire dancing. And not just fire dancing alone, but with others. With her community of fire dancers. Have they ever "burned" each other? I'd hazard a guess of "yes." But in that quick burn, comes learning (hopefully!).

Last week 18 of us gathered here in Setubal Portugal for 2 days of dialog about communities of practice and three days of working together for others. Three days of practicing together, as John Smith called it.

The last time we were together in such numbers was 5 years ago. We were a barely formed group them. I was struck this time of how much we had grown, both as individuals in our practices and as a group. We danced with fire better. It was a joy to reflect with some of the group about how I experienced their deeper practice and how they have nurtured their natural talents and energies into forces in their worlds.

We initially plotted to do this work for others, together, coordinated by Bev Trayner, to fund our gathering. It isn't cheap to convene a F2F of a global community. Bev and I had had an informal conversation months ago about "how much would it cost to gather and who might want us to do something for them." Bev, in her typical amazing way, created the connections and made it happen. (Note: don't underestimate the amount of work, energy and reputation this takes. Bev gave with a depth and breadth that is hard to even calculate.)

This act of working together is not insignificant when you consider that we were doing work for real clients with little pre-planning. Last Friday we were in a van and two cars, split up into work groups and planned a series of workshops for that very afternoon where we would negotiate with a leadership team four workshops related to school librarians in Portugal, which these leaders would then offer to their wider, emergent community the next day. One of our team jokingly called it "van planning" - a new form!

How often would you trust others to do something seemingly insane as this?

We could, because we have relationships of both practice and trust with each other. We have danced with fire together and separately in various permutations, but never as a whole like this. But we pulled it off. And I think it went well.

There were some significant learnings for me, that I'm just starting to unpack. Here are the first set, most easily available to my cold-clogged brains. (Communities share viruses too!)

1. The role of the new-bees in our group. This is always an area of learning for me both about the identity of the group, of individuals and my place within that context. Of the 18, we had 4 who had never been to one of our gatherings, 2 more who had been to smaller gatherings and the rest returned from the original Setubal Dialog from 5 years ago. There is quite a bit of explicit and implicit negotiation that is required to both welcome folks in and to keep forward momentum. The key point for me was when one of our group expressed her feelings about our, um, ahem, chaotic practices, right up front. She made them discussable thus a place of learning rather than solely of stress. In hindsight I would probably not put all the new folks into one team. I think it happened that way because of their particular expertise, but we have so much to learn FROM and WITH each other that perhaps mixing us up might be good.

2. Gender. In talking with Bev after the event, I was struck by an observation she made about gender and the fact that I don't recall us ever talking about how gender shows up in our community. I want to bookmark this to come back to in the future. I think this may be something significant to explore when we try and develop and improve our practices of planning community events. There is a huge amount of logistical coordination and "scene setting" that goes into a gathering. I don't think it is an accident that it is usually women doing this work. I wonder if it is easy to romanticize "washing up together" as a central learning experience if you are not the one who has been doing that every day at home for your family and others. I wish I would have had a web cam at the sink to see WHO actually washed up and IF they had significant learning conversations at the sink. I bet things are somewhere between the romantic notion and "total waste of energy." :-)

3. Negotiating processes. In a community made up of smart, quirky and diverse individuals who really love and respect each other, sometimes we can get in our own way. (Are we collectively "high maintenance?") I sense there is a lot of wisdom in our group about group process, yet I also sense (and I would love to KNOW) that we all don't fully step into the role of convenors at the needed moments. It is as if we are afraid our actions are acts of control and imposition. Our reactions to control are also significant. It would be worth a conversation. We decided to convene in Open Space this time and while I think it was a really good decision, we sometimes did not embrace it fully and may have missed some of the value that way. I also re-learned a lesson that I know and should be practicing: don't facilitate and meta talk on the process at the same time unless everyone wants that. I made that mistake again. Oi! But I would like to think with my community more about how we make decisions.

4. Caring for the little things. Bev was our Deva of the master plan, carried out in an amazing manner. But there is the community perspective as well. All along there were always these moments when a community member noticed and cared for the little things. A hug in a moment of insecurity. Notes taken and shared during 'van planning" so we could remember our crazy ideas. Shared shoes and socks. Heaters turned on so a bedroom would be warm after a late night session on the veranda. Driving some of the shoe-lovers to a quick shopping session in Lisbon. Picking people up at the airport even though that meant another drive into town - even when they could take a train/bus/taxi. Food prepared with both expertise and love (THANK YOU >ROGERIO!) Little things matter. I love little things. Personally, they give me great joy. It would have been fun to try and document them and tell that part of the story of the gathering.

Of course, then there were all the wonderful conversations and learnings from them. We need to gather our notes, review our drawings and make sense of all them. But for now, this is enough observations. Back to work!

Oh, and yes, I'm quite happy to dance with fire with my communities!

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Coming back online....

Long time, no blog. That's because I was at a CPSquare Dialog in Setubal, Portugal, with very little internet connectivity. It made me only slightly crazy and I'm quite proud of myself for not obsessing about getting online.

We are slowly debriefing from 6 amazing and intense days, but in the mean time, here are some

More Flickr photos tagged with cp2Portugal07

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

1978, Algae and Old Connections

Chuck scrutinizes red alga
Originally uploaded by MaggieOAE.
I had a flash from my past yesterday when I got an email from Chuck Amsler (that's him today at work to the right). Chuck was one of my classmates in a Marine Phycology course at the Duke Marine Lab in 1978, taught by Rick Searles. Chuck was tracking down members of the class to try and reconstruct a poem we wrote to Dr. Searles at the end of the course to share at a 50th Anniversary party for Rick and his wife, Georgie. We all adored Rick, so this felt like a small but meaningful contribution. Rick is one of those people who cares about his students as human beings and as intellectual beings. That care made a difference to many of us.

The culmination of the summer school experience required poetry. It was one of those times where the people, the learning and work, the setting, and the leadership all converged to create an amazing experience that was seared into our memories. We were in love with the algae, staying to work and play in the lab until late at night. We had a persistent inclination to tear-inducing laughter. We sang in the lab. We were, I think, 11 women and 2 men and the women were powerful, funny and a force to be reckoned with. Chuck was a real mensch to thrive in that pool of estrogen. We have not been able to track down the other guy, also named Rick, but my friend Leah recalled he was a football player with a photographic memory. In a class heavy with memorization of algal taxonomy, Rick's memory was a cause for a bit of jealousy.

We had a great cook at the lab who made banana pudding. One night I indulged in at least two helpings. After dinner I was not feeling so hot. I think I skipped the evening lecture by a cell biologist whose name I can't recall, but I do remember I took his course the fall before and got my first "C."

My stomach started to hurt more and more. Everyone in the women's dorm kept suggesting their home grown remedies to alleviate nausea, to no avail. Soon the pain located in my lower right belly. I asked my dear friend and roommate, Leah, "what side is my appendix on?" She said left. Luckily, that did not stop her from calling the aid unit at some point in the middle of the night as I deteriorated. They said "go to the hospital." So she drove me from Beaufort to Morehead City and before I knew it, I was headed into surgery to have my appendix out.

Nothing like a little surgery in the middle of your summer school, grad level course. But my friends would not let me down. They visited me in the hospital, torturing me with laughter so I would recover faster, and did not let me fall behind.

We finished the course with a dinner we made where every course had algae in it. If memory serves, that was the night the poem was read to Dr. Searles.

Chuck is now leading the University of Alabama's research team at the Palmer Station in Antarctica. I just spent an hour reading the lab team's blog (great reading) and strolling through my memories of 1978. Leah Weyerts (now Burke) and I remained fast friends all these years. Ironically, she became a physician! I can't wait to hear what Pamela, Judy, Paulette and Lucy are doing. I can't remember the other Rick's last name!

So it all circles back today. Chuck writing. The poem being reconstructed across the memories of some of our classmates. Reconnections, clear around to the South Pole.

Life is amazing.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Playing with Vyew

In my current Online Facilitation Workshop we are playing with the free web meeting tool, Vyew. We did our Friday chat (sans audio) today to play with it. One of the features is that you can publish a recording of a meeting and I wanted to try and see how it looks. Here it is!

One of the activities we did was an online variant of something I learned from Gunnar at AspirationTech, "Land or Sea" (aka Spectrogram) I think it worked well in the web meeting environment. We put up the "line" on the shared whiteboard, then asked the question. People then put their names along the continuum. We then discussed (in this case using the chat window) our responses. People could move their names along the line if their views changed during the discussion. It was pretty cool and very interactive.

We also talked about the value of having audio or not in this exercise. Lots of food for thought!

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Do we pay attention to the data?

A useful and fun "quickie" from David Snowden on the SEE-ATTEND-ACT elements of sense making. Make sure you click into the video he links to..."Do we pay attention to the data?".

This caught my eye because I'm doing some work around the ideas of knowledge sharing and "knowledge management" in international development. We always come up with so many clever "tools," "methods" and "activities," but do we ever ask, "are we paying attention?"

The answer too often is that we are too busy and no, thank you very much, we are not.

So what do we do about that?

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Darlene, Cory and Fortuitous Troll Whisperers

Popping my head up to say I'm still working like a maniac. Two links:

Here is a good post from Darlene Fichter, pointing to an equally enjoyable Cory Doctorow article recapping some ideas on working with people who create havoc in online communities. The Art of Being a Troll Whisperer:
We've all heard or read about the wonders of horse whisperers or dog whisperers -- now we have troll whisperers. People who can manage the most difficult people online and keep the conversation engaging, entertaining but civil"
Lee LeFever points out a new online community related blog, with a nice post with some online community advice.

Now, back to work!

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Growing Resource on Online Community and Social Networking

My may, it seems like social media design is the new in thing. I'm amazed at how many people are jumping in. It used to be this field (what field? That is probably a whole other post) of working with online interaction was fairly small. Now it is exploding. One of the entrants, Shara Karasic, is amassing a nice index of public online community and network sites as well as links to resources. Check it out: online community & social networking super list

The one thing I want to keep on the radar screen with these lists is that when we talk about "online community" it is not just the list of public communities. There is a dense collection of private communities, work and learning communities, etc., that merit attention in terms of tools and practices. They don't always benefit from the approaches we take with large public communities and when we mosh all our things together, we miss this distinction. Sometimes it worries me. Oh well.

Thanks for the great resource, Shara!

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Tagging Tips and Non-Bloggy Remorse

Well, remorse is not quite the word, but I feel a loss of not having time and attention to blog. My focus on work is intense and utterly time consuming. I'm getting a ton done, but not bloggging.

So today I pass along something discovered by linky-accident, a nice post on tagging from Michael Clarke. I also enjoyed Michael's description of his work which included his mission to deliver "social value." If I were not working so hard, I'd write Michael and ask him to say more. (If this tempts you Michael, I'm smiling...)

Web Worker Daily posted about smart bookmarking. It’s worth reading the whole article as they do provide useful tips for dealing with the frankly grim bundling interface on and highlight the useful Firefox plug-in for posting bookmarks to several different user accounts. Given the seven varieties of fuss going on about careless deployment of online user identities (e.g. expelled students, refusals to award degrees, Canadians civil servants banned from YouTube etc.), this sort of capacity to manage different identities is going to be increasingly important in terms of keeping your personal and your professional life separate (and avoiding unwanted leakage between the two).
I liked this post for two reasons. It had some great practical links about tagging, which I keep knowing in my gut has significance beyond what is obvious to me at my current state of practice, and because he touched on identity.

I'm not sure we can keep our personal and professional identities separate. For some of us, this is not a desired state, but for others it has profound impact. What I want to know is what are our internal processes and values about how we manage those identities? What sort of practices do we need for genuine self expression in all parts of our lives?

Ah, for a couple of months sabbatical to think, research, converse and write. But now it is BACK TO WORK.

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms in countries where this is celebrated today.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Report from Sandwich Generation Land

I can't believe how little I've been blogging. You may think either I'm playing hooky or working to hard. But I have also been partaking of my role of "the sandwich generation." My folks were in Seattle all last week looking at "retirement communities" - considering a move closer to me. So every day last week we saw 2-3 of these places. Mamma mia, these places are booming. Such a business. Concierges and assisted living. One was doing tequila shots for Cinco de Mayo. But still there were the fears of my parents about "being with old people." Walkers are scary.

Then my husband alerted me to a news story tonight about this video...
YouTube - The Zimmers "My Generation"

What a FANTASTIC vid. This made me smile. I'm going to pass it along to my parents. This is the voice of their generation, not just bingo and boring afternoons. Zimmers, YOU ROCK!

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Dave Pollard Speaks for Me

Dave had another one of his amazing essays, this time on Debate Versus Dialogue. As usualy, it is thoughtful, well researched and has a paragraph that speaks to me, and for me:
"I love to be part of dialogues. But while I'm often attentive when others debate, I'm rarely willing to enter into them. That's probably selfish of me -- if I were more active in debates, others might learn more from me. I'm too preoccupied with my own learning, my own Let-Self-Change process, to be as generous as perhaps I should at helping others learn along with me. But I'm still practicing, and maybe if and when I get as good as Dave Snowden at debate, or as good as Chris Corrigan at dialogue, I'll become more generous at both."

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

danah wants to know about our twittering

After getting a breath of fresh air from another post from danah, I saw this one. Payback time. danah wants to know about our twittering. Here are the questions she is asking. apophenia:
"First, the practical question. Can i quote you?
[ ] Yes, and you *must* use my real name.
[ ] Yes, but please use a pseudonym and don't use any identifying information.
[ ] No, please just use this for your own weird thoughts.

1. Why do you use Twitter? What do you like/dislike about it?

2. Who do you think is reading your Tweets? Is this the audience you want? Why/why not? Tell me anything you think of relating to the audience for your Tweets.

3. How do you read others' Tweets? Do you read all of them? Who do you read/not read and why? Do you know them all?

4. What content do you think is appropriate for a Tweet? What is inappropriate? Have you ever found yourself wanting to Tweet and then deciding against it? Why?

5. Are your Tweets public? Why/why not? How do you feel about people you don't know coming across them? What about people you do know?

6. What do i need to know about why Twitter is/is not working for you or your friends?"

Post your answers in the comments on danah's blog, or blog yours and post a link in her comments. Mine are below...

Yes, you can quote me. Feel free to use my name or not. Nao me importa!

1. Why do you use Twitter? What do you like/dislike about it?
First, I used it out of curiosity. When a tool trend emerges, I want to try and both experience it and "know" about it.
What I find annoying is the interruption it causes me (I'm easily distracted) and some of the dreck people twit about. Over time, I'm trimming my "friends" list. Oh, and I'm annoyed by the term friend. It is like the cheapening of the word "community" - problematic.

2. Who do you think is reading your Tweets? Is this the audience you want? Why/why not? Tell me anything you think of relating to the audience for your Tweets.
One set of readers is the circle of people I'm actively collaborating with. We use it as a sort of barometer with each other. The other set of readers are people I have a relationship with as friends or acquaintances. The rest, I have no freakin' idea if or why they are reading me. Need a life?

3. How do you read others' Tweets? Do you read all of them? Who do you read/not read and why? Do you know them all?
There is no way I can read all of them and I am reading less and less every day. The busier I am, the less I read. I read them sometimes to take a break, but if someone thinks they are delivering critical info to me via their tweets, I hate to break the news that I'm not getting it 90% of the time.

4. What content do you think is appropriate for a Tweet? What is inappropriate? Have you ever found yourself wanting to Tweet and then deciding against it? Why?
I'm getting tired of blog post announcements but I have mixed feelings, because every once in a while it flags my attention to something I otherwise would have missed. I love it when people ask and answer questions. I really don't care if you just had another cup of coffee. For people close to me, I enjoy "state of mind" tweets, but for those I'm less familiar with, those sorts of tweets fly past me.

5. Are your Tweets public? Why/why not? How do you feel about people you don't know coming across them? What about people you do know?
Nope. I think I create enough electronic pollution already.

6. What do i need to know about why Twitter is/is not working for you or your friends?
I have been pondering how we sometimes delude ourselves that our multitasking is effective. I watch some colleagues struggle to get work done, but are tweeting like mad. I see the distraction in my own behavior. I think there is some sort of self awareness that we really need to help us know when to attend to tweets, and when to turn it off.

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Thinking about my Work with a capital W

I am sitting this week in the proverbial spot between a rock and a hard place: important family work and pressing professional work. Today my dear husband is being my proxy on the family matters to give me a day of quiet to try and chip away at my to do list. It is just after 10am and I have dispensed with about 30 emails, but not the pressing work. I just watched as a wave of rain rolled across the horizon to my house. I could see the edge of rain and I sat, mezmerized for a few blissful, forgetting moments.

Work is a central part of my life - paid, volunteer, family. I love it. But I get lost in it. I forget to take the time to step back and reflect on it. So as I glanced through my RSS feeds, I saw a link to danah boyd's post, 5 secrets to success. (I love following people's tags!)

This was a beautiful, thoughtful and useful reflection on her work. Reading it was, like watching the rain arrive, a refreshing moment. I could hear danah's voice, and imagine her eyes if she were telling it to me, F2F. And it was damned good advice.

I have written in a date with myself in a week to try and take some reflection time about my work - away from the computer, I hope! Because I fear that if I allow myself to be consumed by work, I will not achieve what I aspire from my work: to add value to the world. Work with a capital W. Some days lately I feel I'm tottering on a "check the box" mode of working. That is when learning stops and, to me, my ability to add value stops. It is a fuzzy line and easy to miss. It is when the quality of attention shifts. Diminishes.

I want the shift to always be towards the side of learning, not just getting things done. Of attention and reflection, not forgetting.

Oh, the rain just turned to hail and the sound on the roof changed. An old Stevie Wonder tune from Songs in the Key of Life ("Isn't She Lovely") is working well with the sound on the roof.

Now I think I can work. Or maybe it is Work!

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