Friday, May 30, 2008

When the network dispersed in all directions

On CPsquare's intranet I've followed a debate around how to wind down, reactualize or hand over a networking community, thought provoking and highly relevant in many cases I think,

I'd like to share my story here, about a two year long project with substantial funding, that I was deeply involved in some years ago. What we were trying hard to promote, develop and support, was only partly achieved. Our launch was quite successfull with a week long online conference where quite many people helped us with their presentations, back stage assistance and moral support in general.

Then, there was a longish and sometimes almost dormant period with rather few active people remaining, but a regular newsletter and a lot of commented links from delicious, and many more contacts leading to other networks, and communities in more or less direct relation to the main theme.

And, at the end of our funding period, we had to make a decision whether to just turn off the handle, delete stuff and skip the contacts, or what. We ended up with a big bang competition, as we decided to spend some of our last money on two iPods (brad new gadget by then) for the best contribution in the field of Nordic language podcasts (which was highly relevant as part of our agenda was to promote usage of the spoken word, in the neighbor language education of the Nordic language education field, across borders and age limits). This event made us get some more attention, as well as a fine wrap up event to show as a result in our evaluation report about dissemination. We also sent out our last newsletter, but still keep the homepage (and the name, with permission to reactivate it some day if opportune, from time to time a few people would tag new stuff and keep a stream alive - promoted and known as our Treasure Chest.

Our Moodle also exists with a shared library of documents and our own reification.
We had a small hope that there would be a rejuvenation effect of the podcast competition, but that was not the case.

And, for my own sake I would say that I really appreciate the learning moments that I have taken away from this period of hard work. We were struggling with the idea that we wanted to "start a community of practice", as part of the leadership team thought we just could, whereas it was clear to me, that unless we were able to initiate and support real ongoing active community practice, this would not work as more than just another network.

A small core group worked hard, and many distributed contacts have come out of all these efforts. The question is what were our success criteria compared to what we really managed to do. And. how we managed to use these for further steps ahead in our respective inter communicative professional lives and future project work.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

So many Social networking sites - overwhealmed?

This satirical cartoon video by Super Josh shows the dilemma of having too many choices for profiles on Social networking sites. The morale: get a LIFE!
Me? Hmmm - ok, I never made mySpace profile, and not really making any particular use of LinkedIn any longer, and even neglecting my friends on Second Life a little lately. But this weekend, I was playing with Facebook - with my son, at his home, even having great fun...

Thanks to Christina M. who posted this video as a commentary in the Connected Futures workshop, via a blog by Scott Godson.
More from Super Josh:

Friday, May 09, 2008

Success comes to those who can weather the storm

"Just as the tumultuous chaos of a thunderstorm brings a nurturing rain that allows life to flourish, so too in human affairs times of advancement are preceded by times of disorder. Success comes to those who can weather the storm.”
I Ching - the Book of Changes (the hexagram does not corresond exactly with the above quote).

I read this from the ancient Chinese book of wisdom, IChing that came into my hand by serendipity. It was in the summer 1970, location Thylejren, a three month long, unbelievable camp event with thousands of people from literally all over the world, with music and shared joy, and a free and open spirit of anarchy, flower power energies and hot spots of creative madness. It was under influence of this surreal situation that there was a wild western thunderstorm coming up, putting down all of our tents, even the large military tents that housed 30-40 sleeping bagged people in the hay. This put our efforts and ability to tackle survival to a new level, Some were organising rescue for those who might still be hiding under the fallen tents, while others took care of getting some tents up and stbilised them so that there was shelter for those who were in need. Many were under influence of alcohol or drugs, or both; after all this was an endless party and holiday and only few real life obligations, at least not for the large majority who were just enjoying the fruit of other people's hard work with the whole arrangement, the artist's special arrangements, the overall maintenance, the logistics, some instant health and social care, and so on.

Facilitation, organization and natural stewardship talents; most of them were five to ten years older than me. I was 20, just finished school and quite irresponsible and careless, like so many others from my cohort. I was rather independant and free, until then. There I was, and by the way, all of my own luggage and values had been stolen on day one, so I had also learnt how to deal with total poverty, making life go round and offer helpful service for food, as I really did not want to go home before time. After some very difficult hours, the storm suddenly became quiet, but he rain was now falling as if there was a hole in the sky. This emergency situation was sort of a wakeup call for me, and I organised a small task force from our own tent, a cleanup raid, so that we could save the most necessary properties, before the flood was taking its toll. All sorts of things, from whole backpacks to items just scattered all over in the hay mattress, such as shoes, glasses and clothes. We found a dry pack of cigarettes, and smoked one, and started to laugh and relax; after all there were only minor harm done, a broken arm or a concussion, but no dead bodies. Some were still in a condition of shock, but apparently some cups of hot tea, soup and bread and an oocasional beer helped them get over this trauma.

And then, I also found a plastic bag with three interesting books. I kept these with me for the rest of my three long weeks, and as I could never find the real owner, I thought of them as a treasure and read then with extra attention. Those books have travelled again long ago; they were the iChing quoted above, the Tibetan Book of Dead, and a collection of extraordinary folk tales which my new Californian boyfriend read aloud to us on the beach, in the dunes. The sun came back after some days of very bad weather, but our camp life transformed into something more organized, less chaotic

It is hard to imagine today. This camp had perhaps 5.000 inhabitants or more - and ONE public telephone, no organised mail service as people were not even registered; there was no street names or identity cards, no TV - the most appreciated facility was the famous shared open air unisex shower unit, with hot water at certain hours. We might be hungry, or exhausted, or mad, but at least nobody had to be dirty! This was a great tourist attraction, as the local fishermen and their friends came from far away to have a good look at these crazy nudes. In a way this life experiment was a fantastic contrast to the ordinary civilised everyday life which we all,to more or less degree, had to take up again after the holidays. I've always carried these days with me in my heart, for better or for worse. The event transformed my life forever. I had discovered a new side of myself, the ability to react and adapt with an unexpected and difficult situation, and to lead an action. This was when I understood more about the responsibilities that follow with an adult life, and with being part of a larger community.

Google translation for a Multilingual world

Today, Google Search was surprisingly offering an automated Translation link for a Danish versioned text from an English page. I checked the feature and it appears to be a beta tool.

Luckily I was able to take a screendump of this: two minutes later, this service link had suddenly vanished from my next, refined Google search. And then, I discovered that there was a specific new Danish translation page from Google. It might have been there for a while, and I’ve been using several different translation engines in the past (with Danish only as a rare option, and always in a very poor quality; Danish is a minority language).
It has the typical transation for a text snippet window, plus input for a URL With this new integrated service, Google has expanded our facility to navigate in more languages - I haven't yet tested in other combinations, for example from Danish to French or German. Machine text translation is getting closer to a near human solution, step by step.

This one page that I found in translation, was still far from perfect, but not so bad after all.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Collaborative stewardship - to make it happen

Community stewardship - making the connectedness happen

social net working can indeed have many faces and places, names and tasks. I'm elaborating here on a posting I've just written on our Connected Futures Workshop in a thread with reflections on technology stewardship. A particpant, Steve Gance, shares his blogpost with thoughts and examples on what to consider when you start writing a document together, in different phases. Would you want a Word doc sent back and forth, until you're ready to publish somewhere online, or would you begin from start using an online writing tool?

Working through from your first thoughts and brainstorming, into the draft and moving towards a final document, if there is to be any. The beauty and beastly double sided Janus head of online digital content is that it can stay dynamic and always ready for changes, updates, or being removed or replaced by a newer version. Such as Wikipedia and other wikified texts. Hard copies on paper need a full new edition to include changes and updates.

I've got a fresh example of such a collaborative process. This week, I was involved in the field trip to Webheads in Action, and as our task was to share pre reading in our wikispaces, it was an easy one. Both Vance Stevens, Bee Dieu and I are familiar with using this tool and with each other, as trustworthy friends. After I had started with some headlines, a few notes and facts and a slideshare presentation by Vance found in the Writingmatrix project, Bee added her own slides exemplifying some synchronous Webhead events. I came back, edited and restructured, and Bee took over again for a final last touch. Or so we thought, as we knew this had to be not too overwhealming. But Vance simply needed to add some details last minute.

We had one practical problem around the private wikispace for this workshop, facing that there had been sent out invitation for more Webheads to join the call. Easy to solve in this case; Bee and Vance already had another shared wikispace where we could mirror the whole thing! The two versions will no longer be identical, as Vance wish to continue editing the open version, while we want to have the workshop version static for now,so that participants who are going to work on the Field trip report can edit the Wikispaces page created for this purpose. We used twitter to confirm an improvised meeting time on Skype. And during our session there was also some twittering because of Jeffrey who could not get into Skype chat (from work?)

Last but not least - our collaboration oriented membership in different places was already on place, and we know how to use things, or how to support each other. For example, I had a nasty glitch with the wikispace, where I lost a new version; it was probably due to a new system upgrade, and some disconnections. But over at Bee's place things looked all right, and talking in Skype chat with her was really helpful in a stressed last hour before deadline!

My impression about this: efficient and useful, fast and smooth teamwork, resulting in a workable solution, practical and hands-on. We knew our shared domain - Webheads in the CoP perspective - and we had our collective knowledge pool, and community strategies developed over time, in the social context.

As Etienne W. stated in a conversation when we met in Setubal last May for our Dialog meeting - what really matters, is the community stewardship!

PS Some additional links to be added asap (note to self)

Field trip - just a short snapshot

In the Connected Futures workshop, we organized three field trips to virtual communities of practice this week, gving our participants the opportunity to explore matters around practice, domain and community. This triangulation is helpful as an analysis tool; where can we find evidence of the ongoing practices, which domain is the focus and which signs would indicate the sense of community spirit?

Virtual field trips centred on real life locations, could be one or more pages with images, information, sudio recorded material as well as multimedia.

In the case of Webheads in Action, such a virtual field trip was prepared in collaboration between the three of us, Vance Stevens, Barbara Bee Dieu and me (said the cat).
We worked on a shared wikispace, adding some slides and a short commercial video called Herding Cats, which has been used often as a metaphor for this unusual, flat and informal lifelong learning community.

As our cat herder par excellence said, as quoted here from memory Being a webhead is just like being a hippie; you know yourself if you are one. If you feel like a hippie, that's what you are. When you feel like a webhead, then you're probably right!

Sunday, May 04, 2008



From: vances, 1 month ago

At the TESOL Arabia 2008 Conference to be held at Dubai Men's College, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates on March 13-15, 2008 I present on: Writingmatrix: Engaging collaborative writing through social networking - Abstract: This presentation explains aggregation, tagging, and RSS with respect to filtering content online and describes how these were applied in a worldwide collaboration project involving student bloggers tagging their posts writingmatrix and then using Technorati and to identify each other's posts and explore mutual interests through social bookmarking. The session is listed at 3:30 Friday March 14 on this document:

SlideShare Link

Connected Futures - tech stewardship workshop

For months, I've been involved in the pre-workshop preparations backstage, as part of the leadership group of ten; Bronwyn Stuckey, John Smith, Etienne Wenger, Nancy White, Nick Noakes, Beth Kanter, Beverly Trayner, Shirley Williams, Shawn Callahan and me.

This is a follow up on the Foundation of Communities of Practice workshop, which has become a tradition three times a year,developed and facilitated by Bronwyn Stuckey, John Smith and Etienne Wenger, CPsquare. I was invited to this Foundations workshop back in 2003. Little by little I was moving closer to the middle, as a workshop mentor and also as a host for several dissertation fests. And then, last spring I got an invitation to take part in a Dialog meeting for one week, together with about 18 other Cpsquare people, and with some work to do together, as a collaborative practice, the community live in action, in Setubal, Portugal. And now, last week in April and start of May - here we are, week 1 of 5 almost over - and a terrific week that is!

Messy, fun and getting our hands dirty, diving into a selection of web 2.0 tools and developing shared strategies. We're trying not to push the 20 participants too far out, although many are already somewhat familiar with one or more of the following; Skype with chat and teleconference, Wikispaces, Facebook group, Blog with RSS feed, Twitter group, delicious bookmarks, flickr photos - and aggregations thereof.

As our agreement was to not overwhealm participants with too many impressions; and also because this has been one busy week otherwise for me, I've been postpoing my actual contribution in the blog. Until now. Workshop CP2tech - technology stewardship is our primary theme, and not the tech tools only, more the social aspects of being in charge of online community work, with the technology on the sideline as a very important matter. This workshop is also building on the forthcoming book by Etienne, Nancy and John, which provides an excellent opportunity to become involved in multilogical metareflections on the contextual matters.

That's going to be all for now, more details follow in next post. With links and references.

yours, Sus Nyrop

PS as this is a workshop with partly internal content, only some of this could be seen in public. The Wikispaces and Facebook group are private, and our intranet platform as well. Open and closed, make your choice; if you want your thoughts go in public - blog them, make notes on facebook, or just twit a bit. More confidential or just procedural, internal matters could stay safe guarded behind passwowrd protection