Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Beginners and experts

The advantage of a more general blogfocus is that I can more easily show off my children! So here's my youngest daughter (5 years) who has taught herself how to read. She currently reads even during lunch and dinner time. She is reading in Dutch in the video. Though there is a system for children's books (avi 1, avi 2, etc) to indicate the level of beginning readers, she actually reads anything she likes. In the video a children's book that parents are supposed to read for their children. As a result, it contains some pretty hard words like 'vliegtuig'.

I've always wondered what makes for a real expert. At times, people who I consider as real beginners are tasked by their organisation to do something I would reserve for an expert, and still they manage to do an impressive job. From Sil's example, you can see that she reads really slowly and has to look at the individual letters first (v-l-ie-g-t-ui-g)before she can recognise the words. In a similar way, experts are probably much faster in doing something, and can recognise pattern much more easily than beginners.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Social bookmarking - the next steps for the NPK4DEV tagging experiment

During the knowledge management for development workshop participants engaged daily in projects which made it possible for participants to work on something together. We decided to do a project about our tagging experiment. We are using the unique tag NPK4dev (non-profit knowledge management for development) to tag resources on knowledge management in a development context (you can see the tagcloud here). We worked for one afternoon, after which everyone disappeared except Christian, George and myself. The three of us then continued to produce this video to explain the usefulness of social bookmarking for individuals and groups with a common interest. We used the commoncraft videos about RSS and wikis for our inspiration! We had to make it in roughly 1,5 hours, so we didn't have time to make more drawings. We had to do it three times (the first two times we made major mistakes). The first time we had placed the drawings neatly in a row, so our task of putting the images was easy. The third time, though, every thing was a mess, so we were crazily searching for the relevant images.

Christian was so nice to make a timeline of the NPK4Dev tag that we are using to tag resources about knowledge management in a development setting. (here's the blogpost) The timeline is brilliant, you can see blogging and 'howto' are big hits topic and recently agriculture scored high. If you'd be a facilitator of a community of practice and everyone (or the majority) of the people are tagging, it would be a perfect tools to monitor the interests.

Some new ideas I gained:
  • The way Christian is able to digest flows of information and pick up interesting stuff amazed me as compared to other people who complaint about information overload when a list produces more than 3 mails per week. I guess the keeping track of RSS feeds and scanning information is a new skill. - let alone reading it. It also depends on how you define your professional need for keeping up with information and recent developments.
  • We can make a next step with our tag by offering several subfeeds by combining tags. For instance npk4dev+blogging can make for a feed on blogging for development. npk4dev+news can generate a news feed.
  • If you'd be a facilitator of a community of practice and everyone (or the majority) of the people are tagging, it would be a perfect tools to monitor the interests and it can help you in the preparation of events etc.
  • You can combine the feed with a customized search engine eg. google coop to make searching in the links easier.
  • It'd help to make sense of the flow if you could highlight excellent resources, either by rating, or by adding a tag like top10. Then you could highlight the top resources in another space (wiki, newsletter, whatever) for people for whom following the feed doesn't work.
  • Generally speaking, you help the users (especially for people without broadband connections) by working on the information, by printing lists, printing top information, adding top resources in websites or wikis, sharing summaries in discussion lists, etc. (you'd have to work out what works for people).
  • Magnolia seem to offer more and better features than delicious, like taggers profiles and community spaces and better tagcloud options. (hmm, should we all shift??)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Corneille's painting again

I read in the Volkskrant that Corneille is painting again. I'm curious how painters work and learn and become masters. Corneille says he detests inspiration and just starts working, in the same way a child would paint. Starting with a stroke of paint and adding new ones. When he was 20 years, he formed a three-manship with Appel and Constant, as he explains, this followed from forming the group of the 'experimentelen' of painters and poets. The three-manship lasted only 3 years, as they prefered to continue as individuals. When they met, they did not talk about each others work, but they did talk about paint and women. Nevertheless, they did monitor the developments in each others work.

I think what intrigues me is that in the end, the basis of their development process is very individualistic. They do observe each others works, but don't discuss it. I wonder what this means for communities of practice, whether individual development trajectories are not the core of communities of practice. So we should maybe be more modest about the community part, and recognise that the basis for practice is very individualistic.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Pimping and renaming my blog

I gave my blog a new style (the new blogger templates are definitely easier than the old ones, in terms of adjusting your sidebar features!). In the old blogger you could not click on the title of a blogpost to get the link, which was quite annoying too. I decided on a new name: Lasagna and chips. Thanks to Beth and Nancy for brainstorming with me.

When I started blogging, I did not want to have a personal blog, but rather a thematic blog- about communities of practice for development. After 1,5 years, I feel this theme is rather limiting me, I prefer to make this my personal blog - to blog about innovation and creativity, stimulated by either communities of practice, new ways of working, or exposure to new ideas. And anything else I'm thinking about.

The name lasagna and chips came up become while I was in a restaurant where we ordered lasagna and the waiter asked whether we wanted chips with our lasagna. Being brought up with the idea that you have only one starch item in every meal, this made us laugh. But when you are not brought up with that idea, why not? So interacting with people who think differently, you are more exposed to the way you are actually thinking.

Introduction to delicious: lots of resources

For a session next week about our npk4dev tagging experiment, I compiled a short introduction to del.icio.us, thanks for an easy start-up due to a blogpost by Dorine Ruter. I thought I might as well crosspost it here, will be easier for myself too to find it.

Delicious is a social bookmarking site that we are using to collectively gather websites, wikis, blogs and other online resources with interesting content about knowledge management in the context of development cooperation. We have chosen delicious because it is used by a large number of people, but have found out it is not so intuitive for everyone, so if you are new to delicious, it may take some time to get used to it.

But what is social bookmarking in the first place? Social bookmarking is the practice of saving bookmarks to a public website and 'tagging' them with keywords, meaning you add information about the content. The tagging allows you to find your resources lateron, but also to follow other people's resources with the same tag. If you like to know more: here are some good starter resources.

Del.icio.us basics

Examples of del.icio.us users

Examples of how del.icio.us is used by other development organisations or individuals

Learning more about delicious

And here's a great and attractive presentation from Beth Kanter about tagging for collaboration and knowledge sharing:

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Ira Glass on video-storytelling

Via Beth Kanter, we got in touch with Steve Bridger who did a presentation on online fundraising. I missed it, but I'll definitely go through his presentation! It was nice to meet up, but even more surprising is that I only found out back home that he is the blogger of the npf2 blog, which I already followed via my bloglines. I realise it's more fun to read a blog when you know something about the blogger. And realize I had never shown any interest in the writers of some of the blogs I read.

On his blog I read the blogpost Bring the love back which links to a microsoft video with a short scene in a restaurant between a guy with 'the advertiser' on his t-shirt and a woman with 'the consumer' on her t-shirt. It funny and a sort of metaphore story. I'm thinking this should be a next step for my vlogging process. I've experimented a lot with interviews, which are straightforward, but I would like to experiment with new forms too. Via the yahoo-group on videoblogging I found this - longish- video with Ira Glass (There's one with Dave Eggers too!). He explains that a good story is composed of three building blocks:
1. an anecdote (with a sequence of events)
2. the bait (constantly raised question)
3. the point of the story (the moment of reflection, should not be predictable)

He also stresses that you have to record a lot of crap before getting to high quality work. (heard that before with regard to painting!).

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Blogging and vlogging till your food gets cold

(picture by Alec)
I've been working hard for two days (actually three, the next day there was still a lot of uploading and blogging to do) to blog/vlog part of the EUFORIC/CONCORD meeting in Brussels. The idea behind blogging/vlogging the event was to make sure that other members or interested persons who can not make it to the event for whatever reason, can also engage with what happened and what was discussed, and be part of it or learn from it. This is a group that are for the majority not yet 'web2.0' users, so it would also be a way of showing what you can do with the tools. By the way, is a blog which combines 'normal' blogposts with 'vlogposts' a bvlog or a vblog? Anyhow you can see the result here.

How did we go about it? We had a team of 6 people and did not have a chance to meet for a long time beforehand. 4 people had a lot of time to devote to the process, 2 people less. That worked well, since there were many parallel sessions and we had a strict way of dividing up the tasks of trying to get some interesting posts out of a session. Basically we had several mail exchanges, skype and telephone talks and a wiki page with the team to prepare ourselves, and know what we were going to do, talk through the division of tasks, logistics and purpose of the blog (not to cover everything, but to share interesting remarks and conversations). We created a variety of free accounts for the event, to produce materials in different formats:

  • A flickr group , to which anyone can post pictures

  • We had a wiki already and added a category for this event

  • A blip.tv account

  • We set up the special blog in advance too, with various posters, and a guest blogger account and the blog was feeding into the main EUFORIC site

  • Slideshare to be able to upload and possible share all presentations

One of my favorite videos, filmed by Martin, is this one. Francois has over 20 years experience in development and expresses his opinion about the lack of appreciation for southern contributions and research.

The funniest one, because you have to turn your computer 90 degrees is this one:

Which brings me to the lessons learned from the process.. I guess for a new team, you have to go through a learning process, making these kind of mistakes (we also missed one of the interviews, it was not recorded..). Hard to avoid, but it might help to do more testing beforehand, and looking at a few videos together and see what you like/dislike about them. The workload would have been more evenly spread, if we had all learned to upload videos, edit them, upload them to blip.tv and embed them into the blog (that was now done by two people). On a positive note, with a dedicated team of 4; you can capture a conference in a multi-medial way using free online tools.

What really worked well is that we grew more confident and managed to drag people in. Nancy White, one of the presentors, shared her pictures immediately with the group account, and so did Alec later spontaneously. The second day we asked various people to blog directly using our computers. Fortunately we had a web2.0 training session, in which we could both teach people more about the tools as well as explain what we were doing. So we were really happy that in the closing session after the open space, various participants said they would 'put in on the blog'. As the central online space for the conference. Next time, more advertisement could be done beforehand, but I guess we waited for something to show and were shy to point to an empty blog.

How does it make a difference?: it would be interesting to do a short survey amongst members attending/non-attending to ask them how the appreciated it. I noticed some videos got almost immediately 25 views on blip.tv but suspect the viewers may be regular blip.tv users rather than the members or participants. So in my most cynical mood I could think the team let their food go cold for a blog that may not really be read. On the other hand (looking at it from a more optimistic angle!) it makes the conversations in such a conference suddenly publicly available! And hence create a huge enlargement of the impact what was said and done within the walls and gardens of the chant d'oiseau enormously. What I would hope for is that it creates space for other voices to be heard, maybe from the people who would normally not talk in a plenary session. That's something we could be more conscious about next time, as we were now too busy running around and missing our lunches.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Training to introduce new e-tools

Today a little bit of a blogging day, catching up with my bloglines and blog ideas.. This is blogpost number 301! It starts to function as my memory, my brains are already getting lazy after I blogged something. So in future I will probably need the search function on my blog more than my memory...

With Steven Scheer and Simon Koolwijk I co-facilitated a training to introduce various tools for e-collaboration at kontakt der kontinenten. Though I had become a little allergic to training throughout my career, seeing little application of all that was learned -and more and more attracted to supporting learning through communities of practice- this day made me realize training can be powerful for learning new things and especially for lowering the threshold for people to experiment with various new tools. We did a virtual team assignment, using a NING platform as an example of a web-based discussion forum, skype as VoIP and Unyte as an example of a screen sharing tool.

It was interesting to see that people got a chance to talk about their use of tools (and that there were a couple of previously unidentified champions) and their anxieties. An important aspect of such a day may be to make use of technology a topic for discussion. One of those anxieties was whether working online would make everything 'faster' again. Another one was about security, fear of spam, viruses etc., but also fear for undesired contacts with the negative connotation of the word chat (the fact that one participant was immediately invited by two unknown men after signing up for skype did not help).

What I personally learned is:

  • The reconfirmation of differing individual learning styles. During preparation and testing, noone used the handouts, and I thought they were obsolete. But during the training one participant read the handout completely before doing anything else.
  • There are always technical set-backs, so you have to be creative and have plan B. In our case, the ning invitations were never received, probably filtered out somewhere. One champion helped to send it through another address.
  • In such a training where online collaboration beyond e-mail is new to the participants, it is important to create a positive experience and help them with the hard parts eg. uploading pictures. Working on a real life case made it interesting, people could see what they achieved in terms of project results, supported by the technology rather than seeing the technology as a hurdle.

Wikis in plain English

Another great video from Commoncraft: this time explaining wikis. It's just brilliant how they explain it without using computer screens. The video takes 3 and a half minutes, and explains wikis taking the example of a group of four people who go camping. When I saw it explained, it made me realise that I could use wikis much more often than I do now. When we prepared a training as a team of three persons, it was just at the day of training that we realised how much we had used a flurry of e-mails and that it would have been easier to have a wiki or online environment for ourselves too. On the other hand, I have just used google docs for our (lengthy) article and when we coincidentally worked on it at the same time, some lines disappeared so we went back to good old word documents (just feels safer at times!)

Click To Play

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Pictogame to discover my blog view

Via Julius Huijnk of Helpalot I found pictogame, a site where you can make your own online game in 1 minute.

So you can puzzle to find out my view from behind my laptop...
I think it can be a nice online icebreaker for an online workshop. Though I wonder if you'd give everyone the same puzzle (it could become a sort of competition who is fast in solving the puzzle) or ask them to make their own puzzle about themselves and let others guess what it is. Probably the second option.