Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Happy 2009!

Crash course in Dutch to understand this new year's card:
Luchtig = Light
Creatief = Creative
Vreedzaam = Peaceful
Relaxed = Relaxed
I admire all the blogger that give away their highlights of the year, the most frequently read blogposts etc. I don't have any data whatsoever, so no highlights!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How do you introduce a web2.0 way of working in your organisation?

Guess who these two gentlemen are? They are two of the 'civil servants2.0' or rather the initiators of such a project within the ministry of agriculture in the Netherlands. I interviewed them and posted it in my Dutch blog, but since their lessons about introducing web2.0 in a (civil service) organisation are very relevant I'm going to cross-blog it.

The initiative started with a small (roughly 10) group of people from different departments, but it started from the information policy side. They wanted to create room to discuss the implication of an open, web2.0 way of working as a strategic change for the ministry. They started with the joint drafting of a plan: in a wiki because they wanted to walk the web2.0 talk. In the meantime, they worked on influencing the various management layers. Almost two years later, Davied was appointed full-time project leader of 'civil servant2.0'. They formulated 4 critical success factors looking back at the process so far:

  1. The small but growing network they created was crucial. It created its own dynamics and energy.

  2. Creation of support throughout the layers of the organisation by means of informal contacts rather than using the formal decision-making ways.

  3. Recruting and working with people with enthusiasm and energy. Not investing time in people who are not interested at all. (but remain aware of those people at all times)

  4. Collaboration and interaction with other organisations (the 'outside') has had a positive influence on putting web2.0 high on the agenda.

Interestingly enough, this could read like advice for any change trajectory... I'd be happy to explore more in-depth how you can design the introduction trajectory as a change process.. What's special about this process as compared to other change processes?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The networked student and knowledge worker

Irene Hanraets alerted me about this video about the networked student by wdrexler:

The way the networked student uses web2.0 services is basically the way I use them. So it could be the knowledge worker2.0 too. I wonder though, about individual paths and diversity. I don't think learning by blogging works for every student, or does it? I also wonder what it takes in terms of knowing what direction you want to take. In my experience you have to be quite focused (and not loosing any serendipity at the same time) not to waste a lot of time. What do you think?

And what does it mean for education. I'm teaching too, but the blog idea I introduced didn't take off naturally and I didn't have time to guide it properly. So it would need sufficient guidance from teachers to make it really useful..

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Social media for 'draagvlakversterking'

Last Thursday I had a great day with communication specialists (and a few technologists) of the Dutch development sector at the Context Masterclass about 'web2.0 for draagvlakversterking'. This really completely untranslatable word refers to the creation of support for development cooperation- apparently that is a science in itself :). The day started with two presentations, an introduction into web2.0 by Sandra van Heeswijk and the experiences of Nabuur as a platform where neighbours in north and south can collaborate. I was asked to help with the interactive workshop.

We played the Dutch social media game in 3 groups of 10 people. After the game we organised peer coaching in small groups of 4 behind the computer. People could show each other examples of how they used web2.0 for 'draagvlakversterking' and/or ask each other for informal advice. The game was inspired by the social media game developed by Beth Kanter and David Wilcox. In itself an example of how web2.0 can help you do your work! I used the motivation that people wrote before the workshop to tailor the cards towards the questions in the group. It worked really well, in my group the first card already started a 20 minutes discussion! At the end of the day we discovered by reading twitters that it was snowing outside in Utrecht :). From the evaluation I noticed that it opened people's eyes to the complexity of 'using' web2.0 and realized web2.0 is not a panacea. They appreciated the realism, attention for the difficulties and risks involved. Some learned that working with web2.0 is not equivalent to building your own communities, but that your strategies may include making use of other online spaces like hyves, facebook or twitter.

A few questions that I remember:
  • How to deal with the paradox of 'promoting' something and the spontaneous nature of web2.0 conversations?
  • Where are the spontaneous online conversations about development cooperation or our topics taking place?
  • How are trusted sources constructed within web2.0?
  • Is there prove that using web2.0 tools works to create 'draagvlak'?
  • and... where to start?

Talking about where to start I showed a few people the graph of museum2.0 about how much time does web2.0 take? On the techsoup site Jacob Colker answers the question: "If my nonprofit were to start using only one of these (web2.0) technologies, which one should we adopt?" Jacob's answer was 'start blogging'. For draagvlakversterking I'd say: start following what's discussed about your organisation, your campaign or your causes online, using tools like technorati (for blogs) or socialmention.

Some interesting web2.0 examples that I learned about (or already knew) in the context of 'draagvlakversterking', with a few exceptions Dutch-based:

Great to notice that Doenersnet and JongOS make use of the easily available NING service rather than building their own (expensive) social network site. Other interesting examples?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

My scientist blog

Via Cindy, I discovered Typealyzer, a fun tool that analyzes Swedish and English blogs.
This is a scientist blog.
"The Scientists enjoy theoretical work that allows them to use their strong minds and bold creativity. Since they tend to be so abstract and theoretical in their communication they often have a problem communcating their visions to other people and need to learn patience and use conrete examples."
More interesting is the graph with the parts of your brain at work while writing. Mine is high on thinking and low on feeling. That is something I recognize: I don't easily write about my feeling on my English blog, my Dutch blog tends to be slightly more personal. Maybe because it has a smaller readership? Or because it is my mothertongue? Unfortunately Typealyzer did not work for my Dutch blog, I'd be happy to see analyze it and see any differences....
Is my blog too scientific or do you like the strong focus on thoughts?

Monday, November 24, 2008

I borrowed and read wikinomics (in Dutch). I'll return it tomorrow, so I thought I'd blog the things I'd like to recall from Wikinomics- my blog is the extended memory of my brain. Wikinomics was quite different from 'Here come's everybody' by Clay Shirky because it focuses so strongly on the case of business collaboration. Shirky focuses more on the fact that the availability of these tools will foster new levels of (unexpected) collaboration on all sides of the worlds. Important to remember is that peer-production does not work in all cases, but in cases where 3 pre-conditions are met:

  1. The purpose of production is information or cultural which makes participation costs low.
  2. Task can be fragmented and split up (like in wikipedia).
  3. Costs of integration of these tasks in an endproduct should be low.

    Three ideas I would like to remember are:

- The ideas agora

Ideas agoras are market places for ideas, innovations and talents. The example of InnoCentive where solution seekers and problem solvers are matched. The problem solvers can be rewarded with a cash reward. It is not the typical type of voluntary collaboration I had in mind (people contribute because of the reward), but it seems to work well as an innovative way to put expertise to work. Another example is yet2 where patented innovations are marketed. I would love to see an idea agora in development. Not Nabuur where people in development countries can try and get direct support from their neighbours in the north, but a place where development organisations can share their sticky problems. I'm sure it would be great to read and see various organisations struggle with similar problems, and get fresh ideas from outside the sector.

- The Tech Scouts

Scouts that search for innovations external, to avoid reinventing the wheel. In development I would love to see a tech scout function in organisations. Someone who purposely liaises with others. Though everyone should ofcourse be a little tech scout for his/her field of expertise, it would be good to make this more explicit.

- The idea of productive friction

This idea is presented in The Only Sustainable Edge by John Hagel and John Seely Brown. and refers to the new type of learning that takes place when knowledge and tasks are exchanged outside the boundaries of companies.

The best example in wikinomics is for me the example on page 260. The director of the Geek Squad thought of introducing a wiki for internal communication. As he was working with geeks, knowing what a wiki is shouldn't be an obstacles. However, the wiki was not used. Finally he discovered the employees were communicating a lot while playing games. The lesson is that rather than designing tools for communication, it is better to find out what the tools and modalities of communication are and go from there. In development for instance, most intense sharing and conversations occur during extensive travels... So instead of changing this, you can build on this by stimulating certain people to travel together.

The wikinomics books continues as an open wiki online at wikinomics.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Innovation in the development sector

Last week I attended the conference organised by Strohalm on this topic. It was a little weird, because it was a mix of talking about innovation in the development sector (which was the reason for me to attend the conference) and talking about Stro's innovative social trade system (which was the reason for most participants to attend the conference).

The first two sessions were really interesting: Henk Molenaar from Wotro was speaking and noticed that the development agenda is getting wider, which call for more knowledge intensive processes. Innovation is increasingly seen as a recombination of knowledge, and through trial and error, as opposed to a narrow view of innovation happening through lineair research and development processes. Innovation has to be seen in context, and therefore should be demand-driven (not sure if I agree there). The conclusion is that processes of endigenous innovation should be stimulated by using trial and error. However there is a tension between such an approach and projects planned with logical frameworks aiming at succes. Innovation may come from new, surprising actors. All this means to create room for innovation, actors like the ministry should let go of managing and steering tightly. (I'm not sure that we should blame the logframe, but rather acknowledge that we have banned risk taking).

The second session was a panel with 3 people from the private sector (men) and 3 people from the development sector (women). They talked about questions like: 'how to create room for innovation?' and 'what are important lessons about innovation?' The private sector innovator said that you need to search for audacity and passion for something new- dare to let go and reduce procedures. Search for what moves people and try to bring that to the surface. The Rabobank said that innovation is often local, change and innovate yourself, don't innovate others. For development organisations this means that the drive to help partners is larger than the drive to please donor bureaucracies. From the examples it was clear that there are currently a lot of private sector- development organisations collaborations, like the collaboration between HIVOS and KPN around HIV/AIDS awareness creation. I'd like to quote Gert van Maanen who said: 'put the people with the ideas more central than the bosses with the budgets'. and 'innovation happens through the spark between people', ING talked about innovation departments: 99% is about incremental change, and 1% about out-of-the-box change (the EUREKA innovation).

If you want to know more about Stro's proposed innovation in the economy, play their social trade game.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Obama's use of social media: what can we learn from it?

The netsquared thinktank question is this time: 'What was the best example or lesson learned about leveraging social media from the political campaigns this year?'

At first, I didn't feel like responding. I have followed the campaigns of Obama and McCain filtered through the Dutch news. But it's a nice opportunity to find out more about how Obama leveraged the social media- I have heard it was a great campaign and his team made good use of the media in general and social media in particular.
I'm a fan of Obama (like 90% of the Dutch I believe!), because of his ideas but also because of his grandmother, who is a Kenyan, living in the Luo speaking part of Kenya. This is where I lived two years working with farmers on irrigation between 1990-1992, near Lake Victoria. When I saw her in a documentary, I really recognised the type of homestead and could understand some of the Luo language she speaks. I also lived with a Barak family (Barak Odwar). Kenya is proud! It would be great to have a presidential swap for a week between Kenya and the US! (like in the TV series 'your wife, my wife' or 'teenage swap' puberruil XL?)

But back to social media. What I found out from this blogpost on the blog 'cooler insights' is that he has a very web2.0 friendly website, with links to all kind of online hangout places like facebook, twitter, etc. which shows they understand it is not enough to think everyone comes to your website, but that you have to go out and be where your people are online. Make it easy for twitterers to stay updated. Not only myspace, but also on migente, a social network for latinos. Check it out to see a web2.0 friendly website (miss the tagcloud though!).

It seems is not only used to spread messages around, but also to engage with people online, to listen. Via a Dutch weblog called 'civil servant2.0' I learned that Obama's team doesn't simply use social media to campaign, but experiments with a site where you can share your story what these elections mean to you and has a weblog to keep people informed what happens till the transition of power.

My personal lesson is that it is not a social media strategy, or the wider campaign that made Obama win. It is Obama himself who did it. Don't overestimate the role of social media (or campaigns in general for that matter). A crap candidate with a good social media strategy is still crap. Social media can help and support you when you have a strong service or product, but can also amplify weak services or product. At times I have the impression that is forgotten and that people think a web2.0 tool will automatically give you a good reputation. Take the example of a weblog: a weblog can also worsen your reputation because your work and ideas will be exposed.

To summarize this in 3 lessons:
1. Go out to where your audiences are online, don't assume they come to your website or portal
2. Make it two-way communication, not only talking, but also listening
3. Make sure your service or product is strong, otherwise you will amplify your weaknesses
By the way, not only Obama is using twitter, you can also get news about the Ghana Election on twitter by following Ghanaelections.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Anonymous browsing

Yesterday we had another inspiring ecollaboration meeting in Ede, kindly hosted by MDF. I met David Jacovkis who works for the Free Knowledge Institute and explained why and how you can browse and contribute anonymously to the internet.

I'm crossblogging this from a blogpost I made for the ecollaboration blog: David tells us browsing and contribute anonymously to the internet is a basic skill that parents should teach their children. There is a open source software that you can download on TOR. TOR is an anonymiser tool. It makes use of a network of intermediate computers so that nobody knows from where you are connecting and to which websites. You will find the instructions- which are quite easy on the website of Torproject.

You can watch David explain this system:

If you want to know more about anonymous blogging, Global Voices has put up a technical guide for anonymous blogging which you can find here. It explains more steps like choosing pseudonyms.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Thinking out of the in-box

Luis Suarez works for IBM and I've been following his experiment to reduce his email through his weblog. I was a little sceptical about his efforts. I don't have any problem keeping up with my mails I see it as communication concerning the tasks I'm working on with other people. If people have problems with their mails, they probably have problems with setting the boundaries of their tasks too. I felt he was blaming the medium email for the mailculture, like blaming the telephone for the fact that many people are calling you. I thought the solution would be in becoming better at deleting non-relevant mails and knowing when to use other means, like telephone or walking by. But then it is true that there is a real problem. I have heard so many people complain about email. They tell me for instance that they still have 150 mails to 'work through'. Or that working at home is problematic because these people start sending so many mails. Email seems to de-energize many professionals and makes people feel not in control of their work. When I worked for an organization I had more mails, which made it hard to wait a few days in checking your mail. Now that I'm freelancing, it seems easier to control my mail.

So I was happy to see Luis Suarez presenting on this topic in a 9-minutes presentation in a youtube video, and I get his point. Luis tells us basically: Most of the people get over 30-50 mails per day, taking about 2-3 hours per day spent on emailing. Mails are not transparent- there is a political game around bcc's and cc's. When you spend the same amount of time on social media like twitter, it is more supportive of a colleagial teamspirit. It sounds like an important difference. Be in control of your online communication, rather than be controlled by it.

You can watch the video here, unfortunately he doesn't explain how he did it, but you can get that information from his blog.

This seems an excellent entry point to get people interested in social media in organizations!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Terrible teams doing wonderful jobs

(picture through the reality and fun blog)

I've been working with 3 Intercultural teams composed by people with various nationalities and I've been part of a 100% Dutch team, all teams of 6-8 people. The Dutch team has used a learning history to learn about their teamprocess. The 3 intercultural teams have done an individual self rating followed by a group discussion of their teamwork. The rating sheet I prepared for them was based on the definition of effective groups by Harris.

Effective groups:
Produce what customers want
Are able to do it again
Do it in a way that makes the members of the team feel good
(Harris, 2005)

It was interesting to see that the Dutch team had more issues of different perceptions of the work at hand and approaches to deal with it than the intercultural team, as you would expect the opposite. In a way, the Dutch team had more differences to bridge. Whether we all understand the Dutch way of greeting each other doesn't help you, when you have a different understanding of the way to work on this particular task.

Looking through the lens of the team development stages of Tuckman, two of the three intercultural teams managed to get to a level of effective performance, the third group seemed to still be in a kind of storming phase, and never got to the level of high team performance. Neither did the Dutch team. However, despite the fact that these two teams were not at the performing stage as teams, they managed to perform the task quite well. I guess this is my personal learning point- that you can have a sub-optimal teamprocess- but still perform a good task. The downside is that in these teams people are happy when the task is over and eager to depart! Another learning point is that taking time for bridging the difference is often hard when there is a lot of work to do, so it's tempting to just continue focusing on the task.

Have you ever been in a terrible team that did a wonderful job?

Monday, October 20, 2008

The institute for minimal impact knowledge management

Green Chameleon made a funny video about the institute for minimal impact knowledge management (KM). You can learn to be seen involved in knowledge management without disturbing your real work. It is really funny, making fun of appreciative inquiry, corporate vlogging, six sigma, knowledge cafes and complexity. Knowledge cafes- the more you talk about something the less you understand it and the less you want to do something about it. Complexity is a great contribution to minimal impact KM, the more complex you can make it appear, the less accountable you are for the impact. Can you win the 0 impact award?

Watch it here:

It helps in our study of monitoring and evaluation of knowledge management strategies: if you have become an expert in minimal impact KM, can you become an expert is showing the maximum impact of your minimal impact KM? Maybe that's an idea for the next course for the institute?

Dilbert adds to my last blogpost

Source: wwww.dilbert.com

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Impact assessment of knowledge management interventions

Let me use (part of) a rainy saturday afternoon to try and organize some of my new thoughts about impact assessment. We (team of 3) are doing a study about Monitoring and Evaluation of Knowledge Management Interventions. I have been in 8 interviews and read a pile of papers around this topic. We are blogging some of it on the Giraffe team blog on this topic. We are currently working on a draft of the publication hoping to do justice to all interviews and literature. Here are my personal insights- developments in my own thinking. When I worked in development project I wasn't always enthused about monitoring and evaluation, apart from some participatory impact monitoring (PIM) efforts. However, working with various communities of practice, I come across the need to monitor and evaluation the impact. After all, the aim is not to have a community of practice, but to have a functional community of practice and which functional I mean stewarding knowledge and innovating practices. What has struck me in the interviews and literature is the following:

1. One remarkable thing is the concept of Knowledge Management itself. It is such an accepted, ordinary term for me, but not all others. It is a discipline I like, because of its integrated nature, fed by information technology, psychology, social sciences etc. The people who have negative associations with the term seem to find it difficult to see how you manage 'knowledge'. Personally, I don't think knowledge management is about managing knowledge, but about managing knowledge workers, organisational structure, process and systems. In our definition it is very close to terms as Organizational Learning. Chris Mowles felt knowledge management is coopted too much by management science, but I don't think it is in the development sector.

2. I see that I need to be more careful in distinguishing between measuring (using metrics like nr. of kilos etc), assessing (to determine the value), and reading (picking up signals, evolving understanding). Often I used these terms interchangeably, but they are different. Reading organizations is a powerful term that we used in Ghana when I worked with SNV (thanks Laurent!), but it took some time to see the link with this subject, I think reading is underestimated. Formal evaluation exercises take quite some investment, but informal readings by actors and sponsors take place all the time. Maybe we can more often trust the informal readings by actors instead of waiting for the report of an 'objective' evaluator.

3. The need for distinction (and often separation) between a developmental assessment and an extractive assessment. The first type of assessment has the aim to improve the situation and make sure the actors gain insights themselves, upon which they can act. An extractive assessment (or sometimes called for accountability) is aimed at proving value to sponsors or donors who are outsiders, to secure continued support. I think it's useful to keep the two aims more often separate. Lumping them together in one process can be very dangerous, as you will never be completely open when you are keen to prove something. A developmental assessment, or 'monitoring in the service of learning' as CDRA has neatly coined has its limits there is an extractive purpose too. I'm not saying it is impossible to combine the two purposes in one process, I think it is very well possible where there are fairly equal, mature relationships between actors and sponsors. However, in the development sector this is always a tricky thing. Who judges? What kind of decisions will be made on the basis of the results of the assessment? I've done it too, evaluate a network with the purpose to 'learn' but at the same time, everybody is aware that the donor has serious doubts.

4. The language of learning is another powerful insight- the way you talk about learning, the way you experience learning determines your choice of knowledge management interventions and the way you measure. Do you belief in informal learning or in training or both? When the purpose of an assessment is extractive and the language of the sponsors is not aligned with the language of the assessment, it may not have the intended effect. Continuous conversations between the knowledge actors and the sponsors may be more useful in that case. But if a person doesn't believe in an intervention will he/she be convinced by an assessment? Probably only when accompanied by the right conversations, not by a report. Discuss what the change process is that the knowledge management should bring about and choose an appropriate way of monitoring the changes.

5. Balance the cost of an assessment with the expected outcomes - it was very, very remarkable in the interviews with people working in the profit sector, that the whole topic of monitoring and evaluation of impact of knowledge management interventions seems less relevant. Why invest in an assessment when as a manager you see that something is changing in the right direction? When the cost of the knowledge management intervention is relatively small? Unless the outcomes will really be the basis for a change in strategy, or a major decision, why do you want to assess the impact in the first place? The fact that impact is not formally assessed does not mean there is no impact and that people don't have a sense of the impact. Managers have to stay in touch with reality and trust their professional observations. Investments in a formal assessment may only be justified when it's really important and strategic to know. On the other hand, a very light mechanism may do the work.

6. The need to discuss and decide where you stop to assess impact. I am a big fan of the INTRAC ripple model. Which makes the distinction between output, outcome and impact very clear. Etienne Wenger shared another similar model, but focused on communities of practice. Using such a model, you can decide where you stop your assessment. Unless data is readily available going to further levels may mean investing a lot of energy in collecting information that may be useless. The further away from the centre the ripples are, the more uncertainty in attribution. I enjoyed the example of Mattieu Weggeman of a management team that was more open and collaborative. Only to find out that the director had fallen in love with a legal person and this relationship rather than the intervention changed his attitude. However, stories may go a long way in explaining changes in all their complexities.

7. Figures, stories and conversations
Etienne Wenger stressed that figures don't mean a thing without the stories explaining the figures. And without conversation about both, it is not likely that it will lead to change. I find it interesting that a person from outside the sector mentioned this, since in the development sector this 'rule' would apply even stronger because in the south the preference for oral communication above textual communication is even stronger. Chris Mowles added his observation that there are far too many monitoring and evaluation figures and reports, and far too little sense-making.

One thing I'm struggling with is how to avoid that stories become success stories. Maybe by focusing on the right questions?

Friday, October 17, 2008

Traces of how ideas travel

What do I have in common with Mark Gould, Dawn Foster and Richard McDermott? I wouldn't know but we are all mentioned in this blogpost in an unknown language :). I found it through tracking the referring URL to my weblog. I think this what is exciting about the online interactions. In the offline world, there is no way of tracking who is using your words, ideas, or who is talking about you. Unless you get some feedback. But online, it is much easier to track down what kind of ideas or blogposts get referred to. When you work in face-to-face communities a lot of impact may happen without anybody noticing for instance, ideas may continue to be told to colleagues, publications shared, ways of working copied. For online communities it must be easier to do so? On the other hand, you can't track how it travels from the online into the real world. Anyone who know what kind of language this is?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Building healthy communities

Richard McDermott write the cover story of inside knowledge on the topic of building healthy communities. A three years in-depth assessment was undertaken in a dozen companies to look at mature communities. Interestingly, old thinking about CoPs was that goals and deliverables woud inhibit people's openess and that communities needed to evolve on their own over time. However, the study found that many communities without organisational support fade away. Most of the healthy communities are more like 'official' organisational structures.

Key characteristics of healthy communities were consistent across the various industries studied. Following are some characteristics:
  • Most active communities are also highly valued by their organisations
  • Projects, goals and deliverables give a community something specific to organise around
  • Healthy communities have enthusiastic, active, energised leaders, spending between 10-25% of their time engaged in community activities
  • Leader activities include facilitating meetings, handling logistics, networking among members and networking among sponsors
  • Healthy communities have a core group of active members
  • They have a clear sense of making progress, even if goals are informally formulated, which energises the community
  • Healthy communities are far from the margins of a company even though management attention can easily inhibit community development.
  • Some communities are developing the organisation's knowledge assets

I think this is interesting, as I also encounter the belief that communities should be left alone in organisations. What I observe is that this marginalizes them, because there is no attention for learning from the community of practice. For inter-organisational communities (as I'm now mostly engaged with) it is even less likely that an organisation is closely involved. Though this may create the space for authentic development, is can also be interpreted as lack of interest in the domain of the community. Good to read the whole paper, it is not very long and gives a very pragmatic insight in communities within companies.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

List of 50 Knowledge Management Blogs

Following the referrals to my blog I found this list of 50 KM blogs. Hard for me, as I'm trying to keep my bloglist under 50, but I'm already at 90. If it is more than 50, I get discouraged to read them, and it starts to feel like an additional duty. And that's not what I want. So maybe I should change my bloglist to this 50? Anyhow, a useful reference for people who learn through reading blogs and want to learn about the field of Knowledge Management

Monday, October 06, 2008

Clash of generations

Via Steve Bridger I found this cartoon on the clash of generations on the Geek and Poke blog. On my Dutch blog I wrote the story about the train where a girl was looking for the women's toilet. I told her the toilet in front of her was for everyone. She answered that it was written that it was for 'men'. That was true, but 'men' in Dutch is a rather old-fashioned way of talking about men and women jointly!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Secrets and lies

If a conference is well blogged, and video-ed, you can probably learn as much from it as when attending.. At Picnic I heard people talk about the fact that men lie about 70% of the time on internet and women about 30% of the time... it made me curious how this was measured. And it may be reflective of face-to-face communication?

Anyhow, I just found a post by Ethan Zuckerman blogging Genevieve Bell's presentation on secrets and lies.
"Men and women lie differently. Men lie more, and we’re not as good at it. Men lie about their jobs and cars. Women lie about their weight, age and what they’ve purchased.
Why does this happen? We probably need to understand that lies aren’t always opposed to truth. They are often a form of self deception, a way of coping with the world. “Lies are not always opposed to truth - they are opposed to reality.” Children lie to test boundaries, to discover what is and isn’t an appropriate response in conversation. Is it okay to say that you’re seven when you’re actually three?"

She also point to the cultural determination of secrets and lies:
"Secrets are different than lies. Genevieve grew up in indigenous communities in Australia, and there secrets are a big part of life. Not everyone gets to know everything - there’s knowledge held only by women, only by men, only by the old or the initiated. She tells a story about indigenous women wondering at white women’s honesty with their husbands. “The white men asks, ‘What did you do today, dear?’ And the women answer! And the women I spent time with were howling with laughter over this.”

I recognise this as in Ghana there was definitely a different perception about what is allowed as secret or lies. Some lies are publicly known as lies to insiders, it is only the outsider that may be confused... Back to the internet: I have the feeling that the more you are online, the more you have to be honest, since everything gets connected. The more people you add on twitter, the more likely it is they know it when you are lying. But that sounds a bit contrary to her findings about lying?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Call answering practices change -very- slowly

I had a sudden insight on Friday that was a bit shocking and funny at the same time. During a discussion about online 'openess' someone explained that his daughter answers the phone by greeting the person calling, she knows who is calling her. I realized I always say my own name when I answer the phone.. but in a way it is ridiculous, because on my display I already see who is calling me! It is just a matter of habit. It's an old habit from the time when you could not see on the display who is calling you... There is my age-group playing out a small act as if we don't know who is calling.. It shows clearly that practices change very slowly following technical solutions. The way we interact and communicate with friends is grounded in a lot of conventions. If a persons picks up the phone saying her name, you know she is from the era before the displays!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Jaroslav Azhnyuk on education 2.0 in Ukrain

Jaroslav is 19 years old, lives in Ukrain, and started an NGO called Internet Initiatives. Is also a founder of Semantica Company.

What's education 2.0. Education + web2.0= education 2.0?? It is not as simple as that. First we need to educate people how to use the internet. A sixth of the population use internet, but mainly browsing and email. They don't use web2.0 tools, RSS feeds etc. Primary skills are using email; secondary skills are use of RSS feeds, slideshare, blogs, social networking, etc. How to use this, not only for fun, but also for business.

Hence Internet Initiatives organises:
- Barcamps where everyone can give presentations of about 30 minutes, a very open format. It's cool and fun. Barcamps were very inspiring and successful, starting a barcamp virus- 12 barcamps en monthly minicamps organized in a cafe. Lots of fun, beer and snacks. See blogcampCEE for an impression.

- New technologies on the Internet with 18 seminars on universities sponsored by EJC and Apple IMC. 6 topics, social networks, blogs, RSS feeds, search. Found out level of knowledge highly varies. Some students are deeply engaged, other don't know about it.

- Educamp in Kyiv on 8-9 november 2008. First day with prescheduled sessions, the second day with asked questions. For more information contact Jaroslav, he answers all his mails!

Heike Sperling on visual music and limerence

My second life-blogging blogpost! Heike Sperling works for the Institute for Music and Media. (IMM) She teaches visual music.

She talks about 3 subjects:

1. Her institute IMM
2. Visual Music
3. Current research project: music and limerence (?)

When she studied there were no computers. MTV started when she was in her 20's. Then works as a creative director. In the 90's she worked with clips and invested in experimental music videos. Now Managing Music Director of IMM.

1. IMM- based in Germany
Evolved from training sound engineers. Since a decade the IMM has incorporated video, which is unique in Germany. Sounds and visuals have different languages, so there is mutual learning between the students and herself. In October two new bachelor will be launched: program music and media, the other sound and media. The idea is to bring the two cultures together to inspire each other. Students enhance their personalities on the basis of an instrument.

2. Visual Music
Term is 90 years old. Visual music refers to the use fo musical structures in visual imagery. Many aspect of music are visual, think of the covers etc. From experimental films. Audio and visuals are considered as equally important. This is not common. They take a close look at the coherence between technical innovation, new artistic languages and contents. this requires constant dialogue and reflection. She learns a new language from the musicians. Audio and visuals together should be more than the sum. She shows a visual music clip called light/speed by Maurice Braun one of their students. The clip won a the visual music award. (she didn't tell us this, but I saw it when googling!). In visual music the musician and visual person need to communicate because they can not understand each other. the goal is to develop assertiveness, self awareness and communication skills, so visual music is rather the stepping stone, not the goal.

3. The next project: Limerence
Limerence is an involuntary coginitive and emotional state in which a person feels an intense romantic desire for another person (Dorothy Tennov). (in English: to have a crush)...
She is the only female teacher, all 40 students are male. So she thought to study a cliche topic for a woman: romantic love. It is a sort of tabu in the scientific world to talk about it. Limerence involves acute longing for reciprocation, and a general intensity of feeling that leaves other concerns in the background, amongst others. Love has been called a madness, which implies loss of control and inspires fear. Limerence hence conflicts with the idea that human beings are free and rational creatures. 85% of populair music concerns love and limerence. Limerence as an ideal is financially profitable. She will cook up a question for a project, whose ingredients will be identity, society and interface. Interface looking at the connection between limerence and music. Why is it so connected? Falling in love has the same effect as cocaine. Have you seen Stanley Kubric's films? If not, you have to see them as soon as possible.

I ask her whether she encounter a lot of conflicts between the two world, audio and visuals. She does encounter conflict all the time, but sees conflict not as something negative, but the reason to dialogue. Musicians sometimes say she doesn't understand at all. Especially when both are equal, you need to work through your conflicts. That's exactly what makes her so interested in it.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Reversing familiar ways of working stimulates creativity

During my last painting class, we did an excercise painting our model in negative (black= white and vice versa), a very good exercise that turns your thinking and way of looking at a model upside down. When I reversed later, it took some time to get used to 'normal' painting.

At Picnic, I was suddenly asked to interview Werner Vogels, the CTO of Amazon.com for the Picnic daily newspaper. We had only 5 minutes, I didn't have a clue who he was, so I proposed to do it with someone together, so Kerim Satirli and I worked together. My 'normal' interview mode is to listen to a person for a long time (eg. during a presentation or conversation), understand his view and then do an informed interview. In this case, we were advised to ask personal questions about his Picnic experience. Soon we found out the question: 'what's an idea that struck you so far?' didn't work because he had just arrived! Reflecting back, I think Werner might have been surprised that I asked him questions like 'what brings you to Picnic' when he is invited as keynote speaker :). But that may be refreshing too (hopefully!). The rest was improvisation.
The collaboration worked out well, without knowing eachother since Kerim knew the context better than I did, he had a video camera, I had a laptop, I started the questions and he added another one.

You can find our interview on the weblog of Kerim Satirli, the video will be there too- soon. The most interesting thing he said was that the way social media enterprises start is changing so rapidly, you don't need a lot of money to start something. On the other hand, everyone seems to want to design the next youtube or facebook and there needs to be more attention for sustainable models. I feel very much like a newcomer here, because I'm not a start-up, but rather a user of social media! (and not knowing the heros of the crowd like Werner Vogels..)

Paul Keller about Creative Commons

This is my first attempt at live blogging, I've never been in a conference or workshop where it's allowed to sit and type during a presentation.. I'm at the European Bloggers Lab of Picnic 2008 and Paul Keller from Knowledgeland is going to talk about Creative Commons. He has a t-shirt of Che Guevara, who wrote the motor cycle diaries, which is in a way one of the first weblogs...

The revolution of the internet is that it enabled small organisation and individuals to publish like all the big players leading to a more level playing field. No technical barriers left from getting your message across if you have a message and can write well- you can blog. Previously specialists in publishing were publishing and had access to lawyers etc to deal with copyrights. Copyright law had evolved as a complex system over the 19th and 20th century. Now come the internet where every body can copy, and suddenly these regulations apply to ordinary citizens.

Copyright basics: it is an exclusive right to interdict any uses of the copyrighted work. It arisen when a work of sufficient originality is created. Expires 70 years after the death of the author. It protects authors, artists, etc. Technical protection measures (DRM) forms a protective layer on top of it. Copyrights protect people to stimulate them to create.

Two types of copyrights:
  • Right to reproduce, modify or broadcast
  • Moral rights- to protect the integrity of her personality

Exceptions: the right to make quotations with proper attribution, educational exceptions and private copying, public interest, reuse of press materials by the press.

Now- there's an explosion of creativity for other motivations than rent seeking that's not really recognised by the copyrights. For most people the problem is not being copied, the problem is not being read/seen/ copied enough.. it limits authors and access to orphan works.

Creative commons was set up in 2002 by US non-profit corporation (by Prof. Lawrence Lessig) similar to open source licenses. As long as you adhere to certain principles, you can use it freely. Now in 44 countries though the concept of national licenses may be outdated. There are now more than 250 million CC licensed objects available on the internet, like good quality pictures on flickr. There are 6 different licenses that allow sharing, or transfer the work into another format. Give proper attribution to original author. licensor can choose if she wants to limit this to non-commercial uses of the work or include commercial purposes as well. You can choose to allow performance of derivative works. See the 6 core licenses here. Important is that they do not limit the 'fair use' rights and do not exclude the use of other licenses simultaneously.

Good news: Adam Curry has a flickr account with a creative commons account! Which the tabloids took to use in an article. Adam sued them and won (because it was commercially used), which was the first court case involving a creative commons license.

- By the way life blogging doesn't distract me it keeps me quite focused! though during boring parts you start to do other things on your computer and that's really distracting.. I wonder why the topic of copyright always seems slightly boring to me whereas it seems important enough.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Digital media and learning competition

I've been asked to spread the news about the digital media and learning competition. The focus is on Participatory Learning. Participatory learning is defined broadly: using new digital media for sharing ideas or planning, designing, implementing, or just discussing ideas and goals together. So if you have an innovative idea or project, give it a try!

Innovation in Participatory Learning Awards support larger-scale projects
that demonstrate new modes of participatory learning in a variety of
environments, by creating new digital tools, modifying existing ones, or using
digital media in novel ways. Collaboration is strongly encouraged. International
applications are welcome from eligible organizations

This year we are piloting international eligibility for our Innovation Award and will be accepting submissions from primary applicants in Canada, People's Republic of China, India, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands,Nigeria, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States; collaborators can befrom anywhere in the world.……

Application Deadline: October 15, 2008

Full information at: DML competition
Twitter: twitter.com/dmlComp

(You can find out about last year's winners here)

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Pathways into working in virtual teams

I'm working with Mark Turpin and Sibrenne Wagenaar on a study into impact evaluation of knowledge management interventions for the IKM emergent research programme. Since Mark is based in South Africa, and we are based in the Netherlands, we have to use online tools to communicate and organize our work.

When we had a skype conference call, we opened a chatroom to take notes. However, Mark couldn't see the chatroom and I explained what he should see on the bottom of the screen. He couldn't see it. Then it appeared he had a Mac computer and it was showing up at the top of his screen! It makes me think starting to work online has similarities to working in a different culture. You have to be prepared to open yourself up to new ways of working and alternatives to what you expect. It's a whole new world and you are a total stranger till you get familiar with it.

Sibrenne and I have worked online quite a lot, but Mark is new to our way of working. It's amazing to see how easy he is picking up on working with various tools, as compared to efforts to introduce tools in organisations! We are using skype, Unyte, various google docs and write for the giraffe weblog. Mark is enthusiastic about google docs and has started using it for other projects too, and has recently started his own weblog about learning and social capital in South Africa.

Linking this to the lessons about teaching web2 tools to researcher by Pete Shelton, I think you can say that Mark has experienced how it can work from peers (us) and is therefore able to apply it to his own work situation. And ofcourse we are great, patient co-workers that don't make him feel stupid when he doesn't know how it works (or do we?)...

I'm not sure if I linked already to the article that I wrote with Sibrenne about tools for virtual teams - (because it is in Dutch I may not have linked it on this blog but here it is for any interested Dutch speaking persons)

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Defining the domain of a community.

Nancy White has a good blogpost about domain definition. I belief domain defintion is one of many powerful interventions that a coordinator/facilitator or advisor in a community of practice can make. Domain definition or re-definition can help a group to articulate the domain they are interested in and strengthen their focus and become attractive for newcomers. But what is a domain? Is it the same as topic or theme? Nancy provides the definition of Etienne Wenger:

A community of practice is not merely a club of friends or a network of
connections between people. It has an identity defined by a shared domain of
interest. Membership therefore implies a commitment to the domain, and therefore a shared competence that distinguishes members from other people. (You could
belong to the same network as someone and never know it.) The domain is not
necessarily something recognized as “expertise” outside the community. A youth
gang may have developed all sorts of ways of dealing with their domain:
surviving on the street and maintaining some kind of identity they can live
with. They value their collective competence and learn from each other, even
though few people outside the group may value or even recognize their

From the definition you can see that a community of practice is a special type of network, one with a focus on its domain. By interacting, the members are forging common ideas and practices around their domain, and may achieve -slowly- innovation. Slowly, because there is a stage whereby the members need time to exchange and establish the common ground and bridge differences. You have to know what exists before you can innovate. What I can add from my experience is that there are no hard rule for domain definition. Yet, it is best if the domain is not so vast, that you start drowning and get too wide a group of interested people. On the other hand, it should not be so narrow that it becomes like a problem. You may have a 'name' and a 'description' for instance the e-collaboration community focusses on 'how to guide the introduction of e-tools into development organisations in a way that it improves collaboration (north-north and south-south) in development cooperation.' Probably 'teleconferences' would have been too narrow a focus and 'using ICTs' too wide a focus - in this particular case.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Here comes everybody: book review

I blogged a video with presentation by Clay Shirky before I read his book 'Here comes Everybody'. I'm happy to blog his book too, since I was very impressed by it, despite some weak parts.

To start with the weaknesses: I don't buy into his idea that social media will make organizations obsolete, because they will bring the power of 'organizing without organizations'. His explanation of the raison d'etre of organizations is very simplistic; when you want to organize something with a group of people, you start an organization. First of all he overlooks the fact that there are many more informal and formal forms of organizing - families, networks, associations, friendship groups etc. Secondly, he does not enter into a description of the different functions of businesses, governmental and civil society organisations. Each have a function to play in society and I don't think this function will disappear because people can organize things without costs by using online tools.

What I'm impressed with is his understanding of the impact of new communication tools. "communication tools don't get socially interesting untill they get technologically boring. The invention of a tools doesn't create change; it has to have been around long enough that most of society is using it". I think that is very well said. The tools don't change us. It is through experimenting with the tools, and becoming at ease with new tools that our behaviour changes. Shirky provides the recognisable example of the cell phone- now with cell phone, we don't make clear appointments, we say- I'll call you later. It's not the cell phone that makes us sloppy, it's the fact that we've become comfortable and used to cell phone that changes our appointment making habits. When anorexia patients meet over the internet, it's not caused by the internet, but it is a latent interest of anorexia patient to connect that gets crystallized into a network because of they make creative use of the new tools. I recall that when the students went on strike, the Dutch newspaper headlines were: MSN calls for strike! But in reality it's the students that called for strike and they were very effective in organizing themselves because they had their MSN networks. Online tools remove the barriers to collective action. He provides a very convincing example of the first groups that used Meetup to connect. They were not the well-established groups you'd expect. On the contrary groups that used Meetup to organize gatherings were groups with a latent desire to meet, but for whom it was difficult to organize it (for whatever reason).

As a result of experimenting, behaviour may change and the balance of power may change too. And that's the exciting - or revolutionary if you wish, part of the story. Clay Shirky: " the most profound effects of social tools lag their inventions by years, because it isn't until they have a critical mass of adopters, adopters who take these tools for granted, that their real effects begin to appear." So this is a stage of intense experimentation. There are definitely chapters of the book I'm going to reread.

By the way, you can find all the weblinks mentioned in the book (often annoying to retyp a paper weblink into your browser) here.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Employees Must Wash Hands

I am back home from a one month holiday in the eastern part of the USA - my first time to visit the US which was very inspiring and revealing! I thought I would blog on the way; but I didn't get to it because I did not spend many hours on computers. Somehow I thought you need to blog regularly to prevent that your readership will drop drastically. It is nice to see that isn't the case. I don't see any noticeable drop after 4 weeks at least.

Visiting the US was interesting because seeing part of the US made me understand a lot of the movies I have seen, and world politics, economy, etc. in a different way. The US is not a new country you don't know anything about, but seeing it with your own eyes makes a huge difference. When you work in an African country, people from the US and Europoe are often seen as 'Westerners'. It was impressive to see the cultural differences between the Netherlands and the US, but also to experience that as a newbie you don't know about many things and don't understand them. At first we didn't know how to fuel our car ('lift the lever') for instance. One of the signs in the bathroom struck me as utterly weird- the sign you see in the picture reading "Employees Must Wash Hands Before Returning to Work". At the end of the trip it felt normal seeing the signs (you see them in virtually all the bathrooms in restaurants-called restrooms by the way). I still wonder whether the reminder is seriously intended for the employees - which seems quite paternalistic to me to be told to wash your hands! Or rather for the customers to show the company cares about hygiene. Anyhow, this is just one example of how a newcomers looks around with fresh eyes.

To make the link to knowledge management in organisations: I guess organisations could make more systematic use of this phenomenon by asking explicit feedback from their new employees after a certain period on job. I heard of an organisation that did a 100- days feedback. Seems that can give very good insights and would allow the managers in the organisation to see the organisation with fresh eyes.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Iceberg metaphor for information and knowledge management

I've used the iceberg as a metaphor for group dynamics or group processes in teams versus content. The content and what's being said is the tip of the iceberg and the groups dynamics are all under water. Anecdote has published a white paper called: Our take on 'how to talk about Knowledge Management'.

They use the same metaphor of the iceberg to explain the difference between data, information and knowledge and it works very well too. The tip of the iceberg represents data and information. It is the domain of data and information management. It requires a certain skill set. The bulk of the iceberg below the waterline represents the knowledge in people's heads. The water the iceberg is floating in represents the organisational culture. In this domain below the waterline, a completely different language is used.

A great metaphor because it explains how professionals working above and below the waterline may clash and may find it hard to collaborate. However, if you understand the complementarity, it may help. It may look like advocating the underwater knowledge management, but both approaches are equally valuable and necessary. When a knowledge management initiatives focuses too much on data and information management, it may not have the expected effect on the (invisible) knowledge creation and innovation side.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Conversations in communities of practice

I had dinner with a friend and suddenly we were discussing how to do the laundry. It made us laugh because we never discuss how to do the laundry. Basically over dinner, we always cover our work (and what doesn't work in work), work/life balance, gossiping over other friends, children and sometimes a bit of politics. Did you ever notice that with certain friends or colleagues you always cover the same topics, though with variations on how you cover it? I once saw the play 'Painicilline' by Alex d'Electrique where 3 scientists are nominated for a price and waiting for the result. It takes long and you see a pattern of conversation between the 3 men that gets repeated and repeated. The same topics come up and get discussed in just a slightly different way.

In communities of practice, the same phenomenon occurs. The same topics are covered and others become 'undiscussables' or simple 'not discussed'. A facilitator can play a role in introducing new subjects of conversation, by changing the medium, inviting new participants or inviting new experts to interact with the community.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Clay Shirky on collaboration via the internet

I bought Clay Shirky's book 'Here comes everybody' to read during my holidays. I hesitated because not everyone was positive, it might not have so many new insights. But I decided I would read it after all.

Yesterday, I found this video from the tedtalks with Clay Shirky talking about collaboration via the internet versus institutions. Interesting to watch (20 minutes). He points to the fact that coordination costs have come down tremendously so that collaboration is possible on a scale and at a speed that can't be reached by institutions. Institutions are the slow ones with relatively high coordination costs. Smarter collaborations are coming up. Planning is no longer necessary as it used to be, like the mobile phone made us lazy in planning our meetings carefully. An example of this collaboration he mentions is the pro-ana movement. (which I also blogged about). The infrastructure offered by the internet is generic, accessible to anybody. I liked his statement that the question of whether bloggers are journalists is a wrong question. Journalist used to be a solution to the problem of public information. Now the whole field has changed. (like when the book- press was invented leading to 200 years of chaos). He predicts 50 years of chaos to come.

At times I think, like electrons, we start spinning at increasingly higher speeds.
I hope that his book will address some of the questions around power and leadership. Probably without some visionary Ana's there wouldn't be the pro-ana movement.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

It's easy to miss something you're not looking for

By coincidence I found Jayson's blog and this video. We all know the phenomenon that you see pregnant women when you are pregnant (or want to be pregnant), children with braces when you child need one etc. This clips illustrates what you might miss in the process. Have fun!

Bad teamwork can produce good results

(Cartoon via Jayson Joseph Chacko)

In Ghana I once did a casestudy of a multi-cultural team with difficulties. I discovered a lot of emotions underneath the surface of collaboration, working together and team meetings. Lots of misunderstandings. Lots of unspoken and untested ideas. I thought I could relate this team's functioning with the outcomes of the team's work, which weren't always impressive.

Recently I had two experiences of teams that were having similar difficulties. I was part of a Dutch team organising a conference. I was not part of the second team but was helping them in their work. For both teams, I felt the teams were not doing well in terms of teamwork, not leveraging the individual strengths of its members, and not able to work through the important differences in opinion about the work and the working modalities. In both cases individual team members held underlying assumptions that were not discussed, due to time constraints. (this ofcourse means not prioritising this).

To my surprise, however, (and contrary to my beliefs) both teams produced quite good results. The team I was part of did a learning history. The learning history showed me that I still had some strong frustrations about the team process, but because of the good result (the conference) I can live with it. The other team is going downwards in its performance. Combining both experiences, I now feel that it is possible to be opportunistic, focus on the end result and live with a suboptimal teamprocess. However, in the long run, you do need to address the emotions of the teammembers to be able to function well as a team over a longer period of time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How Can Nonprofits Use Online Video?

The Netsquared question time time is: 'How can nonprofits use online video to raise funds?' and I took the liberty to delete the last three words because I don't know much about fund raising. I'm not any professional moviemaker either, but that's exactly the clue about online video: you don't need any professional filmmakers anymore!. That makes it much cheaper and a tool that is within reach of ordinary nonprofit workers. If students can film their fellow students and put them on youtube, so can we. I even felt a little ashamed when I was once asked as an online video consultant, because I'm not a professional in video as a medium at all. But there was a need to learn things the simple, short, quick and dirty way.

So it is easy and everyone can learn it. But why should we engage with online video as a nonprofit?

1. Video can be a weapon for non-violent nonprofits. You shoot with images.
See the documentary by Netwerk (in Dutch) about the project 'shooting back'. The projects hand Palestinians cameras so that they can film irregularities and make this known. You can watch some of the videos here on the site of B'tselem.

2. Video brings across messages in a different way. Your message doesn't drown in the sea of text.
At times I get pointers to weird videos and watch them. People like to watch videos in complement to all the reading they do. Furthermore, for nonprofits working in more 'orally-oriented' cultures, with less habits of reading text, it can be good to use video. However, when I'm in a hurry I don't watch a lengthy video. So a combined strategy could be best. The time-span that people can watch videos in influenced by culture too. Some people like very short videos, for others, it doesn't bring the point back home. (probably should have videod this to prove, but I dislike filming myself :).

3. Online video by non-professional filmers has the 'beauty of imperfection' (quoting Mark Fonsceca here). This means it is more authentic and does not have technical perfection that professional videos have. Hence, people can believe in it more easily than in videos that are purposely made to 'sell' the message of a nonprofit.

4. Online videos can walk or run across the internet.
Some interesting videos go viral (as has happened with the commoncraft videos). But even if they don't go viral (sounds like something to avoid), you can host them on hosting sites like youtube or blip.tv. The sites now provide you with a code that allows you to embed the video in a weblog or in a website. In other words, your video can travel. You can read about a practical example from UNICEF (videos going viral).

5. With online video more people can enjoy the face-to-face events that you organise.
When you film a face-to-face presentation, or interview someone about the highlights of a meeting and put that online your event will have a wider outreach. It becomes more transparent what you are doing and organising. This is even more interesting for organisations working in far away places. In other words, you can bridge the gap between donors and your partner organisations in other countries without the donors travelling all the way down.

Some practical tips on how to use mobile phones to make videos can be found on my own blog here. Beth Kanter made a great wiki. And here's my 12 step vlogging process explaining how to vlog a meeting.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Collaboration at the design stage

I can't help but thinking about collaboration every time I take the train at Ypenburg, a relatively new station. The yellow line says "train does not stop along this line". The yellow line is an improvement that was painted only a month ago or so. The first time I took the train at this station, I didn't realize the train stops almost 100 meters further on, would have missed it if the conductor had not allowed me to sit in the 'cockpit' of the train, I was clearly not to first to almost miss the train.

Last week I asked a conductor why the train does not stop at the centre of the station (the obvious place). He replied it is because there is a stop sign for the train. Clearly two engineers (or an engineer and an architect) did not work together while designing this station! It shows that it is very simple to say that you have to collaborate with the relevant professionals, but in practice, finding out whom to collaborate with at the right moment is more messy.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Play with wordle and put a tagcloud on your tshirt

Here's a wordle tagcloud for this blog. (through Patti Anklam) You can find the words community, practice and domain as well as facilitator/facilitated/facilitatitive/facilitatorobot.... As well as some of my stopgaps like interesting, use, good, ... It seems to overrate the last content, my last blogpost was about LinkedIn and LinkedIn stands out as the main topic.

Anyhow, it is a fun tool because you can either enter a list of words, a delicious user, or a URL of a blog or website. You can choose the font, the colors etc. You can not create a .jpg file, but you can print it or turn it into a pdf.

Here's another one for my Dutch blog:

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Use LinkedIn to make your work easier

I've been using LinkedIn as a passive repository of my face-to-face network. Occasionally, people find out we have a common acquaintance and that's fun to know. Not a life changing application for me.

I've been wondering whether I should/could use LinkedIn in more ways. Friends told me that they find/receive CVs of interesting candidates through LinkedIn. Get in touch with conference organisors etc. A new teacher at the Masters was found through LinkedIn contacts.

Though I never have to find candidates for vacancies, we recently looked for a partner for a consultancy, using our good old face-to-face network. We found a great one, but it would have been a nice experiment to try and use LinkedIn.

Commoncraft has made a video about LinkedIn. (their videos hardly need to be spread as they are widely known by now). However, I liked this video about LinkedIn because it doesn't explain the basics of LinkedIn but explains how you can use LinkedIn to facilitate your work.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Exploring the language of facilitation

I bumped into a fascinating article about the 'language of facilitation'. By coincidence, one of the authors works for Anecdote, a company with a great weblog. The researchers wanted to find out what it means to speak 'facilitatively', from the premise that it is through the act of talking and speaking that sense is made and action enacted (Weick). They talk about face-to-face facilitation, not online facilitation.

To speak facilitatively means:
1. saying something that invites more thought
2. is behavioural and incorporates elements of body language
3. an attitude style emerging in language
4. using engaging and opening words like 'exploring', 'possibilities' rather than closing words like 'givens'.

A highlight to check out are the metaphors that facilitators use to describe their style of facilitation, most using movement with the elements, like 'flight of an autumn leaf' or 'sailing, going with the flow'. (too fluid for me by the way!)

A major conclusion of the article is that verbal and non-verbal communication of a facilitator should be in congruence, to ensure authenticity and show genuine curiosity and openness, otherwise the facilitation speech becomes a learned technique (my addition). There is an implicit understanding amongst facilitators of what it means to speak facilitatively, opening up discussions to become dialogues.

You can read through the lines, that the definition of a facilitator is someone who guides a discussion and is in front of the group or at least has a special, designated role. The definition of facilitator is a little shallow, but basic. What he/she does are things like providing a climate of trust, being neutral, ensuring clarity and encouraging inclusiveness. When you think of a facilitator of a community of practice the language of facilitation may be important too, but in my opinion you'd need to bring along a lot more like knowledge about communities of practice and the domain, and ability to read what's going on in terms of community, domain and practice development. Would be interesting to do a similar research what a facilitator of a community of practice 'does'. Similarly, in a group, I'd expect the facilitator to read group dynamics and try and intervene or feed back observations.

For the Dutch speaking people, there is an interesting article by Julien Hafmans in Dutch about 'vrijplaatsen'. She argues that it is interesting to share the facilitation role with all participants, since we all have the capacity to summarize, ask questions, listen, probe. So not one facilitator would speak 'facilitatively', we would all speak 'facilitately'.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Communities of practice and bulldozers

CPsquare invited Mark Bennett of Rio Tinto to talk in a teleconference about his experiences with fostering communities of practice within Rio Tinto, an international company. I missed the call because I thought GMT= London time, but I discovered that London is not the same as Greenwich. Fortunately, the call was recorded and I could listen to it while driving around. Since I was driving, I couldn't take any notes. However, I recall that Mark Bennett said that a good definition of the domain can be very compelling and attract new members to a community like a magnet. This is something I have observed too. The definition and formulation of the domain is an intervention that contributes (with lots of other factors) to the success of a community of practice. The definition should be such that people recognise it as one of their own interests. He further talked about the place of community builders and knowledge managers in the organisation. Research and development, human resource department or IT department? ?The last seems to be the worst option.

You can see a video he used to demonstrate the value of the community of practice here. It took quite an investment to make the video because he wanted to be absolutely sure that the innovation worked. The video tells the story of a coalmine in Australia with problems with bulldozer brakes. They used collaborative forums to ask for advice. They found out that two engineers in other parts of the world had experienced similar problems and had already solved them.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Join Be The Media

I was triggered by a blogpost by Beth Kanter on the web2.0 Kool Aid. Kool aid is a reference to the 1978 cult mass-suicide in Jonestown, Guyana. It means acting non-sensical through (strong) peer pressure. Not seeing things in perspective! At times people become over optimistic about web2.0 and what it can do. After all, it will not change the basic nature of human beings. So it is good to be critical. I always say that I don't think everyone should use blogs, wikis or bookmark. However, you should know about the tools in order to decide whether you want to use it or not.

Through Beth's blogpost I learned about the Be The Media project of Nten, which she is leading. The Be the Media project is "a community of people from nonprofits who are interested in learning and teaching about how social media strategies and tools can enable nonprofit organizations to create, compile, and distribute their stories and change the world."

If this sounds interesting to you, you can join the google group. Or read about the other ways to participate in the wiki. You can use the tag bethemedia (initially I read it like Beth the media :). I wonder how it is overlapping with the nptech tag?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What does online community mean to you?

Via Bob Stumpel I found this video with almost 100 (?) respondents to the question : 'What does online community mean to you?'. They're all young except one, who answers: 'young and old being friend together'. It video is about 8 minutes.

The answers range from crazy, addictive via revolution and inspiration to boring comedy and popularity contest. Listening to them, I realized that I'm using the same tools in a very different way. I'm on youtube, and blip.tv, but not feeling part of the 'youtube' community. I'm using it to connect smaller groups of people, networks and communities of practice. By using online means I'm actually hoping to get different conversations than when it's face-to-face. By the way, there were also a lot of answers refering to the worldwide connections.