Inkwell: Authors and Artists
Gail Williams (gail) Thu 24 Jun 10 08:08
It's interesting to look at the language that has gone away. "Cyberspace" is one vanishing concept, and there are a lot of reasons for that, but the literal idea of "cyber" as the pilot is still useful. Old broadcast models of communication put everybody in the passenger seat on a bus. The "cyber" model gives everybody a steering wheel. Whether people had off controls easily like copilots on a flight, or attempt a round of bumper-cars, will be up to the culture of the group. It makes sense to me that with so many people having experience now, people would come in expecting to "drive" and knowing that they want a stick shift or a built-in GPS system or a free parking garage, or whatever they have used before. Jon, with regard to your question, would technological stewardship in pre-computer society include such things as audio support for a physical town meeting with a microphone, and the set-up of the sound, the positioning of the mic, the group lining up or submitting cards to speak, the setting of time-limit rules, the time keeper's signal then cutting-off of the speaker... any or all of that?
Nancy White (choco) Thu 24 Jun 10 09:24
Gail, those would be the "old skool" things from my perspective. I used to be a stage hand. I think we were tech stewards for the dancers, actors and musicians. (Ah, what memories that brings back!)
Standing on Many Shoulders (choco) Thu 24 Jun 10 10:09
I must also point out, you SHOULD look at the PLATO topic here in Inkwell.vue and see PLATO's anniversary videos here: http://www.platohistory.org/blog/video/ This community of people and the work they did over time has been a significant influence on me and my work, they play a key role in the early part of Digital Habitats, and heck, there is a ton to learn from them not only about tech and community, but about tech stewardship.
Craig Maudlin (clm) Thu 24 Jun 10 10:11
Agreed. Thinking still about pre-computer stewardship, it's interesting as a kind of exercise, to push on the very notion of 'technology.' Was there a time when things like chairs and tables, or walls and doors were the tech that contained and shaped practice. (Or do they still?) I guess we tend to use the tech term to refer to tools whose use we haven't yet internalized. But does that put us at risk for forgetting (as a group) the most important aspects? if, as Etienne commented, literacy is not primarily focussed on tech, how is the responsibility for fostering such literacy distributed? Is it an unspoken role of the tech steward, which we presume is internalized? Or is there a partneship role?
John David Smith (johndavidsmith) Thu 24 Jun 10 11:04
Recently (after the book was "done") I was looking around for examples of communities of technology stewards. It was a nice surprise to find a couple of overlapping communities of tech stewards for protestant, English-speaking churches in North America. It turns out their main technologies were about sound amplification. I thought it was interesting that they were working with a technology that I really had never thought of as enabling group practice. And one where the distance and "being together" issues were on a different scale from, say, a very international community like CPsquare. Here's a peek into the community: http://www.tfwm.com/
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 24 Jun 10 13:22
I like the idea of "technologies for worship"! Can you say a bit about scaling tech stewardship - at what point (or what size) does an organization bring in technology professionals, and how do they relate to the resident tech steward(s)? And how has tech stewardship changed in the era of Facebook and Twitter? Are social media-focused tech stewards liable to forego more robust options in favor of technologies they know and use regularly, e.g. Twitter? I'm thinking specifically of the various ad hoc groups that are coming together for Twitter chats which happen in realtime and are linked by a unique hashtag. It feels like such a strain to try to have a realtime conversation via Twitter vs IRC chat or Campfire.
John David Smith (johndavidsmith) Fri 25 Jun 10 04:59
Just a side comment on my absences yesterday afternoon and today. I'm on the road, so interrupted by work and lack of connectivity in the air. I think Etienne may be snowed under with http://betreat.wordpress.com/ . Because we worked together for 5 and a half years on the book, we really lived the "togetherness and separation" / "synch and asynch" polarity. Interesting to sustain a creative, intimate collaboration that tolerates frequent interruptions.
John David Smith (johndavidsmith) Fri 25 Jun 10 05:08
Interesting question about scaling up tech stewardship in organizations. I'm drawing a blank on examples right now. Anybody else got one handy? I may be too focused on the informal, cross-organizational versions. I've seen a number of groups use Twitter chats very effectively. I think it's quite curious that chat client & protocol standards are so diverse and incompatible. I like both IRC and campfirel but find that there are barriers to entry. I wonder whether Twitter with a hash tag will become a chat standard because it's so open and so multi-functional (you use it for general messing around)? There are some cool tools out there to handle the transcript and context-setting part of a chat (whcih mature chat clients or systems try to bundle). Here's an example of a transcript: http://wthashtag.com/transcript.php?page_id=12489&start_date=2010-05-20&end_da te=2010-06-25&export_type=HTML and of the context-wrapper: http://wthashtag.com/Sharefaircali So to me that suggests that there is real technology stewardship at the developer end of the spectrum going on, too. I think it's key to see a whole spectrum of activity that is contributing to the effectiveness of communities and their contributions.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Fri 25 Jun 10 06:17
Another question I could ask, related to the scaling question, is how tech stewardship works when there's vendor contracted to provide tech support. I'm supposing the role of stewardship could be shared between members of an organization and someone within the vendor's team? Twitter for chats could be an example of the kind of assessment and consideration a tech steward would make. Loose groups are emerging around hashtag chats on Twitter - at what point might they consider Twitter insufficient to sustain their conversations? E.g., I joined #blogchat recently using the Tweetchat tool (which was working pretty well that evening - I've tried it for other chats where it crashed, seemingly from overwhelm). The blogchat was so popular that new responses were appearing at a very high rate - like a dozen new tweets every few seconds. You couldn't really read, assess, and respond to all tweets, the best you could do is try to keep a sense of it and zero in on some comments to the exclusion of others. I wrote about it here: http://weblogsky.com/2010/06/07/blogchat-and-mutation/ If I was stewarding that group, I would be thinking about manageable alternatives. But - to the point of mutation I make in my post - it could be that we're pushing the envelope of what's manageable and increasing our capacity, changing our assumptions about attention.
Nancy White (choco) Fri 25 Jun 10 06:30
I think it is useful to consider WHO we are stewarding for and how formal or informal the role AND expectations might be. I'm not sure we can make any blanket statements. The book focused on communities of practice, but we see the patterns show up across many different forms, all the way out to very open, generalized networks. But the stewarding practices vary as well. What I see is that CoPs within organizations with either explicit mandate or very general support (or tolerance and "blind eye") often have a more explicit choice about stewarding in whether it involves IT or not and thus may involve a set range of tool options and a vendor. People (stewards and often the community) might do an assessment, have a tech plan, budget, etc. Cross organizational, or extra-organizational CoPs with little or no formal sponsorship have those relationships with vendors much less often. (No money!) The way networks of people with a shared interest have experimented with Twitter chats is an example of "go where people are" with technology. (One of a general set of tool choosing patterns we talk about in the book.) Somebody has an idea and it is tried and either adopted, adapted or rejected. People get left in the dust along the way, but the barrier to entry of participation is low and people "get over it." So groups with more defined sense of community, domain and practice may pay more attention to alternatives, to the issues of scale. Informal networks may just roll along and mutate whenever sufficient number of members stimulate the change. I can't stop typing without a few more vendor comments. I AM seeing some vendors who want to work with groups that are interested in their own practice and how tech weaves into it. But the mainstream is still "we have this fabulous list of tools and features in our platform" and continue to support the assumption that they can do anything a community or network wants. We suggest in the book a couple of contrasts to that: we need to know what activities we want to support (Chapter 6, Orientations), we need to know how a tool supports those activities, and not all tools have the same set of features that support the activities in the WAY a community wants or is accustomed. This comes up all the time with tools like Sharepoint. It has a huge list now of "web2 " tools with wikis, blogs etc. Yet in my experience, these tools don't operate the way many of us are accustomed to from other platforms, and they are configured in a way that doesn't connect between tools that we expect. So SharePoint creates silos where you want connections. Yes, it has the tools. But the features don't live up to the tools' names. Does that make any sense? I haven't had coffee yet. So I take vendors lists with a huge grain of salt. And that is why a tech steward not only needs to know about tech, but about her or his own community and how it "lives" with its technology.
Craig Maudlin (clm) Fri 25 Jun 10 08:26
> Yes, it has the tools. But the features don't live up > to the tools' names. Does that make any sense? Makes complete sense. It's a form of the classic "check-the-box" type of product marketing that's aimed largely at satisfying a requirements check-list. > And that is why a tech steward not only needs to know about tech, > but about her or his own community and how it "lives" with its > technology. And why (I suspect) the three of you put so much effort into providing a framework for the 'non-tech' literacy that's vital to success.
Nancy White (choco) Fri 25 Jun 10 10:38
Craig, it is interesting because I'm finding it harder to untwine the tech and non tech because of their interplay with each other. I think that interdependency between the two is what makes the role unique, or different from past roles that have been more about technical SUPPORT. We talked about a visual that showed the intertwining of these forces. We struggled about how to talk about it, but it is one of those things that I really FEEL!
John David Smith (johndavidsmith) Fri 25 Jun 10 12:44
Just waving on the way to the airport. One theme I hear in this conversation is how we imagine the heart of a community, the crucial quesiton or people of it. Tech stewardship needs to be informed by some intuition of the heart. I think as outsiders or observers of a community we can have some glimpses but we don't really comprehend the heart. back soon!
Ari Davidow (ari) Fri 25 Jun 10 12:49
I came here with a bunch of questions, but following the discussion so far I have even more! Just to throw one thing out. When I started doing online community stuff, and perhaps to some extent CoP stuff, everything involved gated communities--you needed to get an account on CIS or the WELL or EIES or the Adobe Forums (running WebX as it happens). I see that slowing down. There is the "silos in a common platform"--Ning being one example, and even more, as <choco> or someone said above, the idea of "going where the people are" - doing community using twitter hashtags or on a facebook fan page. Even with mailing lists, there are several reasons I can think of why it might make more sense to use google or yahoo groups than run something off of your local mailman installation. What do ya'll think? Does this represent a paradigm shift? A sort of "we all have a common identity and are familiar with this tool set" vs the older, "join this gated community" idea? Gated communities aren't disappearing quickly, and may never--but I see fewer of them and begin to suspect that working with a common platform is one way to make it easier to gather a sustainable CoP.
Nancy White (choco) Fri 25 Jun 10 13:48
<ari> this is a question I grapple with every day (from both a head and a heart perspective, to tie it in w/ John's "airport post-by!"). As technology has changed and expanded what it means to "be together" (a central meme in the book) it changes how we see ourselves as a collection of human beings doing something together. When we thought of groups as bounded, private or public (by dint of "registration), we framed our technological choices using those boundaries. "Central" platforms. Integration. "We all agree we will use X and Y but not beyond that." From an organizational perspective, this was when internal communities were more the norm. Today with this expansion and redefinition of togetherness, we look outside of our orgs (crowdsourcing.) We talk with and listen to our customers. We want diversity in our CoPs to expand, rather than restrict (or focus) our thinking. In these contexts, quite frankly, control is more of an illusion than anything else. Our ability to dictate the platform, or even any terms of participation, is much less. That said, I don't think in general we have arrived at "we all have a common identity and are familiar with the tool set." Many early adopters do. And they set the trend, the conversation ABOUT this with their preferences. But second wave adopters and adoption --> that is a whole other kettle of fish, and a very practical kettle. Case in point (and forgive the length here, but the story may be useful.) The e-consultation I'm setting up is straddling that very space of diverse types of adopters. I have early adopters who have high expectations of finding and mashing up the best tools for the consultation. They want their participation THEIR way - web, mobile, RSS, etc. The majority of the participants are diverse, located in varying bandwidth contexts, are email centric, to some extent technology resistant and are from many organizations. I COULD work on the org's platform (which is Google Apps) because they can allow outside participation. But this is actually the parent org and not the branch I'm working with. And there are turf issues we are trying to handle responsibly. So ownership is an issue in the selection. Plus I didn't know this until I had already set the planning group up on a Google Group (freestanding) and got them all signed in. Side note on the sign in. Did you know that to associate a non gmail account with a Google group in Nigeria requires a mobile phone verification process, while it requires only an email response in the US. Did I know that? No. I found out when I had to troubleshoot with a scientist from Tanzania who was in Nigeria when he tried to log in. This is tech stewardship from both the tech and community perspective because in the course of our Skype call we got to know each other and I could encourage his participation. And of course, that introduces Skype as a non-central part of our tool configuration, along with email. Plus I talk to the core team on the phone. Getting complicated, eh? Oh, and we are using video hosted on YouTube. Natch. Back to the tool selection story. I chose Google Groups because of the email functionality. At the least, participants can participate via email. Or they can log on and I have set up some pages with more contextual information, links, contact lists etc. But for the email only people, I still have to send most of this out via the discussions. Ugh. For the central activity, which is a proposal review, I wanted at document commenting tool. There are some cool one's out there. http://www.crocodoc.com really stood out as easy to use. But upon experimentation, we found out that one person can delete another person's comments. Easily. With a sensitive consultation, that's not so good. Then I looked at http://www.reviewbasics.com which had really cool annotation tools. I even emailed with the site CEO when I had a problem and discovered this was their beta product and they have a paid version which he suggested would be better. When I asked how much, I never heard back. With a little more testing, we agreed that the features were probably overwhelming for many, so I went back to an old, "web 1" standby, http://www.quicktopic.com using the Paid Pro version to have password protection and to require sign in because this was a "no anonymity" event (that gated community, Ari!) Well, dontcha know it, the sign up process ain't so easy and I can't create accounts for people. So now I get into the "explaining how to do it" business and we budget for a global help team who will work in 2-8 hour shifts with a shared gmail account to help people. Mamma mia, eh? The world is still diverse, making tech stewarding a complex job wherever I turn. So in a way, a gated community is much simpler. But it isn't always accepted anymore!
Craig Maudlin (clm) Fri 25 Jun 10 14:36
Ah, great story, Nancy. Thanks. There's a long way yet to go. I'm also thinking about the difference between using tech to support an existing CoP (and help it grow), and using tech as a kind of seed crystal around which a brand new CoP might form.
Nancy White (choco) Fri 25 Jun 10 14:55
Oh yeah. Absolutely. And with these networked tools, the ability to find, connect and have communities "fall out of" or coalesce within networks is amazing. IN fact,overwhelming at times. We talk in the last chapter about the challenge of multimembership. This is the wall I bang my head against daily.
Brian Dear (brian) Fri 25 Jun 10 22:29
Somebody said PLATO?
John David Smith (johndavidsmith) Sat 26 Jun 10 05:20
Nancy, I think the example of the scientist from Tanzania is a good one, going back to the pervasiveness of technology and the challenge of "gates", because it turns out that navigating those gaps, figuring out the wrinkles of Google groups in Nigeria with Skype, ends up being real community-building experience. Like you said, real social capital is generated when a group helps everyone "get on board." And I can't imagine that those gaps between tools and platforms will disappear any time soon. "Integrating it all" is not everyone's dream.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sat 26 Jun 10 06:40
Brian: we did mention Plato earlier, and it comes up as an early example of community technology at the beginning of chapter 2 in the book. "By inventing new tools for working online, David [Woolley] and Doug [Brown] expanded the ways of interacting that were available to their community." The book goes on to explain how PLATO influenced others to think about technology for community. In catching up this morning, I zeroed in on a comment Nancy made about some community members being left in the dust as the community adopts technologies for interaction. I've talked about what I call "wiki syndrome" - where communities were generally fired up to use a wiki for collaboration, but one or two or some small number of community members just couldn't get into it. It's hard to adopt the technology if some members won't use it, especially if those are critical members of the community. Could you say more about how you've seen stewards handle this sort of issue?
Nancy White (choco) Sat 26 Jun 10 11:37
<brian> simply put, we're fan boys and girls of Plato and all you and the community have done. You are part of the "shoulders we stand upon." <jonl>, I'll come back to your question after I finish DOING just that with my consultation. We invited in 150 people this morning, so the stream of help email will be a great lesson in action. But my short answer is - if tool acquisition is critical, hand holding is a must. Now that handholding can be centralized and/or distributed. That is where it gets interesting!
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Sun 27 Jun 10 06:13
Problematic in a smaller unfunded, possibly ad hoc community where there's no one who can commit the time for handholding. I've seen cases where a promising technology was abandoned because users wouldn't adopt. There are always issues of time, scope, and attention. Getting back to something John mentioned at the end of an earlier response (http://www.well.com/testing/conf/inkwell.vue/topics/386/Nancy-White-John-D-Smi th-and-Eti-page01.html#post11), the subject of polarities. In the book, you explain how polarities drive communities to adopt technology. Can you say a bit about what those polarities are, and how do they work as drivers?
Brian Dear (brian) Sun 27 Jun 10 12:57
Some brief comments on the mention of PLATO in the book, to clarify the historical record. On page 13, it says that David Woolley was "working on the design team for PLATO". He was a junior system programmer working on the software team; there wasn't a "design team" per se. Same for Doug Brown. On page 14, it says that "PLATO Notes and chat were online tools explicitly developed for one community, helping it improve its own practice (software development)." I am not sure that is quite accurate. By the time PLATO Notes and Talkomatic were created in 1973, the fact that the only way you could be a part of the "community" was to have a PLATO author signon (meaning, in theory, you were developing TUTOR lessons for educational purposes) was coincidental at best. PLATO, for the lucky few who had access to it, was already beyond mere work, it was a lifestyle. Also on page 14, it says "At that time mini-computers with hard-wired terminals and modems, such as those on which PLATO was built..." The PLATO IV system, which is the "PLATO" about which you write, ran on a CYBER mainframe costing millions of dollars and consisting of multiple machines that took up a large room. Most definitely not a mini-computer. In fact, PLATO was always mainframe based. PLATO was a classic "big iron" system and that would become one of the reasons for its eventual obsolescence. Finally, on page 14 it says "As other tools like access lists and threaded discussions were invented, they opened additional collaboration options and were un turn adopted by the PLATO community." I would argue that "threaded discussions" appeared day one when PLATO Notes shipped in August of 1973. A hallmark of Notes was the discussion / topic / linear-set-of-responses model, exactly the same model as what PicoSpan would use later (and which were are now participating in on The WELL). Woolley had this going from day one. Access lists did indeed emerge later on.
John David Smith (johndavidsmith) Sun 27 Jun 10 15:39
Brian Dear (brian) Sun 27 Jun 10 15:48
Sure, feel free.
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