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inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #26 of 110: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #27 of 110: 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!)
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #28 of 110: 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. 
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #29 of 110: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #30 of 110: 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/
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #31 of 110: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #32 of 110: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #33 of 110: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #34 of 110: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #35 of 110: 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. 
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #36 of 110: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #37 of 110: 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!
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #38 of 110: 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!
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #39 of 110: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #40 of 110: 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!
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #41 of 110: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #42 of 110: 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. 
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #43 of 110: Brian Dear (brian) Fri 25 Jun 10 22:29
    

Somebody said PLATO?
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #44 of 110: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #45 of 110: 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? 
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #46 of 110: 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!
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #47 of 110: 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?
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #48 of 110: 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.
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #49 of 110: John David Smith (johndavidsmith) Sun 27 Jun 10 15:39
    <scribbled>
  
inkwell.vue.386 : Nancy White, John D. Smith, and Etienne Wenger: Digital Habitats
permalink #50 of 110: Brian Dear (brian) Sun 27 Jun 10 15:48
    

Sure, feel free.
  

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