Edtechtalk – ‘Managing’ a Community of Practice

Some initial comments…

Kind of a funny thing to say isn’t it? Managing a community of practice… but that is exactly what I’m going to be doing over the next 14 months. Edtechtalk is an organic community that has grown from a single, live, interactive webcast in June 2005 to 12 mostly-weekly shows with bunches of listeners and, most importantly, each with their own small dedicated community. Those shows are one of the central parts of my learning as an educator, as a social community worker and as a tech dude.

We currently support a dedicated server, mostly paid for by a couple of members of the organization and has been, over our existence, mostly been paid for under the fine auspices of worldbridges. There have been several-several different attempts at finding a management system to help us decide things like community policies, new ideas going forward, the acceptance of new shows to the community, web design (omg); a bunch of things. In lieu of a better plan, I have been appointed (partially by me) to be the manager from now ’till the end of 2009. A movement by the managing committee could no doubt cut that short but, as I was ‘chosen’ because I’m one of the only people with that special combination of knowing everyone, knowing where we’ve been, knowing the server side and… uh… being willing to do the job… I don’t see a coup in the cards anytime soon :)

Base Premises

  1. I don’t have alot of time. No one else in the community is particularly brimming over with time either, whatever management model we have must take that into account.
  2. People should be able to opt in/opt out freely… even on a week by week basis. (therefore the system for this should not generally involve manual controls
  3. Simple sooner is better than perfect later. We need to get accustomed to making decisions in a simple way now and work out the details of structure as we go along.
  4. The community needs a voice, but that need not slow it down. As we are a community of ‘mostly’ like minded folks. 9 times out of 10 the people available in the governance blob are going to make a good decision… some planning must be made for that 1/10.

Initial Decision Making – The Blob
The edtechtalk blob is a group skype chat that ‘anyone’ would be allowed to join. By this, I mean anyone who has an interest in edtechtalk… or communities generally. Decisions that need to be made by the community would be posted in the community chat with answers to the commuinty decision gathered by a management committee rep… majority rules. As manager, and this being kind of a non-normal way of doing things, I reserve the right to take a blob decision and put it to the edtechtalk management team.

Edtechtalk Management Team – The Backup Team
I’m going to pick the interim management team. They are going to be made up of a combination of the people who have, over the past three years, consistently expressed an interest in being part of the management of the community, and those people who are now doing a bunch of work for the community. I expect that this body will be largely honorary, and are mostly intended as a backup in case my blob plan gets out of control. I worry about this, because I don’t want people to feel left out for not being picked… there is bound to be one perfect member of the community out there that I’m just going to forget about… sorry about that person who knows who you are.

Goals

  1. We need to get edtechtalk to being revenue neutral. There have been various excellent plans bandied about in the last couple of weeks regarding this, and we’ll need to pick one and get there soon.
  2. Give those people who are interested in helping out the community some direction so that they can work towards a stronger community
  3. Decide about whether we want to make direct effort towards being an information repository. There is a bunch of information on our website, not terribly well organized. Should we be working on that?
  4. Whither drupal. design? layout? functionality?
  5. Whither webcasting. Getting rid of the shoutcast and moving to a less labour intensive devise might make sense. Is edtechtalk somehow connected to the idea of shoutcasting?
  6. Is edtechtalk only that drupal? Should we be supporting other things?
  7. Does the blob get involved with the shows? Should we ‘talk to people’ if things are becoming ‘un-edtechtalky’?

Still here?
If you are, and you want to see what’s going on, you can email manager {At] edtechtalk and ask to join the governance and management team… or you can just ask a question.

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11 thoughts on “Edtechtalk – ‘Managing’ a Community of Practice

  1. That’s a great start, Dave. I like the blob plan, as well as having the backup for decision-making. I also thing you’ve succinctly outlined the goals. You’re asking some great questions, and I’m looking forward to positive progress in the development of the community.

  2. Hey Dave, amazed that you’ve taken the time to write all this out. I have listened to numerous podcasts where this has been brainstormed and I guess you could say I’m a lurker and a fan, occasional contributor. However you manage it, keep up the good work. You know that something is worth doing if you can walk away from it and it keeps happening. Obviously you’re not doing that but I think Worldbridges has crossed that bridge as it has so many others. Congratulations to you and Jeff and let us know how we can help out. The community always pitches in. Meanwhile, looking forward to more benign dictatorship as you and Jeff take the right decisions to keep this thing moving forward.

  3. I guess the Blob Rules!!! and when it gets out of control there is a back up plan. The community seems to be able to “function” in it’s present form and it can only get better with a bit of planning and monkey grease. btw weren’t you the ever benevolent ETT president all along? Let the Blobbing begin.

  4. What caught my attention was the blob plan to involve “anyone who has an interest in edtechtalk… or communities generally”. I’m always checking in to to see what’s up in Edtechtalk but that time thing has prevented me from participating very often in real time. I’ve also struggled with the sustaining community question for, well, every community project I’ve been involved in. So I’m interested in blobbing as a person who is interested in both edtechtalk and communities in general, and this whole process. You’ve got all the right ideas about how to move forward and with all these supportive folks there’s no doubt it will happen.

  5. When I read the title to this post, I at first thought, “I don’t manage my community of practice.”

    My so-called community of practice is a completely informal collection of people I have chosen to associate with. I read and comment on their blogs. They comment on mine. We are connected in a few different spaces. I seek their advice and input and offer mine.

    But we’re not a formal entity known as Karyn’s Community of Practice. In fact, some of them probably don’t even know that I consider them to be a part of my community of practice, and probably don’t regard me as part of theirs.

    Then it occurred to me that, because of this very thing, it does fall to me to manage this informal, virtual entity. I choose who is in and who is out. I choose where I am going to participate. While I publish every non-spam comment on my blog, I choose whether/how to respond to their input.

    So I don’t actually exercise any management over the people at all. What I manage is the intangible, entirely individualised collective they (unwittingly in some cases) constitute.

    Interesting.

  6. Interesting point, Karyn. And I’d agree that most of us don’t “manage” our personal/professional learning networks/communities of practice in any kind of traditional sense. But EdTechTalk, as much as it’s a community of practice, is also an organization of sorts. It has — for better or worse — its own identity. To keep that going, there has to be some management and maintenance work. Whether that’s figuring out how to pay for online hosting or keeping the software up-to-date, or just trying to standardize some of the things we do as a community, it does require a bit (not a lot) more effort.

    While I don’t think we’d delude ourselves into thinking we can “manage” the people in this community, I do think there’s a role of caretaker that we want to make sure is filled. Hopefully, these efforts will allow ETT to continue to be a valuable part of many people’s learning networks.

  7. I’d lean more towards benevolent in terms of the adjective on the dictatorship, and therein lies the rub. How can the burden of sustainability be shifted to make the enterprise viable, without corrupting the culture.

    Is edtechtalk somehow connected to the idea of shoutcasting?

    I think it is. Indeed, audio streams are more accessible in areas where bandwidth is an issue, and I think an important attribute. Webcasting also allows for autonomy and flexibility in terms of “fee for services” as opportunities present.

    Which brings us back to sustainability. I think that “server sponsorship” is something we need to explore, and believe the EdTechTalk brand is such that we’d not have to “sell the farm” to make it happen.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment Dave, and for all you and Jeff have done to make this conversation happen.

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