We are media and some thoughts about community

I took a listen to the late night conversation I had with Bud Hunt a little while ago about my thoughts on community and was struck by a few things (other than the fact that I probably talk too much.)

  1. No matter how good a community, its ideas, its positioning, there are almost always a couple of people working their tails off to keep it what it is.
  2. Community participation is almost entirely about the responsibility of the participant.

We are media project
I’ve talked quite a bit about this project this year. Beth Kanter was kind enough (after i volunteered) to ask me to be a critical friend on the project… (and I should be receiving a t-shirt soon!) I really can’t say enough about how much I like what she’s done with this project and the quality of the content. It also serves as an nice case for just how much work is required to get this sort of thing running. Go to any page and click the history button and what you’ll see is an excellent community organizer, helping things along, tweaking the wiki, encouraging contributors, finding new ways to keep participation interesting.

If you are looking for a great resource for social media, check this project out. If you are thinking of starting your own, look very closely at this project. Trying googling the project url, look through the wiki, and you’ll see how a pro does the job.

Go forward for we are media
Right now… the content in the project is very good. According to the work plan, the development part of the project is ending and the ‘instructional’ period is ramping up for december. I wonder what’s going to happen with the content. But how does one keep content this changeable uptodate?

I’m going to be working with george siemens on a course starting (omg… next week) and will definitely be using the wearemedia project as a resource… we should, as good members of a community, update the part of the content that need updating as a manner of ‘responsibility’ or payment if you like, for using the material. I worry, however, about potentially adding confusing information while beth et al. are designing their delivery methods… something to think about.

This kind of relationship, though, seems like a good one. A couple of courses decide to use the same repository/ies for their work and that keeps the work uptodate as well as avoiding the duplication of effort. I wonder if something like this with wearemedia and alec’s 831 course would make a nice balance between two excellent resources. mmm… community.

So how do we ensure that we are being responsible and respectful to the work that has been done in the communities that we travel in and with the resources that we appropriate. I relied on Alec’s course wiki for my own course this summer… but never contributed to it (though i certainly made it clear that I used it) I use downes.ca to cheat my way through knowing what’s going on… and try to offer something back to stephen when the opportunity arises. There are many people out there following along with Steve Dembo’s ‘30 days to being a better blogger‘ and day three’s instructions are to thank someone who’s helped you.

Once a week ’till New Years – Being a more responsible community member
I think i’ll write a series of posts on this idea. Look for number one next Wednesday. I’ll wrap together all eight in a package at the end and post it somewhere as a package. waddaya think?

We are Media – teaching and currating

This is my third critical friend post regarding the excellent ‘we are media‘ project. I love a collaborative project where each time i consider dropping an idea in, or adding to the process I find that someone has just dropped in the idea i was considering and done a nicer job of explaining it. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, I don’t think there is a better resource online right now to empower the innovator to try and entice institutional change (They focus on the non-profit sector, but most of the resources could apply to any professional environment) through social media.

According to the module outline the creation part of the project is essentially at its halfway point. The first half being a collection of strategic resources for people interested in using social media…4
Strategic Track
Module 1: Why or why not?
Module 2: Thinking Strategically
Module 3: Resistance
Module 4: Storytelling
Module 5: Engagement Strategy and Skills
Module 6: ROI

The work plan for the project cross-referenced with the overview page seem to indicate that the goals are twofold. The first, and seemingly seminal goal for the project is to create a curricular base for training people in the uses of social media for non-profits. The second, and seemingly strenghtening purpose, is to create a long term curated, vetted space for information about using social media in a non-profit setting… My comments today will address these two goals and how they work in the same setting.

Wikiing for curriculum
The We Are Media project plans to have f2f training sessions (which I wish I could be at) at the end of this year where they hope to use their existing knowledge base as a backdrop to their training. What they’ve done, essentially, is combed the internet for best resources available on the topic of using social media in a non-profit setting. If you combined this project with the ict-km toolkit, you’d pretty much have all directed reading you would need for a degree let alone a training course.

The key next step for working towards training is to think about the syllabus. How exactly are these topics going to be introduced in a learner-centred setting? How are the concepts going to be discussed and organized so that each of the learners has the opportunity to make their own meaning and bring that meaning back to their own professional context? Are all of the resources still going to be active by the time the course actually starts? Might it make sense to turn some of the key resources into webcite references in order to preserve the reliability of critical concepts?

The development and examination of a syllabus is going to focus the discussion of the second half of the development towards specific things that will be needed in the educational space that may not jump out as obvious in the wiki space.

On another note there might be some sense in which planning for live resources that don’t yet exist can be interesting from a curricular perspective. Using yahoo pipes to create a feedbook of live resources that can be delivered in a single page as a living textbook for f2f learners to both use during the classes and also take home as a page or an OPML.

Wikiing for posterity
The obvious difference between building for a curriculum that someone is going to facilitate and creating a repository of knowledge, is that, in the repository, there is no translation. The tools need to exist there, from the beginning, for people to be able to navigate the content. With the end of the strategic phase of the content creation coming on, it may be time to return to the idea of the audience for the wiki and expand it from the creation team to include those passive users that must already be using the website.

What tools do they have to find and use resources?
What supports could be built during the rest of the process to facilitate that?
What would the lifespan on those resources be?

As it stands now, the introductory module is a very detailed wiki page with pretty much everything you’d need to know to get started. A trimmed down introductory page, with a screencast walkthrough of the site might be a nice place to start for the ‘second wavers’ who come to the site without the web/wiki literacies that will allow them to skim and process all the cool work there. A couple of potential syllabus pages might also be interesting, to give people a chance to talk about how they might remix this content in their own f2f or online training and see how that maps against the existing work that is being done.

Tracking these as they develop can do a great deal to flush out a curriculum and a webcite and keep these two ‘seperate but equal’ goals on target.

Be the Media – Being a critical friend and community participation

I sent a skype over to Beth Kanter after having read about the Be the Media project over at her blog.

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.

It’s a very interesting network knowledge building project and I told her after half a heartbeat that I would love to be able to tag along for the ride in whatever way possible. She asked that I be a ‘critical friend’ for the project… see here, here and here for some ideas about what some people think this means.

I’ve managed the first part of the commitment to being a critical friend, I’ve reviewed the planning and worked my way through the ideas that are there… all the more convinced that this is a really cool project. We’ve tried this kind of thing at Edtechtalk before… i have very fond memories of the ‘live barnstorming’ session from a few years ago when we tried to create a new media curriculum, live, in a wiki. I’ve since been in any number of community builds. Some have worked very well… and others have been less successful.

Critical friend contribution – two questions.

How are you contributing to people’s feelings of ‘responsibility’ to the knowledge creation process?
The biggest thing that I work for in my social communities, and look for in community partners is their ability to invest their own sense of responsibility into the work that they are involved in. Much of our societies/y’s generally tends to sell their sense of responsibility for money or praise, or to a communal normality like common space or blood. There is a very strong sense of hierarchy in these kinds of community with parental kinship relationships, medieval manorial/manager interactions and expert/novice associations filling much of the interaction space.

A community based responsibility model can explode many of those power structures, and find people moving to take over the tasks that need to be done, and taking ownership to both change things they think need changing, log and tag those changes in case the majority thinks they need to be reversed or thrown into a parallel contruct, and make the necessary connections between one bit of knowledge/information and another to create that magic rhizome soup.

But this works best when people feel a clean responsibility to the work at hand. There is a good start there with the personal profile ‘what module would you most like to contribute to’ section. I think the transition between voluteerism there and action by the leadership team is crucial.

What are your thoughts about the lifespan of your knowledge creation?

One of the critical thoughts that went into the community as curriculum article that Beth mentioned in a blog post last week was that the when the community is the curriculum knowledge must always be emerging. It is constantly in flux and only by aggregating and assessing the community in real time, with constant new connections and renewed re-evaluation can the curriculum stay ‘current’. It is through an assessment of those ties, and those trust relationships, in addition to the ‘does it work for me now in this context’ practical evaluation that knowledge gets assessed.

For this project… how is the knowledge going to be nourished? Is there a sense in which you are thinking about some bits being ‘higher level’ maybe longer lasting bits and other bits being more transient bits. Some pieces being jumping off points and others being destinations.
In a sense I’m talking about curation… but not in the sense of antiquities… it’s an inverse curator… instead of one person with deep knowledge keeping old things old, it is many curators with wide knowledge keeping the new things juggled to the front. tags. tags. tags. tags. Man do i love tags in wikis. Particular community contributed tags. The more the community is involved in the tagging process… the more depth to the knowledge connections.

if that makes sense.

And, if you’ve made it down here… do check out the excellent wiki orientation.

Thanks very, very much for having me on this journey.

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