I've been trying to organize and clean up I don't know how many gigs of information, some dating back to 1992, the year I started working online full-time. My first online community builder/facilitator job was with Arts Wire, an online network for artists, that used a unix-based, text-based online discussion software. I facilitated online forums, provided technical support the 500 members, and training.
Arts Wire, a project of NYFA, was originally intended to be a place for artists from all over the country to meet, exchange ideas, and talk about their work via the Internet. As the Internet changed dramatically with the launch of the Web, the content of my work did too -- although the themes and concepts remained the same. While in the early early 1990's I was helping people figure out which dipswitches on their modem to push or write and send email using PINE, this later morphed into helping people learn how to build web pages or develop web literacy skills. And, now mid-2000 this has changed again ... into gaining web social (networking) skills.
The drawing is from one of the many, many technology training workshops I did in those early web1.0 and web .0 days .... somewhere around 1996 or 1997. I always started with a creative icebreaker activity -- this one was "What does the Internet look like?" While many of the drawings were abstract, the showing connected people presages the social web.
What sent me on a trip down memory lane was this excellent post by David Wilcox describing a new role for an online facilitator using social networking and media tools.
It occurs to me that I should try calling myself a social reporter; it feels more comfortable for this purpose than knowledge activist or technology steward.
I like the role/label and think David is spot on. I'm having a little bit of trouble with the word "reporter" - perhaps a play on citizen journalism? Is an online facilitator of people using social networkings -- are they a passive observer or an instigator? Is "reporter" the right role?
As I found this list, I realized I'm adding something to the label Nonprofit Technologist. I'm not sure quite what. It goes beyond blogger and tagger. Citizen instructional mediamaker? Social media coach? Who knows ...
Now matter what we call it - social reporter or something else, what are the skills and competencies to be one? How are they different from web1.0 online facilitator? And just as I write that sentence, I check David's blog and find that being GMT, he's already evolved his thinking along with other colleagues. Let's catch up ..
David is thinking about this role in the context of using wikis, blogs, flickr and other tools for capturing knowledge for conferences, a thread we obsessed on collectively last month. The Perfect Path blog muses about the social reporter role and rich records:
We have agreement that it's a "good thing" or at least a "nice
thing" to have a richer record of a days proceedings and that blogs and
wikis are a good way of producing that. What I agree we haven't done
yet is get to the point where we're able to weave everything together
to make it useful enough to participants that they want to do more than
view the record.
But maybe that's not our responsibility...yet. I see a risk that
we're pushing people too fast along a learning curve that we've taken a
while to go along ourselves ....Maybe we should just let this aspect sink in for a
little bit - if they want to interact as well, then that's fantastic
and we should be ready for it when it happens, but in the meantime,
perhaps we could be honing our reporting skills in this new
Especially if we are also introducing more social aspects to the
event, breaking down the distinction between presenter and audience -
novelty fatigue might set in - I have to remember that not everyone
gets bored as easily as I do!
Here's David response:
If the ethos of the social reporter is to promote collaboration by
standing on the side of the user/reader/viewer and helping them to
contribute, we have to take this very seriously. Evangelising - come on
in, it's wonderful - doesn't work any better than warnings - you'll be
left behind if you don't.
Part of the answer is being clear about the purpose ... what real
benefit will tech-supported collaboration bring - and aware of the
prevailing culture which may not be receptive. I think it is also about
respecting people's preferences. That's partly about personality, and
partly about offering a choice of audio, video, text and so on.
All that means that social reporting, to be successful, requires a
pretty full set of skills and tools. As Lloyd says, instead of pushing
too hard we could be honing our reporting skills in this new
environment. If we can't get the gigs, maybe we need some simulated
rehearsing ... a sort of emerging social reporting conference, where we
all practise on some willing non-tech participants. Any sponsors up for
Hmm .. yes, the tools are easy, but skills probably take some time to develop and hone. One skill is the ability to think through your fingers quickly - the ability to listen, photograph, record, and process it in a way that isn't simply the vacuum approach. And, you have a high degree of comfort with the tools .. so you don't even have to think about it as you are capturing.
Last week or the weekend before I was at a conference, with wireless and live blogging and vlogging. I've noticed now that I'm using the digital camera, the microphone, and text all together -- like a drum set. And that has taken some time to master -- just practicing.
The first supposition is that as various means are used to capture the
proceedings of an event, (Nancy mentions: Chat/IRC, Videocasts,
VOIPcasts, Podcasts, and Visual Facilitation), the performance of
encapsulating and depicting is in itself learning. You could argue
that the person who is collecting and synthesizing has acquired some
information. Using tools and a process, the words, ideas, experience,
sounds, etc., that are conveyed and shared within a context, are made
available to a virtual audience. The more engaged the "recorder" is and
the greater degree of processing needed to summarize, use metaphors,
create analogies, connect to other facts (in the present moment and
from the past), the richer that person's experience. The learning is not in thatmoment in
which these actions are taking. That's simply because learning is a
process that happens when the information shifts from short-term to
long-term memory and results in changed beliefs and behaviors.
The content of blogs, podcasts, IMs, etc. can be offered up to an
interested and engaged public. But, as such, it's just grist for the
learning mill - it's not yet learning. Until the person on the
receiving end of these technologies actively engages in a process of
assimilation/reflection/application with the latent sources of
knowledge, learning is still an unrealized possibility.
I sometimes think the misconception about learning is a symptom of
an information-rich world. It's easy to assume that if you have a lot
of content, you have a lot of learning. Ninth-grade science (not the
last course I took on the topic but one most folks have encountered)
taught us about potential energy. The wood pile could (when ignited)
provide a roaring fire; unlit it was just a lot of lumber. Those are
two distinctly different states for the same commodity. The
relationship of information to learning is more fluid as I think about
it . . . a continuum with many phase changes along the way. At one
end, the communicator sends a message . . . in between the recipient
grabs it, chews it up, matches it to existing schema, dialogues about
it, tries it out, makes it her own . . . voila learning - and maybe
some life altering transformation!
It made me think that you have to think a little about choosing an event tag.
-It should be unique, unless for some reason you want to integrate or connect with another tag stream. I still keep thinking about one of the comments that someone made me to during the workshop I did with Kaliya Hamlin on Web2.0 tools at NCDD. "How can you use a tag to enter into a dialogue with a group or community that has a different view or opinion on the issue? It seems like a tag can create a silo."
-It should be something that dyslexics or fast typists won't screw up! Maybe this is my unique issue, but tags that have - or _ for example.
Last night or rather very early this morning, I could not sleep and started thinking about my to do list and all the new ideas I jotted down in my moleskin while on vacation ... Somewhere between the soothing visit Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece, Falling Water, and the shock therapy of monster trucks I began to think about collaborative note capture at conferences using Web2.0 tools ...
So I scribled down some patterns related to blogging, tagging, photostreams, and wikis. Nancy White bounced some more ideas on this topic here, with an even grander synthesis:
It is about the Learning!
the end, the key around these practices is that when we engage all or
part of the group in the production of our "learning artifacts" -- we
all learn more AND we make some of that learning available to others.
The act of production is an act of meaning making.
We also think beyond our individual selves. We
resume responsibility not only for our participation, but for sharing
back to the communities we come in to the room representing. F2F is a
precious resource, not to be squandered. It is a privilege.
That's the bottom line.
Her additional points about the use of Chat/IRC, Videocasts, VOIPcasts, Podcasts, and Visual Facilitation spurred some additional reflections (boy I feel a writely document coming on ...) and want to document here.
"Back Channel" or Chat/IRC - I've put myself on both sides of this back channel experience and have obsessed a little bit about it. Sometimes the "channel" can be a wall and other times it can be a bridge. There needs to be a moderator in the room who can weave face-to-face participants with those on the IRC/Chat. This makes those on the IRC feel as those they've been "listened to." The best technique I've seen was at the Global s Summit in London -- where there was a "Chat /IRC Advocate" in the room who monitored the chat/IRC and asked questions on behalf the chat paticipants and typed in the answers.
At a recent Net Tuesday event with the founders of Gabbly, a chat client, there was a remote chat available. Britt Bravo served as the faciliator taking live notes of the in-room presentation.
I think this approach is better for people in the room because reading a chat interface projected onto a screen can be distracting to those in the room and even cause a kerfluflle (sic) a la Les Blogs
Another way to involve remote participate is to set up a remote tracks using speakers and facilitators who are the live event. This was done quite successfully at netsquared conference.
VideoCasts/Skypecasts: I agree with Nancy's thoughts here. I would add that I loved the way that netsquared did the video posts from the conference. Keep in mind, these vlog posts were done by veteran vloggers. And if you happen to have access to video conferencing, like we did at the Global s London Summit which took place at Reuters headquarters, we had participants from across the pond who participated this way.
Podcasts: I didn't attend the Northern s Conference, but I really wanted to hear Nancy's presentation. I'm so glad that Alan Levine did the audio and the ad hoc collaboration from Beverly, Nick Noakes and others to remix Nancy's jpgs and Alan's audio was superb. It made me wish that every conference was this well documented ... I wouldn't need to find any babysitters! I wonder, though, could this type of collaboration been "organized" or "pre-planned" -- given that it was at a blogging conference with people with the tech skills and equipment it happened ad hoc, like magic.
(Chris, you said you were gonna write more about this topic and I would love to hear your thoughts about podcasting in this context)
This is a shout out to other readers/colleagues who want to think together more on this topic ... send a track back, leave a comment, or play in the writely play pen.
From Tom Hurley's post about The World Cafe Stewardship Dialogue
" .... a gathering of World Cafe pioneers, long-time hosts, and others who have expressed their commitment to serving as “stewards” of the World Café – are gathering from August 25-29 in Marshall, California (a small town on Tomales Bay in northern California, a couple hours north of San Francisco). The purpose of the Dialogue is to nurture and deepen the field of collective intelligence through which the World Cafe community can guide the development and evolution of its work, on an ongoing basis. More than 80 individuals representing 16 countries on five continents will be present. You can be, too."
You can learn more about the details at the online discussion area here or comment on the blog here.
I'm gearing up to do some live blogging at blogher and NCDD. Over the past year, I've done a lot of live blogging which is basically taking notes at lectures, conferences, and presentations of what was said. I process information through my fingers -- I think through my fingers!
It always helps to reflect back on your experience so you don't replicate too many of your mistakes - so I'm giving myself pointers on how to live blog. Perhaps it may be helpful to others who have not live blogged before.
First of all, live blogging takes a certain chutzpah and fearlessness. At last year's blogher, someone said that live bloggers need to carry around a hip flask in their tool box! So, you have to not be afraid of making mistakes ... publically ....
Because I've had such bad luck with wifi connections at conferences, I use blogging software that let's me save my work offline. I started off just using notepad, but then I learned about FireFox Performing and ecto and have used both of them.
I'm now using FireFox Peforming more these days because it is what I use at my desktop and I'm used to its little quirks or perhaps my bad habits. (Like you better save your work as a note before you close your browser or you will loose your work.) Ecto on the PC is okay, but far superior on the MAC. There are other blog editor tools, but if you're on a PC and already use FireFox - the performing can't be beat. Just be careful about closing the browser before you save your work.
The value to using one of these tools is that it doesn't matter if the wifi goes down - you can still save your work and past it later.
Before the conference, I decide which sessions I'm going to live blog. I create a post draft and cut and paste the description into as well as gather up any useful background links. I put a live blogging disclaimer at the top of the post that says "I'm live blogging, excuse lapses of grammar, spelling errors, and typos. I will clean this up later." I also add in the conference technorati tag at the bottem as well as any trackback urls.
Then, when the session begins, I take notes and hit the publish button at various points to save my work. I usually do this after each speaker.
I'm a fast, very fast typist. I learned how to type while I was in music school so I could temp to make some extra money. I approached typing like practicing the piano. Using a metronome, I did all the exercises very slowly and gradully went from largo to allegro to motto allegro. So for me, when I take notes, I do a combination of vertbaim transcript and summary. What I do is summarize the points and if there is a juicy quote I take it down verbaitem.
I also try to get several photos that capture the essence of what it was like to be in the room. I'll photograph the speaker, selected slides or fipchart notes, and people in the room. If someone asks a particularly compelling question or says something, I will photograph that as well. I upload the flickr photos using the uploader tool into their own set and annotate them with notes. However, now that I've recently upgraded my camera phone - I will play with using email to flickr option.
At the end of the session, I will clean up my post and photos. Add a photo to the post with a link to the photo set.
I might add a paragraph or two later on with some reflections about what I learned personally or what I might apply.