In LiA Website change and development converation, Christina Kirabo Jordan said [our emphasis added]:
The self-creation of this kind of content [SJT: a-z profile info] is an empowering thing that won’t be lost this time around. Because not all of the a-z has to be filled out, individual differentiation comes into play - it’s what makes your profile different from mine. If I am a cook and a craftmaker I might have recipes on my page and products to order, but if I am a recently graduated journalism student, then my profile and my activities within the webbed lia realm will be much different. It’s all life in africa. We are each unique, we are each very real and you can engage with us, we are each active in contributing to our community web presence, and we are (or have been in the recent past) the poorest of Africa’s poor. We are not counted as real people anywhere else, but in working together with others to create our own presence at lifeinafrica.com we are encouraged to let our individuality shine all over the world.
Christina, we know you already understand what we will be saying below. Mentoring and peer-collaboration are at the heart of your WE Center and Internet4Change initiatives. Our comments here are rhetorical, intended to get the ideas on the table in the context of this discussion.
Peer Collaboration as a Divide and Conquer Strategy
We absolutely agree that member profiles will be critical to differentiating each member from another, as well as help to create an “interface socket” that prospective customers and collaborators can “plug” into. And while self-creation of at least some content is important, it is also good to keep in mind that the webbed lia realm is fertile ground for skill and role differentiation that can create collaborative subnetworks where the whole (community) is greater than the sum of its (individual effort) parts.
For example, it may be that the journalism student Christina mentioned could team up with three-to-six cooks and craftspeople to assist the group in creating an individual and collective web presence that is far more effective than if content creation were left completely to each individual.
Such peer-collaborative subgroups can be very helpful in letting each individual do what he or she does best while getting assistance with the things he or she either can’t do (yet), or doesn’t really want (or have the time) to learn to do better.
Here in Fairfield, which is both an entrepreneurial and an artistic small town, we have a thriving but (except for the ’superstars’) also a struggling community of visual and performing artists. Last year we had an ‘artpreneur’ workshop to help artists become more entrepreneurial in managing their self-employment careers.
One result of the conversations at this workshop was to better understand that the goal is not to turn artists into “suits” (AKA businessmen and women). Rather, we are working to connect ‘artist-friendly’ business folks (accountants, lawyers, marketers, etc.) with artists so that their collaboration helps to fill the skill and interest ‘gaps’ of the artist.
Sure, many of the artists need a better grasp of the strategies for being more business-like with their creative lives. But they don’t have to become an accountant or lawyer to succeed. For the entrepreneurial community ecosystem to be sustainable, its members have to be able to communicate and appreciate what each member brings to the table.
Food for Thought About the LiA/WE/I4C Web Platform
Sohodojo wrote and published The Nanocorp Primer in 2000. This collection of article/presentations explores ideas related to Christina’s LiA/WE/I4C notion of webbed empowerment. In particular, the Shamrocks and Nanocorps piece explores the complementary role of value-chains and entreprenurial ‘career paths’ in the network enterprises of entrepreneurial community ecosystems. These pieces don’t speak to the technical implementation aspects of the LiA/WE/I4C web platform. Rather they highlight design requirements and domain context to frame such web development. The Nanocorp Primer includes:
We encourage interested folks to read and we welcome comments on these ‘idea generators’ in the context of this conversation about requirements for the LiA/WE/I4C web platform.
–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–
January 31st, 2006
We have been thinking more about our decision to blog our ONet posts, and we have gotten some feedback from folks that stretched our thoughts even further. In this post we will discuss ONet blogging for focus. In a follow-up post we’ll look at ONet blogging as a community outreach strategy.
Monster Threads and the Cacophony of Conversations
As any ONetizen who has tried to keep up with, or who has tried to join, the Ned thread knows, the most successful ONet conversations can quickly become monsters. These lengthy threads go beyond what E.F. Schumacher in “Small Is Beautiful” would call human-scale. If psychologist George Miller was an ONetizen, he could remind us of the dangers of pushing beyond the limits of the Magic Number 7 Plus or Minus 2.
For the regular reader, just keeping up with an active discussion can feel like a mental endurance race. For the newbie to a conversation, the monster thread looms like an unscalable mountain.
Before the year-end holiday, the Ned thread ‘hit the wall’ of tractability. So its most loyal conversants decided to sift through the thread for the gems to help the regular and newbie alike to know what we are talking about in this lively conversation.
Sure, you can always filter a thread to a feedback-rating threshold. (Here are Ned posts at level 5 or more.) But this programmatic approach is kind of raw, and the Ned team felt this ONet site feature didn’t do anything to topically organize the posts.
As a result (and through some Herculean efforts), a handful of Neders have mined, and are continuing to mine, the thread for The Best of Ned Thread Ideas. The result is helpful and evolutionary. But it still suffers from being a lot of work for the unofficial indexing team, and this listing also becomes a view onto Ned that is that of the indexers. Since each index editor brings his or her own interest and understanding to the task, the ‘best of’ list is necessarily a ‘best of according to who’ resource.
As the proverb goes, “seeing the elephant through many holes in the fence” can be an exercise in futility when taken in isolation, or one of revelation when taken collectively. As we populated Sohodojo’s Omidyar.net Blog, we realized that ONet community members’ post blogs could each be a view of the “ONet elephant.” Taken collectively, they will add a rich new dimension to the ONet community experience.
Monster threads are not only challenge to the “human-scale” of the Omidyar.net web site. The shear volume of what is on the ONet site has given veteran and newbie alike that “deer in the headlights” frightful feeling.
At the time of writing, the ONet community and our web site consist of 10,865 users, each of us belonging to any number of the 315 groups that are carrying on 5,005 discussion topics, with 92,309 comments and 7,256 workspace pages. Heck, forget deer in the headlights. We’re talking Tennessee Fainting Goat reaction! (Here’s Mark Grimes after coming back to the Ned thread after the holiday break: view Quicktime movie)
We believe community member ONet blogs can help ‘humanize’ the scale of both ONet monster threads as well as provide focused views onto the vast expanse of Omidyar.net site content.
Blogging for Focus
Modern blogging systems — both self-served Open Source platforms as well as the freely available hosted blog services — have a number of built-in features that could help us collectively to mine the Omidyar.net web site to provide individual and group clarity and focus.
Flexible categorization is perhaps the most useful and obvious feature that an ONet blog can provide. For example, the Sohodojo ONet blog reflects our interest in new business models and alternative markets:
Big Ideas (Small World)
With even just a handful of ONet blogs referencing the Ned Thread, we’d have a variety of topical “maps” each contributing the author’s unique perspective on this huge and growing thread. This would then free the indexing team from the burden to do this task by decentralizing and distributing the process among community members.
But wait. The benefits of ONet blogging don’t stop there. There are at least two more powerful and widely available blogging features that could help us all to better focus on the diverse content at ONet
- per-post commenting, and
- trackback linking
One of the ONet site architecture features that turns threads into monster threads is that we don’t have a convenient way to comment on a specific post. Every ONet comment becomes a new comment appended to the end of the whole conversation. The result is a monster thread for any conversation of wide and sustained interest.
Each blog post, on the other hand, is an item onto itself. As such, it has its own comments. As more and more of us blog our ONet conversations, we are very likely to see the self-organizing evolution of a “cloud” of conversations that reference a core of ONet primary conversations that are more focused and action-oriented. This is particularly possible if we take advantage of another powerful blogging feature: trackback linking.
Trackback linking is a form of remote commenting. Rather than posting the comment directly on Person B’s weblog, Person A posts his or her reaction/thoughts on his/her own weblog, then sends a TrackBack ping to Person B’s blog. Yeah, we’re slipping into tech talk. But all you need to know is that trackbacks are simple to use, and they just work.
ONet Community Implications
As we enter the new year and each search for ways to become more effective Omidyar.net community members, let’s not limit our search for tools and techniques to those we find within the ONet site itself. We believe that ONet post blogging could be an effective tool for helping the ONet community to organize and extend the diverse conversations and projects of the ONet community. Our ONet blogs can be an wonderful source of community self-reflection.
Categorization, per-post comments, and trackback linking are just three of the blogging world’s standard features that could be put to good use by ONet community members. And we needn’t stop here.
ONet blogging could become a vital part of ONet community life if the ONet site development team added post-specific trackback linking to ONet posts! In this way, our ONet blogs could become a truly useful means to evolve and extend our ONet collaborations. And at the same time, our ONet blogs could become a vital and effective means of recruiting new members into our Better World changemaking community.0[
–Sohodojo Jim and Timlynn–
January 3rd, 2006
Lars, thank you so much for the congratulations and words of encouragement.
For those who might not know her Social Edge ‘handle’ (nickname), C Kirabo is none other than Ashoka Fellow Christina ‘Kirabo’ Jordan who folks know around O.net for her work developing the Life in Africa Network. Kirabo, meaning ‘gift’, is a name given to her by her friends in Uganda.
We are especially thrilled with the election result as we and Christina are kindred spirits, along with the father and son team of Toby and Richard Beresford of MicroAid.Net, and Pamela McLean of CawdNet and others who intend to get together at the Forum to launch the Small Is Good World Working Group.
We’ll have more to say about our trip to the Forum and the formation of the working group in the days ahead. For the moment, we’re going to relax a bit and savor the idea of heading to the Forum in three weeks!
Thanks again Lars. And thanks especially to anyone who took an interest in the delegate election at Social Edge, and who voted to send us and Christina as delegates.
–Sohodojo Timlynn and Jim–
March 8th, 2005