Posts Categorized: Communities

More on Collaboration

I mentioned a while back my reading of the book Collaborate to Compete, which played a role in an article that I collaboratively wrote for LearnNB. Two recent articles continue the discussion around collaboration. From Dave Pollard:

Collaboration is instinctive and selected-for in evolutionary terms because it succeeds. But we collaborate not because it succeeds, necessarily, but because it’s fun. True collaboration, in hunting, in the arts and music, in sports, in raising children, is a joyous experience, and gives you a feeling that you cannot get from any individual pursuit. That feeling is the remarkable sense of collective accomplishment. We did that.

And then I came across this from Small Business Trends:

In each story you just read, organizations that serve the same kind of consumers created new opportunities for each other.

They didn’t just forge a partnership.

They crafted what I call a "smart partnership".

Together they accomplished more than they could have in "solo" outreach efforts. They attracted and delighted their mutual market of people while spending less

As you can tell, any kind or size of organization can adopt this trend towards joining forces to generate more value and visibility together.

Collaboration is like play – you cannot force it. I know that I like to collaborate with people whom I can have fun with. Perhaps a good way to foster more collaboration in your business is to play more. Just like in kindergarten, being told that someone "plays well with others", may be a critical business skill.

Collaboration, both at a high conceptual level (industry should collaborate) and the human level (let’s work on this together) takes up a piece of almost every business conversation that I have. I think that most people are open to collaboration, but we don’t have all of the tools or the best environment for it in business yet. Just read an RFP from the federal government, and it is set up so that only one company (usually a larger one) can get the contract. Government could become a catalyst by encouraging smaller companies to collaborate on projects, in order to prepare them for larger, global bids. Promoting collaboration on larger projects would be one low-cost way of furthering small business development and creating a more diverse and sustainable economy.


Creative Commons (CA)

Creative Commons now has licenses available which are designed specifically for Canadian copyright law. You can see mine on the bottom left of every page. When you select a license, Canada is one of the jurisdictions available on the drop-down menu. The Canadian license is available in French & English, and each deed has links to both official languages. The CC license also saves on legal fees 🙂

Building Alternatives

Robert Paterson said it a while back, and Brian Alger just mentioned it. I’m referring to this statement made by Rob:

I am beginning to think that this may be the great work – to build the alternatives rather than to try and reform the existing system.

I think that this is a wonderful mission statement – To build alternatives rather than to try and reform existing systems. I know that we have systemic problems in politics, academia and health care, to name a few. Instead of trying to tweak these systems, it may be more fruitful to build alternatives that can serve as examples. This does not mean destroying the existing system (as some may argue that managerial capitalist systems can do this all on their own) but creating prototypes for experimentation and learning. It’s kind of like early American democracy that showed many other people how it could work.

Free Culture, again

Mark Oehlert blogs again on Lessig’s book, Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity. The book is a success, even with the free download available, as well as the audio chapters that have been completed by various volunteers.

I’ve been thinking a lot about business models and how the Internet has turned many on their heads. Making money on a book by giving away the digital version does not make intuitive sense; which is why I’m re-posting this as well. The rules have changed, but not everywhere. Today, we need to challenge our understanding of conventional business wisdom, especially when developing business plans.

Social Purchasing Portal

A new business model, called the Social Purchasing Portal (SPP), has been developed in Vancouver. It’s a form of community economic development that leverages good business practices, not charity. The portal allows the participants in the supply chain to make socially responsible decisions in their supplier/purchaser agreements. Here’s an example of the portal in practice:

Pivotal, a major international software company with nearly 200 local employees, has basically only one entry job, a receptionist. They use their significant catering needs to leverage social value by ordering from Cook Studio Caf?ɬ�. The increased business for Cook Studio results in business growth and the need to hire six employees from their youth-at-risk training programs.

According to the Vancouver portal, everyone wins in an SPP:

  • Participating ?��Ǩ?�Purchasers?��Ǩ�� use their existing business expenditures to practice corporate social responsibility while still meeting their business purchasing criteria for value, price and quality.
  • Participating businesses and social enterprises who participate as ?��Ǩ?�Suppliers?��Ǩ�� of goods and services have access to new and expanding markets, growing their businesses and requiring new employees.
  • The SPP initiated business growth creates employment demand, providing opportunities for hard-to-employ persons seeking employment.

I discovered this through Brian Alger’s post, and he includes a number of other links if you want to explore SPP’s further.

Feedback on Ping

Kathleen Gilroy is asking for feedback on the Otter Group’s new business venture – Ping. This service will help to foster blogging communities of practice. Here is the intro to the executive summary:

After ten years of running successful online learning communities and programs, the Otter Group is introducing a new service for developing and managing affinity networks for colleges and universities: Ping Affinity Networks. Ping is a personal network for connecting with your peer group. The network is made up of individual weblogs, a weblog portal and powerful search tools that combine the blog network with proprietary databases. Ping capitalizes on two rapidly growing communications technologies which are ideal for creating personal and peer networks: weblogs and RSS.

Because blogs provide a lasting, personal identity, they make it possible for reputation and trust to develop online. Ping returns the Internet to its original conception: groups of trusted people sharing knowledge. Weblogs and RSS enable the "anyone can publish, everyone can subscribe" promise of the Internet. Trusted blogging networks not only help keep out the riffraff, but also act as trusted filters for the vast influx of information faced every day. Ping?��Ǩ�Ѣs personal network puts you back in control of your Internet life.

Ping enables the creation and growth of communities of interest, offering their members ad hoc ways to collaborate. Ping stimulates high levels of participation in online communities by using weblogs to lower the technology barriers of participation to almost zero. With RSS, newsreaders and specialized, proprietary search technologies, Ping makes it very easy for community members to find and track, people, ideas, and information. The Ping Connector, a proprietary search tool, enables searching against both private directories and the blogging network. Ping builds viral marketing and member recruitment into its technology platform, so that community members can promote (and receive credit for) membership simply by maintaining their weblogs.

Ping?��Ǩ�Ѣs business model is based on subscriptions from individual bloggers. Ping subscribers pay for their participation in the blog network for a variety of purposes that are both self-serving (reputation building) and altruistic (knowledge sharing). Subscribers join Ping in order to enhance their reputations and build their personal brands; advance their careers, network, and find jobs; increase their Google ratings through linking to one another?��Ǩ�Ѣs blogs; share information, photos, and knowledge with their friends and family; document their personal and professional lives; make social and professional connections; and share knowledge, ideas, and information. As the community grows, linking to other blogs has the reciprocal benefit of creating value for your own blog. This underlying reciprocity is expressed in Ping?��Ǩ�Ѣs mission statement: the love you take is equal to the love you make.

For my part, it seems to have some potential, especially since I have not found many uses for my memberships in social networks, likes Ryze or LinkedIn. I use my blog a lot more to communicate with colleagues & clients, so I would check out Ping to see if I can meet more interesting people, at a reasonable price of course.

Update: Kathleen further describes the Ping business model today, October 1st.

And a further update, where Steve Bayle discusses the value-add of Ping:

The bottom line
What’s new about Ping is the concept of an affinity group blogging network. Ping provides substantial added value to both alumni and the alumni relations departments of their schools, value adds that are not available from "free" advertiser supported blog hosting companies or even companies selling individual blogging subscriptions.

Considering the many thousands of dollars it costs to be admitted to a college community, we believe the ability to extend that community beyond the campus and the 4-year undergraduate experience is well worth the $50 per year individual subscription fee.

Non-profit Blogs

I came across an article on blogs in the non-profit sector, written in December 2003, for the Non-Profit Quarterly. The article discusses internal and external blogs, and also gives some how-to’s, (but you should do some more reading on the subject, before starting your first one):

More typically, an externally focused blog can transform informal knowledge sharing into a new asset for an organization. Blogs can enliven your group’s Web presence and engage clients, supporters and strangers alike in your work. "We think that there is a good chance blogging is a new way to express the nonprofit voice," says Jim Fruchterman, CEO of Benetech, a nonprofit organization that puts technology to work for social needs. "We feel we have unique things to say, so we should be saying them." Since October 2003, Fruchterman has been authoring the Beneblog, a component of Benetech’s Web site where he has highlighted the work of his organization’s staff and partners, commented on legislation affecting his field, documented his speaking engagements and attendance at conferences and described in real-time the impact of world travel on his work as Benetech’s executive. "Blogs provide a more immediate form of communication than my quarterly update," he says. "They bring new content to our homepage and give us a chance to bring up ideas and links in a less formal context.

Fruchterman’s BeneBlog is still going strong. His latest post refers to the Social Enterprise Alliance, which looks like an excellent resource, especially for business planning . I’m currently working with two non-profits and their unique challenges call for a different kind of business and strategic planning, so I will check out the publications and resources.

The Rural Nature of the Customer Revolution

Robert Paterson has a good conversation going on about creative talent moving to the rural areas. I’m not sure how large of a movement this is, but it makes for an interesting hypothesis. Rob backs it up with some examples:

Oh Yes – University? My son is one of the leading artists in his field. 8 years of art school no degree. He is hired because of his talent and his portfolio. My business partner started programming when we he was 14 and had his own business since he was 16. No one cares about his credentials, they care about what he has done and what he can do – he is so much better than the product of a technical college. My daughter has cooked all over the world, owned her own restaurant – no one asks where she went to school. Once they have tried her food, they are hooked.

My point? In the real world of where the producer is on the line and not buried in a bureaucracy, what counts is can you really do it. Most universities and technical schools are credential machines that produce people that have few skills. Think of a BA in Business – which I teach by the way. What do you know as a graduate that you can apply in a small business? The true answer is all but zero.

Credentials are still very important in bureaucracies but they have no standing on their own in the creative world and in the world of reputation

Does this mean that the creative people will be able to live in rural bliss while the rest live live in urban sprawl with McJobs? Will the successor to the digital divide be the Creative Divide? Of course there will be implications for organisational design; when your creative team is separate (physically & mentally) from the developers/manufacturers. It sounds good on the rural/creative side, but I’m worried about the effects on everyone else.

In the meantime, it would be a nice change to get some solid economic activity in places like Atlantic Canada. For instance, in New Brunswick we’ve had two mill closures this month, with about 800 jobs lost. I’m not sure how many creative entrepreneurs have started up this month, but certainly less than 800. There may be turbulent times ahead.

Update: Dane Carlson on the Business Opportunities blog, is observing a similar phenomenon in the US – "I think that technology is quickly removing any economic benefits from operating your business in a major metropolitan area."


Data Libre

Steve Mallet has started Data Libre, a move towards a standardized way for us to be in control of our own information. His elevator pitch is "Own your Data. Write Once, Read


Currently, aggregated information about people can be found within the likes of Google or Amazon or in social networking services, like Linked-In or Spoke. In each case the

individual inputs personal information, and the value of the network increases exponentially with additional members.

The digital economy has gone from hardware-centric (IBM) to software-centric (Microsoft) to service-centric (Google, eBay). Tim O’Reilly describes how the underlying software

for enterprises such as Google as having little value on its own:

But even more importantly, even if these sites gave out their source code, users would not easily be able to create a full copy of the running application! The application is a

dynamically updated database whose utility comes from its completeness and concurrency, and in many cases, from the network effect of its participating users.

From this web service economy, we now have the possibility of an information-centric (Data Libre) economy where we can all participate. Steve writes that the tools currently

exist to own all of our data, and control who can use it. He uses the analogy of book reviews to make his point:

Now, would you rather publish your book review using Amazon’s form or the weblog you use many times a week? Would you like to write your book review on Amazon and then

write again on your weblog that you wrote a review – possibly writing the review twice? How about your local bookstore? Are you going to write one for them as well?

It makes much more practical sense to do this through your weblog with a side effect that if we put your book review into an rss-like feed it is readable through such a

widespread amount of aggregators that you only have to write once & be read by millions.

What does this mean? It kills redundant work. Publish once, read everywhere. This is the primary reason why publishing many different kinds of XML documents through weblogs

and CMS’ is a killer combination in making a distributed semantic web possible. People hate redundant work.

Here’s my suggestion – read Steve’s essays and contribute to this development of a standard, because it’s your data.

We are at the beginning of another shift in opportunities on the Internet, so forget hardware and software, as they are commodities and prices are dropping. Take a look "up the stack" and see what kinds of services you can offer in this new model.
It may be an aggregation service around data forms like learning portfolios, or the provision of templates and tools to help people aggregate their own data.

Spreading like Fire

Steven Garrity of SilverOrange has been featured as volunteer of the week on the Spread Firefox site. The site (built on the Drupal CMS) is dedicated to supporting the Firefox user and developer communities, and Steven has been instrumental in the design of the beautiful Firefox artwork. Here is a local (PEI) designer working on an international project, giving much of his own time and supported by his company. The work that SilverOrange does exemplifies the new economy and shows how Atlantic Canadian entrepreneurs can be active participants from out here on the edge, because it’s a World of Ends.