Posts Categorized: Communities


Tomorrow, at the LearnNB forum, I will be quickly presenting (only 15 minutes allocated) a summary of the Research & Development in e-Learning (RDeL) project as well as an overview of professional development opportunities through CSTD. I have therefore posted the RDeL material here in advance and for future reference.

As a follow-up to the discussions and collaboration of the NB Learning Industry during the Winter of 2003/2004, I was engaged to coordinate the first formal Community of Practice. This ad hoc organisation, of industry organisations and individuals, grew into a larger group, including the creation of the LearnNB brand and website.

A record of the discussions of the original RDeL group is still available.

In October 2003 it was determined that this discussion board was no longer adequate for the community’s needs, as it was not secure and had limited functionality. Following an industry meeting in Saint John on 15 October 2003, I was given the mandate to develop a community of practice (CoP) to further the needs of the R&D community. As of April 2004, funding was made available by IRAP, and this Community of Practice initiative began.

The initial focus of this CoP was research and development, especially business models and commercialization. It was not intended to be a theoretical or academic community, but one that is looking at the development of practical applications ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú be they products, services, standards or models. Membership was and is open to anyone.

Here is an overview of the major events during the course of this project:

  • Establishment of an initial blog
  • Report on best practices in the establishment of a community of practice
  • Interview protocol and initial interviews in New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia
  • Evaluation of technology platforms for the web presence of the community
  • Discussions/conversations/interviews with interested members
  • Establishment of two web-based systems for discussions, one private and one public
  • Continuing discussions in person, via e-mail and through blogs with interested parties
  • Fine-tuning of technology platforms

The best practices report and case study are available on the LearnNB Collaborative space.

From the Case Study:


  • A sense of community cannot be forced;
  • Communities are self-defined;
  • Communities are conversations; and
  • Communities evolve over time.
  • Face-to-face contact can be the impetus for online conversations, while
  • Online contact can be the impetus for face-to-face meetings.
  • Communities of individuals appear to have stronger bonds than communities of companies;
  • Blogging helps to define dispersed communities; and
  • Password-protected web sites do not encourage conversation.


It is recommended that if there are future efforts in this area, then we should:

  • Keep the LearnNB online community spaces for special projects and events.
  • Advertise the LearnNB space for others to test out blogging.
  • Encourage more community members to use blogs as a community building tool.

Finally, any efforts to foster community should be addressed at the grass roots level. Centralized command and control does not work well in this internetworked world. Regional initiatives (e.g. Atlantica), or very local initiatives (e.g. Charlottetown) seem to stand the greatest chance of success. Provincial boundaries are blurry, and not part of many people’s sense of reality.

Innovation Articles – Summary

The LearnNB community has been provided with a number of PDF articles on innovation – mostly Canadian perspectives. These are in preparation for the quarterly meeting this Wednesday, September 22nd. The documents have been hidden away (password-protected) in the collaborative work space for LearnNB (I can set up an account if you want one). I have also posted the names of the articles on the public LearnNB blog. A quick search today has shown that most of these documents are freely available, and I’ve done a quick synthesis of a few.

What follows are some short summaries of the documents that caught my attention.

A series of three articles from Research Money by Alan Cornford, (significant subscription fee required) provide some interesting observations on innovation. Cornford states that increasing R&D spending will not increase innovation capacity, as only 3% of of public R&D spending results in measurable innovation; the only way to measure innovation is through the outputs – or local wealth generation; and there is plenty of VC money available, but not enough finance-worthy ventures. The key to driving innovation is having the right people. He also shows that private sector investment has 15 times the return on investment as that of the public sector. His main recommendation is not to weaken public R&D spending, but to strengthen it through private partnerships, especially with small and medium sized enterprises. Cornford is also in favour of enhanced R&D tax credits and the channelling of government investment into "community innovation idea outreach" to communties and SME’s

Where local SME (small and medium enterprise) R&D receptor capacity is limited (as in most of Canada), the universities, polytechnics
and colleges can conduct applied R&D for local SME industry and therefore benefit from these increased R&D investments, while community SME innovative capacity grows.

Cornford also produced a report for ACOA in 2002, entitled – Innovation and Commercialization in Atlantic Canada , which I have not read yet.

A different perspective is presented by Douglas Barber, who in 2003 surveyed the 120 most innovative companies in Canada, (those who spent more than 3% on R&D) and determined that the main issues around innovation were inadequate tax

incentives, lack of qualified workers, uncoordinated government support and regulation concerning R&D. These companies included Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, BCE

Emergis Inc., Corel Corporation, GlaxoSmithKline Inc., Pratt & Whitney Canada Corp., and Sierra Wireless, Inc.. This paper focuses primarily on large companies, not SME’s.

Denzil Doyle in a 2004 report for ITAC (PDF) examined the selling of Canadian high-tech companies and purchases by foreign investors. This again focuses on larger companies, not the smaller companies that are predominant in Atlantic Canada. Doyle concludes that:

This paper has been written on the assumption that Canadian policy makers want to position Canada as a global player in the worldwide high-tech industry. In order to achieve

that goal it will not only have to create a favourable environment for foreign-owned branch plants but it will have to grow several world class companies with the majority of

corporate decision-making carried out in Canada. Examples of such companies are Nortel Networks, Cognos, ATI Technologies, OpenText, McDonald Detweiller Associates, and

Research In Motion.

While Canadians can be proud of their R&D skills and achievements in nearly every field of technology, more attention should be paid to ways and means of commercializing

more of the resultant technology in Canada. This will require the development of a financing industry that is capable of launching companies properly and of taking financial

control of them when the original investors decide to exit their investments.

Other documents available from the government of Canada, include: Knowledge Matters: Skills & Learning for Canadians

This document addresss, at a very high policy level, how the government can foster learning for in public education, build the workforce, and attract more immigrants.

The series of government documents on innovation are good for those planning initiatives that they wish to align with government policy – good until the next election.

A shorter paper, by Peter Josty on technology commercialisation focuses on Alberta’s situation, and provides some case-specific information, as well as a short SWOT analysis. This is a quicker read than some of the others, with a Western perspective.

I’m sure that you’re seeing some common themes (tax credits), and there are more documents that I haven’t read yet. I hope that this quick summary provides a bit of an overview for my colleagues who will be at the meeting in Fredericton this week. See you there.

Innovative Entrepreneurs

Dave Pollard has written a concise article on how to stimulate and measure Canadian innovation. He trashes the methods used by the federal government and the BC science council to measure and promote innovation. I agree with his verdict – they’re lame.

And if you want to stimulate innovation, invest in the people that live and die by innovation — entrepreneurs. Their profits stay in the community, get reinvested, and create jobs. By all means subsidize those entrepreneurs to do their research at Canadian universities — you better believe that research will be focused on commercial opportunity.

To continue the thread started by the Atlantic open source gatherings this Summer, as well as the blogger meeting in Moncton this week, the common threads of interest appear to be:

  1. open source models for software, innovation and learning
  2. new business models, including natural enterprises
  3. networking and learning in the digital commons (blogs, YASNS, wikis, etc)
  4. economic development at a grassroots level in Atlantic Canada

I’m sure that many of the small, outwardly focused, technologically savvy companies in the region would not been impressed by measurements like "percent of population completing university", as a means to determine innovation. There are many successful entrepreneurs here who have skipped university in order to really innovate.

At the blogger dinner in Moncton there were at least three new business initiatives that we discussed and these will be followed-up. Not bad for seven folks in the space of a couple of hours. This was more successful in fostering innovation that most sponsored conferences on innovation. So let’s keep the conversation going, especially in the blogosphere, and let’s have a mass innovation meet next month. With 20 to 30 entrepreneurial individuals networking over pizza & beer (or your choice of brain food) I’m certain that we can start an Atlantic movement to help each other, and kick butt internationally.

All of the ingredients are here – smart people, nimble companies, a sense of community, existing relationships, and a hunger for something better. There are still a number of us who have to get to know each other a bit better, so I hope to see many of you in Sackville at the end of next month.

Please post your comments as well as your preferred dates.


Emergent Learning Forum – East

Still hyped from last night’s blogger meeting, I am following up on Jay Cross’ suggestion to hold an Emergent Learning Forum (ELF) Flash Meeting. Cameron, Chris and I discussed having an informal social gathering in Sackville for October. We’re looking for a location, and think that we might be able to negotiate a spot like the president’s cottage at Mount Allison University, or the local pub, or if worse comes to worse – my place. The ELF mission is in line with our practices to date, and I think that it might be a good thing to be part of a larger movement – ELF is:

A non-commercial, global community of people who make decisions at the intersection of learning, technology, business, and design.


Promote understanding and use of learning in industry and government worldwide

Provide a forum for resolving issues impeding the progress of eLearning

Identify and publicize new developments and emerging best practices

Host a global virtual conversation of vital eLearning issues


We tell it like it is

We value the impact of eLearning on human performance improvement

We are stridently non-commercial

We practice what we preach

We dare to be at the leading edge

We believe in sharing best practices freely and without boundaries

How We Operate

We encourage our members to network with one another

We do not offer consulting services and do not charge for research reports

We promote applied best practices

We think of ourselves as innovators and provocateurs

We eject people who use our gatherings for blatant, uninvited sales pitches


Membership is free and open to anyone who makes decisions about eLearning.

Our community includes designers, training managers, consultants, product developers, academics, researchers, and business managers.

Fifty to sixty people attend [the San Francisco area] monthly meetings.

Our mail list includes 1500+ opt-in members.

This all seems pretty good to me, so tell me if you’re interested in:

  1. Trying this out under the ELF umbrella.
  2. Having an informal gathering to meet people who are interested in the digital economy, new business models, some techie stuff, and have a sense of community both locally and globally.
  3. Limiting any presentations to 5 minutes (inspired, isn’t it?).
  4. A continued focus on social networking software, small business, and open source business models.
  5. Having it take place in Sackville, with suggested dates of any afternoon during the last week of October, the 25th to 29th.

In the meantime, we will scope out locations, and remember that Sackville is less than a two-hour drive from Halifax, Charlottetown, Miramichi, Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton.


Moncton Blogger Gathering

At Steve’s initiative, a number of us ( Seb, Chris, Cam, Will) met for an informal dinner to meet and catch-up. Some folks met for the first time and it was good to partake in the conversations. Apparently Steve has been dreaming up some good stuff, called Data Libre, so check out his new & improved blog.

Most of us would like to see more of these events – informal, loosely joined – around blogging, open source, micro-businesses, natural enterpises or some other common ground. The Sackville bloggers are looking into organising a gathering here, perhaps in late October, so we’ll keep you posted. It would be good to get about 20 people together around open source and small business partnering – or something else, if you care to comment.

Toward a New Literacy of Cooperation in Business

Last week I worked on a co-authored paper describing the value of collaboration in the learning industry in New Brunswick. After completing my draft of the paper, I came across this comprehensive paper by the Institute for the Future. I found it through a reference via Jon Husband that led to this post and reference on The Happy Tutor. The latter is not quite what some people would consider family reading.

The paper, from June 2004 (852 kb PDF), is entitled Toward a New Literacy of Cooperation in Business. It’s a deep link that you cannot find from the main website, and I’m not sure if this was intended or not. The authors are Andrea Saveri, Howard Rheingold, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang,
and Kathi Vian. The questions posed are:

  • How can new insights about the dynamics of
    cooperation help us identify new and lucrative
    models for organizing production and wealth
    creation that leverage win?��Ǩ���win dynamics?
  • How can organizations enhance their
    creativity and grow potential innovation
    with cooperation-based strategic models?

The paper then goes on to discuss seven lenses, from diverse fields such as mathematics, biology,
sociology, technology, law and economics, psychology,
and political science, through which to view cooperation and collective behaviour. The seven lenses are: synchrony, symbiosis,
group selection, catalysis, commons, collective
action, and collective intelligence.

This paper does not claim to be a definitive work but it is a neat synthesis of work in many fields that may lead us to a better understanding of how cooperation may be the best strategy for economic growth and prosperity. It also puts many other ideas into perspective – such as Reed’s Law which I’ve previously discussed (see the map on page 5).

There is a lot to reveiw, or read for the first time. The last section is probably the most interesting for those trying to develop a new business strategy.

When we look across these opportunities and think
of some of the fundamental dilemmas that businesses
face, we find five key areas of potential innovation?��Ǩ���
and disruption?��Ǩ���to business as usual.

?��Ǩ�� Knowledge-generating collectives

?��Ǩ�� Adaptive resource management

?��Ǩ�� Collective readiness and response

?��Ǩ�� Sustainable business organisms

?��Ǩ�� Peer-to-peer politics

The authors then go on to describe the implications of recent innovations in each of these areas.

Overall, this is a great read.

Testing Meme Propagation In Blogspace

I guess this is like a chain letter. I don’t usually do this, but here goes …

Testing Meme Propagation In Blogspace: Add Your Blog!

This posting is a community experiment that tests how a meme, represented by this blog posting, spreads across blogspace, physical space and time. It will help to show how ideas travel across blogs in space and time and how blogs are connected. It may also help to show which blogs are most influential in the propagation of memes. The dataset from this experiment will be public, and can be located via Google (or Technorati) by doing a search for the GUID for this meme (below).

The original posting for this experiment is located at: Minding the Planet (Permalink: ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú results and commentary will appear there in the future.

Please join the test by adding your blog (see instructions, below) and inviting your friends to participate ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äù the more the better. The data from this test will be public and open; others may use it to visualize and study the connectedness of blogspace and the propagation of memes across blogs.

The GUID for this experiment is: as098398298250swg9e98929872525389t9987898tq98wteqtgaq62010920352598gawst (this GUID enables anyone to easily search Google (or Technorati) for all blogs that participate in this experiment). Anyone is free to analyze the data of this experiment. Please publicize your analysis of the data, and/or any comments by adding comments onto the original post (see URL above). (Note: it would be interesting to see a geographic map or a temporal animation, as well as a social network map of the propagation of this meme.)


To add your blog to this experiment, copy this entire posting to your blog, and then answer the questions below, substituting your own information, below, where appropriate. Other than answering the questions below, please do not alter the information, layout or format of this post in order to preserve the integrity of the data in this experiment (this will make it easier for searchers and automated bots to find and analyze the results later).

REQUIRED FIELDS (Note: Replace the answers below with your own answers)

* (1) I found this experiment at URL:

* (2) I found it via ?¢‚Ǩ?ìMy RSS Aggregator?¢‚Ǩ¬ù

* (3) I posted this experiment at URL:

* (4) I posted this on date (day, month, year): 28/08/04

* (5) I posted this at time (24 hour time): 11:44:00 GMT
* (6) My posting location is (city, state, country): Sackville, NB, Canada

OPTIONAL SURVEY FIELDS (Replace the answers below with your own answers):

* (7) My blog is hosted by: Tantramar Interactive
* (8) My age is: 45
* (9) My gender is: Male

* (10) My occupation is: Performance Consultant
* (11) I use the following RSS/Atom reader software: Bloglines

* (12) I use the following software to post to my blog: Drupal

* (13) I have been blogging since (day, month, year): 15/03/03

* (14) My web browser is: Firefox

* (15) My operating system is: Windows XP

The Flexible Medium

Jay Cross, on why the blog medium is so flexible:

A cool thing about blogs, something that can transform a blog into a mold-breaker, is closure. Or rather, lack of closure.

Many bloggers write self-contained articles or recommendations; every entry is whole unto itself…atomic.

Internet Time Blog is evolving into a stream of conversation. Because it’s a blog, not an article, I don’t feel compelled to draw a conclusion when I don’t have one. I’m happy for you to look over my shoulder as I paint on the canvas. With luck, or maybe a miracle, something meaningful will take shape.

I guess I’ll leave it at that for now.


Online Communities in Business

If you’re interested in online communities then read the latest report by Ambrozek & Cothrel. The report surveyed 135 respondents, many of them experts in the fields of virtual communities, communities of practice, etc. The list of influencers on pages 22/23 of the report offers an excellent start to filling your RSS aggregator with the opinions of those who have the greatest influence in this growing field. There’s lots to chew on here.

The most interesting view of the future, from one of the respondents, that I think should be considered for those in the technology-based learning field is:

?��Ǩ?�Cautious personal predictions for the future: movement from a linear scheduled-media environment to an IP-delivered, on demand, rich media environment where you can access tailored content where you want it, when you want it, how you want it … with linear programming and scheduling still firmly there, but as one of the choices you can make. [Media producers] may begin to talk about ‘brands’ and’genre content’ rather than ‘programmes.’ The public will begin to co-produce media, and the media producers will act more as editors who enable and shape this material, plus add the expert view and point to ‘the official view’ or ‘the best,?��Ǩ�Ѣ’the newest,?��Ǩ�Ѣ’the most apposite,’ ‘the funniest.?��Ǩ�Ѣetc. Media producers will also still offer quality crafted content but audience/members will be able to view the content in different ways and to also feedback and comment/add material in separate windows or on separate menus if people want to drill down or across to take a look. Further ahead: 3D networked gaming environments with chat and self-build homes/dens/vehicles will increase in popularity with children, particularly boys. Medics and scientists will see the value of such environments for teaching, and holiday brochures will neverbe the same again.?��Ǩ��

With more people involved in multiple online communities, getting information and sharing their experiences when and where they want, there may be less acceptance of pre-programmed, linear elearning. Learners will also want to involved in the creation of their own learning programs, and will have the tools to do so. Add these together and we may see the end of "content based education". If the content is up to the learner, then the only critical part (for organisations) will be the evaluation component. Instead of content-based testing, we may see a rise in performance-based testing. I hope so.

PS: There is a note in the report that the wiki is now open to anyone, but I haven’t found a way to get access –

Update: you can send an e-mail, which is available from the main link, and get wiki access from the authors – thanks.

Measuring Organisational Effectiveness

I had previously mentioned Marshall McLuhan’s work in the context of forecasting for the elearning industry. A quick review of McLuhan’s Laws of Media tetrad:

Enhancement. What does the medium enhance, extend, enlarge or intensify?

Obsolescence. What does it make obsolete? When an old medium enters its obsolescence phase, it becomes more ubiquitous, often changing from a utilitarian to a recreational role (e.g. fountain pens).

Reversal. When something is extended beyond the limits of its potential, its characteristics are often reversed. For example, cars which promote greater freedom, when multiplied to the extreme can result in gridlock.

Retrieval. What medium that was previously rendered obsolete does the old medium retrieve from the past? This is usually something from the distant past.

Mark Federman shows how these laws could also be used as a metric to measure organisations:

The Laws of Media in particular allow us to anticipate and articulate the totality of effects, both those that we wish to bring into being, and those we might wish to avoid.
Organizational effectiveness can then be expressed (as a percentage or any other appropriately scientific measure) as the degree to which effects deemed desirable can be achieved, those deemed undesirable can be avoided or mitigated, and effects that were originally unanticipated can be anticipated prior to their occurrence and achieved/avoided as appropriate. Thus, with this conception, effectiveness measures the leadership’s ability to anticipate, execute, and perform the inevitable mid-course corrections as new information becomes available. Seems pretty effective to me!

So the measure of effectiveness could be whether an organisation was able to identify when its technology product was "extended beyond the limits of its potential" and shifted its focus to a new product or service. For instance, has Learning Management System technology become extended so far that it no longer manages training and educational requirements, and now hinders the sharing of learning experiences? Would an effective organisation shift away from a reliance on pushing this technology?

McLuhan’s tetradic lens judges everyone in the same way.