Posts Categorized: Communities

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.

Blogs – The Killer App

Maish Nichani, author of the well-known elearning post, has contributed this recent article on blogs:

Weblogs. They are everywhere. This humble publishing technology is proving to be the silent killer application of this decade. In this article I?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ll define what weblogs are and explore the malleable attributes that make them so remarkably flexible under various contexts.

This is a good read if you are new to blogs and wondering what they can do for your business. For instance Maish covers this year’s best blog pitch event, which sought out a succinct business rationale for blogging. He also refers to some excellent blog site examples and has links to blogs for project management. This is a good place to start on your understanding of the blog medium.

Some of my previous posts on blogging including one on blogging’s similarity to speaking enagagements and blogging as a tool for knowledge work.

Community is King

Rob Paterson recently discussed Reed’s Law and the Support Economy. Here are some selections from Reed’s Law, but you might want to read all of it.


In networks like the Internet, Group Forming Networks (GFNs) are an important additional kind of network capability. A GFN has functionality that directly enables and supports affiliations (such as interest groups, clubs, meetings, communities) among subsets of its customers. Group tools and technologies (also called community tools) such as user-defined mailing lists, chat rooms, discussion groups, buddy lists, team rooms, trading rooms, user groups, market makers, and auction hosts, all have a common theme?��Ǩ���they allow small or large groups of network users to coalesce and to organize their communications around a common interest, issue, or goal. Sadly, the traditional telephone and broadcast/cable network frameworks provide no support for groups.


What’s important in a network changes as the network scale shifts. In a network dominated by linear connectivity value growth, "content is king." That is, in such networks, there is a small number of sources (publishers or makers) of content that every user selects from. The sources compete for users based on the value of their content (published

stories, published images, standardized consumer goods). Where Metcalfe’s Law dominates, transactions become central. The stuff that is traded in transactions (be it email or voice mail, money, securities, contracted services, or whatnot) are king. And where the GFN law dominates, the central role is filled by jointly constructed value (such as specialized newsgroups, joint responses to RFPs, gossip, etc.).


I’d like to close with a speculative thought. As Francis Fukuyama argues in his book Trust, there is a strong correlation between the prosperity of national economies and social capital, which he defines culturally as the ease with which people in a particular culture can form new associations. There is a clear synergy between the sociability that Fukuyama discusses and the technology and tools that support GFNs-both are structural supports for association. As the scale of interaction grows more global via the Internet, isn’t it possible that a combination of social capital and GFN capital will drive prosperity to those who recognize the value of network structures that support free and responsible association for common purposes?

Rob’s take on this is that, "What he is saying is that the big value to come will not be in selling a thing, not in having a broadcast network or even a association network but will come from facilitating the development of communities." Rob specifically names eBay as successful and Dell as unsuccessful in creating communities.

So how would you include this insight into your business strategy? Let’s say that you are an elearning company:

  • Should you focus on developing content? Apparently not.
  • Should you provide a learning portal or sell learning objects? Probably not a good investment.
  • Should you find ways to connect people and address their learning and performance needs? Yes.

So content is not king. Context may be important, but community is the new king (queen, ace, or whatever you prefer). The next ultimate learning solution may be the ability to link trusted experts with novices and help communities of practice to develop. Blogs may be a precursor, and the next technology to exploit this could be an eBay model that allows for apprenticeship in a virtual, caring environment.

The Blog as a Meaningful Business Tool

Matthew Lin, an MBA candidate at University of New Brunswick at Saint John,Canada, is currently conducting research on how weblogs are being used as business tools, and their particular implication for small and medium enterprises. Matthew has designed a questionnaire in order to survey individuals who publish weblogs or can describe the reasoning behind their company weblog. The survey is at The Blog as a Meaningful Business Tool.

If you or your company publishes a blog for business, then please support Matthew’s research.