Cooperating in the open

I’ve been thinking about collaboration and cooperation a lot lately. I see PKM as mostly comprising cooperative behaviours, as well as being self-serving (in the good sense). With cooperation, there is often no direct feedback on behaviour. Feedback emerges from the network through time. The image below is based on a previous post on tools & competencies for the social enterprise.

Cooperation is for the long term, while collaboration is usually bound by time, such as one’s career, a job, or a project. This difference is perhaps why I have been avoiding many online community invitations. These communities are often nothing more than a bounded social network. Google Plus communities are an example. If I want to cooperate, then the most porous and least bounded social network is the best for me. This is what my blog (open to anyone) or Twitter (public stream as default) help me do. If I wish to be bounded through membership in a community then I need a reason to do so. A project is a good reason. I belong to several collaborative online project-based communities, as well as few private communities.

This brings me to a simple way to decide if I want to join an online community. If it does not have a stated expiration date, objective, or end point, then I won’t join. I will keep my cooperation open, not within a walled garden. If I want to collaborate to get something done, then a walled garden, with some end in sight, makes sense.

I think one of the problems today is that many online social networks are trying to be communities of practice. But to be a community of practice, there has to be something to practice. One social network, mine, is enough for me. How I manage the connections is also up to me. In some cases I will follow a blogger, in others I will connect via LinkedIn or Twitter, but from my perspective it is one network, with varying types of connections. Jumping into someone else’s bounded social network/community only makes sense if I have an objective. If not, I’ll keep cooperating out in the open.

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