Saturday, August 30, 2008

Quotes & Links FOC08

On learning and instructional design

On the Online Toys and Tools discussion forum, Sirin Soyoz from Istambul statesAs far as I experience, it is instructional design that facilitates learning and learners must take on new roles in the learning process.This is very much the discussion now taking place in Week 6 of the FOC08 course, which I am also following and participating in so I have decided to bring them together. Connecting thoughts, weaving threads and ideas.Like Stephen, I am skeptic of words like “must” and a universal solution. I question the whole industry of e-moderation, e-facilitation that has come in the wake of the e-hype and forces people into fragmented views and compartments.While instructional design may seem an efficient way of accomplishing tasks, I do not see it necessarily conducing to learning. Instructional design is just another name for teaching - acting upon or transmitting (through various methods, techniques and psychological & motivational maneuvers) the content or behaviour deemed to be correct or required for a certain end. So its motives reside outside the learners even if they are requested to take part and may influence the design.Learning, on the other hand, is a continuous personal quest towards sense making, expressing it and making it work so as to accomplish not only our individual but also collective needs. Beautiful design, instruction, role taking may facilitate learning but are not a pre-condition for it to occur. Children learn different strategies and have insights while playing without any conscious design or control on the part of their parents.As Stephen illustrates well, in for some people in some groups or the software community, learning occurs in spite ofcommonality of purpose (some people are professionals, others merely interested), far from universal motivation to learn (others signed on for any of a variety of motives) and certainly no professional e-moderation.He asks:Given the absence of the elements claimed to be necessary to support learning - the absence of instructional design, the absence of professional e-moderation, the absence of commonality of purpose - then we have to ask, what is it, really, that is fostering the learning in such a situation.As I see it, from my own experience as a learner/teacher/mother/daughter/wife/citizen and many other perspectives I have acquired during my life, learning happens continuously consciously and unconsciously, by being immersed in life and not separated from it. We observe, relate to others, read, compare and contrast, expose ourselves, dip into the pool of collective knowledge trying to find answers to our questions, try, fail and endlessly repeat what seems to us the correct pattern with slight variations trying to perfect whatever we find incomplete or lacking.Very often we learn incidentally through exposure, immersion and observing what does not work or went wrong, which is not necessarily very “efficient” if measured against “time and ROI” which seem to drive everyone’s actions nowadays.I must say I have been very fortunate to have had many people who walked with me along the way - they shared with me some of their own insight, sometimes held my hand, sometimes instructed me, sometimes nudged or challenged me to overcome self-built obstacles - they helped me stretch a bit further each time. There are many roads that lead to knowledge and we cannot take them all as this experiment/course well illustrates. Each one of us will follow our own path according to background, assumptions, choices and needs.However, do we all have the choice, the time, the people and the resources to learn, expand and share our knowledge with others ? Does the economy/society we live in today allow for and recognize this kind of learning ? How can theories map a dynamic process? (remembering that the map is not the territory). Is it possible to measure and evaluate it? What for and how? Don’t we prescribe and obfuscate emergence by enforcing a model, a theory?

There were many valuable lessons that I learned in life without setting out to learn them. There were challenges in which I thought I needed my usual tools to work with and the absence of the tools required new learning. Afterward I learned that the very tools that had enabled me had also limited me. I understand what people are trying to do on the Internet, but I think that in their desire to have some kind of complete freedom that people are limiting themselves from exploring more traditional avenues.

While learning serendipitously is unavoidable for those individuals who seek through adventure, I don't know to what degree that could apply to a community. Communities gather around activities. At least a loose structure can be flexible enough for different types of learning. Even though a carefully planned course may unite a community, it still may allow individuals to move at their own pace and work on different aspects of the program.

I want to design such a program for communities to use to engage people collectively. The program will get down to basics. But people may coordinate their projects with lots of learning flexibility and go through the program using an individualized approach. The benefit is that some standards are achieved collectively. People have the same basic experiences with discussion form, and acquire similar training in communication andleadership skills for democratically organized web community.

I couldn't agree more. However in my experience newbies to online environments get a bit "freaked out" by too much choice, and really need step by step hand-holding through the mire of many platforms. The trick is how many to introduce at once and should we wait until everyone feels comfortable before moving on to the next one?

Jessica Mathews points out in her essay "Power Shift" which appeared in a recent issue of Foreign Affairs:
Networks have no person at the top and no center. Instead, they have multiple nodes where collections of individuals or groups interact for different purposes. Businesses, citizens organizations, ethnic groups, and crime cartels have all readily adopted the network model. Governments, on the other hand, are quintessential hierarchies, wedded to an organizational form incompatible with all that the new technologies make possible. AND What kind of community can be forged in an internetted world, where the structure of the technology promotes anarchy, with its emphasis on complete freedom of expression and lack of regard for authority?
I add in contrast that the web community is hierarchal, since the platforms are developed and owned by the technocrats. The web community has it's origins in the technocrats understanding of electronic circuitry. The circuitry is hierarchal and it has an owner or small group of owners. Those who own it, control it. So I don't see how it can appear decentralized to the contributers. The contributers are subject to whatever rules the owner makes. This is anti-community because the primary purpose is to promote the ownership and the whole web is a hierarchy of ownership.

To facilitate or to teach...Accomplished Jointly "Community exists because the members share a common purpose which can only be accomplished jointly." .. 12 Principles of Collaboration

Text Chatting: Facilitator or Distractor? (FOC08)I would recommend posting in a traditional ordinal form such as a circle. I think that would greatly enhance people's comprehension of the discussion. Actually, if someone were to post in circle form, we could for once call it a true "discussion" since a discussion is an organization of people and their speech.

Future Labs
He cites confirmation that “personal narrative is vital to online learning communities. Personal stories and experiences add closeness, and provide identity, thus strengthening online communities.”

It has been interesting as a lurker on the discussion-board to watch as those who embody the traditional sense of learning (i.e. that which is structured, has a purpose, defined and directed) go about constructing a scenario where those needs can be met (i.e. setting up a meeting with someone in another time zone and keeping it). While this appears to be meeting the needs of a group of our participants, I have noticed that another group that was once active has taken somewhat of a back seat to all of this. What I find extremely interesting in this 2 week long observation is that it points out some of the differences in how people learn and what they expect from a teacher in a learning setting.

So, for me, connecting is much more than having a plug, or a computer that can “transport” us to these cyber-spaces. Connecting is about transforming such virtual spaces in real, meaningful and cosy environments where we feel at ease to bond with people. Humankind has always felt the need to work together. We all need peer support. We all want to be reassured by our “neighbors”.

Greg Barcelon
Facilitator, Moderator and Teacher I believe we get caught in such a dilemma when we take Facilitating as an exclusive term. The dilemma is resolved once we go back to its basic definition as: “to make possible or easier” And this is where context plays a very important role, because in the context of ‘facilitating as making it possible or easier,” then we can be facilitating as Teachers when we make learning possible or easier, and we can be facilitating as Moderator when we make discussion or exchange of information possible/easier. In the same manner, we can facilitate as a Teacher when we make whatever we do (lectures, presentations, demonstrations, etc.) easier.

Illya - role playing leaders
A further question in my mind is how fixed the role of facilitator is. Couldn’t others take over this role in understanding of the responsibility that goes with it? Must it be a formal role that is given like a title to ‘the person in charge’? I prefer the idea of a flexible facilitator who is also anxious to learn from the others without the urge to dominate the conversation , and is willing to let other members lead the way.So what is the difference between a facilitator and a moderator? Does it lie in the institutional nature of the group? I would love some opinion here, as I wonder if maybe I’ve mixed the two up.
Role playing leaders
The final point that has come up in the threads of conversation quickly but not been expanded on is the role of those who do not actively participate, more commonly and less nicely known as lurkers.Often the question comes up as to how to integrate these members. First, I’d like clarification as to when such a person is a member of a community and when he or she is an observer. In a course like the FOC I’d think that by way of signing up, one has committed oneself to the community. But there are many other communities out there, and the idea of 90 non-active to 10 active participants makes me think about what the 90 % are doing. Are they following what is going on and processing it? Or have they emotionally and physically disengaged from the community? The names may still be on the list, but that doesn’t mean that they are.
They become a viewing audience which stimulates the collection of individuals to post in the dramatic mode.FOC in short


My definition would include all the diverse definitions, from Derek Chirnside's My Take on Communities where he says:
Community is about people. With a cause. [eg Educational designer, Clinicalhealth education, Media studies teachers, Non-hodgekinsone lymphona sufferers, waste water engineers] Dare I say some passion and care. Care for the cause and for other people. They need some level of shared experience, history, trust and/or understanding.

Deb Thompson
blog I've just read Shane's blog and he said: "How do you facilitate a community to encourage participation by many, when open registration will result in a range of abilities and needs? There needs to be the chance for lurking if that is what the participant wishes, but the facilitator would no doubt want engaged interaction to enable learning. I know that in any group situation there will be members who dominate the conversation, how do we encourage the "shy" to contribute. As a teacher in face to face environments this is a little easier. You can "see" the people not engaging. Whereas online, are they lurking, or are they not there at all?"The circle form charges the members with the responsibilty to speak or at least verify that they are in attendence.

Cathy Deckers

So the adage “if you build it they will come” does not apply with communities of practice.
Communities of practice “are groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis” (Wenger, McDermott, Snyder, Cultivating Communities of Practice, 2002 p. 4) This interaction serves as the foundation of learning together - where the community is transformed as much as the individuals through the process of the learning that takes place. The presence of varying levels of expertise within the community allows for this transformation to take place. The community develops a common sense of identity through the interaction, creation of artifacts and tools, and engagement in collaboration.
Take this one step further and imagine a world where communities of practice are more than just isolated systems of knowledge, collaboration, and collegiality but are social networks where information that is shared is utilized to inform another community of practice. Howard Reingold’s Vlog featuring Mike Elliot illustrates this very concept - and he says it much better than I ever could.
Communities need a space and time to create the type of collaboration that is outlined above. Stephen Downes, 2006 does a nice job of identifying some distinctive characteristics between groups and networks that I saw as a “historical”/”old school” versus “new world”/”Web 2.0″ observation of how people interact. What was particularly interesting for me was the identification of the tools and artifacts that are utilized to create and maintain collaboration between people.
How about blending the two?
I am a BIG believer in lifelong learning and see that the wealth of tools available for that within the Web 2.0 culture has endless possibilities for us as instructors and learners. I am particularly interested in the informal learning that is happening in on-line communities and other experiences (i.e. MMORP & Second Life). As instructors, it is important for us to recognize that our role in this type of learning is one of facilitation rather than lecturer. That knowledge creation is driven by the learner and the community through their interactions. More importantly, these new forums allow for us to continue our lifelong learning journey as we teach and facilitate.

Bruna blog
I know I open myself up to all sorts of ridicule from those very talented tech geeks out there who will argue up and down that magic has nothing to do with our wondrous online world. But, of course, I know better! LOL It is indeed least to me and I would venture to say many, many people all over the world.Yeah, there is no magical formula, only the magic. Things can happen.
I was part of an online cohort many years ago when I first discovered that online communities are so much more than people brought together by interests or shared purpose. I think that it was a celebration of the web with loose focus upon the actual topics. We are through that phase.
I was part of an online cohort many years ago when I first discovered that online communities are so much more than people brought together by interests or shared purpose.
Some people just hang out on the Internet and are with other people because they are online at the same time. If they find people who share a common time and have a common interest, that's a bonus to them.

Bronwyn Hegarty blog
So how did I get to these questions? To start with on the email forum, I found that I agreed with Bronwyn Stuckey's example about learning. "For me a worrying area is when people call a class of learners a CoP and say that learning is the practice. That is really too large and amorphous to be one practice. A class of students learning accounting by engaging in scenarios as practitioners, possibly with real practitioners in the class as mentors is beginning to take on a CoP approach. According to what you state this course is not a community of practice of online facilitators. We're going there. "What does the community practice' There must be a skills building program. Traditional service organizations provide training.

Nancy Riffer
How much intamcy in community? In work or activity-focused communities, there is a specific reason to be together. This is the kind of community described by Wenger (CoPs) and O'Reilly. People get together based on common interests. They have personal relationships with some other group members usually focused around some aspect of the task at hand. Jeffrey Keefer describes such an interaction with Barbara Dieu that begins with work and opens into a broader conversation.

George Siemens Curatorial Teaching Discussion
"What is it that causes learners to want to push back at how we want to use technology?"
Maybe the cause is that technology enervates traditional form?

clare atkins
To Faciliatate or to Teach? Clare Atkins The big advantage of asynchronicity is that everyone can explore information at their own pace and react to it before hearing the views and interpretations of others. Wait. How is that an advantage to react before hearing? Why not use a better listening model that requires people to respond after hearing the views and interpretations of others. Asynchronicty has promoted an incorrect method. What's worse is that asynchronicty squelches any fair evalution of itself because it will not submit itself to an assessment through measurement.

Bronwyn Hegarty Kirsten you have a great philosophy about always seeking feedback and evaluating to check quality. I wonder if your enthusiasm for this comes from your recent experiences as a student or the discipline in which you are qualified?It is not always easy to ask for critique of things we have spent an age creating. I have always found feedback from colleagues to be a very useful device in improving my game both in teaching and in educational development. You have to feel safe though and so do those doing the critiquing. I have often been amazed by the time people are willing to contribute to assisting in reviewing eLearning developments.We observed a class of teacher education students using an online module and sought their feedback via a questionnaire and focus group. several did not even bother to come and collect their book vouchers....did it in the sake of being they found the module helped them in writing their assignment - always a bonus.I agree wholeheartedly with your statements, "Teachers need to meet the various learning styles of all students and make sure that any resources used are of good quality. The quality must be high in regards to the content and also the technical side as well."poor technical quality is so frustrating and also raises issues about access and equity. I am interested to hear more about how your organisation works to ensure quality - do you have checklists against which new developments are checked or other methods? standards for animations and videos?

Sylvia Currie Webbed Feat
During the first two weeks of the Facilitating Online Communities course the topic of blogging versus forums was raised by participants. This was one of the course "process" items I was curious about from the onset. How do you organize group communication through blogs? And why would you want to? First a bit of context. There are 71 individuals/blogs on the course list. There is a course blog which is where Leigh the facilitator posts reminders about what we should be focusing on as well as reflections the course itself. Also the course wiki contains the main course details, nicely organized so we always know where to check in. There is also a Google Group which is useful for Q&A and for day-to-day discussion. There are 107 members on that list, so obviously some people are following along without enrolling in the course. Leigh has been cross-posting his blog entries to the Google Group to make sure everyone receives them. We also have an open Elluminate room in case we want to drop in for more spontaneous synchronous interactions. The room is also used for scheduled meetings. So far this seems like a good choice of tools for the course. The breadth and depth of contributions to the course through personal blogs have been just excellent. I'm not sure we would have seen that using only a forum; a blog offers a space to post your very own reflections without being concerned with replies, finding the right thread, staying on topic, or missing an opportunity to contribute because the conversation has moved on. But having a forum is essential. I don't think we could survive without the Google Group as a way to connect and support one another, through the orientation at least. However, there are no organized forum/email discussions. Do the blogs replace that completely? If so, where is the facilitation? Some participants have chosen to discuss the key issues using the forum, others are posting to their blogs and commenting on other blogs. Some folks are doing a little of both, occasionally linking back to blog posts, so the forum discussion becomes an extension of the blog. Leigh has acknowledged individual contributions, sharpened the focus a bit, and advanced certain topics in the forum. But so far I haven't seen any direct references to content in blog posts brought back to the group. Come to think of it, in organized communication through blogs, where is the group? Where does the facilitator do the weaving, connecting, summarizing...encouraging deeper dialogue, if not speaking to a group? Maybe the fact that I'm asking these questions means that I'm stuck in teacher mode. During the next 2 weeks we will be examining the differences among facilitator, teacher, and moderator roles. Perhaps some of this will become a little clearer!
A useful nuance from the statement is the absence of any mention of quantity or percentage of community members who should be fully engaged. However, a community can only have so many voices and members before it reaches an unmanageable size. I believe that size limitations apply in both the online and physical worlds when talking about community effectiveness.
The goal for a healthy community is to encourage leadership that builds the community’s value along with a stable or growing base of supporters who reinforce changes and decisions made by the leaders...
People who wish to communicate with each other and, presumably, have a specific topic (or group of topics) form a “community” by agreeing to focus on the topic(s) at hand and avoiding irrelevant, tangential discussions. In an online community-type setting, the community members have chosen to be there and should expect to observe and engage in the discussions...
As with real world” communities there is a reasonable likelihood of miscreants being present...
Aside from the leaders, a group of people with a common interest should also respond to problems to ensure they do not threaten the main purpose of the group’s interaction or the process of interaction...
A useful nuance from the statement is the absence of any mention of quantity or percentage of community members who should be fully engaged. However, a community can only have so many voices and members before it reaches an unmanageable size. I believe that size limitations apply in both the online and physical worlds when talking about community effectiveness.

In any case, it would be good to get a a chart of everyone's time zone and anything that affects their conscious time, like working nights or insomnia. I agree that talking asynchronously is great. But I want to promote more options. So grouping people to when they are naturally online is good for everybody. I am not suggesting anything really different. People already congregate according to when they are online. It may help to document that and formalize it. I would like to communicate asynchronistically (if that's the word?) but I think it would be very valuable to have a directory of established clubs so that someone who wants to do efficient training in online communications will know that there is a group that they belong to and they are needed there. A small group.I'm thinking about some of the best traditional service groups I've been fortunate to be a part of. We had a meeting. At the end of the meeting the Vice President would call out all of the meeting roles, VP "Who wants to be Grammarian?" Bertha: "I'll do that?"VP: OK. I'll put Bertha down for Grammarian.Albert: I can lead a discussion from the manual!VP: Great! Albert is scheduled to lead a discussion from the Beginners Manual. Who can be Vote Counter? Fremda?Fremda: I don't think I'll be here next week. But give me an assignment for the next meeting.It is assumed that people will be there. None of this traipsing in and out. Your membership is measurable. If there is a dispute in a business session, we don't get Mr. or Ms. Old-Timer who posted 6 months ago coming in to vote. S/he's an Inactive Member.We will know at any moment how many real members there are because it's an ongoing skills training program. The members design the program as a coordinated global activity and all of the clubs use the same constitution. But they administer the constitution and the programs in their local clubs. Just like a service club. Just like Rotary or Lions or any other global club.What other option do we have? To bring in 100 people for a "global community" and expect to make some sense out of it on a daily basis? It's too much. It's not even global. people are gathering according to the regions they are in because they share the same conscious day. All of our communications here are governed by immutable physical laws. I'm talking to you because you are here online. You're here online because you're awake. Other people are asleep because that's the way the world is turning.I want to get us out from under the thumbs of all these Internet myths and document the facts and accept them and begin working with them.We can organize according to the "common ground" and the "commonality" that Bee and ElderBob were pointing to in traditional communities. If you and I have a common ground it divides us from others who share their common ground. By dividing the community along it's natural boundaries, we can greatly strengthen it.If you are in Rotary, you don't have to have everyone in the whole organization together at the same time. All of the biggest organizations in the world come down to the small group.I know my own limits. I can handle 10 - 20 people meeting every one or two weeks. I can handle 2 or 3 groups. But that's plenty. I don't want people having to drag themselves out of bed at 3 am or having to deal with hundreds of people.When it comes to organizing people along the lines of latitudes, we will need to come up with new or varied forms but first let's restore the traditional forms by applying them to the time limits as if they were actual geographical limits.This will allow a complete renaissance in the traditional meaning of words like "member", "majority" "discussion" "debate" "community" "active member" "inactive member" "rational"I'm sitting here scratching my head because over 100 people signed up for this course and only 12 were at the last meeting. Could it just be that ... time conversion is a real problem... that privacy is a concern... that feeling lost is another concern... that fitting in is a concern...that new platforms confuse people?

Friday, August 29, 2008

FOC, Course or Community?

I was very careful about beginning this course. I came in on the day that it sterted and figured that was too late. Also there were over 100 "members" signed up. I thought that the number was way too many. I was going to suggest to Leigh that I wait for the next course out of respect for those people who had already begun. I also was going to suggest a much smaller group for the next FOC, if there was one.

Then as I began reading along with the course, I noticed that a huge percentage didn't follow through, so I signed up with a dedicated FOC08 blog becuase I thought I could meet the commitments.

To facilitate or to teach
"But I have been asked to facilitate a learning community"
What community? I thought that this was a course?
For me the FOC community is the course. This is what brought my attention to the community. I call it a community because those who were in FOC07 are still here. I am glad that they are here and seem to be establishing a community but it would help me straighten out my tremendous confusion by marking with some distinction the roles of FOC07 and FOC08.

I know what I am. I am FOC08. I have an FOC08 blog and it connects to every other blog. The course outline is in my sidebar and my post either complete the assignment requirements or are preparatory work for future assignments or are concerning web community organization.

I am FOC08. What I want to know is who qualifies for the FOC08 group with me? I don't think that it is fair to allow anyone else to traipse in here with any kind of equal voice just by setting up a blog. This is a whole course and I want to finish it with committed people. I want to trim my blogroll down to those who are fellow FOC08.

The other question is the FOC07 people. What role do they play? My feeling is that if they are not on this course with me, then they should be developing an advanced course that supports this one. They should organize to participate in whatever projects FOC08 brings in and help evaluate them according to objective criteria the FOC08 establishes for each project. If they can do this then they are part of FOC08. If not, then they are still a part of our community but should not be in the course because it only adds to the confusion.

I also want to have a closed circuit just for those members who are on either course with no more people traipsing in. As a member of FOC08, I think I have a right to the best conditions. Just as in a university course, we need a decent room, with comfortable seating, lighting and ventilation. We also would need a door so that we could conduct our work undisturbed. I require the proper conditions to continue.

Register here for the Discussion Workshop Blog

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Facilitating, Moderating or Teaching?

In this course on Facilitating Online Communities we have come to "facilitating, moderating or teaching". To facilitate we must have some overall organization, some system or path laid to help people move together. Anyone can lay their own individual path but if we are to walk together on a shared journey we must use a common route, such as a course outline.

In order to make the journey, it may be required to have certain tools and skills. In teaching and learning these skills, we develop coordination as a community. I think of this aspect as a disciplined effort as if we were going to play on a ball team and needed to learn the skills and coordination necessary for throwing or kicking a ball through the goal.

The traditional democratic skills of moderation are needed in times of conflict.

In all these instances, we humans have a complete ready-to-use set of traditional democratic arts that we can apply once we learn and know them. Throughout this course, I am going to continually be looking to our common traditions for solutions.

Links to Glossary


Average Personal Meridian

Central Negative

closed circuit

collection of individuals


conscious day

democratic organization

Designated Leader



fabricated consensus


Gripe's law


local/global community

measured discourse



mode of discussion


open circuit

opposite longitude

ordinal form

personal meridian

rational form

random form

real time

temporal form

time meridian

time zone residency

time zone tour


Monday, August 25, 2008

Traditional Community

How did traditional communities like Rotary International manage to grow their memberships to where there are more than 32,000 clubs and over 1.2 million members world-wide? They put the web community to shame!

They did it locally, building small groups one by one. The web has plenty of small groups but no system for self-propagating them.

The world's first service club, the Rotary Club of Chicago, was formed on 23 February 1905 by Paul P. Harris, an attorney who wished to capture in a professional club the same friendly spirit he had felt in the small towns of his youth. The Rotary name derived from the early practice of rotating meetings among members' offices.

Rotary's popularity spread, and within a decade, clubs were chartered from San Francisco to New York to Winnipeg, Canada. By 1921, Rotary clubs had been formed on six continents. The organization adopted the Rotary International name a year later.

As Rotary grew, its mission expanded beyond serving club members’ professional and social interests. Rotarians began pooling their resources and contributing their talents to help serve communities in need. The organization's dedication to this ideal is best expressed in its motto: Service Above Self.

By 1925, Rotary had grown to 200 clubs with more than 20,000 members. The organization's distinguished reputation attracted presidents, prime ministers, and a host of other luminaries to its ranks — among them author Thomas Mann, diplomat Carlos P. Romulo, humanitarian Albert Schweitzer, and composer Jean Sibelius.

Latitudes and Longitudes

Each quadrant equals 30°

A given latitude at the equator extends from 0° to 180° (either W or E) with two posters on both ends. A given longitude (0°) equal to the latitude and extending from one pole to the other with two poster at both ends. The conscious day begins for all four with the two posters on the latitude exchanging posts between each other and the two posters on the longitude exchanging posts. What is the relative frequency of the posting cycles on each line?

I say that given any two longitudes and latitudes of equal length (or arc), with two posters posting between themselves from the extremes, that the two posters on the longitude will have a higher frequency of post exchanges between them throughout a conscious day.

On the map, place two posters at the extremes of a longitudinal area. Place one poster at the tip of Cape Horn, South America and the other poster in New Brunswick, Canada. Place two other posters at the extremes of a latitude equal to the length of the said longitude, one at London, UK and the other in Irkutsk, Russia. All other factors being equal (purpose, interest, speed of connection, etc.) the two on the longitude will have a higher frequency of exchanges than those on the latitude.

Let's form two groups of equal numbers and spaced evenly apart from one end to the other, one group on the longitude and the other on the latitude. The group on the longitude will have more opportunities for exchanges and will have more options to organize temporally and ordinally with greater facility than the group on the latitude.

What is the "comfort zone" of any one poster? If I live in one time zone, the further away another poster is from that zone, the more inconvenient it is to meet together. I guess that, of the 360º on the globe, the comfort zone is just about 180º (90º on either side of the longitude I reside upon). The window begins closing then.

120º allows a greater window of opportunity for meetings. I can divide the 360º of the entire globe into three zones of 120º each, and I will call them:

  • The Americas

  • Europe, Middle East and Africa

  • Far East and South Pacific
  • The geographical distribution is incidental because anyone sharing the same conscious day with a zone is qualified for membership in a group in that zone.

    In this blog, I am treating time as if it were a geographical limitation. If I do this, I can easily translate the organizational structure of the traditional service club to online communities of practice, with democratic forms fully intact. Nothing need be lost.

    MORAL OF THE STORY: Think Globally, Act Locally.
    Large clickable detailed world map 2.3MB with cities, longitudes and latitudes.

    Sunday, August 24, 2008

    What is Community?

    Even though we need to move on with the course outline, I am pretty sure that when the course ends it will all come back to this question of "What is community?"

    Amy Lenzo says in Community and Technology

    I mention beauty in the sense of an attractive aesthetic, yes - I'm a big believer in the power of line and space and color - but equally in the sense of kindness and care for the whole, creating a psychologically "safe" space in which people feel free to speak up and know they will be listened to. A space where they can easily find the tools they need to use and feel confident in using them. A space where all can feel equally valid and important to the whole. Having a buddy system can help with this, and that idea came out of this group quite organically, which is great.

    I believe that a sense of belonging can be ensured in smaller groups where we don't have to compete to get a voice. You know that at a meeting of ten or fifeteen people, that you are going to be heard. I also hear what you are saying about the "whole". A community should have integrity of the whole. We should always be able to count the membership on our fingers and toes and say - There are 15 members, therefore a majority (relative number, relative to the whole number which is the membership) is 8! We should be able to count relative quantities at any time because we know the whole number of the membership. Without a whole number we can hardly calculate relative quantities.

    Community is not about technology, it's about people, and when the focus of the conversation is too centered on the technology it draws attention and energy away from the whole and our ability to create or facilitate community together.

    Yeah. Give me simple, common platforms like email, email groups and group chat and give me a handful of people who are committed to preserving and promoting traditional democratic forms and you can have all of your exotic technology. I know which group is going to produce the best ideas. It won't be the ones with the high falutin' technology. The Internet is a testimony to that fact. The technocrats have given us poor forms for human organization. But it's not their field. They are not trained in Ethics, History or any of the Liberal Arts. They are technicians, kind of like TV repair people.

    Derek says:

    I like the term free range learning. What will benefit us all a lot is if buddy groups actually sprout up.

    I like the idea of a buddy system because it gives established members a role. If there are members of FOC07 hanging about in the FOC08 course, then I think they should have definite supportive roles. If they are not blogging through the course as full participants then they should have definite "Buddy" roles to help assist us in organizing our projects. FOC07 should be recognized but not allowed to interfere with the ideas and experiments brought in by the FOC08 group. Giving them secure roles is one way to reassure everyone.

    Leigh says:

    If we were to go back to a traditional understanding of community and ignore for a moment what Wenger has brought to the word (i.e. "Community of Practice"), how might we think of an online community differently? Would it be different if we had children and teenagers in the community for example? In this sense, how many of us have really been a part of an online community?

    In a traditional community there is usually an age restriction of about 18 years for adult groups. And I've never heard of mature adults joing the Scouts. Those are childrens groups. Even within that one group, the members may be further subdivided. However, I can't imagine applying that because we are not building private clubs online. A private club does not broadcast it's business to the world. I go to a club and it's closed. People don't wander in and out and pop in to cast a vote and disappear like they do on the web. When you broadcast your proceedings to the world, I don't think you have any right or obligation to verify anyone's name, rank or serial number. People prefer anonymity and they have a right to it as a matter of privacy.

    Anyway, I think Nancy mentioned in another blog about "How do you filter?" I'm interested in finding objective ways to evaluate all aspects of community. For one, I would like to address how we can filter people in without comprimising privacy.

    Amy Lenzo says:

    I'm not sure that having an age range makes sense to me as criteria for defining community, but I do agree the term is used far too loosely these days - sometimes in ways that feel strange, even false, to me.

    Wednesday, August 20, 2008


    Deb posted on her blog, mediateachspace:

    "I'm also not coping well with where abouts to air some of my comments. If one person publishes something that I'd like to comment on, and then someone else says a similar thing on their blog - how do I make the connection between those two people (and I may be the only link between them)"

    Leigh closed the last meeting by suggesting that we also organize our own 2 or 3 person mini-meetings about the course. This is a good idea for people who need to connect the dots from one blog to another. I would really enjoy that. And remember, if we are going to have a great conference, we have to begin planning for it now, so let's start forming those groups. We could use the new GroupChat function in Gmail. Leave a note here on this post.

    Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    Notes on Meetings One and Two

    (This is a post I began when listening to the first and second meetings but didn't publish. Dated August 19. The reason for the post was to give verifiable evidence of my listening to the two meetings.)

    I define a "meeting" as a gathering of people in temporal and ordinal form. The most encouraging aspect of the two meetings that I have listened to was the adherence to some temporal and ordinal form. It wasn't just a batch of random. The meeting was centered with a leader as a point of reference. Leigh led everyone through introductions. He had an alphabetical list and called off the names which gave cue to each member of the meeting. Whenever a member wished to speak they gave cue to Leigh by raising of hands. I don't know what that is in elluminate, probably some visual smilie that you use to signal the group.

    12 participants:


    Because there were clear temporal limits (one hour) the meeting moved ordinally through the agenda. What I like about ordinal form is that it allows members an opportunity to fulfill their rights and responsibilities to speak to the group.

    At one of the meetings, someone put a picture upon the screen which blocked the agenda that Leigh had made. I found that to be annoying. I would have rather seen the agenda.

    Splitting the meeting into two sessions was a great idea but I think that there should be two facilitators, possibly an assistant, while retaining Leigh as the overall course leader. This way people know that the meeting will happen. The attendance of this meeting was slightly lower and I wonder if the missed meeting was a cause?

    I wonder why only one session is posted afterward? With each meeting of two sessions, there should be four sessions posted.

    I liked listening. It sounded like a verbal summary of what is being blogged. However, I found myself doing a bunch of other tasks and not really paying attention. I was kind of like reading online. I don't really read very well online. It's more like skimming, not attentive reading. It's like that with the blogs. At least I know it, so I just keep going back and reviewing what strikes my fancy. It takes several readings to scratch the surface of some of these blogs.

    I also noticed something that ElderBob said about people gathering from different regions and times. Ha! I am blogging alot about organizing around time zones and this jumped out at me. Talk about people only hearing what they want to hear! Well, that's the way I listened to the meeting.

    ElderBob also said something like "traditional communities were established on a rail line or waterway, along a common line". I thought that was interesting. people once had physical connection. I ask myself "What common lines exist now?" I think that there are some physical connections

    ElderBob also said that "you can be a member of many communities". OK. I can buy that to an extent but I can only absorb so much. Offline, I can become a member of so many communities but not an unlimited number. Likewise we should remind ourselves that communities don't function when there are unlimited numbers of members because an unlimited number is not able to be counted and no rational discussion, deliberation or debate can take place (with the exception of very small groups of about 5 to 7 members). But in any case, a whole number is necessary if we are to calculate any relative quantity such as equality, majority and minority.

    Bee: common ground

    EB: Not geographical but mindset

    Artie says: Yeah but it's mindsets of people who come across eachother at the same time on the Internet. I think that the temporal has superseded the geographical as a limitation. We are not separated by geography, but time. The web is does not overcome the time obstacle. The Internet is no faster than the old candlestick telephone. It's the number of people who have access at once that complicates.

    What we need to do is take the old forms that Grandpa and Grandma utilized to bridge the geographical divides between people and apply them to the Time Divide.

    EB: I live in one community that developed from a set of physical circumstances

    Artie adds: We are facing a common physical limitation with the time issue. It governs us whether we like it or not.

    Bee: When people come online they need a place to come to.

    Artie says: How about small clubs that are easy to access according to local time? Small clubs of about 10 or 15 people meeting at a local time who are working on a program together.
    Leigh ended the meeting with the suggestion that we also organize our own little 3 or 4 person meetings. I liked this idea because small groups are easier to schedule and to absorb. I think it would stimulate some good blogging.

    The two meetings constitute two separate groups that are naturally divided by time as if it were a geographical limitation. They are united for one purpose as one community, but are not only two distinct meetings, but two distinct groups with distinct memberships. If they did not have two distinct memberships then there was no need for two meetings! (Get it?) They could present the same program at their own pace with full autonomy. Clubs should be as convenient to attend as those Rotary clubs that are distributed geographically. In Rotary, they put a club where people are, but we put a club when people are, in order to give a wide variety of choices as convenient as geographically placed clubs.

    Looking at this page for Rotary Club meetings I looked up a few clubs and I found that traditional meeting times are breakfast, lunch and dinner, with dinner probably being the most popular. Most popular local times appear to be 6 or 7 pm, noon and 6 or 7 am. I think that clubs should be timed similarly with some minor tweaks. If you can't tell the local meeting time, then you are probably in the wrong club.

    I don't think that times should be GMT unless the community of clubs has a thorough training session in Clocks and Time. At least a complete training session in the World Clock page. This would be covered in a practical dialogue form with no experts (as all practical dialogue is for the purpose of building community expertise within the membership).

    Monday, August 18, 2008

    Techniques for Looking

    Continuing to probe the questions that Leigh asks from Week 2-3:

    In this course we will be looking for online communities in very different
    places. It is important that we try and develop an understanding of what exactly
    we are looking for, and techniques for looking. What is an online

    I don't know if I can say what "we" are looking for but I think I know what I am looking for. I am looking for a community that does not yet exist on the web. It is a community that I only imagine. What interests me more is this part of the question that deals with techniques for looking. The questions asked by Leigh are a good technique for looking. And these questions are not only stimulating answers but more questions from bloggers.

    But how do you look for something that you imagine might exist? What are we looking for? My feeling is that I am looking for something that has been lost and am concerned to regain it. I feel a great sense of having lost something when I'm on the Internet. The traditions have been lost. I suppose that I am here in this course because I am looking for people who recognize this loss also and would like to regain, to rediscover, those things that we value in community. I hope that I am looking in the right place.

    I want to rediscover the democratic traditions that were first developed by Lucy and her clan in Ethiopia and handed over to Neanderthal and passed down to Cro-Magnon and have now entered into some lower evolutionary form on the web, these forms that have been squelched and silenced and have introduced a new Age of Miscommunication. I want to get back to the circle form that rose up as the tribe gathered around the fire.

    I think that this course is one way of looking. I'm enjoying blogging on this topic and this is my first experience ever as a blogger. I think it has some definite strengths, and now, due to the FOC course, I am experimenting with it. I also enjoy browsing all of the other blogs and learning how others view community. How they see it. What they think. This helps me to see and compare with my own views.

    I wonder how others have answered this question of how to look? I have read through the blogs and haven't seen any other interpretations of this question. Leigh is inquiring about looking for something, not looking at it. And Leigh seems to suggest that it is not a thing that is lost but a thing that is unknown? So the question is confusing. If I am looking for something that is lost, at least I know what it looks like and maybe where it was last seen. I'm looking for something that has been lost and is clearly identifiable. What are other people looking for? Are you looking for something that is yet to be discovered, that is unknown? That might be a more difficult task. Kind of like looking for the Abominable Snowman. Should we bother to look for something that doesn't exist? Of course, we can't know that it doesn't exist unless we go a looking! Even with the Abominable Snowman, you still have a lead on what it is supposed to look like. This is more like looking for God.

    Let's suppose we already have something before us and want to look at it rather than for it. In that respect, when Leigh says "techniques for looking", I think about the evaluation process and how important it is to have a good system of objective evaluation for web community faciliation. This requires making the members responsible for evaluating the whole shebang.

    In our culture, we are taught the Scientific Method. So I suppose a good technique for looking is to measure. I really appreciate the structure of this course. It acts as a common ground and guiding force for the discussion. It includes realistic objectives and evaluation. The course itself can also be measured and evaluated.

    I think that I am going to use the Scientific Method and be doing a lot of measuring of web community qualities.

    People Who Share a Common Time for a Purpose

    click to enlarge the map 91k

    I have come to a definition of an online community that is the best I can think of: People who share a common time for a purpose. This is broad enough to include all communities from a collection of individuals to a formalized group.

    One myth about the web is that it is instantaneous. Yes, it is from one machine to another, but messages are not recieved and processed and responded to by humans instantaneously everywhere on the globe. The limitations of personal time zone have a very great impact upon how we can percieve "global community".

    The web is global but not in a spherical sense. The distance between any two longitudes (meridians) determines the frequency of message cycles. Global community only exists where the frequency of message cycles allows enough communication to form a community. The longitude that runs down through Sweden, Poland, Germany, Austria, Italy, Greece, Libya, Chad, Republic of South Africa, Congo, Zaire, Angola, Nambia and South Africa is global with the web. Frequency of messaging is highest where any two given longitudes are closest together. Message frequency lowers as the distance between two longitudes increases.

    So if we traveled the same distance described on a latitude either from East to West or visa versa, we could not call it global community. The latitude that runs from Spain to China is not a global community in the same sense as those based within a relatively narrow time zone because those who live within two longitudes that are closer together can have a greater message cycle frequency, exchanging multitudes of messages in one day, while those who are exchanging within an equal latitude may have a frequency as low as one cycle per 24 hours.

    When I speak of time zones and geography, I am using this as a visual reference. Someone working the night shift in Spain would span the divide to China. So, in this blog, my constant references to time zones and geographical location is only a hint or pointer that must be translated into personal time zones.

    Sunday, August 17, 2008

    Organizing According to Time

    Reading What is an online community?

    Unlike traditional communities in which geography is frequently seen as a common denominator, in the online realm communities frequently develop independent of geographical boundaries and can be found in a variety of different technical landscapes. Most commonly they fall into either centralised and distributed models, which refers to the space in which community members interact with one another.
    What about time zone limits? In offline communities, I must choose a club that is within the geographical limitations of my residence. Likewise, online, we are limited by time. Half the web is always sleeping when the other half is awake. So every poster resides in a time zone and to visit one time zone that poster must be absent from their resident zone.

    Example: my normal time online is during the hours of about 8 am until about 10 pm, local time. If I stay up late tonight to visit another time zone, I will sleep late tomarrow and be absent from my normal time zone at 8 am. I may change my habits and stay up every night all night and with that change my time zone residency, but I must of necessity no longer be a resident of my former time zone.

    The web has responded with a very loose standard of unlimited numbers of posters, posting in an open circuit, in random order (or without order). The result is an inability among the "members" to maintain control of the mode of communication. Traditional ordinal forms help maintain the exposition of a deliberation but random posting has destroyed that form. The result is to enervate traditional discussion forms.

    Random posting was a quick fix that has failed in many important functions. Random posting is bad for deliberations because it denies the democratic principle of equal time and equal say. A circle form secures equal time for each speaker and listener. It gives the whole group a better listening experience and it charges members with not only the right but the responsibility to speak (or at least signal that they are in attendance).

    The circle dialogue is the basic problem solving form for it allows the members to self moderate and achieve a consistent expository mode of discussion. Random form is not conducive to the expository mode. Random posting in open circuits results in mixed mode, notably the digression of exposition into the dramatic mode.

    People can speak in circle form when they meet within a given time zone. What is needed at this point is a movement toward circle form that will require people to meet according to time zone. This is not a geographical division since people who are awake at night in any zone can join a community in a suitable time zone. The division is primarily temporal and only incidentally, geographic.

    Referring to any time zone map we can see that there are three seperate population regions:

    1) The Americas
    2) Europe, Middle East and Africa
    3) Far East and South Pacific

    Now think for a moment. Let's say I'm a member of a traditional service club (Rotary International, for example). I join at the club level because I live in a certain area of town. I am a member at the club level but also that club is a member of the worldwide organization. I meet in my club, but sometimes I go to visit another club, so at that time, I am absent from my home club. I may also move to another part of the city or country or world and join another club. I have not left the larger Rotary community in any of those instances, but it's quite apparent that I am limited by geography, which is why the service community is organized the way it is.

    But I come to the Web and you tell me of the joy, the splendor, the complete ecstacy, that we are not bound by geography. Right. We can transcend geography a little but we are still limited by time zones and, incidentally, by geography. So what is the answer? You tell me that we can all just talk as much as we want and whenever we want. OK. But who is going to listen? A proper democratic form gives us a better listening experience.

    The fact is that people congregate according to time zones. So why not use that fact to our advantage by giving people an organization that is divided by time zone residency (regardless of geographical residency).

    Now translate the traditional service organization to time zones and what do you get?

    When I am at a Rotary Club I can only be at that club, yet I am participating in the whole international community. When I visit another Rotary club on the other side of town, I can also participate in the programs but I have no right to speak or to vote in the business of that club because I am not a member. I am a member of one club that meets on a regular basis in my neighborhood. The neighborhood clubs gather in an area regulary but less frequently. The areas come together yearly for a convention of the whole community. The whole Rotary community does not need to gather and communicate on a daily basis.

    If people gather according to their time zone then there is no reason not to meet at a certain time and also not to use ordinal forms.

    I have been driven to consider this because it is a common misconception that online communication is instantaneous. Right. The communication from one machine to another machine is instantaneous but I am not a machine. If you email me from the light side of Earth tonight, I am not going to recieve your message until tomarrow morning, because I am sleeping on the dark side when your message arrives at my machine. Even if I answer you immediately in the morning, at that time you are sleeping because we are separated by the range of our own personal time meridians. The process is then repeated and it may take two days to have one complete transaction on the Internet.

    Now, this can work for us if we work with it. I must first understand that I am a part of one web first, the one that is awake when I am. The other part is always awake when I'm asleep. And since we reside in separate zones we must keep them separate in real time because they are separate. The only way I can join that other side of the Internet as a continuously active member is to leave my membership on this side. Just as if it were a geographical limit.

    But the traditional service organization transcends this geographical limit and successfully organizes people all over the globe in the millions. Can we also transcend the time zone limitation using the same form and applying it to time zones?

    In this blog I am going to put this concept together so that you can see it.

    This is the way I imagine it - The board is divided into five catagories that are not topical, but ordinal.

    The first catagory is the Ozone. The Ozone is the contact point with the public and is open circuit with random posting from all over the world.

    Then there are three catagories based on the three time zone limits (although I am aware that a time zone is personal and each individual can post within the limits of the range of their particular personal time meridian). Each catagory contains two forums, one random and the other ordinal circle form. People qualify for membership in a zone based upon their attendance to the circle. Circles are organized using the random forum. We may even qualify people for circle posting in the random forum. Circle posting naturally filters out people who do not reside in the appropriate zone. And since it organizes people according to their time zone, it enables the greatest range of choices for choosing a meeting time. The wider our club zone, the less opportunities to meet.

    The fifth catagory is the Fellowship Ring which runs throughout the month for all members to post in a slower, larger circle. Each has an equal say each month or as long as it takes to make one complete round. This can work because we have widened the limits of time for posting and it only requires one post per month. So it looks like this:

    The Ozone

    The Americas (the geography is only a rough guide)

    Europe, Middle East and Africa

    Far East and South Pacific

    The Fellowship Ring

    From Guest status to Member status, the effect is to move people from random posting into an ordinal form and to do it on a large scale by focusing upon a more local area. I am reminded of that old bumper sticker I saw so many times:
    Think Globally - Act Locally.

    Here we have organized with and for the time that people live in, locally; and we have accomodated the global effects of time also. We are no longer fighting against time. People can reside and participate in the comfort of whatever time zone they choose.

    And we have qualified a membership on a local level and admitted them to a global community. They can visit a time zone outside of their residency and participate in it's programs but have no right to vote in that zone. To become an elected member of a different time zone, they must leave their current time residence and move into the zone. We know that they live in the zone because they are able to post consistently in a circle form.

    Ultimately, we can organize people constitutionally because we have simply replaced the geographical limits with the time limits. And random posting can not threaten ordinal form any longer.

    So why all the fuss about ordinal form? I'll be writing another post about that but basically ordinal form brings order to the organization of people, allowing them to deliberate to the point of concerted action.

    The Meaning of Community

    I am reading The Meaning of Community by Ann Boyles:

    While pundits ponder whether or not Internet users form any kind of viable
    community as they sit at their computers in farflung corners of the world, a
    deeper and more serious issue is the manner in which the entire structure of
    computer networks undermines more traditional kinds of community

    The mainstream meaning of the word "community" has changed very much since the popularization of digital media. Language has been wildly stretched either because the meaning has changed or perhaps it has been this stretching that has distorted the meaning? I lean toward the latter description of how things have changed. Words have been used ignorantly by promoters of so-called "communities" just for the purpose of promoting a certain digital platform into popularity. A good example is all of the PHP forums out there. The vocabulary of the PHP forum is fixed.

    It is possible to have Guest posting in relationship to the membership of members, but administrators, seeking to attract more traffic, allowed "members" to join who were in no way qualified for eachother. The person simply needed to fill out a short form that a 12 year old could do in less than 2 minutes, and "Presto - you're a member!" So the meaning of the word "member" has been enervated.

    Traditionally, a membership of individuals must be qualified. I have been involved in many communities where the very minimum requirements were that I attend at least two or more consecutive meetings, and it was expected that I regularly participate in the programs that the community offered because these programs advanced the purpose of the community.

    Words like "Group" too have no meaning because a group traditionally would be organized according to temporal and/or ordinal limits, and not only exist as a random and unlimited collection of individuals.

    The very words "Discussion" and "Forum" mean little much like what we are accustomed to.

    A discussion is a group speaking in an organized, ordinal form, the circle formation (ABC ABC...) being one of the most well known, popular and versatile.

    A debate is an argument presented before a third party for evaluation or judgement. It has a beginning and an end, it does not just go on and on.

    A forum is an organization of varied discussion forms, not just an organization of topics, but an organization of process.

    I advocate a return to the traditional meanings of community. I feel that community should be an empowering experience. Most so-called communities culminate their communications in an offline action. I am interested in the power to organize an online action through democratic deliberative forms.

    People use e-terms. It's eThis and eThat. I was searching the web for "eDemocracy" and found groups who were using the web as a messageboard to promote offline democratic organizations. That is not a true eDemocracy. The organizing efforts of an eDemocracy culminate in online action. The election of it's membership would be one of the basic online actions.

    "Information is another word that has been stretched. People say that "information has increased". When I have a verbal conversation with someone, it is not catagorized by the public as "relevant information". So while a chat is information, it's not relevant. Does it require preservation?

    I think the correct meaning is that there is a "people overload". There are too many people to deal with. Seems like everyone wants to have the biggest group instead of the better group.

    As much as knowledge has increased with the recording of information, knowledge becomes obsolete as the technology changes and formats are replaced.

    A "meeting" of posters along the line of a latitude can not be easily facilitated in real time, therefore a new form must arise deserving of it's own name.

    Terms like "discussion" "meeting" and others have a meaning that includes "broadcasting the communication". Why should a chat or meeting be broadcast? People think that community will grow if it is accessible. How did traditional communities like Rotary International manage to grow their memberships to where there are more than 32,000 clubs and over 1.2 million members world-wide?

    See the Glossary of Terms

    Friday, August 15, 2008

    Community of Practice

    One of the objectives of the foc08 course is stated as:

    • Define an online community
    A few of the first bloggers mentioned "community of practice", a term that is familiar to educators but unfamiliar to myself. I suppose that before this new-fangled way of saying it came to be, people just used the words "service community". A service community was/is one that fills the needs of a greater community. The greater community already exists and the service community is a portion of the community that provides a service to the larger community. So, for instance, there is a need for leadership in the greater community, traditionally, some collection of individuals would form a constitutional society to provide the service of developing leadership. The community was larger than any one of the individuals in that it was self developing and self-perpetuating. The platform was secondary and either unowned or cooperatively owned. (A far cry from what we have gotten ourselves into on the web)

    An online community ought to be all of that and more.

    The JayCees are an established service community, designed for the purpose of providing leadership to the greater community. This organization has programs that give people training in leadership skills. Another very popular vehicle for developing speaking and organizing skills is Toastmasters International. These are great examples of traditional service organization or what we would call "community of practice" because they exists for the purpose of developing practical skills through training programs. And, because it's a community, the training is ongoing, it's always developing further, to learn more, to challenge the individuals, the community, and the greater community. This attribute of continuous growth set it apart from a classroom course.

    One important aspect that we should not overlook about these service organizations is that complete control of the administration of the community is passed on to each new generation of members through a constitutional form. This allows the former administrators to grow the organization. This is not happening in web communities. Ownership of the platform has been elevated above the integrity of the community itself and is probably stifling growth. The traditionally organized service community may have a membership of 100's of thousands or millions of members spanning a worldwide geographical area, while a large message board community may only number in the few hundreds or thousands. What's the problem? More importantly, what's the solution? That's what sparks my interest.

    FOC08 Starter Notes

    I'm starting this blog in response to an online course called Facilitating Online Communities. This blog is named for the tag that all of the participants are using on their blog posts - FOC08. I actually began posting on my other blog Artie's World but may move everything with this course to this blog.

    I may do an evaluation of this course. The facilitator is Leigh Blackall. First off, I expected that "Leigh" was a woman! Well, OK. I can go with this. :) I like the approach in many respects. There are clearly defined objectives which were posted from the start:

    • Define an online community
    • Define online learning
    • Develop facilitation skills
    • Apply facilitation skills within an online learning community
    • Evaluate the facilitation of an online learning community
    I notice that this outline was flexible, yet focused enough to stimulate some thinking instead of confusion.

    I did all* of the first weeks projects which included attending a "meeting" with Nellie. I don't know if I could call it a meeting. I would call the whole course a "discussion" because it adheres to some temporal and ordinal structures but I can't call the "meeting" a real meeting for several reasons. First, there seems to be no limit on the number of participants. At this time, there are about 60 people in the course and it could be 100 or even more since there is no cap. A reasonable number would be about 10 to 15.

    * Almost all. I didn't introduce myself in the start of the course because I am committed as an observer. Besides, I object to random posting with unlimited numbers of "members". I would prefer a small group of 10-15 qualified members posting in ordinal form. However, I see after reviewing the course assignments that the projects require that there be enough members to participate. (Still, I'm going to come back to this point again later)

    Then there is no order to the speaking or posting so I can't even call the meeting a "discussion" although I will extend the term "discussion" to the course itself. Something like 15 or 20 people attended the "meeting" and hardly anyone spoke. A meeting requires ordinal form. I would expect at the least a circle form where people not only have a right but a responsibility to speak, even if it's just to post to let people know that you are in attendance.

    I like a lot about this course but I think that those who wish to be better organizers on the web should leave off this idea that you can post randomly with unlimited numbers of posters and create a community. A community is much, much more than that.

    Another thing, I noticed somewhere, maybe in some person's blog, that people are already speaking of this course (FOC08) as a "community". I would extend that term only if by the end of the course, the community has scheduled the next course and assigned some roles. Then it would be an ongoing effort energized by the community itself, and I hope that this is the route some of the participants will travel because such a community is desperately needed.

    Something else that I didn't get was that there seemed to be two independent meetings going on. There was the one that could be heard and then another that was appearing in a text format in the chatbox. They were talking about some other issue in the chatbox. It seemed that the two "meetings" or "discussions" had two separate memberships in attendance.

    Now, I understand the idea of autonomy and people are going to do whatever they want but it is not proper democratic form. Proper democratic form would give me the better listening experience. Random posting allows everyone to have their say as much as they want and as often as they like it. But democratic form allows everyone equal say.

    I am getting a bit more familiar with the course outline and it is well structured. This promises to be quite an event!

    Leigh did some excellent preparation and I feel confident that this is can be groundbreaking. From the course schedule down to the assignments, it's all very well planned. The three course assignments themselves are realistic objectives and we are given plenty of time to complete them. The choice of assignments is also commendable, particularly the evaluation of a facilitated online event. This is something that we can sink our teeth into. Kudos to Leigh for this fine preparation.

    Browsing the blog posts has already helped me become acquainted with people's personal philosophies about community. The participant's blogs page is a great gateway to information and has been valuable to me in my orientation for this course. I found many tips on getting started with a blog and setting up Google Reader. Issues have already been raised about community of practice, privacy, and for some, a rethinking about fundamentals.

    I feel challenged by this course and that's a very good sign.:)

    Glossary of Terms

    A glossary is an alphabetized collection of specialized terms with their meanings to help the general reader to understand new or uncommon vocabulary and specialized terms. I wrote this Glossary of Terms for reference when discussing the traditional arts of democratic discussion form.

    Anti-Community - a random and open set of individuals collected for an undetermined purpose; a collection of individuals who elect people out of rather than into the group, while allowing immunity to the owner; a community that is owned as private property with it's primary purpose of promoting the owner.

    Average Personal Meridian (APM) - the sum of all personal meridians in a group divided by the total number of members.

    Central Negative - the opposition side of the community; those who oppose the designated leader; often referred to as "Trolling", sometimes called "Borderline Personalty Disorder".

    Closed Circuit - a circuit that can be measured by a whole number; a complete selection of individuals.

    Collection of Individuals - an incomplete quantity of posters gathered on an open circuit and posting randomly; an Anti-Community.

    Community (or Group) - an organization of people via intermitent meetings with a unity of purpose. (The interests of the individuals support the purposes of the community and the community is there for the development of the individual)

    Conscious Day - the full range of the wakened day, not including the unconscious part of the 24 hour day.

    Democratic Organization - an order that is accomplished through traditional democratic systems.

    Designated Leader - a person formally charged with the official responsibility to lead or organize.

    Discussion - a temporal and ordinal organization of people and speech used for the processing of information.

    eDemocracy - a temporal group using ordinal discussion forms deliberates through the process of an online action, such online actions include the election of it's membership and officers; a constitutionally formed online community; an online community that practices ordinal form.

    Fabricated Consensus - agreement brought about through IP checks, blocks and bans; a so-called "moderated community".

    Forum - an organized presentation of various different temporal and ordinal discussion forms. A forum is a process of discussions.

    Gripe's Law - the power of the central negative is equal to the power of the designated leader; a kind of ying and yang that governs the whole web; when the designated leaders eliminate the central negative, the community levels off and may decline but further growth is halted.

    group - a number of individuals considered as a unit, people interacting in temporal/ordinal form, basic unit of the community.

    Guest - an interested prospect who has no rights nor responsibilities.

    Local/Global Web Community - A local/global web community is one that extends through the length of one longitude or of a narrow area between two longitudes. The closer the two longitudes are to eachother, the more local the community. It is also global in a limited sense, since it may span a multitude of diverse nations, languages and cultures. The wider the latitude, the less local the community becomes. The local/global model has the distinct advantage of offering the most possibilities for scheduling meetings.

    Measured Discourse - a discussion that is measured in whole and part. (see Rational Form)

    Member - a poster that has been qualified for and elected to the purpose of the community and sharing equal rights and responsibilities with other members.

    Membership - a qualified and elected body; the membership may be in training to become qualified.

    Mode of Discussion - all of the posters compose in the same mode; the three classic modes are:

    1. Expository - the building up of logical and rhetorical dialogue; the natural extension of this mode is in ordinal forms.
    2. Narrative - telling a story; chats and blogs are likely to be in this mode.
    3. Dramatic (or Demonstrative) - role playing or acting; the forum is used as a theatrical stage.

    Mudsucker - a poster who harasses trolls as a supposed defense to forum standards.

    Open Circuit - a circuit that can not be measured by a whole number; a collection of individuals.

    Opposite Longitude - extension of a longitude beyond either pole.

    Ordinal Form - according to a limited sequence (ABC ABC)

    People Overload - Too many people to have to deal with.

    Personal Meridian - the center of a personal time zone range when a person is awake; example: if the range of my online day is @000 to @600, I am online for a total range of 600 and my meridian occurs at @300 (Swatch); half of a conscious day.

    Rational Form - an organization of form based upon a whole number and it's relative quantities; equality, majority and minority; equality is the primary ratio in rational discussion; secondary ratios are simple majority and supermajority (2/3, 3/4...).

    Random Form - without ordinal or temporal limits.

    Temporal Form - according to time limits (begin - end), usually expressed numerically.

    Time Meridian - the center of a given real time

    Time Zone Residency (Resident Time Zone) - every Internet user resides in a limited time zone and is subject to that time as much as a geographical limitation; a user may visit another time zone only by being absent from the zone of residency; a person may change their residency by leaving their current residency.

    Time Zone Tour (Touring the Time Zones) - leaving your resident time zone to visit another separate time zone. Posting outside of your normal biological time.

    Troll - a change in the mode of discussion; a derogatory term for a poster; a poster who leads a collection of individuals through a dramatic sequence.

    Register here for the Discussion Workshop Blog

    The ordinal discussion arts lead us into coherent group building and groups become the building blocks of communities.

    Talk to me at Postmasters Free Speech Zone

    My Blog List

    Twitter Updates

      follow me on Twitter