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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Wikis in plain English

Thanks Commoncraft for putting this together.
Thanks to Chris Brogan for the pointer to it!

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Monday, May 28, 2007

Rapid Fire Learning - May 2007

Another month slips from us this year. Five down, seven remain. Taking stock of the learnings with a few days left this month I find:
  1. Good customer service is still possible
  2. Good news can be found
  3. Franklin took one step towards self-sufficiency but the road ahead is still fraught with troubles
  4. Surprise, I am not alone in believing in life, long learning
  5. Danny Meyer's "always be collecting the dots"
What have you learned this month?

Share it here in a comment, or write about it on your blog and trackback to Terry Starbucker's posting on Joyful, Jubilant Learning.

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Danny Meyer's "Always Be Collecting the Dots"

Working my way through Danny Meyer's Setting the Table. Yes, you may recall that this was part of the Love Affair with Books in March. The posting there inspired me to add it to my reading list. The following quote reminds me of my "Bingo theory".

Dots are information. The more information you collect, the more frequently you can make meaningful connections that can make other people feel good and give you an edge in business. Using whatever information I've collected to gather guests together in a spirit of shared experiences is what I call connecting the dots. If I don;t turn over the rocks, I won't see the dots. If I don't collect the dots, I can't connect the dots. If I don't know that someone works, say, for a magazine whose managing editor I happen to know, I've lost a chance to make a meaningful connection that could enhance our relationship with the guest and the quest's relationship with us. The information is there. You just have to choose to look.

Are you a collector?

Are you a connector?

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Thuban Phenomenon

One of Polaris’ predecessors in the role of “North Star” is Thuban, a star in the constellation Draco the dragon. Thuban was the naked-eye star closest to the north pole from roughly 4000 BC until 1800 BC. This means that Thuban was the “guiding light” the ancients looked to for finding true north. For example, the Egyptians used Thuban to align the Great Pyramids of Giza. Neolithic British tribes used Thuban to lay out Stonehenge. And early Babylonians used astronomical records from a Thuban-centered night sky to create their highly accurate calendar.
Did you know that? I learned something new today.

I also like how Roger introduces the Thuban Phenomenon:

I think the “Thuban Phenomenon” is a wonderful metaphor that we can apply to our own lives in particular and to the human sphere in general.

This is how it works. Let’s suppose that in a earlier period of your life, you have a “star” that is your “guiding light” — it’s at the center of your universe. This “star” could be an idea, another person, a belief, an activity, a philosophy, or a relationship, that guides your thinking and actions.

But then you change. Just as the earth has its own perturbations, your own axis also changes — you develop new interests, learn new skills, meet new people, and change locations — such that you find new “guiding lights.” And your original “north star” drifts off toward the periphery.

Hey, this sounds familiar. This gives meaning to the phrase "what goes around comes around".

Read Roger's full posting here and see if there are examples of Thuban Phenomenon in your life.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Reflections on blogging the override

Blogging the information on the override was fun. I learned a whole lot about Proposition 2 1/2. About town government. About town finances. About the school budget. About the workings of our government.

Franklin is not a very online community. The student population is much more online than the adult population. The primary exposure of the adult population to online activity is email. They can follow a link in an email but are not sophisticated about RSS feeds, commenting on blogs, and other similar activities.

The town does have an online forum but it seems to be limited to a small group. The forum allows anonymous profiles which does not foster a real good conversation. I hesitated to join but while I have tried to obtain access, several attempts are still pending acknowledgment.

There is a good opportunity to use Web 2.0 tools like blogs, social network sites (Facebook, etc.), and to enable a healthy discussion amongst identified individuals in Franklin's future.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

When is it done?

  • "Here's a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you're alive, it isn't." Richard Bach. This quote came via the T4D from Kirk Weisler on Friday.

  • I recall Galway Kinnell at a poetry reading once saying that for him a poem was finished when he had memorized it. Until he had fully memorized it, until it had settled in him, it wasn't finished.

  • I still chuckle from time to time when I find a recipe for cooking some dish or another and part of the instructions say to "test for doneness".

On Saturday, Allison and I visited my cousin's art studio in NH. She was having an open house and student art show. On the drive home, we were talking about when a work is finished. She had a class this semester that prepared a work for a show on campus. During the last class before the show, an artist had been invited in to speak with the class and provide some insights. He brought some of his work along and that was good for the class to see as he talked about what he was trying to do. He also provided some feedback to each of the students on their works. Unfortunately, due to the timing of the show the students were not going to be able to make any adjustments. There was not going to be enough time.

His approach was to allocate a set time for a piece, and then work on it no more than the allotted time. Allison's approach for now has been to work on a piece as much as it takes to complete it. There are deadlines, like for the show or for the class to submit the work for a grade. So she will work around those deadlines to provide enough time to complete the piece.

Do visual artists have this advantage, that you should be able to look at a piece and tell if it is complete?

Writers have drafts, in various stages of completeness. Before they are done do they make any more sense than an incomplete or unfinished painting?

Do you have a "doneness test" for your writing?

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Rewards of collaboration

Innovation does not always occur with a single idea. In many cases, the idea was actually spawned from observation or reflection on another idea. Collaboration is more likely to lead to a better idea. This concept is confirmed by two artists working together on Art for a Garden.
Pat Keck and Sally Moore scamper up and down Julie Levesque's steeply tiered backyard garden like schoolgirls. They fetch Keck's spooky doll-like sculptures and place them amid Moore's plywood sculptures, which resemble houses of cards in mid-tumble. With every placement, they erupt in chortles of delight, then put their heads together, consulting on how to make it better.

The two artists just met last month, when Levesque, a sculptor herself and the impresario of Art for the Garden, an annual event timed to coincide with Newton Open Studios, came up with the idea of asking this year's artists to collaborate. Levesque invited Moore, and Moore got in touch with Keck. In some ways, they're a natural fit. Both work in a theatrical vein: Moore makes the sets, and Keck crafts the characters.

Ah yes, the power of we!

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Troll Whisperer

Seth Godin points to a great article by Cory Doctorow on how to handle trolls.

Cory talks about separating the trolls from the group and keeping the group small as trolls seem to thrive in larger groups.

... neither of these strategies solves the underlying problem: getting big groups of people to converse civilly and productively among themselves. Spreading out the pile reduces the heat -- but it also reduces the light. Splitting the groups up requires the consent of the users, a willingness to be segregated from their peers.

The holy grail is to figure out how to twiddle the rods in just the right fashion so as to create a festive, rollicking, passionate discussion that keeps its discourse respectful, if not always friendly or amiable.

He also admits his own problem:

I am, by my nature, a scrapper. I come from a family of debaters, and my job for several years has been to win debates over copyright and digital freedom. I think that many technology designers are of a similar bent: Argumentative and boisterous, hard-pressed to back away from even a pointless fight. And it is these people who often end up designing our tool-suites for online communities. We view ourselves as locked in an arms-race with trolls who seek to overcome our defenses.
So turning the other cheek is not an option for Cory. Hence the idea of the "troll whisperer".

For some reason, she can spot irredeemable trolls and separate them from the merely unsocialized. She can keep discussions calm and moving forward. She knows when deleting a troll's message will discourage him, and when it will only spark a game of whack-a-mole.

Teresa calls it "having an ear for text" and she is full of maddeningly unquantifiable tips for spotting the right rod to twiddle to keep the reactor firing happily without sparking a meltdown.

The trouble with this "unquantifiable tips" means showing another how to be a troll whisperer is going to be difficult. Of course, there is never a silver bullet or a quick fix but a least if there were some steps to follow.

Well maybe there is:

Teresa invented a technique called disemvowelling -- removing the vowels from some or all of a fiery message-board post. The advantage of this is that it leaves the words intact, but requires that you read them very slowly -- so slowly that it takes the sting out of them. And, as Teresa recently explained to me, disemvowelling part of a post lets the rest of the community know what kind of sentiment is and is not socially acceptable.
Now, that is a cool concept.

Read Cory's full essay here.

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Sunday, May 13, 2007

Advent VII

This Advent
You gave us your final lesson.
A lesson that began
On the day each of us
Came into life.

A lesson in how to live,
A lesson in
The will to live.
A lesson that
Ended with
Your passing.

You will be remembered.
Your lesson will be followed,
As we continue to live,
Continue to prepare
For His coming
This Advent.

In memoriam
Rita Sherlock

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

SOBCon alternative

For those of us who can't make it to SOBCon this time around, there is now a virtual conference to consider as an alternative.

Via Chris Owen, I find that Carolyn Manning is getting this together.

A great idea!

Read all about it here or here.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Law and Implications for Bloggers

A good common sense reading of 12 points that apply to bloggers as we navigate the law of the land with what we do today. Found this via the IWDaily newsletter:
Titled "12 Important U.S. Laws Every Blogger Needs To Know," the piece goes well beyond just trotting out the normal platitudes about the ways that laws governing traditional media relate to cyberspace. Instead, in plain, nonjargony English, the authors lay out the potential problem, explain the current law, and provide helpful hints on how to stay out of trouble. Ambiguities in current law are carefully documented. This is required reading for any blogger or indeed anyone involved in creating content for or managing a Web site.

Read all the details here.

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Sunday, May 06, 2007


While I been busy recently on the Franklin Override issue, I was delighted to find a new opportunity getting underway. Bernie DeKoven, the Funsmith, and a regular stop on my RSS reading list is CoWorking with Garrit Visser. This is related to what the blog Synergy attempted and what the Joyful Jubilant Learning blog is working towards, and since I am a "collaboration teammate", my efforts in this area need to commence today.

Check out what they are up to!

One thing is for sure, CoWorking is sure be some fun!

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

May Day - look for goodness

Today is May 1, may day.

May flowers are blooming here in New England.

Look for goodness around you.

Look for good news at the Good News Network.

Look, see, learn...

And then share what you have learned with someone!

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