Reboot 10: First Impressions
Management summary: I had a great time
Reboot of course is much more than just two days of conference. It was almost a week of intense and rich learning, meeting old and new friends, and going home with your mind spinning with all the new angles on things you thought you had a pretty good grasp on.
Reboot really started already on Tuesday, when we drove up to Copenhagen. Mark Wubben accompanied us in the car, together with all his stuff, as he was moving to Copenhagen. Wednesday was already filled with conversations. Starting with an early morning coffee with Peter Rukavina, talking about all kinds of Reboot-related themes, on change, on community, on networked attitudes, and life in general. Lunch I had with Jon Froda, of Hoist at Bang og Jensen, plotting our little piece of world domination and the path towards it. Then it was time to pick up Howard Rheingold at his hotel, who had just flew in minutes before that, and have a drink and some food at PH Caféen in the city's old, now gentrified, slaughterhouses. We discussed teaching methods, learning paths, community of practice how-to's, and the process of writing. In the early evening it was then time to go to Nyhavn harbour for the Reboat cruise. Enjoying champagne and beers, getting acquainted with other Reboot participants, and reconnecting to friends. And that was just a relaxed day before the conference!
Share your shit!
This call to arms by Tor Nørretranders, a Danish popular science writer, must be the tag-line for Reboot 10. It was picked up in a lot of the sessions. From a knowledge management point of view an important point to make: Explicit permission to share anything and everything, even if you're not sure about its worth. One organisms shit, is another's food. I spend my day walking in and out of different sessions, preparing my own presentation on day 2 in small chunks of time in between. It was good to see that a lot of presenters were making their presentation right on the spot. Creating new stories to share, trying out new ideas they had. It is precisely that vibe that makes Reboot work for me. Needless to say my own story was a new one as well. I finished my slides a full 20 minutes before I was planned to take the stage in the main hall. More on that in a second posting. Interesting things in the programme were around design issues, taking things out of the laptop screen, urban environments merging with the data-sphere, and recreating the world of fabrication in the same way digitalization recreated the world of publishing and sharing. More on that in other postings as well.
After two days of conferencing it was party time. A nice Italian dinner was had in the city center, with even better table conversation with Paolo, David, Toby, Thomas, Siert, Elmine and Ernst. Between beers it was the birth place of my One Laptop Per Senior (OLPS) initiative, as complement to OLPC. At Vega, as tradition dictates, the party went on. After we already had returned to the hotel, the party at Vega carried outside to the sidewalks of Vesterbro, with 5 police cars joining in for good measure.
Saturday morning saw a collective breakfast at Pussy Galore's (David, it really exists!), initiated by Nicole Simon. After which some shopping ensued with Elmine. Having shared a very nice dinner with Elmine and my brother in law Siert, whom we sort of pressured into coming to Reboot, and luckily really enjoyed it, Saturday evening then was spend at the house of Thomas and Rikke, playing host to Reboot-participants till the very last moment. It was nice and mellow, and much appreciated.
The drive back, with Siert now taking the seat Mark had on the way up, always allows enough time to let all the events of the past days sink in. So that today I could let fatigue take over :) Tomorrow my routines will be back to normal, and the slow process of digesting Reboot will take its course in the coming weeks.
All my Reboot 10 photos at Flickr, naturally.0 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
GovCamp NL: Impressions and Take Aways
Last weekend saw a BarCamp in Amsterdam around government and the impact of web2.0. GovCamp NL was inspired by the GovCamp in London last year. Thanks to James Burke and Peter Robinett about 25 people, with about a third government workers, found themselves in the former offices of de Volkskrant.
I arrived a bit late, so I had to miss out on the first session where Arjen Kamphuis talked about his past work to get government committed to open standards, open source, and open data. Shame I missed that, but good to see him again. Sessions I did attend talked about current or past projects on how to use the internet as a new/additional public sphere (like denhaag.org), how to increase participation (like with buurtlink.nl, or having a more direct say in how your taxes are spend), and how to use internet as additional channel for public hearings on policies.
GovCamp vs PolitCamp
In comparison PolitCamp in Graz the week before was more about building awareness, amongst politicians and by extension government, that something had changed at all. GovCamp Amsterdam was more about doing tangible projects. Differences in penetration of ADSL between the highly urbanized Netherlands and relatively sparsely populated Austria probably help to explain this. A common thing however was the seemingly widespread notion that 'those politicians' and 'the government' were somehow doing it all 'wrong' and are 'not getting it', without acknowledging the fact that 'the government' does not exist, and all those structures are filled with people who are trying to make sense of the world just as much as I am and you are. First, if you know better, you are also the one to teach better. Second, no system or structure will make itself irrelevant over night. We will have to be there to help make the transition. Either by building alternate structures, or by helping the existing ones change. I think I'm doing the former in my personal life, and the latter with my clients. An activist stance is needed here more than a lamenting/knowing-it-better pose. That is why I was pleased to see politicians in Graz making an effort to attend, and was as pleased to see civil servants in Amsterdam actively experimenting and exploring how to change their work, while keeping focussed on the goals of their work.
For a lot of participants the BarCamp format was new. It was generally received as creative and informal, but also with some apprehension as to the lack of 'steering'. If however at a BarCamp you think the discussion is not addressing the real issues, start your own discussion and session right then and there, instead of asking for more steering. The fact that this BarCamp took place, that it brought web-developers and civil servants together the way it did, is already proof that it is not the lack of steering that makes things impossible. No steering was involved after all to bring the event about. It is important to remember the basic 'rules' of open space engagement here: whoever is there are the right people, whatever is addressed is the right topic, it starts and ends when it does, and if you feel you can't contribute to or learn from a conversation you're in, start or join a different conversation immediately.
I think James and Peter made sure a pleasant event took place. The catering was fine, thanks to the funding by XS4All, and the sunny roof terrace was a pleasant element in the mix. The wifi was dependable too. So thanks!
Open Data Revisited
Opening up government data was a topic at GovCamp as it was in Graz last week. It came up in some of the sessions, it was a talking point during lunch. My major take-away for GovCamp therefore was that a small group found itself around the task of making inventory of what datasets are actually held within Dutch government agencies. With that inventory list in hand a concerted effort can be made to open them up one by one with technologies like RDF, SPRQL and OWL. I think this is an important thing to do, and am curious how it will develop and what I can contribute.
Free public data
Last week at the PolitCamp Graz I had the pleasure to meet Keith Andrews, who's a professor there, and attend his session on how to unlock and use general data that has been gathered and paid for with tax payers money. Our public data.
Hans Rosling has some pretty compelling examples of what you can do IF (and it really is a big if) you can get access to the data that is all there (and it really is all there), and if you succeed in presenting it in a way that is more enticing than tables with numbers.
Social software thrives on heaps of data and information, and here's this mountain of data that hardly anybody has access too. This is the public parallel of what I see in corporations as well when it concerns business intelligence (BI). With huge amounts of money systems are put in place that collect insane amounts of data, and then only a handful of specialists create half a dozen management reports from that, leaving most of the data untouched. I remember an information manager who was surprised at the clever questions professionals in his corporation were able to ask the dataset, when he gave them access to it, which his own BI-people or higher management would never think of to ask. Having access to the data we collectively have made possible to gather therefore to me is not just a question of pursuing the ideal of 'openness' and transparancy in general, but a way to create so much more opportunties for people to act upon, based on the additional information available.
Making that access possible brings the need for a better presentation layer. Visualization aspects, and constructing queries etc. But it starts with convincing those who now manage the public databases to open up their data in RDF format so it can be used for web based mash-ups. This means a shift in attitude for these institutes/people, as usually their respons now to requests for data is one of suspicion: "What will you be using it for?". Examples of this were abundant in the discussion at the PolitCamp session. I think this is one more type of gatekeeper we can do without.
In this light I am also looking forward to Reboot, where a session on Free Public Data is proposed.2 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
Needless To Say
I will be there.0 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
Community of Practice in Education at Rotterdam University
Networked learning for a year
Since a couple of months I am involved with a Community of Practice (CoP) at Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences. The CoP has 15 members, all teachers at Hogeschool Rotterdam. The aim is to let the members explore and learn in a self-steered setting, as a diversification of the internal training methods they have on offer for their employees. Subject matter is how to adapt their teaching to the digital reality their students are already living in, `and the digital reality in place in the fields of work they are educating their students for. The teachers involved come from different disciplines, ranging from social studies to economics to healthcare to marketing and mathematics. As a consultant I have been involved in designing this CoP as well as facilitating the group dynamics now the project has started. Also, as new digital possibilities are part of the subject matter of this CoP I bring my social software/knowledge management expertise into the group as a subject matter expert.
I intend to share some impressions of the experiences we are making in this blog. This first posting is mostly about the design process we went through in January and February.
During 2007 a pilot project was run at Hogeschool Rotterdam. Results were mixed some group members created very worthwile results (both with and without use of digital technology, but all consistent with the attitudes and skills that come with social media), others never really got past the ideaphase of their personal projects. These mixed results were in large part caused by a lack of design beforehand and unclear roles in seeing it through. This is what we sought to remedy in the design phase of this year's project.
When, as an organization, you create a space for self directed learning you are confronted with a dilemma. On the one hand you cannot specify the outcome of the learning project you are creating, but on the other hand you want to make sure that whatever the results, it will be useful for the organization itself. We seek the solution in enabling the organization to steer the project on a set of quality-aspects and qualitative result criteria, and otherwise seperate the steering within the group and the steering of the overall project. The needed grades of freedom and the needed levels of steering are thus positioned in different dimensions. For the organization, having the CoP is a project, and regular project management applies. The group itself is run internally and presented externally as a community. Community members are doing their own individual projects. These projects combined are managed as a programme by the group and a group facilitator.
The design team consisted of four people. A member of the original pilot group, someone of the internal training department (and owner of the project), someone from the internal innovation and quality department (also currently doing a PhD on work forms for professional development), and me.
For the overall project the organization has influence on the usual project management aspects of time, money, quality, information, and organization. Both the budget and time-limit (1 year) have been set beforehand by the management. In the design phase we created the organizational structures that allow us to steer the project and at the same time give the CoP the freedom it needs. It means there is a project leader, and a group facilitator. Both are visible and active in the group, and they work closely together in monitoring the progress the group is making. Information about the project for the organizational stakeholders is communicated by the internal training department. Quality is the main management issue. Some quality criteria were set as barriers to entry, others come in play during the work of the CoP itself.
The group is self steering. The project leader and group facilitator (me) both are active members of the group. They however, instead of having their own individual projects have looking out for the stated quality criteria on their agenda. Every member of the group has a personal project, defined by themselves, during the year. Learning, collaboration, inspiration, support, all comes from the group. Members run their own projects with the usual project management tools. The project leader and group facilitator manage the portfolio of those individual projects as a programme. Besides that we look at the community of practice design principals a la Wenger et al as a guide for our actions and have connected the programme management aspects to those CoP principals.
Reflection as glue
To make sure that the different levels and dimensions of management and (self-)steering are connected, and are consistent with eachother, we use a reflection process. Individual members, the group as a whole, the projectleader, the group facilitator, and the organizational project owner all continuously reflect on their actions, the feedback of others, the value for themselves, and how that relates to personally stated goals and those of the group and the organization. The quality and result criteria are connected to this too. This reflection is made transparant within those involved. Other stakeholders (students, colleagues, managers of members, and the board of the Hogeschool Rotterdam) contribute to this reflection as well by means of answering questions asked any or all of us involved in the group and project. Reflection is our means of measurement.
Quality and result criteria
We formulated quality and result criteria to be able to give the group enough freedom of movement to define their own goals and construct their own path towards their own results, while making sure all this fits within the goals and boundaries set by the organization.
Here's a list of those criteria:
The group was formed in March and April and really started mid-April. A next posting will be about those first delicate steps of bringing a group together and handing them the ownership of their own learning path.
Wakoopa Lands Additional Funding For Improving Their Service
I am happy to hear that Amsterdam based start-up Wakoopa announced yesterday it landed additional funding from two VC's. The money will be used to take a CEO on board, for which they will visit California next week to talk to people, and to improve their service. In the words of Robert Gaal, the social aspects of the service can be improved, as well as the functional aspects (tracking web services as well e.g.). (See Emerce for dutch article)
Wakoopa allows you to socially share the software I use. This has several interesting applications, like finding interesting and useful software, solve problems with your software, and read reviews by others.
In a more business like setting think of tracking how much of your costly software licenses are actually used, self-help when rolling out new software in your firm, and one that is of high interest to me: seeing the actual working routines people have, how people switch between tools, how they form their personal work environment. It has showed me for instance I have a few tools that I use only for seconds at a time, but are crucial to the flow of my work (such as being able to resize a photo in 5 secs). Understanding your personal workflow is essential to getting things done.
I am excited about Wakoopa starting to track web services as well, as they are an increasing part of my work-environment. Now it merely says I spend about 3/4 of my time in my browser, but I know it is much more granular than that. Wakoopa is part of my daily toolset, and the mentioned improvements will make sure it will stay that way for some time yet. A big thumbs up for Robert, Wouter and the soon to be growing Wakoopa Crew.2 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
First Reflections on PolitCamp Graz
Waiting in the Graz Airport Lounge for my delayed flight, looking back on the past few days of PolitCamp Graz I can't help but write a bit. Proper reflection needs to wait till I am well rested, but first impressions first.
Was PolitCamp a BarCamp?
Yes it was. Even if some people criticized the fact that a couple of slots were preprogrammed, and even though the spaces it took place in were really better geared for full frontal presenting. That the wifi was arranged the way it was (password protected, no SSID broadcasted) is simply working with the IT people at the location. I was grateful that Macs have an easier time getting onto 'invisible' wifi, and that the wifi was stable, fast and never faltered. I think that saying that with PolitCamp Graz and a few other events the 'BarCamp culture in Austria' is dying is merely an elitist statement, much like we see every time something becomes attractive to a larger group of people and the early adopters start moaning. Fact is if you want to attract at least some new people into the format, especially representatives from the rather ossified Austrian political structures, you will have to do some expectation management beforehand. Like printing something that looks like a programme, even although you know reality will be different on-site. Otherwise it would have been an echo-chamber discussion. The very same thing a lot were finding fault with in the local political sphere. Pot, kettle, black, you get it. And you can bet this format was a culture shock to quite some people attending already.
Taking the BarCamp format and use it within the higher education setting in Austria takes a bit of courage I'd say. The students of Heinz Wittenbrink, his colleagues, and Heinz himself pulled of an inspiring event, that hopefully creates some spin-off within the FH Joanneum. Experiencing that having exchanges in an informal setting can be a great learning experience, and is indeed very real work, is extremely valuable. Taking away preformed structures from an event is liberating. Preparing for such an event is hard work, because taking away preformed structures does not mean that the event will take its course all by it self. If you look closely these types of events are much more heavily managed and structured than they look. Just not in those places, instances and roles, we've come to expect it in other events. Many thanks therefore to all those who helped PolitCamp happen.
Some of those involved in making it all happen. Thanks!
Christoph Chorherr (Austrian Green Party) presence was one of the highlights of the event. He actively participated both days. His personal drive was very much visible, his party politics never got in the way. Other politicians 'flew in' for one session only. Lisa Rücker, the Graz deputy mayor, also Green party, was frank and honest about her limited knowledge of everything internet and web2.0 (not knowing the URL of her blog, asking what is 'a facebook'), as well as the fact that her blog is just there because she's a public figure. That same honesty and transparancy however is visible in her blog writing as well. You may question, or teasingly ridicule, the lack of personal passion and knowledge behind it, but certainly not her style of execution which is for real. Toni Vukan (Socialist party) was an example of the complete opposite. Describing the internet as something that 'can be an important information medium if it were properly controlled' (as Helge remarked, 3 misassumptions in that one sentence right there). Because right now the internet is 'full of liars' you know.
Opposite attitudes: Toni Vukan (left), Christoph Chorherr (right, pic by Helge)
I did not mind the provocative tone though, even if not my style. What I thought was really bad was his approach to the discussion. First painting the audience as 'uncritical internet embracers', then saying most internet users are trolls anyway, before proceeding to argue against that uncritical attitude and trolls is just making straw man arguments. When he was called on it he pretended he was being treated unfair and 'refused to be portrayed as being against the internet'. Trying to only let discussion take place under conditions exclusively set by yourself is simply a cheap trick to make sure you won't have to challenge your own assumptions. It has nothing to do with real communication, if I've got what little I know from Habermas right. I left, as I am not part of the Austrian political realm anyway I thought getting into the discussion wouldn't have been of help. I returned in time though to hear him say at the end that 'the internet is very important but we must not forget the importance of personal contact'. And corny pictures of party leaders hugging elderly women in retirement homes served to illustrate that personal contact. Rrrrright. I've been online daily for most of 2 decades now, and to me internet has always been about personal contact. Using internet for unilaterally broadcasting information and crappy communication efforts really is a more recent invention by the smug and self-satisfied likes of Toni Vukan himself. Can you tell it pissed me off?
An interesting discussion was had when Michaela Mojzis joined the group and talked about the efforts of the OeVP on the web. I was shocked by her description of her busy schedule. Six to eight hours of e-mail per day, and a rigid monotone week schedule dictated mostly by the never ending rhythm of how both government and press work. I'd hate the type of week she's having. After e-mail takes up most of her time, other internet efforts however get attention. (See photo with list). You can tell the OeVP is really trying to grok it all, taking coders on board and building apps themselves. Making her take-aways explicit (and good ones at that) was another sign of willingness to explore and learn while staying focussed on your primary goals. What ensued was a lively discussion on the role of internet in politics between all present, without party politics getting in the way much. Really enjoyed that one. She and her colleague also stayed on for the evening party, continuing the conversations with participants.
The event attracted quite a bit of sponsoring and it showed. The food and drinks available during both days were well appreciated. And it was really our own fault that we ate too little before the party at the end of the first day. The discussion still going on was just worth it, even if it was hard on me the next morning. I was also happy to get to know the monochrom art group, and enjoyed their performance a lot which was fun, witty and intelligent. Sipping one last beer and some antipasti with part of the organizing crew on a sunny roofterrace in the old city center of Graz was a nice way to end the event. And on top of it all, I got to enjoy the hospitality of Heinz Wittenbrink and his family in his home. It made it a very pleasurable experience, getting to know eachother bettter and being able to talk about some more topics as well.
As can be expected a load of stuff is available on-line. Most of it in German though as was the whole event. Good starting points are the event blog and wiki, my Flickr pics, and those of others, the Slideshare-space, and the blog of Heinz, Jochen, Michael, Julian. Also I did some live streaming at the party (since they had open wifi there) with Qik from my phone. There are a couple of other posts I will be writing about PolitCamp too.
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