Today friends and family gathered to celebrate the life of Catherine. Human meaning, being human, the richness of human interaction, to me is not about the grand gestures, but the small pieces. Acknowledging a familiar face elsewhere in the group. A shared laugh in recognition, a small story, shedding a tear in response to someone’s voice breaking up over a tiny anecdote. Catherine’s art displayed around the church, photos from her life being projected. Remembering the conversations we had out on their deck last June. It was very good to be part of it.

Except I wasn’t really. Because the celebration took place on Prince Edward Island, an ocean and five time zones away, and I was at home on my own couch.
Except I really was, and so were some three dozen others from across North-America, around Europe, and Indonesia, amongst which other dear friends of ours, visible to each other in the chat window.

Thanks to the live stream that Peter set-up he enabled us all to participate. Technology was our mediator this afternoon, as it was when I ‘joined’ Oliver’s birthday last year. It once more made true what I’ve held for years, that empathy can flow over copper wires and fiber optic cables. Beaming us into the presence of Peter and Oliver and all those around them, to be witness, to share, and to show and confirm ourselves to each other as being part of shared community. I am grateful it could be that way today.

I’ve held for a long time that whenever someone says “we’d like to hire women but we don’t know any” or “we really want women as speakers on our event but we don’t know any and if we do they say no”, it is really down to the lack of quality and balance in their network of contacts. When I organised international conferences myself, with our team we made sure to invite speakers while conscious of the lopsidedness of our own networks, overcompensating in our invitations to get a result closer to a 50/50 balance. Now that my company is hiring new people every now and then, that too is an opportunity to counteract such imbalance.

Last week I wrote about ‘homebrew CRM‘, in which I mentioned Rick Klau’s post on his contact management routines. One element that jumped out when I was reading his post was that he had taken a look at his contact lists to see how the men/women ratio was in his network. There’s nothing in LinkedIn that let’s you explore your contact list as a single data set. It’s only a rolodex still, no way to visualise the data in that list in any way (e.g. geographic or sectoral distribution, or other cross sections of the list). Rick mentioned he had downloaded all his LinkedIn data and all his Twitter data, and then used that data export to work on. I requested the same data from LinkedIn and Twitter.

It turns out that LinkedIn’s export contains a list of contact names (but not the link to their profiles, as that isn’t ‘your data’), and a key piece of information they normally don’t show you: the date you connected. (Interestingly LinkedIn offers you nothing to record the context and reason you connected. The Xing-platform, heavily used in Germany, does do that, and I find it very useful)

Having names and dates, I manually indicated someone’s gender, and then used the dates for basic insights into how my recorded network developed over time. (Typing this I realise I still have the export from Facebook when I deleted my original account 2 years ago, and I could do the same there)

For now I looked at two measures: the balance between women and men in contacts I added each year, and the balance between women and men in the total number of contacts each year. Currently I have some 2150 contacts, of which some 600 are women, for a percentage of 27%. That is significantly lower than I had intuited. I think such overestimation is a known effect.

Looked at per year for the contacts added that year, the balance over time has improved from 10% in 2003, to between a third and 40% in the last handful of years. That last number is in line with the overall percentage I had intuited, so apparently I am using my perception of recent years as the estimate for the entire period. That low 2003 starting percentage has a lot to do I think with the general imbalance of the early adopter crowd that came into LinkedIn when they launched in May 2003 (I joined in June ’03) and the low number of people I connected to those first months on the platform (11 in 6 months).

Getting closer to a 50/50 balance on LinkedIn isn’t completely within my control I realise (unlike in my feed reading), as it also depends on who I actually meet in my work, and each working environment has its own existing gender distribution. It is also not completely outside my control. There is agency in new situations and contexts, such as whom I seek out for conversation when participating in an event. Yet, getting to a 50/50 balance for the total would mean connecting only to women for a few years, adding about a 1000 new contacts that way. History does keep one back clearly.

cummulative per year

new contacts added per year

As back in the ’00s, I’m still very much with you on the KM as conversations front, Euan. Back then in a conversation with Sally Bean, while visiting another large KM event I used the metaphor of visiting an art convention and seeing nothing but paint and brushes vendors. Luckily, reading that event report I still had valuable conversations that day.

As a timely reminder of the value of conversations to learn stuff you didn’t before, I received a touching thank you note just this afternoon before seeing your posting in my feed reader.

It was from an Irish civil servant, telling me about something major he had been involved in in an African nation. He thanked me for a conversation we had in 2012 about crowdsourcing as a means for government agencies to collaboratively build public services with citizens. That started him on a path that helped his regional government entity, and resulted in the impactful work in an African nation mentioned. It’s humbling to know something like that has come about with some sort of contribution from my conversations seven years ago, and awesome and attentive he sees our conversation as part of that journey.

Pretty powerful stuff, conversations and stories.

Replied to Knowledge Management, arses and elbows. (The Obvious?)

For me the purpose of KM was to make it easier to have useful conversations with people who knew stuff that you didn’t…..

Do you know of any work, Valdis or Marc to map scientific networks (who’s collaborating / publishing with / citing / getting funded by whom in which field) as a means of discovery? E.g. if you wanted to explore the current developments in a field of science you’re not a part of yourself, to explore who is currently core, a new comer, or an interesting boundary spanner in a field.

IWC Amsterdam day 2 focused on doing. We started with a round of idea pitches that the dozen people present intended to work on, as well as listing things people could assist with.

IndieWebCamp Day 2All work ideas on a ‘windows wiki’

Then we all worked in different constellations until lunch, which we enjoyed at Hannekes Boom. Lunch, just like yesterday, took a bit more time as conversations were animated. We got back to work later than planned therefore and moved our time for demo’s correspondingly. Demo”s were live streamed, with Frank joining us remotely. With a final group picture we closed Indiewebcamp Amsterdam.

Lunch Day 2During lunch

On the train home I am jotting down notes for future editions.

Find the local others
First of all, while we did have more local, meaning Netherlands based participants than last time, we didn’t get any tangible interest from the networks Frank and I have access to. Without the interest of the wider international Indieweb community and holding the event in conjunction with two similarly themed international conferences the event would not have been a success (We had just over 20 people on day 1).
Though for the Utrecht event last spring it might have been because we announced it relatively late, this was definitely not the case for the Amsterdam event. This I feel at least partly comes from not being clear enough in explaining the intent and purpose of Indieweb. That is most likely why three of us dutchies worked on Dutch language texts to draw more people in. E.g. by avoiding jargon until you’re sure the reader gets what you’re saying.

A better on-ramp for new participants
Organising an indiewebcamp is fun and not particularly difficult if you have done small informal events like barcamp before. I think we do need to become better at catering to all levels of proficiency so we can be more inviting to those we think we want to include, especially locally. Perhaps by having a few preset intro sessions as a track you can announce, in contrast to the otherwise unconference approach.

Eventbrite not fit for this purpose
Both for the IndieWebCamp Utrecht and for this Amsterdam edition I used Eventbrite for registrations. This I will not do again. First it feels like a clash with the IndieWeb spirit, and there are IndieWeb ways for this available. More importantly it leads to fake and spam registrations, as well as a higher percentage no-shows. Where for a more formal or bigger event, Eventbrite can be really useful (I’ve used it for organising international conferences with up to 350 participants), for small informal ones like this the promotion Eventbrite itself gives to a listed event through their own channels only creates unwanted noise. Meet-up might be more useful in comparison even, as that is based of building up a group of people, and then host events for them. That fits the model of seeking to create a wider active audience for IndieWeb much better.

Setting a rhythm
I think for next year doing two events is again a good option. We will need to work harder though to get a more local crowd. Having our IndieWeb colleagues from abroad visit us is great, and most welcome (to both ensure connection to the wider community as well as for the enormous experience and technological knowledge they bring with them), but not enough to sustain doing these events. Having two in a year may seem contradictory to this, but it likely can serve to set a more observable rhythm. A drumbeat that can draw in more people, and can mean someone not able to join one event may be motivated to commit to the next one if it’s already on the horizon. I think Frank and I would do well to fix dates early for both events and announce them both at the same time.

Ability to live stream
Being able to stream the sessions is a key element of IndieWeb events, but we’ve now depended both times on existing experience and gear from outside. In Utrecht Rosemary brought everything we needed from Vienna and set it up for us. In Amsterdam she volunteered to do it again but ultimately couldn’t make it. If not for Aaron also participating, we would have gone without live streaming as he happened to have the gear for two simultaneous streams with him.

Have a third organiser
Due to family circumstances the Utrecht edition was mostly done by Frank, and this Amsterdam edition mostly by me. Not a problem, and I felt fine doing it throughout, simply because I’ve done loads of these type of events. Yet, being able to hand-off things to each other makes for a smoother experience all around, especially facilitating during the event itself. Frank and I need to bring a third co-organiser on board I think to be able to set the pace of doing two events next year, and avoid that most of the work falls to just one of us. Again, not because it can’t be done, or was an issue, it really wasn’t, but it is a continuity risk, and it’s more fun together.

Frank during his demoFrank on-screen doing a remote demo of his work today