This is a first attempt at collecting a few thoughts around the theme of the upcoming BlogWalk meeting in Amsterdam.
With the list of participants being filled to capacity, I have a bit of time to try and prepare myself for the contents of this salon.

As said the theme is Digital Bohemiens, the people that have embraced the digital world as their habitat, as the place where their social interaction takes place and starts for the most part. They flock to place that provide wifi, coffee and power plugs, and have conferences for meeting places. They tend to travel a lot, though sometimes less than they wish, and track their and eachothers movements through tools like Plazes, Jaiku and Dopplr.

Three main groups of questions come to my mind thinking about this digital avant garde.
1) The type of questions that has to do with their working environment. What does their workplace look like? What kind of infrastructure do they need, use or build for themselves?
2) Questions that relate to how collect process and share information. How do they interact? How do they filter? What groups are they part of? Which tools do they use to support their information strategies? In what kind of structures do they embed themselves (networks / organisations) How do they create value for themselves?
3) Questions that have to do with learning, and personal and collective development. How do they learn? What goals do they set for themselves, and how do they attempt to achieve them? (orgnisational structures, business models) How do they align their own development with that of others in their network?

And of course: how is that different for other people?

For myself I can answer these questions pretty well I think. I work for an organization that uses no office but is Netherlands ‘most mobile company’. So when I give presentations, and I introduce myself and our company Proven Partners I usually show a slide that looks like this:

I find it triggers a lot of emotion in audiences generally. To them the photo’s look like fun, enjoying yourself, and usually there are those who think it doesn’t look serious enough. To me it looks like hard work, getting results, and steep learning curves.
What does it look like to you?

(btw I also tag this reboot9 as it is closely related to what Elmine and I want to talk about at Reboot: How to be the owner of your own learning path. These digital bohemiens, whoever they are, is just another group of people having their own particular answer to that question.)

After a long hiatus, it is my tremendous pleasure to announce BlogWalk Eleven for May 2007 in Amsterdam!
Date, venue nor focus have been decided yet, so there is still plenty of opportunity to add your thoughts to the discussion. The date will most likely be Friday May 11th 2007, or Friday May 18th 2007.
With this BlogWalk the series will undergo some changes. Having toured Europe, North America, and Australia with BlogWalk in the previous years we are partly consolidating the format. We have decided to do two fixed BlogWalk sessions per year, one of which will be in Amsterdam in the spring, the other in southern Germany in the fall. Next to those two fixed sessions there will be room for one or max. two ‘ travelling events’ for which suggestions are welcome.
Otherwise we will keep the sessions as they used to be, bringing twenty-odd thinkers and practitioners together for face to face conversations around a social software related theme. Using free or sponsored venues, an after-lunch walk through town, and generally keeping to a zero-budget. As always in the end participants will decide on the spot how the event takes shape, facilitated and moderated by Lilia Efimova, Sebastian Fiedler and/or me. As in the previous BlogWalk events, participation will be by invitation only. But remember, invitations are not meant to make things exclusive, but to make sure everybody knows up-front who is coming. So make yourself known if you want to be there.
For now suffice to say:
BlogWalk Eleven is taking place for certain, in May in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Feel free to add your thoughts and suggestions, here in the comments, or in the newly styled blog and workspace where all BlogWalk related information can be found. We will start working on finalizing the date,venue and focus, before moving to the program, and the invitations for participants. On all three points your input is welcomed.
Sebastian, Lilia and I are looking forward to meeting you in Amsterdam next May.

Last week I had the pleasure to do a little ‘German tour’ speaking in Stuttgart and in Bonn. In Stuttgart I told a similar story as I did earlier this year in Vienna on the European Distance and E-learning Network conference (EDEN), about how our SME was introduced to social software (by me in early 2004) and how slowly the tools as well as the design notions behind them found their way into our working routines and into our professional vision towards dealing with the collecting, processing and sharing of information in an increasingly networked world of complex knowledge work.

The presentation seemed to go over pretty well, even though in the beginning I raced through it at too high speed. After me Karsten Ehms of Siemens recounted, as he did at EDEN, his story of how internal blogging has become available to all 450.000 Siemens employees world wide. It is always good to meet Karsten, and for the second time it proved very interesting to contrast my story from an SME background with his story from a large international corporate background.

After Stuttgart I made a bit of a detour towards Bonn, staying over in Nürnberg at Sebastian Fiedler‘s place, before travelling up north together. During the pleasant train ride, through the hills of Franconia, and on the fall foliage covered banks of the Rhine we prepared the ProWalk workshop we were to host at the 2nd International Media Informatics Symposium. There I also met up with Marc Smith again, of Microsoft Research.

We dubbed our workshop ProWalk because we wanted to more or less use the BlogWalk format, but then in a more professional setting, and as part of the ProLearn EU-project. The subtitle of the conference was CowPaths: Agency in Social Software, and was a good choice I think. It emphasizes the bottom-up nature of the effects Social Software has, and how it builds on our actual behaviour in stead of our planning.

Even though the workshop attracted only a small number of people, it was a very interesting session. With almost as much nationalities as participants and diverse backgrounds, the discussion stayed rich in perspectives. It also was a good opportunity to notice that Sebastian and I work very well together in such a setting. I already knew that from our BlogWalk series, but this of course was a bit different in context. Something to try and do more often. Rumour has it there might be a chance to do a next installment of the ProWalk in Spain. If that happens we will reintroduce the walk-part, which we left out in Bonn due to time constraints. Impressions and transcriptions of the session can be found in the BlogWalk wiki-space under ProWalk Bonn. There you will also find a few links to the other participants and their reflection on the session.

Windows wiki by Sebastian

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In the past two years, Lilia Efimova, Sebastian Fiedler and I have been organizing a number of day long workshops / salons under the name BlogWalk. With ten sessions on three continents, in eight countries, we brought together roughly 200 people for day long dialogues on different weblogging related subjects.
To me it seemed that the energy I felt at the first two, three sessions was less present in the later sessions. Not because the newness of it all for me was gone; meeting groups of interesting people face to face is always inspiring. I think for me at some point my collector’s attitude kicked in. My focus shifted a bit from doing great days of dialogue, to adding another city, another country, to the list of our travelling circus of BlogWalks.

Windows Wiki During BlogWalk London, Sept. 2004

Sebastian Fiedler expressed some of the same doubts I felt in the last six months or so, so when he visited us earlier this month for Lilia’s and Robert’s wedding, we took it as a great opportunity to have a little rethink of the BlogWalk concept.
Over at Seblogging you can read the notes Sebastian took, and the conclusions we arrived at. But before looking forward, I like to look back at the things that got in the way of my personal ‘original BlogWalk experience’.

  • Eagerness sometimes resulted in hastily organised sessions, leaving too little time for inviting the right people, and too little time to collectively prepare the day.
  • A number of sessions were only done by one of us three, making it much less a collaborative experience
  • Doing BlogWalks in conjunction with major conferences works good for getting a broader group at the day, but distracts as well: people flying in or out during the day, a few just looking to kill some spare time in a nice and useful way.
  • Loosing sight of people, and especially of the spin-offs and effects meetings had for us.
  • Staying at people’s homes around a BlogWalk adds a lot to the experience, but takes time to prepare, and thus we ended up in hotels more and more.

Snowball Fight at BlogWalk Chicago, Jan. 2005

So, looking forward Sebastian and I would like to re-energize our BlogWalk efforts:

  • BlogWalks are facilitated by us as a team
  • Themes will be chosen from the whole of social media, and not so much tool-centered as opportunity or problem focussed
  • Three BlogWalks a year creates the needed preparation and follow-up time
  • Choosing two fixed European cities lets us build on previously found local resources
  • One BlogWalk will ‘travel’, and we’ll look for local groups and institutions to help host it. For these meetings we will be looking for support for basic travel costs for our team
  • These three BlogWalks will be stand alone events. If opportunities arise to do something in conjunction with a conference it will be considered, but the three stand alone events have priority
  • We want to continue to voluntarily spend time and effort on organizing and facilitating BlogWalks
  • BlogWalks will continue to be by invitation only and free of charge
  • We want to track and document more of what BlogWalk meetings help spark.

Magic of the Screen During BlogWalk Innsbruck, Jun. 2005

All in all I think the ideas and thoughts we formulated help us create new energy and organize BlogWalks with a renewed sense of fun. It also means that to me this is no longer an experiment, it is something we do as part of our, mine at least, efforts to knit a wider European network of thinkers and doers from different fields. Something we need to help leverage our European diversity as fuel for innovative thinking.
A first practical result of leaving the experimental phase behind is that we will start moving the current BlogWalk wiki and BlogWalk website from their current subdomains to two new urls, and
I’d appreciate any thoughts or comments you might have concerning BlogWalk.

Photo credits: Windows wiki London by Riccardo, Snowball fight by AKMA, Magic Screen by Sebastian Fiedler, all under Creative Commons.

It is our pleasure to announce the next BlogWalk meeting!
On May 20th BlogWalk 7 will take place in Mechelen. Tom de Bruijne, Maarten Schenk en Clo Willaerts have kindly agreed to be our local hosts. The theme will be civic journalism.

(image by Ton Zijlstra, (c))

BlogWalks are by invitation only, and the number of available places is limited. We are sending out invitations in the coming days. E-mail me if you’re interested to attend; usually we can fit all those who are interested.