Some of you Twitter fans may have noticed that Twitter couldn't handle the load today. Here was the pleasant image that was provided on the site as scalability suffered: I couldn't help but think this image is a little misleading. I don't know about you, but I do not feel as though I am being flown through the air, gently carried by a fleet of doves, eyes closed in near-ecstasy. Here is, perhaps, an alternative notification that more accurately communicates my feelings: (inspired by another alternative here)
The social technology for non-profits superstar Beth Kanter asked on twitter today for thoughts around social process for wiki projects.
While I think there's a distinct possibility she DM'd me by accident(she didn't), this did not stop me from responding. The response got long enough that I decided to blog it. Aside from the impulsive wikipedia edit, I have experience noodling on a couple different wikis. There always seems to be a lot of social process in wiki communities, but it's all organic and mostly undocumented. Keep in mind that WikipediaIsNotTypical. Here's a couple thoughts that pop to mind:
- Biggest challenge, as with all social media projects, is getting participation. Social process, whether formally declared or emergent, should address this as the primary objective.
- Mentor/guide program. I find the best wiki communities provide only initial documented guidance with lots of emphasis on 'be bold'. The critical period is the first few weeks that a noob pokes out of lurk and publicly expresses interest in contributing. At this point, it's hugely valuable to have a guide swoop in and attach themselves to this person for a bit... send them emails, be willing to publicly encourage and correct them where others shouldn't or won't, etc.
- Agree on objectives. Revisit frequently. Lots of projects go awry here over subtleties in what people thought they were trying to accomplish.
- Marry conversation with "page building". Media wiki isn't very good at conversation, but conversation is great for getting participation and working through theories - especially if you have a relatively small group. Both wikis I've been involved in spend a lot of time on trying to encourage effective page building through social process.
- Probably the most documented topic on wikis that I hang around in is around how technology and design work in tandem with social process - how they reinforce each other - how good tools are simple but use affordances to leverage human social tendencies and behavior towards desired outcomes. E.g. point systems and leader boards.
Von Hippel and Lakhani focused on internet-driven collaboration in user-led innovation communities. They point to some specific research examples including kite surfing, PostgreSQL, and the MATLAB collaborative programming contest
Over the last several years, these two (amongst others) have radically challenged the conventional thinking on who innovates and how it's done. Our understanding of the innovation process is at an interesting juncture, where open sharing and online collaboration has helped highlight the growth of user-led, community-driven solution design. This notion first gained popularity in 2005 when Von Hippel published a book on his research, inspiring me to first blog about democratizing innovation.
Description from Berkman:
Internet and the widespread availability of sophisticated digital design tools are radically changing best practice in product and service development. What was until recently a process concentrated within producer firms is now becoming democratized and widely distributed. This fundamental change has widespread consequences. What is the impact of these developments on innovation processes, business models, and government policies?
It was great fun introducing Physical Computing to so many software developers. There was tons of interest with standing room only in our room. Even helped 4-5 people to stick around and build blinkys on their own Arduinos.
Last night's "Food for Thought" dinner at the Berkman@10 conference was a real treat. It also could easily have become a game of who-coined-that-famous-term. Our group of 13 or so included Tim Wu (coined 'net neutrality'), Dave Weinberger ('small pieces loosely joined') and Doc Searls ('markets are conversations'). We tried to discuss the small, humble problem of 'how to save the Internet'. Considering the dinner immediately followed a 2-hour open bar and we were dining on a rowdy roof deck, it's a miracle we got through introductions. The big takeaway for me was learning of some great initiatives from JP Rangaswami, who is innovating British Telecom from the inside-out and Joshua Kauffman from REGIONAL, redesigning the tools of democracy around the world from the bottom-up. Finally, props to Cole Camplese from Penn State, who, aside from manging the digital download chaos of 100,000 students, clued me into how to how to tunnel out of university firewalls in order to get access to my SMTP services. Thanks, man.
Derek Hoffend, sound artist and teacher at Boston's School of the Museum of Fine Arts presented tonight at Boston's monthly Dorkbot get-together. He showcased video of four very cool art installations he created that can be found in his online portfolio.
Listen to his full presentation below. If you're following along at home, you might want to walk through his portfolio videos on his website.
Derek presented the following projects, in this order:
- Untitled Arrangement for Steel and Feedback II
- ...and an outdoor project in Union Square that I can't find on his site.
Derek's projects allow participants to interact directly with his physical installations to produce and control manufactured, complex soundscapes. To create and manipulate sound, he uses a combination of transducers, mics, analog and digital circuits, and Max/MSP software (depending on the project). Above is a picture of his Haptigenic sound circuit, using pressure sensors connected to manipulatable latex sculptures to control a rich audio experience.
Passing around new ideas has gotten more complex. The proliferation of social networks, instant messaging, and texting has helped spread memes better and faster than word of mouth alone. This in turn has triggered newly formed cultural and social norms that discourage the sharing of certain types of information, such as containing obvious, redundant, biased, dubious, long-winded, or overtly commercial information. Instead, we gravitate towards sharing novel, meaningful, surprising, bite-sized discoveries.
People seem to have an irresistible urge to pass these sorts of discoveries along. The signal that an idea or product has hit this sweet spot is when it is mentioned at least three times in one day (usually through different channels). I call this the 3x/1-Day rule.
Here's a couple 3x/1-Day memes. I'll try to keep up - at least from my limited perspective.
April14, 2008 - Flip Video Camera (link)
May 13, 2008 - Groundswell Book/website (link)
June 26, 2008 - The Twebinar (link)
August 18, 2008 - Mangatars (link)
August 27, 2008 - Ubiquity (link)
September 3, 2008 - Google Chrome (link)
September 9, 2008 - Has the large hadron collider destroyed the world yet? (link)
September 23, 2008 - Twitter bots
Along with other Dorkbot members, I am presenting an introduction to physical computing with Arduino at this year's Barcamp Boston, May 17-18. An initial session that we're proposing for Saturday will cover the basics of the open source hardware/software platform Arduino. We'll also be demoing some projects to help demonstrate what's possible on this platform. My (not so secret) goal is to help software geeks build outside the PC and distribute creative new applications for open hardware platforms.
What is Physical Computing?
For hobbyists, physical computing refers to DIY projects that use sensors and microcontrollers (low-cost computer-on-a-chip) to translate input to a software system, and/or control electro-mechanical devices such as motors, lights, audio or other hardware. The Arduino is an open source hardware/software platform that greatly simplifies connecting a microcontroller to a PC, interfacing with analog and digital inputs and outputs, and loading your own code onto the device. Endless possibilities exist for projects that sense the environment and react/respond, collect data, or interact directly with other physical objects within range.
We're also hoping to do a follow-up hands-on workshop that would allow anyone to build their own projects with help from others. No prior experience necessary. We're trying to gauge interest in the workshop component, so let me know if you're interested.
(as found on TweetStats)
Designing Systems That Work
Decentralized peer production environments hold more promise in directing participatory systems towards collectively intelligent outcomes than the traditional approach of using centralized authority to drive individual behavior. The success of open source software development and wikis suggests that production environments based on autonomous individual action have the most potential for large-scale, enduring participation. These systems provide individual freedom and choice for interacting with resources and projects without any single authority dictating individual behavior or focus. It is precisely the individual's response to the freedom inherent in a decentralized system that triggers the desire to participate.
Words like “harness” or “leverage” used to describe value produced through individual participation signals a misguided perspective of centralized authority controlling participants. Seeing individuals as a ready resource to be wheedled and mined for value is, at best, a misunderstanding of how distributed production operates, and at worst, a setup to failure. Individually-motivated activity is the cornerstone of successful participatory environments, and presuming participation while undervaluing the individual causes contributions to evaporate. Cajoling effective production, dictating behavior, and exploiting contributions is inherently counter-productive to participatory environments. Empowering the individual creates beneficial outcomes and cultivates an environment where these contributions are most valuable. Since the best participatory environments exist to serve individuals and address their interests first and foremost, the heavy-handed, centralized actions or exploitation of participants corrupts an online collective environment irreparably. Ideally, participants develop a feeling of ownership over the environment, and providing such an atmosphere is indispensable to ensure the environment’s continuance.
Want more? Read the whole chapter Empowering Individuals Towards Collective Online Production, now freely available online.
Had a chat with Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of rapidly rising reddit yesterday at ROFLcon. Their buy-out by Conde Nast appears to be Y-Combinator's first big payoff. He said the Y-combinator experience was great and he would do it the same way again if given the chance (yeah, sign me up while you're at it - especially that buy-out bit at the end). He revealed that YC turned down their initial idea - ordering take out through txt messages. A call from Paul the next day encouraged them to come up something else. Think fast! He and Steve came up with the Reddit idea in a few hours on the train ride home.
In unrelatd news, Alexis gave up on trying to use his XO laptop and instead asked presenters at ROFLcon to sign it in order to raffle it off to, as he put it, "buy porn... I mean, give the proceeds to OLPC." I suppose OLPC could use the help.
Wikipedia eat your heart out... what a few hundred people can do in the audience backchannel at ROFLcon.
As projected up on the conference presentation screen:
I am a contributing author for the book Collective Intelligence: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace. Today, it arrived on my doorstep and finally feels real. My chapter is entitled Empowering Individuals Towards Collective Online Production, and focuses on the paradoxical role of individual motivation in effective online collaboration. Works from several of my heroes appear in this compendium, including Yochai Benkler, Doug Engelbart, Pierre Levy, Thomas Malone, Howard Rheingold, and David Weinberger. I feel incredibly fortunate and remarkably unworthy sharing a book jacket with the likes of these folks, but there it is.
Was able to give Linux Insider / E-Commerce Times the scoop on VRM for their article VRM: Consumers Take Control. The article is a micro-intro to VRM from the perspective of a traditional business/tech news nutshell.
Here's my captured quips:
That can be a difficult concept to grasp -- especially when thinking in terms of business relationships or new killer Web 2.0 applications such Facebook admits Keith Hopper, who's on the Project VRM Steering Committee.
Applications facilitating electronic personal health records may come closest to this concept of any software category on the market today, Hopper told CRM Buyer. These can loosely be described as products that let patients use a single, unified electronic record when interacting with physicians and pharmacies.
A personal RFP, or request for proposal, is another example of a killer VRM app, Hopper said, describing that potential product as a vehicle for consumers to reach out to VRM-compliant vendors when looking to buy a certain product or service.
On Thursday, the MIT Center for Future Civic Media as part of the MIT Communications Forum and Civic Media Series hosted a talk between Yochai Benkler and Cass Sunstein, moderated by Henry Jenkins and entitled "Our World Digitized: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly."
The premise, of which I was skeptical, was to get Cass and Yochai to duke it out over whether internet participation was headed anywhere good. I was dubious of MIT staging a scholarly drama, but Benkler, Sunstein, and Jenkins have written three of the (arguably) most important recent works on the participatory internet, and for that fact alone, attendance was mandatory.
Many great arguments were articulated, all of which can be heard here.
Presented on Emerging Trends in Social Media and its Potential Impact on News Production and Distribution at WGBH today.
Full disclosure: They use my community engagement software.
And now, for something completely dorky. I have begun to play with DIY electronics. This is principally because it's tremendous fun. You should try it. Seriously. The possibilities are endless. Here is a video of a range test for my prototype homing device built with an Arduino microcontroller module and an XBee radio transceiver. The portable, handheld device cost me about $60 to make, but theoretically could be a lot less if you designed a PCB and didn't rely on prototyping components.
Short-term, I hope to join fellow Boston Dorkbot members to build on this prototype and construct a location-based game. Stay tuned... My longer-term goal is to develop a standardized radio/microntroller platform on which to load and share user-oriented software applications (like the homing software shown here) for proximity-based device communications. The range for the "homing device" seems to well exceed the 300' that the XBee specs claim. Cool. Please send me suggestions for improvements, other ideas, etc.
"The Break Up" video has been around for about a year, but it's so relevant to what we've been working on with Project VRM, I couldn't resist posting it. Produced by Microsoft (of all people) along with ad agency openhere.be, the short video is a brilliant slam on how the traditional approach to customer outreach is woefully out of touch. It basically runs like an ad for The Cluetrain Manifesto.
The video is by Geert Desager and originally posted at bringtheloveback.com.
Seeing as I get "the mention" about once a year, and usually by accident, I figured I’d strut out the fact that I got two (2) unsolicited plugs this week on not totally obscure media outlets.
The first was from none other than the Cluetrain man himself, Doc Searls. During a Newsgang podcast from Steve Gillmore with Steven Hill, and the Interim CEO of NPR, Dennis Haarsager, Doc mentioned our work together on Project VRM at the Berkman Center. The future of public broadcasting discussion that ensues is an interesting insider view and a worthwhile listen.
The next one was great fun and truly a historic moment in our little sphere of nerds-who-work-in-public-broadcasting. Thursday’s Up to Date call-in show on KCUR (Kansas City) was sagely dedicated to the future of Public Broadcasting and its interesting and evolving relationship with the web and social technology.
Rob Patterson, Andy Carvin, and Todd Mundt then spent the next hour trying their damnest to not talk constantly about Twitter (and pretty much failed). In a particularly self-referential moment, Andy mentioned that I was livetwittering a bunch of twittering broadcasters as they broadcast twitter's impact on broadcasting. I’m not sure that last sentence was grammatically correct or even remotely what Andy said, but whatever. Listen to it yourself.
In a long anticipated move, idea submit & rate engines are finally catching some meme-like popularity. They're certainly easy to build. In a follow-up post, I will tear them to bits for the flaws they introduce and the assumptions we make around their utility. They do poke at some interesting aspects of Collective Problem Solving. Here are a few: