Saturday, January 21, 2006

Moderating and Facilitating a VCoP

When you moderate and/or facilitate VCoPs composed of "professionals", the most important word is: beware. And the second one is: beware.

In particular watch out for the warning statement: "how can I get onto digest".

That might mean many things, I concede it, yet one of those meaning can be that the person that says it just wants to search for the "meat" without acknowledging the meaning and importance of negotiating meaning thorough conversation and thinks of an "online community" as a list of links, resources, repositories.

The first danger in that is, this is but first generation KM (definition coined by McElroy) with a codification approach only. The codification approach alone fails, period (see Huysman & de Wit, 2002).

The second danger I see is all in the difference between legitimate peripheral participation (ie: enjoying reading conversations, threads, and the like as well as how insights are generated and shared) and egocentric "what's in it for me, me, me" (ie: adversarial conceptualization of the reader with respect to the community, where the reader has to "bear with" ongoing conversation in order to "get something" out of it). The "proper" legitimate peripheral participant is one that enjoys reading the threads and the conversation so much that sets aside some time to delve into insights/opinions/ideas that are offered, even if s/he participates only occasionally.

What I always do in these settings is:
1. I remind whoever protests about "too many emails" that conversation is precious because it is in conversation that new knowledge is generated (and I add referrals and pointers to the social learning theory, if I really need to shut the dear one up);
2. I remind this very same vocal person that s/he is supposed to enjoy the conversation or else it's no place for him/her to be.

That usually weed out many persons that would later be troublesome for the proper "nucleation" of the CoP.

CoP facilitators/moderators, differently from facilitators in other settings, enforce negative rules mainly: that is, like in Carver boards, they set a rule on what has not to be done, the rest is for free experimentation of the members to find out. Occasionally, posting articles and links elicit some dialogue in case the CoP is kind of "dormant", but a healthy CoP does not need the facilitator to participate, even if s/he might want and/or like to do so.

A CoP facilitator also needs to try to resist the idea of engineering the community life. Sometimes backchannelling with members about the community helps, but it does backfire if you use it too often. A CoP faciliator does backchannel, however, in order to establish a personal relationshipwith those members you find more in tune with your moderation style. If s/he asks something, s/he does it naturally, NOT out of the blue to people s/he has never talked to, and NOT to the "old same buddies", otherwise members would have the impression of being kidded around by a clique.

In order to have a group of people helping the facilitator, complimenting with them privately for something they spontaneously said or posted feels much better, to them and to the group, than it feels to "schedule" the conversation. I am a member in a community in which the moderator often backchannels to ask members to post summaries (still the old repository/codification approach!!). The funny thing is that summaries do get posted, but without *anybody* saying "hey I thought it would be neat to post this" (aka spontaneous contribution), and the posting of the "assigned homework" sounds very artificial.

In short: depending on which kind of members you have and which kind of person you are, you will have different results, however:
1) Always be your natural self: do not play a role
2) Do not distort yourself or your community in order to follow an artificial scheme
3) Keep in mind where you want to go and let go of the controlling attitude most moderators have (enhancing/slowing email flow, having people posting requests/summaries/questions, getting afraid/p*ssed toward whoever posts "too much" or "not enough")
4) Let people be themselves with a list of basic donts.

A community is like a tissue: it will "create" and "heal" by itself whether you are there or not, but if you do your job you will make it easier (facilitation comes etymologically from the Latin word "facile" that is, in fact, EASY).

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Thursday, January 12, 2006


The more I get all into working and networking online, the more I realise the world is full of of sociopaths. Truth be told, it's not exclusive of the online environment, it's just that you can "appreciate" jerks better if you are online *grin*

Cases of the day:
1. a professional networker, IT folk for a well-known association of professionals, online for several years, acknowledges his lack of emotional intelligence in interacting with people. Yet, he still blames others for "being fake" whenever they emote or introduce some nuances in their conversation, because - listen to this - emoticons "distort" the conversation... the dear guy still thinks we're all cavemen and cavewomen, reasoning in black-or-white terms and getting an autistic reaction out of any minuscule world complexity (ever heard of Freud's defense mechanisms, especially projection, Mr Transactional Analysis Psychobabble? On this very topic, I just blasted a person giving me all that cr*p on transitional objects... Try touching a flame without a transitional object and let's see if you get burn and call it being smart, *ssh*l*!);

2. another professional, namely a network-centric one, builds a group up in a wonderful way, like a marvellous lab experiment, just to shut it down because - I suspect - the group developed a shared vision and leadership and could go on without him... in fact, he doesn't accept to transfer the group ownership, period.

From all of this we can gather some cosmic laws:
A. whatever a person proports to be, don't believe him/her UNLESS you have some direct evidence suggesting that s/he indeed knows what s/he means;
B. no matter how intelligent an idea sounds like, the voice that reveals it to the world can still belong to the most inconsistent and unaware of the human beings (that's the beauty of life!);
C. do not confuse the message with the messenger: just because the idea is good, it doesn't mean the messenger is as well;
D. Carl Rogers was DEAD WRONG when he said that anybody could reach their full potential, some people can not, because they prefer to be a slave to their limitations and fears, which they name, respectively, "myself" and "my opinions" and treasure above anything else;
E. some people approach work as they would approach the primordial broth: shove everything that there is IN, inject some sparkles into it and hope to make a living out of it;
F. Life without the power of observation switched on is not very different from vegetative state and coma: either you shake it away, or euthanasia is an option.

That's why, in all of this, I stand firm in my preferring the humble, the marginalized, the "underserved": because there is more dignity in acknowledging the limitation that life, society and God put on you (and that we ALL have, like it or not -- despite Seligman's positive thinking BLABBING) than there is in pretending to be smarter than one is.

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