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April 14, 2004 » 11:58 pm

ChiliPLoP, Day 2

Today, my workshop began in earnest. My goal for today was to collectively
develop a working definition of collaboration, and I’m happy to say
that we achieved that (see Collab:Collaboration). Tomorrow, we’ll
start exploring patterns in earnest.    (1BW)

I have a great group of participants:    (1BX)

We began the day by introducing ourselves to each other. I asked each
person to relate their best collaborative experience. Most people
found it a difficult question, which jives with my overall
experience. Nevertheless, we managed to get enough out of the stories
for a barebones definition to emerge.    (1C2)

I then sent the participants off to read Chapter 4 of Michael Schrage’s
No More Teams! while I refactored my Dialog Map, captured using
Compendium.
(I’ll post the final map at the end of the conference.)    (1C3)

After lunch, I showed the participants my Dialog Map for the first
time. From that point forward, the map became part of the
conversation (Shared Display). We walked through several scenarios —
some of which had emerged from the earlier discussion — deciding
whether or not they constituted collaboration and why.    (1C4)

Afterwards, I refactored the map again, and we started refining the
definition. The end result is at Collab:Collaboration. I’ll post
more commentary on the patterns mailing list.    (1C5)

Throughout the day, all of us recorded possible patterns on index
cards. We’ll use those as a starting point for our discussion
tomorrow.    (1C6)

Side Notes    (1C7)

I had made my expectations very clear at the beginning of the day: My
goal for the day was to have a working definition of collaboration.
(A pattern Ofra calls Set The Pegs.) So, having accomplished that at
the end of the day, we all were satisfied.    (1C8)

On the way to dinner, I ran into another workshop participant who
asked me how my workshop went. I said, “Great. We defined
collaboration.” He thought I was joking. We had spent the entire day
defining one term, and I was actually happy about that.    (1C9)

This was very much by design, and to be perfectly frank, I was glad
that we managed to come up with something workable by the end of the
day. I am a strong believer in Shared Understanding as a prerequisite
for effective collaboration. I’ve also been influenced by the
MGTaylor process, which suggests that spending about two-thirds of the
allotted time on Shared Understanding and Shared Language and the rest
on the concrete objective is actually more effective than attempting
to spend all of the time on the concrete objective. The reason is
that you are not capable of effectively attacking the concrete
objective without first developing Shared Understanding. The end
result is that you end up trying to solve both problems simultaneously
(and often unconsciously) and up doing both poorly. Additionally,
because you were not realistic with your expectations up-front,
everyone walks away disappointed.    (1CA)

The proof, of course, is in the pudding. It’ll be interesting to see
how my participants feel about our overall productivity by the end of
the day tomorrow.    (1CB)

Earlier that day, I described Blue Oxen Associates to another attendee,
who wondered, how will we make money if we give our pattern language
away? He was actually trying to tactfully ask how we make money,
period. I don’t think he realistically thought that we could make
money selling a “proprietary” pattern language.    (1CC)

My response: The real value is in the experience, not in the text
itself, which without context is simply more information in the
infoglut. If you can gain value from merely reading our material,
outstanding. We give it away to heighten the potential impact.
However, to truly appreciate the research, you need to experience it
firsthand. I see Blue Oxen Associates as a new type of learning
organization, where members learn by experiencing and participating in
what we study and what we learn. The value is in the experience and
in being part of our community, and that’s what we expect people to
pay for.    (1CD)

Finally, in the evening, Jerry Michalski demonstrated The Brain, a
Personal Knowledge Management tool. Sadly, it was late in the evening,
and only a few people saw the demo; tomorrow, I’m going to suggest
that he do it again. I had seen The Brain before, but Jerry’s demo is
particularly compelling because he’s been adding data to it since
1997.    (1CE)

One thing that really comes through with The Brain is how little
semantic richness you need for a tool to be useful. The Brain supports
typed links, but Jerry doesn’t use them. Instead, he uses topical
nodes to relate other nodes. In essence, it’s a barebones graph model
with a great UI, but its utility is tremendous. We don’t have enough
tools like it.    (1CF)

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