Under-Definite Articulation

Samuel Klein recently complained about people who refer to Wikipedia with “over-definite articulation.” In other words, “the Wikipedia” rather than just “Wikipedia.” SJ pleads, “Please fight for justice in nomenclature, and save us all from grammatical confusion and disorder.”    (M0P)

Hear, hear, SJ. I have to deal with a similar problem here in the Bay Area: Silly Northern Californians who refer to the local freeways with under-definite articulation. People, it’s the 101. Get it right.    (M0Q)

WikiWednesday and Web Mondays

Two “days” coming up worth attending, for those of you in the Bay Area. Tomorrow is WikiWednesday at Socialtext in Palo Alto. Three good reasons to go:    (LGI)

Next Monday is the third WebMonday Silicon Valley, this time at Cooley Godward Kronish in Palo Alto. Sadly, I won’t be able to make this one, but I spoke at the last one, and I had an one excellent time.    (LGM)

Something Special in St. Louis

There’s something special brewing in St. Louis, and it ain’t Budweiser. My side of the story begins in the Bay Area. We’ve got this special culture here in California. It’s a culture of openness, of collaboration, of entrepreneurship, and of tolerance. Combine that with a wonderfully diverse and intellectual community, and you get a tremendous amount of good vibes and innovation. The Bay Area is so wonderful, most of us don’t see any need to go anywhere else, and those who do often experience severe culture shock. Yes, Virginia, not everyone is like us Californians.    (LBJ)

In some ways, that’s a good thing, but in many ways, it’s sad. True, California is beautiful. True, the people here are brilliant and wonderful. But, there are brilliant and wonderful people who live outside of California, and there’s no reason why those folks can’t enjoy the same community vibe that we do out here. The Internet allows us to transcend geographical boundaries and form a virtual community with a similar vibe, but it still pales in comparison to the experience of being physical immersed in this type of environment. The barrier to this sort of vibe emerging in a geographical community is usually culture.    (LBK)

Is it possible to shift the culture of a community (or an organization) to be more collaborative, more tolerant, more innovative? Absolutely. It’s not easy, but it’s possible, and like all great things, it starts with great people, and it has to start small.    (LBL)

St. Louis has these ingredients as well as a growing consciousness about what is possible. The right people are there, and they are starting to discover each other. If this growing community fosters these opportunities, a wonderful prairie will emerge.    (LBM)

This past Wednesday, I did my part by co-facilitating the first gathering of the St. Louis Collaboratory, which was formed by Kellee Sikes and three of her colleagues (Mark Richman, Donna Mickens, and Valerie Hartman). (Pictures from the event.) The gathering was modeled after the “Tools for Catalyzing Collaboration” (TCC) workshops I co-organized with Jeff Shults earlier this year in San Francisco. Kellee attended our second workshop, and enjoyed it so much, she decided to try and bring a similar experience to her community in St. Louis.    (LBN)

https://i2.wp.com/static.flickr.com/92/273875599_bd3b84ff7d_m.jpg?w=700    (LBO)

Kellee, Mark, Donna, and Valerie recruited a fantastic and diverse group of participants. We had folks from both non- and for-profits, from large and small companies, from technology, health care, and organized labor. These people were thoughtful and open-minded. They came into the workshop with a healthy dose of skepticism, but also a willingness to play. What surprised me the most was that several of them had thought as deeply about collaboration as anyone else I’ve ever met.    (LBP)

I learned a tremendous amount listening to this group and watching them work. I could write 50 blog entries about the things I learned, stories I heard, and insights I gained. (I’ll be happy if I manage three.)    (LBQ)

At dinner later in the evening, I told several people that it would be a travesty if they did not continue engage with each other. You can do amazing things in a day. My goals were to expand their consciousness, to make them aware of each other, to start seeding Shared Language, and to give them an opportunity to experience a different kind of collaboration. We met these goals, but they barely scratch the surface of what’s possible.    (LBR)

The opportunity is there. Kellee and company are planning another workshop in January, and hopefully some of the participants from this week will play a more active role in designing the next event. Moreover, there are complementary events cropping up in St. Louis.    (LBS)

Through a serendipitous conversation with Jay Cross last month, I discovered Dave Gray, the founder of St. Louis-based XPLANE, which does visual modeling and facilitation. Dave introduced me to Matt Homann, a lawyer by trade who recently formed a company, LexThink, to organize more collaborative gatherings. Matt has been experimenting with a different kind of networking event in St. Louis known as Idea Markets, and the second one just happened to be this past Tuesday. It was an excellent event, and I’d encourage people from the area to go. This style of event is a dime a dozen in the Bay Area, but we rarely see the mix of people that Matt managed to draw.    (LBT)

https://i2.wp.com/static.flickr.com/91/273871891_6afb850afc_m.jpg?w=700    (LBU)

What’s different about St. Louis Collaboratory and events like Idea Markets is that they’re not about Drive-By Networking. They’re not about, “What can you do for me?” They’re about, “What can we do with each other?” That, my friends, is what collaboration is about. I’ll be watching these developments closely to see what emerges.    (LBV)

BarBar Redux

Thanks to those of you who dropped by BarBar last night! Not surprisingly given that Scott McMullan and I organized, it was a very Wiki-oriented crowd: folks from JotSpot, Socialtext, and Atlassian were there to relax.    (LAT)

https://i2.wp.com/static.flickr.com/120/260460715_429ee26d12_m.jpg?w=700    (LAU)

If you want to know what makes Silicon Valley great, this picture says it all. Where else in the world is it commonplace for competitors to get together for beers after work and talk openly about their work and their lives? We had great conversation (not all of it Wiki-related), and I had the chance to preach WikiOhana to my enterprisey peers.    (LAV)

The highlight of my evening was enjoying the sweet fare of the Tamale Lady for the first time.    (LAW)

https://i2.wp.com/static.flickr.com/94/260460413_25cb3c9a58_m.jpg?w=700    (LAX)

They were ridiculously tasty. How is it that I’ve lived in the Bay Area for over ten years, and I had never heard of the Tamale Lady before? Ah well, now I’m in the know (and so are you).    (LAY)

The Future of Intelligence, Part 1

About six months after 9/11, I came across a book by Gregory Treverton, who served as the Vice Chair of the National Intelligence Council under Bill Clinton. The book, Reshaping National Intelligence for the Age of Information, was published shortly before 9/11, and its insights into the state of national intelligence were both revealing and prescient. It’s a remarkable book, and it got me thinking more deeply about the incredible cultural and organizational challenges of national intelligence. Not coincidentally, around the same time, I was starting to synthesize my ideas on collaboration, a process that resulted in my founding of Blue Oxen Associates.    (L7T)

Things are starting to come full circle. Over the past year, I’ve found myself engaged in conversation with a number of people in the intelligence community, and it culminated in a two day workshop with the CIA this past week. It’s been somewhat of a surreal experience, given that I’ve spent much of the past four years working side-by-side with progressive and Open Source activists, many of whom consider the government an antagonist at best, an enemy at worst. Moreover, my one previous brush with government work — a project with the FAA — left me with a less than favorable view of how our federal agencies work. The culture there is stifling, especially in comparison to the Bay Area. There is a stated desire to learn and to improve, but there is very little real commitment. Those who actually want to do something are trapped under a blanket of repressive indifference, and those who manage to do something anyway are usually completely marginalized by their superiors and even their peers.    (L7U)

All that said, the fundamental challenges regarding intelligence are dear to my heart, and I find myself paying a bit more attention when these conversations and opportunities present themselves. I firmly believe that deep knowledge about collaboration is spread across a number of domains, and the only way to acquire this knowledge is to engage with each of those different communities. This especially holds true with intelligence, where the knowledge product itself is sensemaking and actionable knowledge.    (L7V)

I am also a patriot. That word has attained somewhat of a negative connotation over the past five years, which is not necessarily a bad thing, because it has forced us to deeply reexamine our values. I’ve gone through this process myself, and I’ve walked away even more sure of my feelings. I’d like to make both this country and the world a better place. Those two goals are not orthogonal.    (L7W)

Last year, I met Darniet Jennings, an intelligence researcher, at WikiSym. We’ve had a number of interesting conversations since, and he participated in our first “Tools for Catalyzing Collaboration” workshop. About six months ago, he referred me to a paper written by Calvin Andrus entitled, “The Wiki and the Blog: Toward a Complex Adaptive Intelligence Community.” Andrus, who is with the CIA, wrote this paper last year, and it has since become the de facto reference on the role of Social Software in intelligence.    (L7X)

I’ve found the majority of these kinds of whitepapers shallow and uninteresting. Andrus’s paper is anything but. Rather than offer some simplistic portrayal of these tools while repeating the same tiresome anecdotes and misconceptions over why they’re useful, Andrus frames the conversation in terms of systems theory. He cites Ludwig von Bertalanffy and Jane Jacobs, and he praises decentralization, localization, and emergence. The depth of his paper comes from this framing, which establishes the correct higher-level goals and philosophy behind these tools and which surfaces the intelligence community’s real challenges. The paper has flaws, but they are minor.    (L7Y)

The fact that such a paper exists and that it has been embraced by the intelligence community makes me hopeful, but that hope is tempered by Treverton. Andrus writes about the importance of empowering local, bottoms-up action, and he cites Tip O’Neill‘s famous maxim, “All politics is local politics.” For those who might perceive of the intelligence community as being overly centralized, this seems to be a refreshing viewpoint.    (L7Z)

However, Treverton suggests that this view is not foreign to the intelligence community at all. In fact, he writes that “intelligence analysts tend toward the long view and to take the world as a given.” Treverton then cites the very same O’Neill quote, writing, “Because they [intelligence analysts] are so immersed in the local, they are by profession believers in the adage attributed to former U.S. Congressman Tip O’Neill that ‘all politics is local politics'” (181). In contrast, policy makers tend to care less about the long view. Transforming national intelligence is not enough. We need to transform the relationship between intelligence and policy.    (L80)