She’s Geeky, October 22-23

The tireless and talented Kaliya Hamlin is organizing a new gathering: She’s Geeky, coming October 22-23, 2007 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View:    (MLA)

The She’s Geeky (un)conference will provide an agenda-free and friendly environment for women who not only care about building technology that is useful for people, but who also want to encourage more women to get involved.    (MLB)

It is designed to provide women who self-identify as geeky and who are engaged in various technology-focused disciplines with a gathering space in which they can exchange skills and discuss ideas and form community across and within disciplines.    (MLC)

Blue Oxen Associates just signed on as a sponsor. But, I’m not allowed to register. Why? Registrations are for women only. Am I okay with that? Absolutely.    (MLD)

Intimacy Gradients are critical for effective collaboration. I spend a lot of time teaching groups how to be more open; no one needs a lesson on how to be more closed. But there are times when being closed has value.    (MLE)

I’ve expressed my admiration for BlogHer many times. Their conference has been open to both women and men from the beginning, and I think it’s worked in their favor. But their ad network is for women bloggers only. Is that a bad thing?    (MLF)

Similarly, whatever gets blogged or recorded on the Wiki at She’s Geeky will be open to all. It’s just that only women will be allowed to attend.    (MLG)

Women are a huge minority in technology. Regardless of why that is, there are many good reasons why women in technology should collaborate more with each other. Sometimes, the best way to kick start that is to create a safe space. That’s what She’s Geeky is all about.    (MLH)

Speaking of women in technology, Lloyd Budd recently blogged about Leslie Hawthorn, another person whose praises I’ve sung on many occasions. Leslie is a classic Yellow Thread, someone who deserves much celebration.    (MLI)

Authentic Empathy and Trust

The Kathy Sierra fiasco seems to have reached a nice conclusion. There was plenty of thought-provoking discussion and some personal bridging between the parties involved. Perhaps this will catalyze a higher-level discourse on the Web. Even a microscopic improvement is better than nothing.    (M2X)

I don’t know the parties involved personally, although in this business, you’re two degrees away from everyone. I was also in the middle of work hell when the madness started. Yet somehow, I found myself following the various threads closely. I was especially struck by Lisa Stone‘s analysis (including a mention of BlogHer‘s community guidelines) and Min Jung Kim‘s commentary.    (M2Y)

Empathy, diversity, and humanity are values that are core to me and my business. It’s easy to toss these words around without really thinking about what they mean or, more importantly, without living them. For whatever reason, this particular incident struck a chord and reminded me of several stories, including one that happened a few weeks ago.    (M2Z)

I was having lunch with my friend, Nick, who was describing his short-lived Second Life experience. Nick is a public interest lawyer, but he spent many years in technology, and he’s not naive about these things. However, he doesn’t spend eight hours a day in front of a computer either.    (M30)

A colleague convinced him to try Second Life, so he logged in and started exploring. Almost immediately, someone approached him and handed him a penis. Nick was not amused (then), and he couldn’t figure out how to get rid of it. That was the end of his Second Life experiment.    (M31)

We both got a good laugh out of the story. However, I couldn’t help wondering how a woman — especially one who had previously experienced sexual assault — would have reacted under the same circumstances, despite the fact that none of this was technically “real.” I know I certainly wouldn’t have been laughing in that situation.    (M32)

Truth is contextual. Is it possible to make misogynistic or racial comments without being a misogynist or a racist? I’m certain the answer is yes, but it’s a tricky line to walk. I’ve laughed at Asian jokes told by some (sometimes even me), and I’ve been miffed by the same jokes told by others. Am I a hypocrite, or is there something truly different about those two situations? The difference is trust. I trust that certain people are not racist, and hence, I tolerate, even laugh at the things they say. But that trust is not universal, and it’s not always mutual.    (M33)

The bottom line is that we need to learn how to walk in each other’s shoes and truly understand and value what people who are different from us feel and experience. It’s easy to be satisfied with our individual levels of tolerance and empathy, but all of us can do better. I’m not advocating a culture of extreme political correctness, either. What I’d like to see is authentic empathy, a greater understanding and appreciation for the worldview of others. With that empathy will come greater trust, and in turn, a much richer society.    (M34)

BlogHer 2006: Thoughts from an Observer of Observers

I was bummed that I couldn’t make the BlogHer conference this year. Last year, I had project commitments up the wazoo, but I made some time to meet up with Nancy White at the conference site, whom I had never met face-to-face. We sat at a table outside of the Santa Clara Convention Center and embarked on a fascinating conversation. As we talked, more and more folks — all women — saw us, said hello, and joined us, further enriching the conversation. A few hours later, I had to rip myself away from that table to make it to my next meeting, and I swore that I would attend the following year.    (KVL)

Well, I didn’t. I was in Staunton, Virginia for the 1Society team retreat. I was even more disappointed after having met Elisa Camahort, Lisa Stone, and Jory Des Jardins at the June Collaboration SIG meeting.    (KVM)

Fortunately, as you might expect, folks blogged about the conference. Here are some of my thoughts on their thoughts.    (KVN)

Welcome Neighbors    (KVO)

Nancy White shared this gem from Caterina Fake:    (KVP)

A lot of online community building is like you are the host of the party. If you show up and don’t know anybody and no one takes your coat and shows you around, you are going to leave. The feminine touch there really matters. That is how we greeted people at flickr. Creating a culture in an online community is incredibly important. What’s ok in a fantasy football league is different than what we wanted to cultivate on flickr. Then those become the practices of the flickr. Everyone starts greeting people., Get the ball rolling. You want people engaged, feel strongly enough so they are the community police.    (KVQ)

It’s another instance of the Welcome Neighbors pattern!    (KVR)

Christine Herron    (KVS)

Christine deserves her own category, because I’ve been relying more and more on her blog for her excellent summaries of other gatherings. We haven’t actually met, although she blogged one of my talks way back when.    (KVT)

Christine wrote about community design and evolution and the importance of constant engagement:    (KVU)

Even the most intelligent design will miss the mark, if community members are not involved in setting purpose and norms. This implies that a healthy community will bake in “continuous listening,” and its purpose and norms will evolve over time. It’s noteworthy that many communities develop spontaneously, rather than according to plan.    (KVV)

Listening was an ongoing theme in a lot of the BlogHer summaries.    (KVW)

On communities and continuous learning:    (KVX)

Susannah Gardner, the author of Buzz Marketing with Blogs, has become the center of a blog newbie community. As a case study, this serves as a model for most of the folks in the room. Gardner quirkily revealed that “My community is inherently flawed.” Most people coming to her community come to learn, but once they’ve learned what they need, they leave. This also means that the community is constantly renewing itself and forming new relationships to each other — that over the long term, no longer require Gardner’s bridge for sustained connection.    (KVY)

Finally, Christine blogged about a session on identity that actually had something to do with identity!    (KVZ)

A powerful and relevant final thought on this issue comes from Amartya Sen, a Nobel-nominated economist and the co-author of Identity and Violence — we all have multiple identities, but when we marry ourself to just one, violence happens. When this nugget was shared, the bubbling room fell into a thoughtful, silent pause. Would the world be a better place if more and more of its peoples participated in sharing identity?    (KW0)

Conversations and Conferences    (KW1)

Tom Maddox also wrote about the prevalence of listening at the conference:    (KW2)

Because the usual male-female ratio was inverted at Blogher, male display was almost entirely absent, replaced by friendly, open conversation. The prevailing atmosphere — the oxygen — was friendliness, openness, inclusiveness.    (KW3)

It’s not that Blogher was perfectly organized and run — if you want to see a list of complaints, just look at the Technorati-tagged blog postings. But in the larger picture, really, who measures the conference’s success by whether the wifi was overloaded or that there were too many commercial pitches from the main stage? What the organizers got right was creating a space where people could talk to one another easily and freely and openly, without being defensive or aggressive.    (KW4)

I’m of two minds of this reaction. BlogHer is a traditional, hierarchical gathering, but there’s obviously a strong culture of participation and interaction. Culture goes a long way. If you have good culture and good people, it’s hard to throw a poor gathering (although it’s certainly been done).    (KW5)

However, just because you manage to throw good, even great gatherings, doesn’t mean that you can’t do better. As I wrote last June:    (KW6)

There’s also a lot they can learn about even more powerful models of collaboration and transparency. For example, I liked their approach to the BlogHer conference, but I couldn’t help thinking about how they were going through the exact same process that HarrisonOwen went through 20 years ago before he invented OpenSpace. It’s not an indictment of them, but a constant reminder that those of us who are passionate about collaboration are still not close to knowing what everyone else knows, and it’s further reinforcement that BlueOxenAssociates‘ mission is an important one.  T    (KW7)

My not-so-secret plot is to suck Elisa, Lisa, and Jory into the growing Blue Oxen community (probably starting with the next “Tools for Catalyzing Collaboration” workshop), so that we can all learn from each other and leapfrog the great work that many of us are already doing. Be warned, ladies!    (KW8)

BlogHer: Not Just a Conference

Elisa Camahort, Lisa Stone, and Jory Des Jardins, the founders of BlogHer, spoke at last Monday’s Collaboration SIG meeting, and they absolutely blew me away. I’ve got many great female colleagues, and I’d heard great things about BlogHer last year, so I figured it was a good thing. What I didn’t know was how thoughtful these three women were about collaboration and how active a role BlogHer was playing in facilitating this network of women bloggers.    (KRT)

They won me over right from the start when I approached them about format, and they said they preferred to do it Donahue-style. I asked them whether they needed a moderator, and they said the three of them would just play off of each other and go from there. I asked what they thought about shifting the room into a circle, and they said they preferred it.    (KRU)    (KS2)

The talk was entitled, “From Hierarchy to Community,” and they spoke both about their relationship with the community-at-large (which they played a big role in bringing together) and with each other, as equal partners of an LLC. Much of what they said about collaboration resonated strongly with me, and I found myself nodding a lot. For example:    (KRV)

  • Lisa said, “Collaboration is not consensus.” Being collaborative does not mean getting everyone to agree on everything.    (KRW)
  • Elisa talked about the transition between conversation and action, and noted that setting boundaries played a big role in making sure that action happened.    (KRX)
  • Jory talked about the importance of attribution — Spotlight On Others. She also called collaboration “laborious” a number of times. There’s overhead when you collaborate, and it can be a frustrating process, but there’s a huge payoff as well. The big ones are Shared Language and trust. Charles Welsh, one of our co-chairs, noted afterwards that the three mentioned “trust” 14 times throughout the evening. (Thanks for counting, Charles!)    (KRY)

There are a lot of organizations right now who are trying to figure out how to facilitate networks sustainably. I think BlogHer is onto something good — their values are on-target, and they’ve got three very smart and competent leaders — although whether or not their model is sustainable is still an open question. I wouldn’t bet against them, though. They’re doing some interesting things with their advertising network, for example.    (KRZ)

There’s also a lot they can learn about even more powerful models of collaboration and transparency. For example, I liked their approach to the BlogHer conference, but I couldn’t help thinking about how they were going through the exact same process that Harrison Owen went through 20 years ago before he invented Open Space. It’s not an indictment of them, but a constant reminder that those of us who are passionate about collaboration are still not close to knowing what everyone else knows, and it’s further reinforcement that Blue Oxen Associates‘ mission is an important one.    (KS0)

In any case, I’m looking forward to following BlogHer‘s progress. Check out the podcast from the meeting, and also Elisa’s comments afterwards. The next conference is July 28-29 at the Hyatt San Jose in San Jose, California, and there are still spots open for the second day, so check it out.    (KS1)

BlogHer Panel, June 26

We’ve got a great event scheduled for the June SDForum Collaboration SIG meeting: “BlogHer: From Hierarchy to Community.” BlogHer founders Elisa Camahort, Jory Des Jardins, and Lisa Stone will be sharing their experiences starting and facilitating the BlogHer community. It should be a great source of stories about collaboration and a great preview of the BlogHer conference next month. Hope to see you next Monday, June 26 at 6:30pm at Pillsbury Winthrop in Palo Alto.    (KQ5)