April and May Gatherings

Normally, I love to travel, but last year tested that love. I was out of town almost twice a month for work. It was exhilarating, exhausting, and ultimately, too much. I resolved not to travel for the first four months of 2007. It’s now April 2007, and I’ve successfully fulfilled my resolution (depending on how you count), wonderfully refreshed and ready to travel again.    (M5D)

As I noted earlier, I’ll be in Baltimore next week for Creating Space VIII, the Leadership Learning Community‘s (LLC) annual gathering. The theme is Collective Leadership. They’ve already got record attendance, and I believe registrations are still open, so if you’re in the area and want to attend, I encourage you to register. I joined LLC’s board late last year, participated in some of their gatherings, and was blown away by what I saw. Can you tell I’m excited?    (M5E)

Next month, May 2-3, I’m co-chairing the Compendium Institute‘s 2007 workshop at the NASA Ames Conference Center in Mountain View, California. It’s going to be awesome — highly practitioner-oriented, with lots of close interaction with some of the most experienced folks in our community. If you’re already a Compendium user, or if you’re interested in learning more, I strongly encourage you to register and attend.    (M5F)

May 14-16 is Internet Identity Workshop 2007a, once again at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. There will be some major Identity Commons announcements there, as well as cool demonstrations of the latest advancements in interoperable Digital Identity systems. If you’re at all interested in the identity space, I strongly urge you to register.    (M7H)

I get a day to recover, then it’s off to Montreal May 18-20 for RoCoCo (RecentChangesCamp Montreal), hanging out with my fellow Wiki compatriots and other community builders. I’ll be releasing a vision paper on Wiki interoperability that same week. I’ve had tremendous fun researching and writing it, and I can’t wait to hear my community’s reaction to it.    (M5G)

Finally, I just joined the advisory board of Tiffany Von Emmel‘s Dream Fish. They’ll be holding a workshop on Leadership for Sustainability on May 30 in San Francisco. It will feature four outstanding teachers, including Alexander Laszlo and Kathia Laszlo, two of the smartest and most decent people I’ve ever met. Register before the end of this month for a discount.    (M5H)

Being Ambushed by Terrell Russell

Gail Taylor told me an excellent story last Saturday that reminded me of an incident at the Internet Identity Workshop this past December. I was doing something that I am deeply opposed to — participating in a face-to-face conference without being fully present. Basically, I was sitting in the middle of the space doing work on my laptop while everyone else was participating in the conference. I felt guilty about it, but I wanted to talk to some people while they were in town, and I had a ton of work to do at the same time.    (LWP)

So I gave a talk on Identity Commons, attended a few presentations, talked to a few people, and spent the rest of my time doing my work and ignoring everyone else. It was actually quite nice. I was sitting in the middle of the large conference room at the Computer History Museum, visible to everyone, with people constantly milling around me. People who knew me stopped by to chat for a few minutes; people who didn’t just ignored me.    (LWQ)

Towards the end of the second day, I was basking in my productive anti-socialness, when a fellow who was sitting at my table started making small talk. It was harmless chatter, stuff that I could respond to while remaining focused on my work, but at some point, it felt wrong continuing to talk without introducing myself. Turns out the guy was Terrell Russell of claimID fame. I knew about claimID, but I knew nothing about Terrell. The same could not be said of him, who had known all along who I was, and who apparently follows this blog. (Hi, Terrell!)    (LWR)

That bastard must have used that knowledge against me, sharing ideas that he must have known would suck me into conversation. Either that, or he was just a nice guy who was passionate about his work. Either way, it worked. I ended up closing my laptop and having a great conversation with him.    (LWS)

What was he doing that I found so compelling? It was his Ph.D. research on Contextual Authority Tagging. The basis of the idea is simple: The best way to identify an authority on a topic is not to ask people to self-identify themselves as such, but to ask others to identify the people they consider to be the authorities. We can leverage this principle to locate expertise by building tagging systems where users tag other users with information about their expertise.    (LWT)

Terrell has thought really deeply about this, and several of his ideas are documented at his website and on his blog. Phil Windley and David Weinberger have also commented on his work.    (LWU)

I heard more original ideas about tagging in that 20 minutes of conversation than I’ve ever heard from anyone else. The one that really struck me was the notion of tag disparities: comparing what people say about you to what you say about yourself as a way of measuring reputation. Sound familiar? It’s a real-life instantiation of the Squirm Test!    (LWV)

I think there are some interesting tools that can be built on these ideas, and I have no doubt that Terrell will build them. There are also some face-to-face group exercises based on these same principles, and I’ve actually done one of them before (described below). You could also apply these ideas towards group evaluation.    (LWW)

I’ve been vividly reminded of our conversation on two occasions. The first happened later that week at the Blue Oxen Associates anniversary party. Peter Kaminski decided to do some social engineering of his own, and instead of asking people what they did, he asked them to tell him about someone else attending the party. Real-life, face-to-face, Contextual Authority Tagging! We actually did this for real at the 2005 anniversary party, where we had people literally stick name tags on other people’s back. It was an idea I stole from Chris Messina, who in turn had stolen it from a previous SuperHappyDevHouse gathering.    (LWX)

The second occasion happened this past Saturday. Gail recounted a story about a group exercise with five people, where each person was asked to write ten words that have to do with “love.” Out of the 50 total words, only three were the same! It was a stark lesson on how challenging it is to achieve Shared Understanding and how critically important Shared Language is.    (LWY)

February 2007 Update

A month has passed, and the blog has been silent, but the brain has not. Time to start dumping again. But before I begin, a quick synopsis:    (LR8)

  • The month started off inauspiciously, with a catastrophic system failure that occurred over the holidays. Quite the story. I hope to tell it someday.    (LR9)
  • Last year, I joined the board of the Leadership Learning Community (LLC). It was an unusual move on my part, since I was also in the process of clearing commitments off my list in order to focus more on my higher-level goals. In the midst of saying no to many, many people, I found myself saying yes to LLC. We had our first 2007 board meeting earlier this month, and I participated in their subsequent learning circles. Let’s just say I have no regrets. A week with these folks generated enough thoughts to fill a thousand blog posts.    (LRA)
  • This past week, I co-facilitated a three day Lunar Dust Workshop for NASA, using Dialogue Mapping and Compendium. It was an unbelievable experience, also worth a thousand blog posts. For now, check out some pictures.    (LRB)
  • For the past few months, I’ve been actively involved with a project called Grantsfire. The project’s goal is modest: Make foundations and nonprofits more transparent and collaborative. How? For starters, by getting foundations to publish their grants as microformats. I’ve hinted about the project before, and I’ll have much more to say soon.    (LRC)
  • For the past year, I’ve been helping reinvent Identity Commons. Again, I haven’t blogged much about it, but I’ve certainly talked a lot about it. Not only are we playing an important role in the increasingly hot Internet identity space, we’re also embodying a lot of important ideas about facilitating networks and catalyzing collaboration.    (LRD)

In addition to a flood of blog posts, other things to look forward to this month include:    (LRE)

Notable December Events

There are several notable events this month. Next week is Internet Identity Workshop (IIW) 2006B at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. I’ll be speaking on Monday afternoon about Identity Commons. There will also be an Untalent show on Tuesday night, which promises to be spectacular.    (LKV)

Starting Wednesday, December 6, Lisa Heft will be leading a three day Open Space Technology Workshop. Those of you interested in learning more about Open Space should really attend. Lisa’s a long-time practitioner and thinker, and she is very well-respected in the community.    (LKW)

Allen Gunn and company are throwing a San Francisco Nonprofit Technology Center Holiday Party on December 13 at their new space on 1370 Mission. Anyone who’s ever been to one of Gunner’s parties know that this is not to be missed.    (LKX)

Finally, Todd Davies and CPSR are sponsoring Technopolitics Camp in San Francisco on December 17.    (LKY)

Happy December!    (LKZ)