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)

purple-include: Granular Transclusions for the Common Man

Many thanks to Jonathan Cheyer, Craig Latta, and Kaliya Hamlin for coming to the HyperScope sprint this past weekend, and special thanks to Christina Engelbart for hosting. Also thanks to Thom Cherryhomes and others who hung out with us on IRC. The notes from the day are up on the Wiki, and I put up some pictures as well.    (MEL)

https://i2.wp.com/farm2.static.flickr.com/1134/681861752_857ef74d28_m.jpg?w=700    (MEM)

The big news, though, is that Brad, Jonathan, and I wrote a cool hack called purple-include, based on Mark Nottingham‘s most excellent hinclude. It lets you transclude granular chunks of content from any web site by using an img-like tag. Check out the examples. I think this will go a long way in making Transclusions more common on the Web.    (MEN)

You address granular content either by using a fragment identifier that the document author provides (such as a Purple Number) or by using an XPath expression. Thanks to Tony Chang for his cool interactive XPath tester.    (MEO)

The planned next step is to create a Firefox plugin that adds a “Transclude” option when you right click inside of a browser text widget. This will allow you to transclude copied content, rather than paste it. Don’t know whether any of us will get to this soon, so we encourage the lazy web and all you Firefox hackers to beat us to the punch.    (MEP)

This was my first non-trivial foray into JavaScript, and I was disturbed by what I saw. The language itself is not horrible, although its object system makes Perl 5 look like Smalltalk. What’s shameful is its API support. We had to use a very ugly, although apparently common hack to get a DOM of external web pages. This is pure silliness. The browser is already doing the hard work of parsing broken HTML and XML and turning it into a DOM. Why not easily expose that functionality to the developer?    (MEQ)

As Brad dryly noted, “Welcome to my world.”    (MER)

Internet Identity Workshop 2007, Day Two

My big takeaway from this rendition of the Internet Identity Workshop (IIW) continues to be the growing maturity of this community as well as the influx of new faces. This manifested itself in interesting ways in Open Space today. As Phil Windley noted in his excellent synopsis of the day, almost half the room stood up to propose sessions, which was quite stunning.    (M9Y)

While there were a number of interesting topics posted, most of the ones I attended were more bull sessions than work sessions. That’s not a bad thing — talk is necessary for building Shared Understanding — but you also want to make sure that the folks who are in a position to work are working. And that’s what happened. There were a lot of ad hoc, project-oriented meetings and plotting happening outside of the sessions.    (M9Z)

This is a good lesson on the nature of Open Space, especially when these gatherings occur repeatedly in a community of practice. Norms emerge and evolve. Communities go through cycles, and the Open Space experience shifts with each cycle.    (MA0)

I managed to eavesdrop on part of a conversation between Lisa Dusseault and Lisa Heft about Open Space and this conference in particular. Lisa Dusseault was bemoaning the lack of Shared Understanding among all the participants, and explained that at IETF and similar gatherings, there was always a baseline of knowledge across participants, because there were papers, and people were expected to read them ahead of time. Pre-work is not anathema to Open Space, and it’s great if you can get folks to do it. In this particular community, I think it’s possible. But you still have to be careful when considering other ways of designing for this challenge.    (MA1)

A few weeks ago, Al Selvin told me about his experiences at CHI conferences. The first time he went, he was new to the field, and it was a wonderful learning experience. The following year, he attended again, and the experience was not as good. Why? Because it was essentially identical to the previous year. People were basically the same things as they had before.    (MA2)

What’s the difference between what happens at Open Space versus most academic conferences? Co-creation — aka collaboration aka real work — is a key part of the process. People, both old and new, get together to evolve their Shared Understanding and something new and wonderful emerges from that. You have both learning and co-creation, which are really two sides of the same coin. Sadly, many conferences are all about one-sided coins.    (MA3)

I think there are ways to make the first day even more effective for new members of the community. We heard some great ideas for this at Kaliya Hamlin‘s session on this topic, and I expect her to do great things with this feedback.    (MA4)

Speaking of community, I held a session on Identity Commons. A lot of folks who have been active in the creation process participated, as did key members of our community. One of the things I wanted to make crystal clear to folks was that ultimately, Identity Commons was simply the name of this community. As it happens, this name represents both the intent and values of this community (or in chaordic speak, the purpose and principles). What’s really unique about our values is how we collaborate with each other. There is in fact a legal entity called Identity Commons, but it is extremely lightweight and open. It’s sole purpose is to manage the shared assets of this community in an open, grassroots way.    (MA5)

The organizational elements of this entity are fascinating in and of themselves. The challenge that most organizations like Identity Commons face is, how do you embrace an identity (which implies creating a boundary between you and others) while remaining open (keeping that boundary permeable and malleable). (Boundaries and identity as they pertain to leadership were major themes at the Leadership Learning Community Evaluation Learning Circle last January, yet another instance of all my different worlds colliding.) Complicating all of this is the challenge of sustainability.    (MA6)

In order to make decisions, a community must define who its members are. Most organizations define membership as some combination of vetting, voting, and payment. I believe that a pay-to-play membership model is the main source of problems most organizations like these face. It’s simply a lazy approach to sustainability. There are other ways to be sustainable without destroying the integrity of your community.    (MA7)

I could go on and on about this, and I eventually will, but not right now. The challenge we currently face is that the growth of the community outpaced the reformation of the new Identity Commons. While we were busy gaining a collective understanding of what we were trying to do, a process that took well over a year, the overall community grew on us. Now, we’re faced with the challenge of getting folks to think of this community as Identity Commons, rather than as some entity that a bunch of folks are working on. I like to call this going from “they” to “we.”    (MA8)

Conversations with folks about this today made me realize that I was overthinking the problem. (Shocker!) The problem is as challenging as it was before, but I think the solution is relatively straightforward: good ol’ fashion community-building, starting with the existing social network. As complex and multilayered as all this stuff is, I think we can keep the message simple, which will greatly aid our cause.    (MA9)

Miscellaneous thoughts from day two:    (MAA)

  • I chatted with Larry Drebes of JanRain about Pibb, and he assured me that they would be adding Permalinks soon, as well as other cool features such as export. Call me a convert. Now I’ve got to remember to talk to them about the perplog vision, and how those ideas could be integrated into Pibb to make it seriously kick butt. I’m also going to evangelize at RoCoCo (RecentChangesCamp Montreal) later this week.    (MAB)
  • I am really impressed with how much OSIS has accomplished over the past six months. Kudos to Dale Olds and Johannes Ernst for their leadership on this project, and kudos to Dale and Pamela Dingle for a really cool interop code session this afternoon. Despite some difficulties with the wireless, it looked like they got a lot of stuff done.    (MAC)
  • Brilliant move on Kaliya’s part to invite Open Space facilitator Lisa Heft to participate. She’s an outsider to this community, but she’s a wonderful observer of people, and it’s been great hearing her take on things. She’s also performing a nifty experiment which will be unleashed on everybody tomorrow afternoon.    (MAD)
  • I chatted a bit with Kevin Marks this evening about microformats and his experience as a new Googler. When I think of Kevin, I don’t immediately think Google, but he does work there now, so technically, Google was represented at the workshop. Ben Laurie, another Googler, has also been an active participant in this community. However, as much as I generally love Google, I have been extremely disappointed in its overall participation and presence in the identity community. The Google identity experience is one of the worst on the Internet, which is all the more notable when compared to its consistent track record of superior web experiences. It’s also using its own proprietary identity protocols, which is a travesty. There are good solutions to all of this, and yet, Google has thus far ignored the quality work in this community. I’d love to see Google adopt OpenID, but I’ll settle for more folks involved with identity at Google simply participating in this community.    (MAE)

Bucky Fuller, Trim Tabs, and Trains

One of my great deficiencies is my lack of literacy regarding Buckminster Fuller, someone who has greatly influenced many people in my sphere. Last Friday, I was having lunch with Kaliya Hamlin, Karri Winn, and Tiffany Von Emmel at the beautiful Thoreau Center in the Presidio. Kaliya was explaining my philosophy about identifying the pain points in order to catalyze a system, and Karri responded, “Oh, like a Trim Tab.” Kaliya and Tiffany both nodded their heads, while I just looked confused. So Karri explained to me what a Trim Tab was, and it is an apt metaphor indeed. Bucky Fuller explained it best in an interview with Playboy in 1972:    (M8W)

Something hit me very hard once, thinking about what one little man could do. Think of the Queen Mary — the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing at the edge of the rudder called a trim tab.    (M8X)

It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving the little trim tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. Takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim tab. Society thinks it’s going right by you, that it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go.    (M8Y)

So I said, call me Trim Tab.    (M8Z)

(I did a little research after lunch that day, and ended up incorporating what I had learned into Wikipedia.)    (M90)

The Trim Tab story reminded me of a puzzle I heard on Car Talk almost ten years ago. A train with 750 cars has stopped in a freight yard. It starts to move, when the engineer realizes there’s a problem with the caboose. The engineer stops the train, they remove the caboose, and the engineer tries to start again. But the train doesn’t move. What happened?    (M91)

The train doesn’t move because the couplings between each car are rigid. When they’re rigid, the engineer is essentially trying to move the entire train at once. You have to back up before you can move forward. This loosens the couplings. Now, when you start the engine, you’re pulling one car at a time, building momentum as you go.    (M92)

The lessons?    (M93)

  • Small shifts can catalyze great change.    (M94)
  • Sometimes you have to back up before you can move forward.    (M95)

Blue Oxen’s 4th Anniversary

A few weeks ago, about 50 friends and colleagues — including co-founder Chris Dent, visiting from Seattle — joined us at Chris Messina and Tara Hunt‘s gorgeous new office in San Francisco, Citizen Space, to help celebrate Blue Oxen Associates‘ 4th anniversary. Thanks to all who came and to all who sent well-wishes. Thanks especially to Chris and Tara for being such great, generous hosts, and thanks to Tara Anderson for handling all of the logistics. Pictures are up on Flickr, and there’s a funny video of some late night, after-party silliness as well.    (LLX)

Of course, being a Blue Oxen event, there had to be a “group exercise.” This year, Kaliya Hamlin led us through an incredibly moving one. She asked all of us to take a moment and write down a meaningful thing that happened to us this past year. She then asked us to write down something we hope will happen next year. Everyone then posted them on the whiteboard for all to see and share.    (LLY)

A few people signed their notes, but most of them left theirs anonymous. Some notes were easy to identify, but most still leave me wondering who wrote them. Some notes were business-related. Many were deeply personal. Some notes were knee slappers. Others were heart-wrenching. People wrote about relationships, both good and bad. They wrote about losing family members and about surviving cancer. They expressed both despair and hope.    (LLZ)

What the exercise did was raise the group consciousness. I knew almost everyone in the room, most of them well, and over the past year, I interacted regularly with many of them. Yet this simple exercise surfaced many things about the people in my community I didn’t know. It changed the way I looked at everyone in the room, and it reminded all of us of our humanity.    (LM0)

Great group exercises not only surface interesting content, but also elicit surprising behavior. Jonas Luster started the process by drawing connections between cards of people he thought should connect. I don’t know how many people connected through the wall, but I know some did.    (LM1)

Due to the hustle and bustle of being the host of the party, I didn’t have a chance to contribute my own meaningful moments to the wall, so I thought I’d rectify that here. My list is long. Most of my moments consist of late-night conversations with friends and colleagues over dinner, over drinks, and over the phone, covering everything from concrete topical challenges to philosophical ramblings to general silliness. Just thinking about many of these moments brings a smile to my face.    (LM2)

If I had to sum up all of the meaningful moments from the past year into one sentence, it would be this:    (LM3)

I’m grateful that my relationships with many of my work colleagues have evolved into true friendships.    (LM4)

I’m a firm believer in professionalism, which often translates into a wall between myself and my colleagues. It’s my personal manifestation of the Intimacy Gradient, and my wall is probably a bit higher than others. Nevertheless, I do let down my guard over time. It’s never planned. It’s just something that happens organically over time, a natural deepening of trust past a personal threshold. When it happens, it’s always incredibly enriching. It happened a lot this past year.    (LM5)

I am so grateful to have such high-quality and supportive people in my life. It makes me all the more motivated to chase my dreams, to continue to learn and improve, and to contribute as much as I can to this world. I’ve discovered something that’s special and important, and I’m not even close to fully understanding it. I’m going to work my butt off until I do, and I’m going to share what I learn as widely as possible.    (LM6)