Blue Oxen’s One Year Anniversary

Today is Blue Oxen Associates‘ one year anniversary. Many thanks to all for your support and goodwill, especially those who have worked with us this past year. Special thanks to Chris Dent, our advisory board, and members of the Blue Oxen Collaboration Collaboratory. It’s been a great year; looking forward to another good one.    (J6)

Today, not coincidentally, is also the 35th anniversary of Doug Engelbart‘s Mother Of All Demos.    (J7)

Tonight, a small group of us are celebrating at the Foresight Institute in Los Altos, California. After that, back to work!    (J8)

Blog-Wiki Integration Turned On

Long-time followers of this blog have undoubtedly noticed my habit of smooshing seemingly harmless words together. I often do it with people’s names — for example, Eugene Eric Kim. Some of you may have guessed why I did this, but most of you probably figured my space key was broken.    (GB)

Starting today, my reasons should be more clear. Notice that “Eugene Eric Kim” is not only improperly written, it is now also a link. Browse through my older blog entries, and you’ll notice that all of the smooshed words are either links or are followed by a question mark link. This is blog-Wiki integration at its finest.    (GC)

Why I Turned WikiWord Integration On    (GD)

My purple plugin for Blosxom always had this WikiWord feature, but I kept it off until today. The main reason for this was that I wasn’t sure how I wanted to use it.    (GE)

I already use several Wikis quite actively — the Blue Oxen Wikis as well as a private one for my personal notes. I try to use the Blue Oxen Wikis for my ideas on collaboration whenever possible, so that they would become part of a collective repository of ideas rather than a personal one. Even though a personal Wiki is publically editable, the individual’s name can act as a kind of branding. Because this blog acts as a work log (my occasional food entries aside), my ideal would have been to integrate this Wiki with the Blue Oxen Collaboration Collaboratory Wiki. Unfortunately, that feature is not available.    (GF)

At minimum, I knew a personal PurpleWiki installation would be useful as a support glossary for this blog (more on this below). Nevertheless, I decided to write as if I had Wiki integration, but to wait a while before actually turning it on. This wasn’t hard for me: using WikiWords is practically second nature. Most of my entries ended up chockful of WikiWords, leading many to question my competence with the keyboard. These questions reached critical mass recently, and so I decided to turn the feature on.    (GG)

More importantly, I decided how I wanted to use my new Wiki overall: as a support structure for this blog, and also as a place for publishing essay drafts, design notes, and other random thoughts. Stuff I publish there will be implicitly labelled, “Work In Progress.” This will serve as a disclaimer that will make me more comfortable publishing my half-baked ideas, while also encouraging others to contribute while the ideas are still half-baked.    (GH)

Missing Data in Qualitative Research

I’m currently working with Miroslav Klivansky and Josh Rai on Blue Oxen Associates‘ next research report — an extensive case study of the Blue Oxen Collaboration Collaboratory, to be released next month. The study is based on analysis of the community’s archives correlated with the results of a detailed survey of the community’s participants. The goal of the study is to discuss best practices within this community and to propose a framework for examining communities and collaboration. Internally, this is an opportunity to both improve the collaboratory itself and also refine our research methodology.    (AS)

We spent a significant amount of time developing the survey for the study, which was an amazingly difficult process. We had two goals in designing the survey. First, we wanted to gather information about participant behavior that we couldn’t gather from the data itself. For example, we had know way of knowing how much time each participant spent following the community’s discussion. Second, we were trying to determine whether or not the community had QWAN (Quality Without A Name). The problem with this question, of course, is that you can’t just ask it on the survey and expect to get meaningful responses.    (AT)

While struggling with these problems, Miroslav drew our attention to an article by Supriya Singh and Lyn Richards in a recent issue of Qualitative Research Journal — “Missing data: Finding ‘central’ themes in qualitative research” (v3, n1, pp5-17). The article was therapeutic in that it not only empathized with the challenges we were facing, it identified them as standard steps in the research process. Additionally, the article served as a testament to the NUD*IST qualitative analysis tool (the predecessor to NVivo).    (AU)

Singh and Richards write    (AV)

It is rare to find research accounts that do not make the emergence of a theory appear a smooth, even inevitable process. Our own experiences, and those of our students, have never fitted such smooth images, and in discussions we have often found that others are helped by our accounts of the puzzles and anxieties, and the hard detective work, which we have experienced during the analysis stage when a picture appeared to be emerging, but jigsaw pieces were evidently missing. (6)    (AW)

They then explain that the initial research question will inevitable evolve, and hence, there will always be missing data. They also add that survey questions will not always garner the desired information, and hence, the research process must be iterative in order to fill in the blanks. The authors go on to describe the research process for two studies with which they were involved, and explain how they reacted when they discovered missing data.    (AX)

Both authors used the NUD*IST tool extensively, and apparently, the results of their projects “contributed to the further development of the software” (15). I have not had a chance to experiment with NVivo yet, but I hope to do so soon. It sounds like an intriguing tool.    (AY)