Community Engagement and Dynamic Knowledge Repositories

One of the benefits of working on the Hyperscope is not just working closely with Doug Engelbart, but also with many of his long-time colleagues, not the least of whom includes Christina Engelbart, his daughter and former business partner. Christina and I recently had an off-the-cuff exchange on community engagement and maintaining a Dynamic Knowledge Repository (DKR), and it’s started to evolve into a full-fledged discussion. Rather than continue it over email, I thought I’d post some of my thoughts here, especially since they relate to my recent post on Leave A Trail and stigmergy.    (KDW)

On the surface, maintaining a Dynamic Knowledge Repository and community engagement would seem to be two separate actions. Christina suggests that the former is a more tangible entity, whereas the latter is a process. I agree with this distinction, and I would also note that the artifacts of community engagement are part of a DKR. So you’ve got the engagement itself (process), and you’ve got the artifacts of the engagement (part of a DKR).    (KDX)

The distinction starts to blur when the engagement occurs over a digital medium. If I exchange email with someone, then is that community engagement or is it part of maintaining a Dynamic Knowledge Repository? It’s both, because the act of engagement also results in an artifact!    (KDY)

Why is this important? Because when we think of the two as distinct actions, then doing both means double the work. When we think of the two as having significant overlap (via relatively minor shifts in work practice), then we get (at least) twice the benefit for half as much work.    (KDZ)

This conflation is central to methodologies like Dialogue Mapping. Jeff Conklin talks about the importance of Shared Display as being part of the conversation. When the screen is physically part of the conversation, then participants engage with the screen as if it were another participant. That creates shared ownership over the artifact, which makes the artifact far more valuable than a meeting summary that some guy in the corner scribbled onto his laptop and emailed out afterwards.    (KE0)

The benefits multiply even more when you take into account Leave A Trail and scale. Having a closed DKR for a small team is valuable, but opening that DKR up for the entire world to see increases the potential for serendipity and emergence.    (KE1)

I would argue very strongly for folks to think about community engagement and maintaining a knowledge repository as part of the same bucket, because they should be very closely tied to each other. For example, when I add content or refactor the public Hyperscope Wiki, I consider that part of my community engagement strategy. That said, these two concepts are not identical. This is important to remember also. Simply dumping information into a public repository is not a very effective community engagement strategy. However, proactively reaching out to people and encouraging them to interact in the public repository is a great community engagement strategy.    (KE2)

Jeff’s framing is probably the best way to think about it: Your knowledge repository should be thought of as a participant in your collaborative process, not just something external.    (KE3)

Glass Plate Game

One of the hits from last month’s RecentChangesCamp was Dunbar Aitkens‘s Glass Plate Game. Inspired by Herman Hesse‘s Glass Bead Game, the Glass Plate Game stimulates interesting conversations, encouraging and capturing connections between different ideas that are raised. There are no winners or losers. The game serves as a facilitative device, encouraging civil dialog and learning, and in the end, you have an artifact from which you can transcribe the conversation.    (K9X)

https://i0.wp.com/static.flickr.com/38/95674441_357009e2cf_m.jpg?w=700    (K9Y)

The game consists of a set of cards (which you can create yourself) that represent a number of different themes. There are also 24 wooden blocks, sequentially numbered, that each represents a “move” and the state of conversation. There are four possible states: “P” (permit the latest connection), “C” (challenge the latest connection), “O” (mutual understanding; move on to the next move), and “blank” (no resolution; move on to the next move). There are also several colored, translucent pieces of plastic that you use to make connections.    (K9Z)

To start the game, someone picks a theme by placing the first piece and a piece of plastic on a card. Each move after that represents a connection between two themes (cards). You make a connection by placing a piece on another card and a piece of plastic whose color matches the plastic on a previous card. Once a connection is made, you have a conversation, turning the cube around throughout to represent the state of the conversation. Once the cube is on “O” or “blank,” someone makes a new move/connection. The game continues until you reach the 24th move or until no one has anything to say. At that point, you are encouraged to transcribe the conversation, using the game board as a memory device.    (KA0)

https://i2.wp.com/static.flickr.com/55/106395322_417512d869_m.jpg?w=700    (KA1)

I actually didn’t get to play at RecentChangesCamp — I kept getting pulled away by other things. I regretted it even more after the conference, because on the car ride up to Seattle, Michael Herman and Ted Ernst were saying really intriguing things about it. Fortunately, Dunbar lives in Corvallis, and on my way back from RecentChangesCamp and Seattle, John Sechrest graciously hosted dinner and a game.    (KA2)

https://i2.wp.com/static.flickr.com/36/106395321_9814c0d446_m.jpg?w=700    (KA3)

I think the concept is brilliant, and judging by the number of folks who played it at RecentChangesCamp and ordered a set for themselves, I’m not alone. I plan on hosting salons to play the game and to contribute to Dunbar’s compilations of transcripts (part of his bigger vision to transcribe a global, distributed Glass Plate Game).    (KA4)

I also think the Glass Plate Game could be a powerful device at face-to-face gatherings. The facilitative principles are similar to those espoused by Dialogue Mapping in that there is a grammar and that Shared Display is a big reason for its effectiveness. MGTaylor uses the principles of Glass Bead Game to great effect in their process. One of the best instantiations of the game I’ve seen was when I first worked with Gail Taylor at the 2003 Planetwork Conference. Each breakout group gets a white, 2’x2’x2′ cardboard box, and they are encouraged to capture their ideas on one or more side. In the report-out, the groups are encouraged to make connections with each other by positioning or stacking their boxes next to each other. It’s a great device that works really well.    (KA5)

In particular, I think the game could work really well with World Cafe. Instead of (or in addition to) butcher paper, crafts, and the other typical devices used for capture, you could setup Glass Plate Game at each table. I’m looking forward to experimenting with this possibility.    (KA6)

Tonight: Jeff Conklin on Dialog Mapping

Update: Unfortunately, Jeff cannot make it tonight due to flooding near his home. We’ll reschedule him for another time, and I’ll post the new date here.    (K9T)

Jeff Conklin, facilitator extraordinaire and inventor of gIBIS and Dialogue Mapping, will be giving a talk tonight for the SDForum Collaboration SIG in Palo Alto, 6:30-9pm. Be there! Jeff is an awesome speaker, and — as with all of our events — there will be a great interactive session, where you’ll get to experience Dialogue Mapping first-hand.    (K9Q)

Also, podcast from last month’s meeting, “How Hackers Collaborate,” is now available. See Scott McMullan‘s commentary on the event (and another event I co-organized, “Tools for Catalyzing Collaboration,”, which I’ll blog about soon).    (K9R)

Jeff Conklin’s Dialog Mapping Workshop, November 29-30

I mentioned Jeff Conklin‘s Dialogue Mapping workshop later this month, but it was at the end of a long blog post, and folks may have missed it. In short:    (K1F)

Finally, if you’re in the BayArea, you should register for JeffConklin‘s upcoming workshop in RedwoodCity, November 29-30. If you’re a project manager, facilitator, or consultant, or if you deal with groups regularly (who doesn’t?), don’t wait. Sign up and go.  T    (K1G)

I highly recommend it.    (K1H)

Why I Love Compendium And You Should Too

I just spent two outstanding days at the Compendium Institute workshop in Washington, D.C. Folks, if you are interested in collaboration, you must learn about Compendium.    (JZU)

Compendium is a conversation mapping (or Dialogue Mapping) tool that, simply put, makes meetings better. When paired with a relatively straightforward methodology, Compendium can make a huge difference on the quality of your meetings.    (JZV)

But Compendium is about much, much more than meeting facilitation. If you scratch below the surface, you’ll discover deep thinking about collaboration, hypertext modeling, visual languages, Collective Memory, Shared Understanding, and the art of listening.    (JZW)

Simon Buckingham Shum had a great line at the workshop: “Compendium is like Excel for knowledge.” He’s absolutely right. Just as mortals can build sohisticated number crunching applications with spreadsheets, mortals can easily build useful knowledge applications with Compendium.    (JZX)

But Compendium is about even more than that! Compendium, to me, represents an incredibly rich community of practitioners, deep thinkers, and overall good people. I talk a lot about the importance of bridges — folks who speak the languages of multiple cultures or disciplines. Almost everyone in the Compendium community is a bridge of some sort. To be a Compendium guru, you need to have a knack for facilitation, a brain for visual modeling, and comfort with computers. Everyone in the community has at least two of these traits, and some folks even have all three.    (JZY)

Of course, the best measure of the quality of this community is that several members of the extended Blue Oxen family — Simon, Jeff Conklin, Al Selvin, Mark Aakhus, and Karl Hebenstreit — were at the workshop, and I fully expect others who attended to become part of the family.    (JZZ)

I first learned about all this at a two-day workshop on Dialogue Mapping in 2001 from the supreme guru himself, Jeff Conklin. Since then, I’ve blogged a bit and written a few papers about Dialogue Mapping and Compendium. The workshop this past week has motivated me to dump even more thoughts into the blogosphere. But my writing hasn’t and won’t do proper justice to the topic.    (K00)

The best way to learn about Compendium is to experience it for yourself, and then just do it. Fortunately, there are easy ways you can do this:    (K01)

Al Selvin, who along with Maarten Sierhuis, is responsible for Compendium, likens the art of facilitating with Compendium to playing jazz. A great way to learn how to play is to jam with others. How do you find folks to jam with? There are practitioners all over the world. In the Bay Area, there are lots of practitioners (of course) — myself, Jeff, Maarten (who’s doing crazy stuff with Compendium and the Mars project at NASA), Nick Papadopoulos, and others. In D.C., the good folks at Touchstone Consulting use Compendium every day with their clients, and they’ve built an active Community of Practice there.    (K05)

The best way to find folks is to join the mailing list and ask questions there. One outcome of the workshop is that we will probably convene an online jam session, so that folks anywhere can participate. I’m happy to jam with anyone who wants to learn — either face-to-face in the Bay Area or online. Contact me if interested.    (K06)

Finally, if you’re in the Bay Area, you should register for Jeff Conklin‘s upcoming workshop in Redwood City, November 29-30. If you’re a project manager, facilitator, or consultant, or if you deal with groups regularly (who doesn’t?), don’t wait. Sign up and go.    (K07)