FLOSS Usability Sprint Quick Impressions

Coming to you live, quick impressions from our fourth FLOSS Usability Sprint:    (LZC)

  • Each of our sprints have had a distinct personality. One thing that strikes me about our participants this time is how well all of them understand and buy into usability. One big reason for that is our projects — we have three repeat projects plus Firefox. It also reflects nicely on a growing shared understanding on what Open Source and usability are, and how we can marry the two together.    (LZD)
  • After having gone through three and a half of these sprints, I find that I have inadvertently become a knowledge repository for a ton of great learning about both usability and Open Source. While I love the learning, I can’t help but think that there’s someone in the community with a greater individual stake than I — a usability practitioner or an Open Source developer — who’s missing out on a great personal opportunity to serve that same role and really become a champion and leader of the cause.    (LZE)
  • Great space + great people + great process = Group Genius. It never fails.    (LZF)
  • People who have never participated in this type of event before don’t realize how exhausting it is. This is not Bar Camp. Yeah, we’re connecting, we’re knowledge-sharing, and we’re having fun. But we’re also working. And it’s really fun watching these folks — after an exhausting week of regular week — crank away on these projects. If work were always this fun, the world would truly be an interesting place. It feels even better knowing that we’re working on tools that will make an impact on the world at large.    (LZG)
  • Google‘s very own Leslie Hawthorn is awesome. I know, I know, I’ve gushed about her before. But it needs to be said again and again and again.    (LZH)

Camels and Group Process

This morning, Gail Taylor told me where she first came across the term, “Group Genius.” From the Tomorrow MakersFAQ:    (GIK)

In 1976 I stumbled on Lawrence Halprin‘s personal notebooks in the library. He had written the words “group genius” beside one of his stories. At that moment I realized that my work was all about what has comed to be called Group Genius.    (GIL)

The story?    (GIM)

“A camel is a horse designed by a committee.”    (GIN)

This old saw demeans the camel – which is an admirably designed animal (for the environment in which he lives) and the group design process. It is not the ideas of collective creativity which has failed but the committee idea itself: which attempts to function without clear understanding of the necessary processes involved in group problem solving. (Lawrence Halprin, 1974)    (GIO)

Creating Motivation in Asynchronous Environments

I’m currently reading Leaping the Abyss: Putting Group Genius to Work, by Gayle Pergamit and Chris Peterson (who’s on our Advisory Board). The book is about the MGTaylor DesignShop process.    (2K)

Quick aside on MGTaylor: Founded by Matt and Gail Taylor, these folks have been around for almost 25 years, and are pioneers in facilitating what they call Group Genius. I had a chance to work with Gail and Matt at the recent PlaNetwork Conference, and came away in awe of their process.    (2L)

The MGTaylor process focuses on synchronous collaboration: same time, same place gatherings. Pergamit and Peterson write the following about the Design Shop experience:    (2M)

Without having attended the event — and discovered for ourselves both the costs imposed by some of our traditional procedures and the benefits that are possible within 72 hours — we would have remained curious, but not moved to action. (9)    (2N)

I had a similar experience at my first Dialogue Mapping workshop, taught by Jeff Conklin in July 2001. Prior to that workshop, I had read several of Jeff’s papers, and had come away with many interesting impressions of the IBIS grammar and the Dialogue Mapping methodology. However, those impressions were not motivation enough for me to try the process myself. One two-day workshop single-handedly created that motivation.    (2O)

I recently told this anecdote on our Collaboration Collaboratory mailing list, and suggested that synchronous collaboration was far superior at generating motivation than asynchronous collaboration.    (2P)

Is this true, and why? Are there patterns of asynchronous collaboration that excel at motivation?    (2Q)

I think it’s true. It’s simply a matter of show versus tell. When a group is sitting in the same room together, you can show whatever it is you want to show. When a group is dispersed, you can only tell them about whatever it is you want to show, and hope that they go and play.    (2R)

That said, I’m sure there are patterns of asynchronous collaboration for creating motivation; I just can’t think of many offhand. An obvious one is Tell A Friend — personal recommendations from people you trust. If my sisters recommend a book, I’m liable to read it. If my friends Justin and Cindy recommend a restaurant, I’m liable to try it.    (2S)