Friday, December 19, 2008

Leaving Microsoft

Today was my last day with Microsoft. It seems rather fitting that the snow and ice pretty much rendered everyone home bound. It is reminiscent of an earlier post when snow and ice also hit this region, except this time I was at home.

Being my last day and all, I can't help but be a bit reflective. Working with Microsoft as a vendor and then as an employee is an incredibly humbling experience. With so many smart, talented, and passionate folks how do you change the world? One step at a time. As with all community work, change does not come quickly. It's not uncommon that your first go around at something will be tweaked and baked a little longer. Sometimes the priorities may change all together to better do what you set out to accomplish in the first place.

I also learned that I need to take more risks to further my learning. While there was certainly more to be learned from others at Microsoft, having that access makes it a bit too easy. For me, much of the learning takes place during the process of wrestling with tough questions. It also takes place from being wrong, rather than learning and building from the experience of others.

Lastly, I learned that there is so much more I want to do than sit in traffic for at least an hour and a half each day. I shudder to think about all the time with family, friends, and the broader community that has been lost due to traffic. As I get older, the more I realize what is important for me.

There are so many things I love about Microsoft, but it is time for me to move on what's next. To all my friends, colleagues and everyone else I worked with at Microsoft -- thank you. It has been a privilege and honor working with you. I hope our paths will cross again.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Does X mark the spot for community?

Richard Millington has a nice overview of what it takes to build an online community. He concisely states what I've discussed in my presentations on blogging and social media. That being said, I now wonder if there's not a better question for all of us to be answering. Specifically, are destination communities relevant? Is there some magical place where we all need to find? Or rather, will a more distributed community model take root?

While I tend to agree with what is said in finding your first community members (or even how to build a user community), I look at this more from the perspective of tapping into the community that already exists. Do we need to bring them back to one central place? A few years ago, I would have said yes in a heartbeat but I am no longer sure that is the case today.

Thinking about my own communities, I engage with others through a variety of different experiences. Email, Twitter, and Facebook are just some online examples. Other examples include phone calls, drinks at a local bar, coffee at a local Starbucks, or purposeful gatherings (for work and/or fun). To build a destination site for one of my communities, well...I'm not sure that would be relevant. Sure, it can be valuable in things like asynchronous communication, outreach, education and the like. Archival, nostalgia and reconnecting are some other scenarios that could also work. But to have one place for the community seems rather limiting, and in my opinion, misses out on how communities work.

Related, I wonder if this is why we are seeing broader community initiatives such as what Nike does with their running clubs, Nike+ website, and Niketown?

Maybe that's really it then...destination communities unto themselves have their place, but really do not speak to the full complexity and needs of communities as a whole. Thoughts?

photo credit -- kierkier

Friday, December 12, 2008

Seattle Public School Closure Outreach?

A lot of is being written about the proposed closures, mergers, moves and the like for Seattle Public Schools. I won't bother trying to document all of the changes and intrigue, and instead I have a few questions:
  • Where are the voices of the students and youths impacted by the potential changes?
  • Where are the non-parents and other community members impacted by the proposed changes?
With regards to the current and future students potentially impacted, it would seem like that these voices would be important in consideration of changes. Not following it too closely other than through some blogs and mainstream news outlets, it's not evident that youth are organizing. I can't believe this is it? Has the school board or district been trying to actively involve this audience? What about other youth oriented organizations or programs?

Likewise with the non-parents and other community members what extent are they at the table? To what extent are these voices heard? To what extent is any outreach being done by the school board or school district? The same question applies to all of the neighborhood groups or home associations.

The thing I love about public school is well, that it's public. A few months ago through some volunteering with Seattle Works, my friends and I volunteered at an elementary school in my old neighborhood. Aside from the work and the weather, the other volunteers there made this one of my favorite volunteer events. Not only were parents and students helping out, but so too were people just from the neighborhood. So too were there people from other organizations throughout the city. Public schools are for everyone -- not just the parents, teachers and students. It's time we all started (myself included) to treat it as such.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A community building manifesto worth noting

For a few weeks now, I've been intrigued by Richard Millington's FeverBee. While he often has lots of great gems, today he posted a great Online Community Building Manifesto.

In a nutshell, he states:
1) We need to become experts on communities.
2) We need to change how we plan online communities.
3) We need to rethink the role of technology.
I couldn't agree more. Much like much touted POST methodology by Forrester Research, tech should be the last thing on the minds of anyone who works with communities. Focusing on the hows and whys of a community is much more important than the tools that are used. In many ways that is why I find a great deal of my inspiration for community work from nonprofits, community organizers, political campaigns, and games. All of these areas reach out to and mobilize a broad range of people. While I am not as familiar with Jeremy Dean, The Situationist and Of Two Minds, at first glance I see similarities with the wide range of folks I follow like Alinsky, Csikszentmihalyi, and McKnight.

Related, I am currently reading two books that seem to illustrate the points laid out in the manifesto. Community: The Structure of Belonging is one of the more comprehensive books on community I've seen in a long time. And strangely enough, the Counterinsurgency Field Manual also talks about how community building is an effective strategy in well, counterinsurgency.

Thanks, Richard. I look forward to changing this dynamic with you and others in this space.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Phoenix rising?

Is it me or does this electoral map look like a phoenix rising?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Second City thoughts

I've been thinking a bit about Chicago lately -- in large part because of the Democratic National Convention and the story of the Obamas, but also some other reasons.

some recollections...I have been thinking about when I first ran across Barack Obama's name. It was when I was part of the ACM Urban Studies program back in 1998. I'm not going to get into what the program was (or was not), but I do recall sitting in our apartment in Bronzeville reading the paper and seeing Obama's name associated with progressive legislation in the sate legislature. Honestly, I didn't think too much about it and rather, I was more interested in what Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr was doing at the time.

Bronzeville vs Judkins Park -- this may have to do more with racial covenant laws and what not, but I find it interesting that both neighborhoods have historically had large populations of African Americans, near neighborhoods of significant Asian American populations. Having moved recently to Judkins Park, I am just noticing the similarities in neighboring areas. As segregated as Chicago was, it just reminds me that Seattle also has a history of segregation in spite of it's progressive image.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was released 10 years ago this last week. I picked up the album while I was in Chicago, thanks in part to learning about it from my roommate, T. I can't believe it was 10 years ago! Where did the time go?

Asset based community development -- I first ran across this term via that Urban Studies program. Strangely enough, I've run across that here in Seattle through various organizations.

Politics of a different sort -- Barack Obama, Deval Patrick, Jesse Jackson Jr...this is a very different generation of politicians that what I studied in Chicago and at Carleton.

Identity and place -- I went to a presentation recently from a researcher with Microsoft's Cambridge office. He talked about how place influences identity, and that made me think about who I am at work, in Seattle, in Chicago and the like. My life in Chicago was very different than that of my life here in Seattle. Perhaps it's the size of the cities, or it's the nature of my social networks in both areas. Regardless, once again I found myself thinking on Chicago again...

Where am I going with this? I'm not really sure. But with all my work professionally with community, the poetic description of service by Michelle Obama, and my volunteer work locally just makes me realize how much more there is to be done if we are to fully realize our potential. Who knows what the next ten years will look like, but I have no doubt in the possibility of the human spirit.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Community building in times of crisis

I've been meaning to post this for awhile -- with the disasters in Burma and China, it seems even more relevant now...

Through the initiative of some friends of mine from Seattle Works, I am now trained to be a shelter volunteer at the Red Cross for King and Kitsap Counties. What exactly is a shelter volunteer? Think of it as those folks who provide emergency, short term shelter for those displaced for any number of reasons including fires, floods, earthquakes, tsunamis, wind storms and any number of other disasters that target the Pacific Northwest.

Admittedly, I knew nothing about what I was getting into when I learned about this opportunity. Mostly, I thought that it would be a nice way to give back locally following so many different natural disasters. And given that shelter is one of the most basic of needs, this seemed to be a great place to start.

The training is made up of three different sections to go over how to care for the masses, the basics of sheltering, followed by hands on simulations. Through each of the sessions, we learned about what it actually takes to plan, prepare, run and manage an emergency shelter. While it was great to learn the specifics roles, tasks and skills required for a shelter, I did not expect to learn about community building in times of crisis.

For years, I always defined community as the result of intentional interactions between people with similar experiences, interests, etc over time. Time, in my definition, never really crossed my mind in terms of a short term, temporary situation which is the desired norm for emergency shelters. Yet, despite the relative brevity of the duration of a shelter, a great deal of work and planning goes in to designing opportunities for community to occur. Whether its through organized activities for children in the shelter, or getting a shared sense of ownership from the clients there by involving them in the operations...there is a concerted effort to make it as vibrant of a community as possible.

This, along with the paper plate notion of relationships has me thinking differently about community. I'm not really sure where it will lead me, but the notion of time -- especially for extended periods -- does not seem to be as important as I once thought it to be.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Paper Plate Relationships

During a not too recent business trip to New York, I was having drinks with a colleague who remarked that she often had paper plate relationships. I was a bit puzzled by what this meant so I inquired more about it.

She went on to explain that paper plates serve a specific function, for a specific time and place. You wouldn't use a paper plate for a big fancy dinner to impress your in-laws, for example, but you would use them for a barbecue with old friends. She then explained that once you are done with the paper plates, you move on until the next time you need them.

This initially struck me as a little harsh -- the notion of disposable relationships -- but then I wondered if this is similar to the notion of social objects?

In many ways, I see the paper plate relationship to be the result of brief encounters with social objects. If indeed this is the case, what does this mean for those on point for fostering social interactions?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Blogging presentations

A few months ago, I was asked to give a *quick* overview of blogging to a local nonprofit interested in blogging. These are those slides.

For those interested, I am also posting some slides I ran across today for more detail on optimizing one's blog. The content is by Scott Hanselman and the slides are by Josh Holmes.

When stacked against the likes of either Josh or Scott -- I'm no where near in the same league here or here. Regardless, we all blog for different reasons.'s mostly to keep all the different pieces of me together.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Business and community evolution

(crossposted on TechNet)
Thanks to Fili for calling out Chris' post discussing Oracle's "Social CRM." This has been on my mind a lot lately -- rationalizing the role of community in the business world.

In many ways, I've been trying to balance this very thing from all my time working with communities in a business environment. While I still think that these are not mutually exclusive, I am coming to realize that we all need to be crisp about what we mean when we say community due to the buzz nature of the term.

Working with communities (as an end to itself) seems to be quite different than working towards a given business goal that involves community. While the latter may sound somewhat opportunistic, is it? Is it different than the "double bottom line" or social enterprises we see sprouting up? Personally, I don't think it's very different at all. Instead, I think the challenge for all of us in these spaces is to to figure out how to best adapt to tackle the big problems and really change the world.

Online Community Roundtable Notes

(cross posted on TechNet)

A few days ago, I attended the Online Community Roundtable where we had some robust discussion about community strategies. Thanks to Bob for stepping up and hosting this session with Forum One. Thanks also to Nancy, Teresa and Bill for posting their notes.

I'll just add a few things that stood out for me:

Nancy White -- when describing some of her work internationally, she mentioned it would take about two years for behaviors to change.

[this reminds me of a recent post by danah boyd where she discusses the changing nature of how actions by youth are manifested rather than the behaviors/motivations of youth changing. No matter what strategies we take with our communities, we all need to be in it for the long haul.]

Frank Jerden -- when talking about the integration of the online TED conference profile with offline interactions, the question of whether or not it matters that event communities are disposable. Sean O'Driscoll brought up a great question on how one would measure the impact of these communities.

[personally, I'm not sure it matters if the online community manifestations are disposable as long as the participants end up deepening those connections through other means.]

Chrystie Hill -- with WebJunction working with communities of librarians. I found it interesting that her problem space is essentially the same as mine -- how do you ensure that folks coming to your experiences find the resources they need quickly to address whatever problem initiated the inquiry in the first place?

As for the key success factors regarding community, the slide/image below is what was discussed. I appreciate any feedback you have on this.

Note -- this is MS scoped, but I think you could find/replace MS with whatever you wanted.

Note -- since the roundtable, this has undergone some more refinement to better incorporate the different community types. More specifically, I believe that a key success factor is the need for a shared understanding of the type of community so all parties involved are ultimately successful at what they are trying to do.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Community types for technical professionals

With social media exploding the last several years, it's easy to think that all this emphasis on community is equal from one experience to the next. Wanting to be precise in what we're talking about, I think it will be helpful to describe the communities we work with on a day to day basis.

For the technical professionals that come to experiences like MSDN and TechNet the four types of communities seem to be most pertinent:

support based communities
communities of practice

Support based communities are probably best characterized by the need for an answer now. This is manifested on our forums today. Most technical forums seem to fall into this category.

Communities of practice tend to be those types of communities that draw people in around a shared goal -- learning more about a particular topic for example. In many ways, groups such as Ineta and Culminis appear to fall into this category. Another example, non-tech (edit -- non-Microsoft) would be the online facilitation Yahoo! group.

Feedback/development based communities are those where people interact for the sake of bettering a product or technology while getting early previews as to what's next. Connect seems to be a prime example of this. Dell's IdeaStorm is a (edit -- another) prime example of this.

Enthusiast communities are those where people tend to interact with others to not only connect with those that share their enthusiasm, but also to share their passion around a particular product or technology. Channel 9 (in addition to Channel 8 and On10) do a nice job of this. I'm not an expert on enthusiast or fan-based communities, but Nancy Baym and Henry Jenkins have both written a lot about this.

Of course, there are many more types of communities. I only listed four different ones as they seem to be most pertinent to the work I do. To clarify, in working on a communities team, I am not responsible for all the sites/experiences listed above. Rather, those are just examples to better illustrate what I mean by community types. My role now focuses more narrowly on planning for community from a platform and processes perspective. I am of the notion that the platform and processes needed will vary based on the types of community being discussed.

So that's where my head is at right now. What do you think? Are there other types of communities pertinent to technical professionals in your opinion?

The Space Between -- Where's Brian?

I am trying to get back on the blogging bandwagon but after repeated attempts of fits and starts, I've come to realize it's something that takes a lot of work from me. Don't get me wrong, I *will* keep blogging. I do want to be clear though that there are other ways in I intend on (hopefully) providing value to you and others interested in the intersection of community and technology.

First off is my account. This is where I tag a lot of things that relate to community and tech. Apologies in advance for the random political things that pop in now and again.

Second is my list of shared items from Google Reader. These are a lot of the items that I find noteworthy from the feeds of most interest to me.

Third is my Amazon wish list. I don't really do a good job of removing the ones I've read so it's both things I will be reading and things I have read.

(Note -- friendfeed has all of my, Reader and Amazon stuff all in one place)

Last but not least, I blog in a variety of places:
here -- work
here -- community in general (work and personal)
here -- running (personal)
here -- games (personal, not updated much)
Internally at work

Thanks to Commoncraft,* Josh and DMB for the inspiration in writing this.

*while I also have a Twitter account, I don't really use it so don't bother looking for me there. Should this change, I'll let folks know.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

3 AM surprise

This is too funny. The infamous "3AM" ad that Clinton's been running features a WA state resident who is an Obama supporter.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

style over substance? you bet

There's been a lot of criticism of Obama lately for just giving speeches rather than solving problems. I think this line of criticism is off the mark.

Maybe it's because I am the product of a liberal arts education. Or maybe it's because I've been in the tech industry for close to ten years. Regardless of the reasoning, I personally don't put much stock in any given solution, if there even is such a thing.

Instead, when it comes to matters of hiring, elections or the like I want to know who can effectively solve the problem in the best manner (assuming folks are qualified for it, which is the case in this election cycle). After seeing Clinton and Obama speak in person, and watching the debates, it is clear to me that Clinton represents a top down, solution-driven approach. Her use of "I have a plan" and the like is rather telling imo. Contrast that with Obama's "Yes, we can." (emphasis added). It's no longer about him and just his ideas but what we all can do together at the table. He may not have all the answers, and frankly, I think that is a good thing. In this uncertain, rapidly changing world, the best laid plans can get wiped out in an instant -- you need to adapt effectively to get anywhere.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

ABCD's of Social Media

Yesterday I did a workshop on Social Media with some other folks at KCBS for a leadership conference. This presentation is part of a larger session where we worked with video, audio, non-moving visuals (text, images, etc) and media justice. Hope you enjoy it. Would love your feedback

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Hope trumps cynicism @ YouTube?

My friend Dave (link fixed)pointed me towards a great article in The Nation.

Loving the speech myself, i've embedded it here for your viewing pleasure.