Sunday, October 22, 2006
Own business is not the same as working 9 to 5
Yesterday we've heard from a friend who spent Friday night with phone calls from his international customers. One of the servers where their applications were hosted was down, he wasn't around and had to figure out how to fix it.
Today Robert, who has his little business in Second Life, heard that something was wrong with his product. He spent morning fixing the problem and informing his customers.
Own business is not the same as working 9 to 5, first life or second :)
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Weblog-mediated relationship: a co-constructed narrative
It's online as promised.
Efimova, L. & Ben Lassoued, A. (forthcoming) Weblog-mediated relationship: a co-constructed narrative, in S. Holland (Ed.) Remote relationships in a small world, Peter Lang Publishing.
Weblogs provide a fertile ground for finding interested others and getting into closer contact. As visible from our case, the beginning of this process can be asymmetrical and doesn't necessary imply a commitment to communicate from both sides, but over time blogging strangers can turn into blogging friends. Based on our own case we cannot provide definite answers why this happens, but there are a few factors that did it for us: reciprocity of potential benefits from communicating to each other, vulnerable writing and an ability to go beyond blogging in our choice of communication media.
A few notes:
- It refers to lots of existing bits and pieces:
- blog posts/comments that are treated as artefacts
- most of those are linked from the text and I'll see if I can make a visualisation with linking (since not all of those appear referenced in the text)
- those links (for obvious reasons) will not appear in the printed version
- meta-pieces (drafted fragments of the paper)
- visuals on Flickr
- I have permission to post it online, but only till the book is published (somewhere in 2007). I don't really get the logic of it, but anyway - make sure you read it before that :)
Monday, October 16, 2006
Trust in weblog conversations
Adding my 5 cents to a conversation on trust and weblogs:
Patricia Arnold: In this blog discussion I see a question of trust. I need to know with whom I'm taking. That' the opposite of the blogger's attitude. Whoever is reading it is problematic. It's too anonymous. Trust is missing.
Nancy White: The trust issue, Patricia, is very salient. I was talking a few weeks ago with John and Etienne about a different kind of trust I see in network systems, like blog networks, and I think there is a very strong informational trust. Not that I have to get to know you to trust you ,but I have to get to know what you write about and how you write about it to trust you. But it is a different sort of trust. Not so much about personal identity, but domain related identity. Does that make any sense?
Have a mixed feelings about this. From one side I agree with Nancy that blogging is about "I have to get to know what you write about and how you write about it to trust you", but I wouldn't call it "domain related identity". Domain related trust is an important factor in a continuing to read a weblog or engaging into interactions with its author, but this is not enough to invite the blogger to stay in your house or to go an extra mile to meet or engage into doing work together.
For me trust means some degree of emotional understanding and attachment and it is always involves getting to know the person behind any content. It's about trusting a blogger as a person, not as an information source. Ask me about bloggers I really trust and I'd probably tell you more about what kind of people they are, than about content of their weblogs.
I guess that in the conversation there is another aspect as well. Patricia talks about writer's trust (I have to know and trust my readers to know how to talk to them), while Nancy about readers's trust (when I read your weblog I start trusting you). Those are very different, since when you write a weblog your audience include readers with all kinds of relations to you, including those that come there from Google. So, I guess the question of trust in a weblog conversation is to a great degree about being able to speak to trusted and unknown audiences at the same time (next to that there is always an issue of ambiguity - you never know who is listening and you can't really count on someone talking back).
Weblog conversations are very different from those of a closed forum: you don't know exactly who is listening, how far they are interested, what would happen next. Writing a weblog post is not a deliberate activity of engaging into a conversation, but always an opportunity to have one - a possibility for an interaction.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Facilitation lessons learnt
There is part of my work that I hasn't been writing much about over last two years. Not because it's so confidential, but because most of the complexities that I had to face and to learn from are still too complex for a blog post. I am about to disengage from the project to focus on my PhD; I hope I'll be able to reflect on the things properly one day, but I also need a placeholder for some of the lessons learnt (or, to be more precise for some things where I've learnt a lot without having an answer :)
- how your relations with specific people in a project implicitly define the commitments you make and how painful it could be if those unspoken 'personal constellations' are changed
- how important is time for developing a shared language, how much you should fight for an opportunity to have it and that the best way to do so is still doing things together and not talking about doing them
- how hard is facilitation of technology adoption, especially if you are already in a technology-mediated settings
- how to make sure things are on track without having the responsibility or means to 'manage' (and without doing them yourself ;)
- how to communicate online - hmm, more precisely: how to get 'optional' feedback online, how to make decisions asynchronously, how to orchestrate selection of media to fit everyone even if there is nothing there that fits everyone, how not to spam everyone, but still have everyone updated
- how not to be involved, even if it's good for the project
- how to tame passion
- how to introduce things (slowly :)
- how to balance between decision-making and training
- how to make decisions about technology design with subject-matter experts who don't know much about technology
- how to write difficult things in email without ruining the relation behind
- how shared working practices could grow in a heavily distributed project
- how to go back and forth between languages; how it is much more than the languages themselves and the need to switch, but the whole cultures and mindsets behind
- how to plan and manage things you can't plan and manage (community life and support :)
- how to balance paid long-term members and recently joined volunteers in the same team
One day (when I finish my PhD and get back to doing things instead of doing research ;) I will be much better facilitator because of all the experiences above :)
Monday, October 09, 2006
NOAGGREGATE: what if I don't want my digital bits to be connected at one place?
Ton in Weaving Webs: How to Quickly Find Somebody's Online Traces?:
As I do after each conference I am currently busy finding people on-line and adding them to my 'social filter' after BlogTalk Reloaded. Basically that means finding their on-line presences and adding them to my feedreader, and connecting to them in different environments such as Plazes, Skype, Flickr, OpenBC/Xing, LinkedIn, 43People etc. Weaving them into my social web so to speak.
Ton is not alone in that: each f2f meeting I participate in follows with a surge of "let's be friends" requests over many platforms. It's becoming a practice that eventually will be supported by some tool that Ton wants:
Would there be a way to create a search agent that takes the name of a person you've met? Ideally you would provide such a search agent with your own account data of all the environments you are part of that you want to have searched. And then it comes back with a number of likely search results that might contain any or all of the following for instance:
I have a very mixed feelings about it, similar to those in the comment by Marc Canter:
Possible blogs of that person
Possible Flickr Feed, or 23 feed
Possible IM names
Profile in OpenBc.com
Profile in LinkedIn.com
Profile at 43people.com
Possible Plazes account
Possible del.icio.us account
Clearly their is a need for such a search function, but it steps right onto the issue of privacy and security on the web.
For me, as someone who wants to 'bookmark' digital bits of people I met offline, having a tool like that would be great. For me, as a one 'being searched for', it sounds like a nightmare: I'm not happy when others connect my online dots on one page, especially if I don't know them.
For me leaving my bits online is a conscious choice, but leaving them disintegrated 'all over the place' is a consious choice as well: if I make choices to share specific things in specific contexts and not put all on the same page I have a reasons to do so. And I'd like those reasons to be respected by whatever search tools (as they currently supposed to respect NOINDEX and NOFOLLOW of web-pages). At the end I want to have at least some rights over my own bits (e.g. digital traces not being aggregated without explicit content)...
So, coming back to Ton's problem - one of the options that I could imagine is 'Plaze-based' search, an advanced version of something I experienced at SHiFT:
- there I could easily see others on the same network and add them as contacts
- once they confirmed I could get their basic info (like IM names or web-site links)
- I can also see 'plazes we have in common', which could provide some context on the specific location (often associated with an event) where we have met
Of course, this is yet another centralised system (with all the problems of that), but at least it does a few things:
- makes 'search' much easier (by showing only people who are at the same location with me at the moment)
- provides people with choice of how much 'aggregated in one space' information they want to share with me
- provides me with some clues about the history of our relationship (if you want to get into that deeper - make sure to check danah boyd's Master thesis for the idea of Digital Mirror, pp. 53-59)
So, two questions regarding all these:
- Can my Plaze-based search be generalised to any cross-platform search?
- Are there any chances that eventually I will be able to add NOAGGREGATE tag or something like that ('aggregate only for my contacts', 'ask first', etc.) to my digital bits to control how they are displayed? Anything practical I can do in that respect? [pinging Suw at ORG]
Friday, October 06, 2006
Escaping to Paris
As a special birthday treat I'm taken to a misterious place in Paris. The forecast: no gadgets, rain and a warm company :)
I'm 31 tomorrow, but somehow numbers have lost their importance - now it's just a special day to celebrate, an excuse for little treats and doing things I wanted to do for a while, but couldn't find a good opportunity to do. It's just a good moment to stop and think and enjoy little things of life, as some of my favourite lines say:
life, like autumn silence, is in the details
Thursday, October 05, 2006
Excursions as excuses
A little side-trip before I get back to work. Two quotes from two books; something I has been playing with for a long time, but still has to find a proper way into my formal research writing.
Jan Gehl, Life between buildings, on 'excursions as excuses':
Among the requirements that are satisfied, in part, in public spaces are the need for contact, the need for knowledge, and the need for stimulation. These belong to the group of psychological needs. Satisfying these is seldom as goal-oriented and deliberate as with the more basic physical needs, such as eating, drinking, sleeping and so on. For example, adults seldom go to town with the expressed intention of satisfying the need for stimulation or the need for contact. Regardless of the true purpose may be, one goes out for a plausible, rational reason – to shop, to take a walk, to get some fresh air, to buy a paper, to wash the car, and so forth.
Perhaps it is wrong to speak of the shopping excursion as a pretext for contact and stimulation, because very few people out shopping will accept the fact that the need for contact and stimulation plays any part in their shopping plans. The fact that adults who work at home on average spend nearly three times as much time shopping as those who work outside the home, and the fact that the shopping excursions are distributed evenly throughout the week, even though shopping once a week would perhaps be easier, make it natural to assume that the many daily shopping excursions are not only a question of getting supplies.
It is general characteristic that basic physical and psychological needs are satisfied at the same time, and that the basic and easily defined needs often serve to explain and motivate the satisfying of both sets of needs. In this context the shopping excursion is both a shopping trip and a pretext, or occasion, for contact and stimulation. [pp. 117, 119]
Kate Fox, Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of English Behaviour, on 'props and facilitators':
The English constantly form clubs and societies for exactly the same reason that we have so many sports and games: we need props and facilitators to help us engage socially with our fellow humans, to overcome our social dis-ease, and we also need an illusion that we are doing something else, that we have come together for some practical purpose, to pursue a specific shared interest, to pool resources in order to achieve something we couldn't manage alone. […] the real purpose of all these clubs is the social contact and social bonding that we desperately need, but cannot admit needing, not even to ourselves. [p. 251]
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Artefacts of a weblog-mediated relationship: a visualisation
I has been struggling for a while trying to understand how relations develop via weblogs, as well as the role of weblog conversations and all kinds of other 'backchanneling' tools in the process.
One of the problems you have to face whily researching those things is the problem of visualisations: how to make sense of conversations distributed between people, places and times (e.g. how to put in one picture weblog posts, links between them, comments, authors of all those and ideally a timeline as well?).
The picture on the right is another attempt. It comes from the work I did with Andrea on co-constructing a story of our relationship, which involved mapping communication artefacts that were part of the process*. I'd appreciate any feedback regarding (un)clarity of it and suggestions of alternatives...
Things I wanted to include:
- different types of artefacts and their relationships (=links between)
- authorship and space (so it's clear when I write a blog post in my own space linking to Andrea's post or comment to Andrea's blogpost 'there')
Some things that come from the picture (you may also want to check notes at Flickr version of the drawing):
'Direct communication'** with each other is embedded in other blogging activities: weblog posts, directly relevant for our relationship represent only a fraction of posts each of us write during the analyzed period. Although those "other" posts are not directly relevant for the communication, they provide the context for it.
There are moments of delay and long time-spans between initial posting and linking/comment on it.
In the beginning the communication is asymmetrical: it takes time before I explicitly acknowledge that I am aware of Andrea's existence by commenting on her blog posts and linking to her blog. Later there are other signs of asymmetry: Andrea links to me more than vice versa; my comments are less frequent and timely than Andrea's.
What started as a weblog-mediated relationship involves multiple artifacts: my published paper, del.icio.us bookmarks, email conversations and Skype exchanges later on. Different tools are used simultaneously; email and Skype exchanges correspond to intensified blogging.
* The idea of describing and analyzing our own weblog-mediated relationship came into life during one of our first Skype talks. The analysis includes our communication till that date, since the moment when we decided to work on the shared product changed the nature of our relationship and interactions. We also eventually met in person, but this is out of the picture too.
** 'Direct' is a wrong term - when one of us writes a weblog post later answered by another, in most of the cases it's not 'directed', but instead written 'to the world', as weblog as a meduim lends itself to it. In this case 'direct communication' means 'those of our writings that became part of an on-going conversation between us'.