Looking for Oberlin alumni in social media/nonprofit technology

I’ve just started a facebook group for Oberlin Alumni in Social Technology” — either nonprofit technology specifically, or social media more generally. I have this theory that the nptech scene must include a fair number of Obies, and I’d love to connect with them. So I’m starting the hunt, and hoping I might even surface some fellow alums who will be at the upcoming NTEN conference in DC. If you’re an Obie and you’re reading this, please join the Facebook group or post a comment here.

John Hagel on expanding markets through virtual communities

I'm writing this from the Community 2.0 conference, which promises to be two great days of inspiration on online community building and management. It got off to a great start with a presentation by John Hagel on "What's Possible? Expanding Markets through Virtual Communities".

Here are some of the highlights of John's talk:

How do we create effective online community? 

  1. What do we mean by community?
  2. What skill sets are needed?
  3. What mind shifts are needed?
  4. What organizational structure is needed?

1. What is community?

There's a tendency to regard anything that's interaction as community.
The emphasis of real community establish connections among people so they can participate in shared discussions over time, leading to a complex web of relationships, and to an increased identification with the overall community.

The key to real community:

  • shared discussions
  • shared relationships
  • shared identity

There's an inexorable desire for these communities to meet in physical space as well, and over time the virtual and physical communities get woven together.

2. What skill sets (culture sets) are needed?

  1. Creating content.
  2. Structuring/catalyzing social interactions in a way that promotes enduring relationships.
  3. Economic business models. How to sustain over time.
  4. [My note: technical skills/culture is a fourth important set, and needs to be integrated with the first three.]

Communities typically start from one of these skill sets.

3. What mind shifts are needed?

  1. Need to be participant-centric. I often hear questions about what's the value to the company of doing this; but not about the value to participants.
  2. Need to think long-run. People think too short term.
  3. Need to move from top-down organizational perspective to bottom-up perspective. Need to give up control.

4. What organizational structure is needed?

Key issues:

  1. Who is responsible for community initiatives and do they have the authority to mobilize the resources needed to make community work? Do they have the appropriately broad perspective? Even if they're senior, they may be too narrowly focused on marketing or another narrow area — and that narrows community to the functional area of the person in charge?
  2. How do they define success? Too often there's not even a definition of success. What are the operational metrics. Are there systematic reviews to enhance performance over time?
  3. Who has the relevant experience in the organization and are they being mobilized into the community?

What value do businesses get from online community?

ROA: Return on Attention
Participants should ask themselves: What is the value I derive from the attention I put into and receive from this community? ALWAYS focus on ROA from participant viewpoint first. Organization can then look at the ROA for their own org. How much did it cost to catch the participants' attention, and how much value did that attention deliver to the organization AND to the  participants.

A small proportion of your customers deliver the majority of your value. How do you get them more engaged? And how do you take the less profitable customers and make them more valuable thanks to their communtiy experiences?

How do I create environments to provide resources participants didn't even know existed, let alone searched for, but which are valuable and relevant to them? This is the highest value return on attention.

Recommends Peter Moorville's Ambient Findability. Powerful way to think about return on attention. While most people think about usability, usability presumes findability. Have to figure out first how they can find you.  Hagel says  findability=fundability.

ROI: Return on information
where information = information on participants

Look at ROI initially from participant viewpoint, then from provider/organizer viewpoint.

From participant perspective: how much info have I shared, and how much effort did it take to share it? And how much value did I receive from sharing that info?
From organizational perspective: How much info did I receive from participants, and how much value was I able to generate — for myself and for participants — from that information?

Organizations are investing a lot in collecting info but aren't thinking much about how to use it.

How can we be more helpful to participants by providing resources based on their profiles/behavior?

How can we shorten cycle between when participants provide info and when they get value back? That's key to motivating participation.

ROS: Return on skills
For participants:  skills from participating in these communities
For organizers: am I able to attract and retain the most valuable contributors?

Distinguish between communities of interest and communities of practice.
In COPs, focus on places where people are coming together to generate work product, eg in open source software communities. Expects COIs and COPS to start converging. As we face more pressure to deepen our skills and increase value delivered from their skills, I see increased tendency for people to make their passions their professions,b/c you're more likely to develop skills where you feel passion. Likely to seek out communities where people develop their talents while engaging with their passions.

Twittering to myself

Twitter seems to be the new addictive social networking app on the block. (For those new to the phenom, it’s a site that lets you tell your friends what you are doing RIGHT NOW, and to see what they’re doing, too.) But I haven’t been able to get into the addiction cycle, because I don’t have any friends. 🙁

Why? Because unlike other social networks — Facebook, LinkedIn and Friendster spring to mind — Twitter doesn’t provide a way to mine your address book for fellow Twitter-ers. As far as I can tell, if I upload my address book to Twitter, EVERYONE gets an invitation to be my Twitter buddy, whether they’re Twittering or not. I can see how this helps to spread Twitter, but since I don’t want to annoy my entire contact list with invitations to all the social networks I check out, it makes it very hard to get up and running on Twitter.

So consider this a triple request:

  1. If you’re using Twitter, ping me or add me to your friends list.
  2. If there IS a way to make Twitter scan my contact list for fellow Twitterers, please let me know.
  3. Twitter, if there ISN’T a way to scan my contact list for fellow Twitterers, could you add it? Or could you at least allow me to scan my buddies on other social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook — not just LiveJournal, which is the only one you currently connect to?

Sing, sing a song

I'm coming out: I'm an American Idol fan. I'm guessing that the reason for my fandom may be at the heart of the show's popularity: I would LOVE to get up on stage and open my mouth and have a big, beautiful voice pour out of it.

As things stand, I can at best hope for half that equation (the standing up on stage half). And given that the only thing to pour out would be a fine, even at times kinda nice voice, but nothing special and nothing to hit the high notes with, I don't see myself getting up on stage anytime soon.

One of the great things about having young kids is that it has gotten me past my self-consciousness about my just-okay voice, and has me singing regularly for the first time in years. Not just the Raffi repertoire, either (though we do a mean Baby Beluga). Our daughter has a great Simon & Garfunkely repertoire from her father, and a decent command of the Broadway standards thanks to me.

But ten minutes at bedtime — and maybe another five in the shower — isn't cutting it. What I'd really like to do is petition to universe for do-over, and ask for an Idol-worthy set of pipes…not to be on American Idol, but to light up a local choir, or take a page from Opera Man and go cruising around the city a capella.

In the absence of the Universal Do-over, I want to start singing more, even within the constraints of my current instrument. Won't you join me? I'd love to see Vancouver turn into one giant, unselfconscious, slightly off-key streetscape.

If your answer is yes….sing it!


Live from the LaFontaine-Baldwin lecture

Adrienne Clarkson gave the 8th annual LaFontaine-Baldwin lecture tonight on “the society of difference”. She argued that we are ultimately able to transcend difference because we are all one manifestation, connected by a collective consciousness. I’m not sure it ultimately allows us to transcend all our differences, but you can see the web as a manifestation of unconscious human interconnection – and an ever-deepening picture of that interconnection. My favorite way to visualize how that process of connection is facilitated is on youtube: