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Language in international CoPs July 16, 2007

Posted by bill in cp2portugal07, dialog, Reflections.
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One of our sessions was about the question of language and communication in  international CoPs (particularly online).

Ueli described the issues he faced with a community working in English but where members had a variety of first languages and communication in English was often a problem. One approach being attempted in Switzerland involves coaching from a language coach to help participants participate more effectively.

Bill had worked with people on a Mozambican online training course which functioned in Portuguese but when it came to participants taking part in a South African online conference in their field (Social Inclusion) they found it very difficult to become part of the English-speaking community. Beverly is presently developing an online community space for CIARIS/ILO which is expected to function bilingually in English and Portugese.

That being said, the use of online translation tools to help communication between Portuguese speakers of the Theka community and anglophone Cpsquare members helped more than I for one expected. On the other hand, many of the Theka people were already pretty at home with English and the level of communication was mainly social in the ramp-up to the 2-day workshop.

One possibility which was mentioned was to build a domain-related language data-base. This could be justified, perhaps, for a community which was expected to function over a longish period and where the key terminology would be relatively circumscribed. A good example of this approach in action can be found at the website of Proz the freelance translators CoP who use a kudos-based reputation system with daily challenges thrown up by working members to build a bank of translations of specialist domain words and phrases into a variety of languages. Example:


Could this approach be adapted to the kind of situation Ueli describes? Would it be useful to consult with the Proz community on this?


Bill Williams


Appreciation of thinking time June 28, 2007

Posted by derekcx in cp2portugal07, Reflections.
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I’ve written a little on my experiences at Setubal elsewhere.

My thoughts a month later include an appreciation for the time out to reflect. Things were full on at Setubal.  (See Shirley’s post – it was all go for the whole five days!!).  But in the midst of the business there was time to reflect and mull over some of the ideas raised.

Part of it was being out of the normal routines and in a new place.  Part of it is having a physical and time distance from my office.  And the stimulation of some new perspectives.  How to capture this experience back home I wonder?  I did spend 5 hours in a downtown hotel in Wellington last Sunday: warmth, 5 Meg of connectivity, unlimited coffee.  This was time before an intense conference.  I sorted out my workshops, relaxed a bit and it was good.

Continued pondering after Setubal:

  1. Higher Education and managing the tension between research and teaching.  I am now convinced a CoP model is worth a go.
    But (like elsewhere I suspect) there is fatigue over the use of the word Community.
    Question: can we rebrand things, repackage things?
  2. Does Community need a place?”
    This follows on from (1) above.  I found a few articles on the net, like
    Rethinking Virtual Space as a Place for Sociability: Theory and Design Implications
    One of my problems is that I think I know it when I see it. It has a feel, a sense of welcoming, a power to help focus and learn . . .
    My feeling is not enough for actual getting anywhere yet though.
  3. Plus again, the habits and practices I learned from being with everbody . . .
    Eg Visual Notetaking.  Some Flickr Snaps.  (Now I knew this, but I gained a whole new appreciation of it as a practice).
    Here is a record of “Does Community need a Place?”

    And Van Planning.

Shirley’s view June 8, 2007

Posted by Shirley Williams in cp2portugal07, CPSquare, dialog, Reflections.

I now can post here – so here is a copy of my recollections.


The trip started with leaving my home at noon, and returning 15 minutes later to collect my mobile phone.

John Smith had visited my University before, so we were travelling together. In the taxi we talked about the previous day and reviewed what had happened. We also looked forward to what may happen over the next few days. I must say I was very apprehensive about how the meetings may proceed and what my role and contribution may be.

At Heathrow airport we met Alasdair Honeyman, who I had not met before, and I knew little about. But it was not long before there was a deep conversation taking place, with an underlying humour, which I found reassuring as to me that seemed to give a freedom to say things that were not all based on a deep understanding. Alasdair claims John and I went through Passport control discussing platforms such as Moodle.

At Lisbon airport we met Andy Roberts, who had arrived on a different flight from Gatwick. Beverly Trayner arrived in the hire van with Derek Chirnside, and again there was a lively conversation on the journey down to Setubal. We are staying in as set of cottages around a windmill. This was another cause of concern for me. I am sharing a cottage with Sus Nyrop and Bronwyn Stuckley, actually I am sharing a room and a bed with Bron!

We moved into preparing a meal (well bringing together the components left for us). Food preparation is a good opportunity for talking and this helped.

Dinner was served on the veranda; over the dinner preparation was started for Thursday. I decided to be open about my concerns and so labelled myself a “control freak” who was concerned about the lack structure.

Thursday – Tuesday

Well my intention was to write this record every day, but like many good intentions it didn’t happen. There was very little time for private reflection, and none for writing. So I am now on the bus from London Heathrow airport to Reading, trying to write as we speed down the motorway.

The whole experience has being very intense, at times my brain really felt quite full from all the stimulation. Let me try and pick out the highlights:

Thursday was a day of dialogue, in the morning I joined a group discussing “place” and “space”, essentially we agreed a group needs spaces to meet, rooms, forums, teleconferences etc, but they also need a sense of “place” that is where they feel together. There were many other discussions I joined in…

Friday we went to Porto, for sessions with the Theka people. Essentially the programme was to be: Etienne Wegner talking about CoPs, and then the rest of us working with groups on aspects, with 4 groups. Etienne went ahead by train, the rest of us followed in two cars and the hired van. I was in a group with Sus Nyrop and Joao Dias, so we went in Joao’s car. On the way we planned, we kept in touch with the van my mobile phone, and part way we stopped for coffee and the van people explained what they had planned , and suggested we adjusted our plans to match theirs, since it wasn’t a major shift we agreed. They came up with the term: “van planning” to describe this way of working. When we got to Porto we got hopelessly lost, as did the other two vehicles, it was very stressful and we all arrived very flustered. The session we ran (Web 2.0) went well, and the people present seemed engaged, which was good as they were due to run the same session (with some help from us) the following day. However I do feel that a Web 2.0 session should have the support of the internet, and I wished we had insisted that it was essential as talking about things like Tag Clouds is much easier if you can show a real one! The students were all (would be) school librarians I found the fact that they spoke in Portuguese, which I don’t understand, very disconcerting. It seemed to me that I asked them to say what they had written down, which was a list of 12 words, but this took them 200 words to say, then 70 words for Joao to clarify and another 100 for them to re-explain, before I was given an explanation of about 50 words!

We then spent 1 hour driving round Porto looking for Petrol and 1 hour looking for the hotel!

We (that is the 17 CPSquare people) and the Theka people went to dinner in a near by restaurant.

The next day (Saturday) we left the hotel and arrived at the Theka meeting place with time to spare. We listened to Etienne’s talk, this time to a larger group of educational people.

The aim of the workshops was the people who were in our workshop on Friday were to run a similar workshop with the new attendees. The Web 2.0 people were supposed to be split across two rooms, but we only had one room that was unlocked, so we started together and then split, after a somewhat leisurely Portuguese lunch! Again I found the language barrier a problem in knowing how well the session was going, but there were a lot of thanks at the end. Joao did the presentation from our group at the closing plenary, and I had managed to get some photos from my phone on to the lap top so we used these as a background. The other groups had produced a lot of paper based graphics and these served well as prompts for the plenary.

It was then time to pile into the vehicles and drive back to Setubal. John Smith joined us and sat up front with Joao, while Sus and I sat in the back and had a detailed conversation about Second Life, about what we had discovered, our shared experiences and where we intend to go. Time passed very quickly and the 4 hour journey seemed soon over.

Sunday was a dialog day, I joined a group talking about Evaluation and projects, some interesting points were made I particularly liked the one made by Martin Roulleaux-Dugage who said: “the best thing you can do for a community is to have someone with dedicated time”, without this all agreed there are many potential difficulties. There was also discussion about communities that want to stay “under the radar” versus those that produce “glossy brochures”.

I went to a session on Technology Stewardship, it raised quite a few issues of the relationship of communities and their technologies, but I actually discovered more about the topic by talking to Martin afterwards.

In the afternoon I joined Derek Chirnside, Patricia Arnold and Bill Williams and talked about Higher Education. We spent a lot of time establishing our domain and boundaries, and discussing the knotty issues of how to engage our colleagues and students. We were interrupted by a journalist and photographer that Bev introduced. We summarised what we were talking about, however I found his observation was distracting to discussion and it took some time to recover where we were.

The rest of the day was spent in the closing circle, preparation for the Gulbenkian meeting and at a dinner in town. I made the mistake of volunteering to walk back, the hill is a lot steeper on foot than it seems when driving. It was with support from Ueli Scheuermeier and Alasdair that Sus and I made it home (by this time Há Mar ao Luar felt like home).

Monday was spent at the Gulbenkian, on the way Etienne did some van planning of the interactions he hoped to include in his talk. I think having travelled to Porto by train he wanted to have an opportunity to discover van planning. We were directed to spread ourselves around the audience, I introduced myself to a bloke sat on his own, and we talked about his industry: banking and insurance, he told me about the needs to interact with rival businesses and this seemed very interesting from the Community of Practice point of view. When the session started he tapped me on the shoulder and explained he was in the wrong session! My other interactions were with people in the right session, including a very interesting lady from the prison service, who I encouraged to share her experiences with the whole group.

While Etienne was talking I found a lot of inspiration for a project I have in mind to set up a Community of Practice among people at University of Reading who are interested in learning and virtual worlds, I kept adding notes and key points and phases.

In the afternoon we evaluated Bev’s Polen 2.0, it was a fairly typical EU sort of evaluation.

In the evening we went out to dinner, and then back to the windmill, where we sat and talked until very late.

It is now Wednesday and I am at work – reading this I think there is so much more to say, I haven’t mentioned so many of the conversations or the people. So I probably should summarise:

I found the whole thing intense and inspirational.

It was a pleasure to meet the whole group (in no particular order):

Josien Kapma,: Martin Roulleaux-Dugage; Beverly Trayner; Alasdair Honeyman; Andy Roberts; Bill Williams; Derek Chirnside; John and Nancy Smith; Patricia Arnold; Marc Coenders; Nancy White; Bronwyn Stuckley; Etienne Wegner; João Dias; Sus Nyrop, Maarten de Laat and Ueli Scheuermeier.

Nancy White has posted a load of pictures at http://www.flickr.com/photos/choconancy/sets/72157600282122982/

they capture a lot of the mood.

Cosy conversations, stern talkings to and reification May 21, 2007

Posted by bevtrayner in Reflections, Reification.
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What started as an idea for a nice cosy conversation following on from Florence has turned into something I didn’t imagine. Hence the rising (and passing) moments of panic.

In one of those moments this morning I rang Alasdair on the phone who did exactly the right thing. He spoke to me sternly about the equipment we would need for the EQUAL event. It was just what I needed.

He also pointed out the obvious. Why haven’t I got my name on the leaflet that has gone out about this event? Neither Eudaimonia (my company) nor CPSquare. What kind of independent am I? There it is again – reification – or lack, thereof.

Trying not to arrive TIRED! May 21, 2007

Posted by Nancy White in Reflections, Uncategorized.
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I’m always amazed to hear what it has taken each person to make it to one of our gatherings. They are precious days, usually stolen from other corners of our lives.

Too often I show up exhausted. Being a soloist (independent consultant) the buck always stops with me. I have clients to satisfy, blogs to tend, family to be part of. Before I leave it is like a giant marathon of “getting things DONE.”

I am wondering how to change this pattern so I arrive WITH energy. Do any of you have a practice for this?

Reification and John at Lisbon airport May 20, 2007

Posted by bevtrayner in Reflections, Reification.
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Bev and John at airport

I went to have coffee with John as he stopped off in Lisbon on his way to UK (only to return to Lisbon in a few days). We discussed the dialogue in great detail and finalised all executive decisions. Not.

The truth is that by the time we had finished analysing and reflecting on all life’s stuff, John had to rush through security and there was no time to think of the dialogue. I then came home to finish the preparations for reifications at another event – the KM4Dev (*) Workshop in the Netherlands, later in June.

In my preparations for the reifications of this workshop in the Netherlands I can’t help thinking about our reifications at the dialogue. There are some parallels and differences i.e. I have my costs covered for participating in the workshop in return for doing the documentation of Capacity Building and Training in Knowledge Sharing and Management: The Knowledge Expedition Approach.

The documentation – or reification – of the process is very tightly organised and I’ve started with a test blog – Knowledge Expeditions – to show different ways the blog can support the artefacts from the workshop. However, my observation (with a communities of practice hat on) is that the process of planning and preparing of the reifications is actually part of the process of community building. It’s part of the learning iteration of reification-participation.

The approach they are taking is quite different to ours at the dialogue. The dialogue is more like – we’ll improvise – more or less – on the spot. I am bookmarking that difference to reflect on at the dialogue.

I’m also reminded of the questions that Nancy brought up, linking reifications to legitimacy, where the question: “why the heck are you spending time with those crazy people” is an important one.

N suggests that the questions about “capturing” and “harvesting” at F2F events revolve around:

1. Who are we doing this for – it helps to know.
2. What do we want to do with it. Is it the act of capturing? Sharing out? Holding for future “processing”?
3. How do we keep the balance so it does not take away from the F2F interaction?

Question 3 for me reads more like: what is the role of reification in our meaning-making process? Are we doing enough/too little reification for meaning-making to happen?

Or something like that.

(*)Knowledge Management for Development

Doing the math so it adds up May 18, 2007

Posted by John David Smith in Reflections.
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Organizing an event like this involves many sub-tasks. Beverly’s image of burrowing down a rabbit hole (which I think in the US is used to refer to wasteful and misguided activity) makes the risks clear but doesn’t emphasize enough (to me) how much effort is involved at every point along the way.

One element of the whole scheme involves helping a group of Portuguese school teachers get more comfortable with the idea of using technology to learn from each other in a self-organizing way. We decided to hold a chat session for them — at a time that would be convenient, after school. Unfortunately, when you do the time-zone math, that “convenient time” was at a rather inconvenient time for Bronwyn Stuckey: 2:30 in the morning! The interesting thing is that, not only was Bronwyn present, she kept the conversation going and on track.

A moment of panic: short story of a rabbit May 14, 2007

Posted by bevtrayner in Reflections.

Yikes … today my heart and feet turned cold today …

What we’re doing in the dialogue is not a usual thing. It’s like a new genre. Does it makes sense? So many people – representatives of different ways of thinking – are involved. Are we ready for that?

In Florence, at the CPsquare “Prato dialogue” we were enthusiastic about continuing the conversations. “Someone” would organise an event where we continue exploring what seemed like really important themes…

A conversation I had with Nancy … where she made a cold calculation .. how much would we need to get us all together at another event? Could we offer a panel, somewhere, for the price of the plane tickets to get everyone together? And what would be that price?

Bev – like a rabbit burrowing towards the carrot patch – sees short cuts between the tunnels … opening this door and that … sure that somewhere we will find that patch of carrots we’ve been planting along the way …

One important door she opens is that Etienne is giving a presentation in Portugal – for the Gulbenkein librarians – in May. She digs down that tunnel. She digs down others. One tunnel leads to doors. So does another. She finds ways to raise money for “us” to be together.

Bev reports back to John. Let’s go for it, they decide.

In the meantime Bev is dubious about accepting two lots of funding. One would give us enough to have a small, fruitful dialogue with relatively little work. Less people and more time for conversations. John – wise, inclusive John (mostly) – says that not only would two sponsorships allow more people be involved, but it would give us more chance to *practice* together. One thing is having conversations, but another is to experience being and practicing together. It’s the act of practicing together that will give us our edge.

In the meantime more characters are invited into, or enter, the story. For each person the sub-plots are similar and different: follow-on conversations, trip to Portugal, something on CV, chance to meet friends or network, a conference, island from stress, learn, need to talk, touch a guru, underpaid consultancy, curiosity, fun ….

And the periphery characters zoom more (or less) into focus – at different times for different people … THEKA librarians, EQUAL validation …

Bev, beavering away for conversations and improved practice, suddenly realises that the thing is out of control. Each person involved – dialogue participants and beyond – has such a different view of what is going on. Expectations and individual situations are so different. How will they all play out together?

She reminds herself of what’s important. Of what we’ve been working for. The objective of this dialogue is OUR conversations at the dialogue. It’s our doing and our being together. Curiously, our doing and *being together* is greatly enriched by *practicing together*. In the Gulbenkein project. And in the EQUAL validation. It’s not just that they are paying for us being together, it’s that they offer us a reality check. Paradoxically *they* are both the reason and not the reason we are coming together.

Finally, in writing this, something calms. Bev relaxes. This is just one big ball of stressful confusion. It’s sense-making, it’s negotiating meaning. It’s bonding and separating. It’s part of an individual and shared learning trajectory. It’s just part of the muddling through of being a human being – in all its generous, inadequate and needy glory! It’s what will take us onto next steps.