Thursday, September 25, 2008

Management of Multimembership

We all seem to be so busy these days, but in a good way. There are so many excellent opportunities for professional development and to connect in new ways. I've noticed in the past couple of months a new topic has become disconnecting. People are finding it difficult to decide what and who to pay attention to and how to keep up with the activity in multiple networks and venues. Recently the topic of returning to the fray in open online courses like Facilitating Online Communities (FOC08) and Connectivism and Connected Knowledge (CCK08) and activities like SCoPE seminars has emerged. The question Bronwyn Stuckey asks is:
How do we allow people easy reentry into the hub of the learning when they have been absent (physically or mentally)?
As a follow-up to Bron's post Nancy White offers some catch up strategies. I know I have found some of these tips useful, and like Bron, I found that attending a scheduled Elluminate session with Leigh Blackall brought me back in to the FOC08 course...temporarily. Then I sort of floated away again. This has nothing to do with the quality of the course, or my interest in the topic. What is my problem then?

My disconnect has a lot to do with the fact that September is a crazy busy month, and I've had a few work-related trips that always seem set me back a few notches. But I think part of this is due to my lack of know-how in managing my participation in networks. I'm used to having one place to go. I'm used to seeing the participants gathered together, and having a sense of how they are participating, having the tools to track this in some way. For example in SCoPE I often go to a member's profile to view all posts by that individual, view activity logs, follow a link to a blog, etc. SCoPE as a platform just feels more...I don't know...packaged. In other words, it's more than just managing my own participation, it's that connection with the individuals who are participating in a particular event (course, seminar, workshop, conference) that give me a sense of involvement and commitment.

We brought some of these returning to the fray ideas into the current SCoPE Next Steps seminar where community members are reflecting on the past and planning for the future. From the beginning SCoPE has been designed for busy people -- no login required to read along, no obligations to participate, lurkers, newcomers, latecomers, and passersby always welcomed, and no guilt allowed! Colby Stuart comments in the Next Steps discussion that so many SCoPE members are following along, but are just very busy. She asks:
How can we make it easier for those people to contribute?
What's unique in the FOC08 and CCK08 courses is that there are multiple ways to contribute. At SCoPE we have experiemented a bit with tagging resources and blog posts during a scheduled activity as a way to gather 'round the topic and at the same time expand our boundaries beyond the community "venue". Perhaps this is exactly what we need to work on -- keep exploring ways for people to contribute in new and different ways. We don't all have time to compose forum posts.

Anyway, don't worry, all of this rambling is going to come together in some way! This week in the FOC08 course we are beginning to plan our miniconference. Sue Wolff, Jeffrey Keefer, Bronwyn Stuckey, and I have been exchanging email about working together on this project and this week had our first planning meeting. We're organizing a 2-week event (October 26 - November 9, 2008) and the topic is exactly what I've been rambling about: management of multimembership. Here is the description:
How do you track and keep up with blog conversations? How do you manage your time as you engage in social networks? What are our limits as we integrate social learning into our work environments?

Many of us confess to fumbling along and we engage in multiple networks. Yet, many networks are essential for the projects, sectors and people that we work with, and for staying abreast of hot issues. Multi-membership and multi-platform overload is becoming a BIG challenge!

During this 2-week discussion we invite you to share tips for managing participation in social networks. This seminar is organized as part of the Facilitating Online Communities course.

TAG: multimembership
Best of all, having this major activity to plan has certainly brought me back into the FOC08 course...physically and mentally.

Expect plenty more about our miniconference event. Meanwhile, I've been doing some research and found this gem from Nancy White's blog archives about multimembership. The title of the blog post is It's not me or the group, it's about multimembership.
I've learned this idea of multimembership from Etienne Wenger and see the management of multimembership as one of the key technological and social issues of the online world today. There is quite a bit of interesting technological work happening in this area, from identity standards, pushes for interoperability and tools that help us collect all our digital interactions so we can make sense of them across all the groups, networks and even casual online interactions we engage in.
Ahhh, yes. This is what we need help with.

3 comments:

  1. Exciting Sylvia, I'm looking forward to the mini conference now. Don't forget to facilitate hough :) Some people have already made the mistake of positioning themselves as central in their event be thinking to give a presentation and such. Nope, I have to prompt them to find someone else to give the presentation so that they can facilitate the interactions between presenter and presentees. I suspect that you guys will be facilitating a longer period of discussion, which sounds like a challenge - especially when we consider the trouble of disconnect reconnect... how will I make the time. ? :)

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  2. Keep me posted and I'll also spread the word on my network!

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  3. @Leigh Right! I see what you mean. We'll try to stay out of the middle. It's a constant struggle as facilitator, especially when the topic is so near and dear. We're trying out a new limit-the-text approach to the discussion. Should be an adventure!

    @Nancy So great. Thanks for helping to spread the word! We're hoping for a good turnout during these days when attention is tugged in all directions...which of course is exactly one of the challenges we're addressing.

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