Map and Compass

March 5, 2006

Your feedback has sent me a wake-up call: you want more structure and guidance. I screwed up. I am so enthralled with informal learning that I wanted our Unworkshop to be the poster child for its principles. This clouded my judgment. Before our first session, Dave Lee advised me to insert more structure but I blithely ignored him. I unrealistically thought that our community would grow organically. Live and learn. We don’t have time to trust evolution to do its magic. I’ll provide more clarity from now on. Sorry for the confusion.

Two weeks from now, each of us should have learned enough about a variety of web tools to know when and how to apply them in business learning situations.

We’re going to do that by experimenting with blogs, wikis, aggregators, tags, RSS, discussion boards, and podcasts.

  1. First, Dave or I will provide an overview and put things in context in our group session.
  2. You will visit examples and, often, use the technology of the day to gain hands-on familiarity.
  3. Do some of your experimentation with others. I assure you that you’ll learn a lot more than doing everything on your own.
  4. Take a look at the Resources pages on the wiki. I don’t expect you to read all this stuff, but some of it will be useful when you return to real life, so I want you to be familiar with what’s there.
  5. Write an entry in your blog to document your thoughts about the role this particular technology might play in your project.

Project? Yes, you need a project. We talked about this on Day One but I haven’t reinforced the concept. Pick a situation, real or imagined, that represents a business need for learning. This could involve the work force or customers or your clients. It might be support for a community of practice or introducing a new product. Choose a project that’s rich enough that you’ll be able to address whether there’s a role to be played by blogs, wikis, etc. Post a brief description of your project on your blog. That way, we’ll become aware of one another’s projects when we read them on the aggregator.

Here’s our schedule:

March 7 wikis, discussion boards, and podcasts

March 9 tags and social software.

March 14 mash-ups, web services.

March 16 integration, present projects




I find myself disagreeing with you quite a bit. I am also not comfortable
disagreeing like this in front of a group, and so am sending this email.

> I believe in natural learning. I don’t believe in putting up
> signs that say, “Here, let me connect the dots for you.” No!
> People want to connect the dots for themselves! That’s the point.

I think “people want to connect the dots” is quite an assumption. Did you
not have indications from me and from others that they wanted to learn about
various social software? I don’t think that the desire for a helpful
overview and a preview of where we might go runs contrary to the open

And whatever happened to starting with where the learner is at the moment?

> We’ve only been on this unmarked road for a couple of hours together.
> Most of us are not comfortable yet. Your feedback tells me
> you at least need a map and compass: we’ll work on that this weekend.

I’m glad to hear this. I think that’s something that should have been in
place at the start, especially as there seemed to be time between the
original announcement and the start of the first session.

> Several people said they couldn’t read the text on the slides
> on Thursday. Folks, speak up. I could have enlarged the
> screen — or told you where to download a copy of the
> PowerPoint for local viewing.

I agree, though I also believe that a distance format inhibits questioning
more than a face-to-face one. That’s not a complaint; that’s just my
experience in this realm — it feels more like INTERRUPTING. As it did, for
example, when I made some effort on Thursday to try and figure why the
screen kept jumping (on my monitor) from full to regular and back to full
again. There wasn’t enough time to stop and figure it out.

“,0] ); //–>
I think the first sessions of another such workshop would go better with one
of these two kinds of preparation:

– more practice by the presenter ahead of time so he or she is comfortable
with the technology, and can provide participants ahead of time with a way
to find out how to manage their interface

– selecting as appropriate one or two reliable channels that most
participants have already mastered — so they’re not getting frustrated.
For example, a first session by regular conference call, not Skype or Breeze
audio. For example, a group email set up ahead of time, using the email
addresses that individuals provide for themselves.

> Saying you don’t understand an assignment is the same sort of deal.

Agreed. On the other hand, “look at a dozen blogs together” is pretty
vague. I spoke with three other participants between Tuesday and Thursday,
and not one of us was clear on what the point of this looking-at would be.

> Ask. You have my phone number, email, Skype name, Google Talk
> identifier, and a blog that pours your content into our
> aggregator, not to mention your coach. If you’re confused,
> you’re probably not alone.

Goig back to the ‘one or two reliable channel’ point, you’ve given five
different channels here. I’m not trying to argue with you; I’m sharing my
opinion that you may not be hearing the message *I* am hearing from myself
and from some other people in the workshop: it’s too confusing to figure out
which channel to use for which communication purpose.
> End of rant.
> Screeds like this are, of course, part of our learning
> journey together.

I didn’t think it was a screed. I do seem to hear some frustration on your
part. I can’t speak for others, but it’s clear many of us work in somewhat
more structured environments.

I don’t expect everything to be flawless, and I’m sure all of us have had
problems in presentations we’ve made, in the design of materials, and so
forth. My biggest frustration is not with the content but the

I’ve been providing a fair amount of feedback because I thought it was
welcome. I’m not quite so sure any more, Jay.



Dear Jay,

>>Keep it coming. This is product development. Of course, a few positives spread about the negative stuff always helps, but either way, I want to hear from you.

One of the big positives is simply the opportunity to see these different technologies and talk about them, even with the frustrations.

One drawback to this distance collaboration (especially between people who haven’t worked together) is that even the most constructive comment can seem much harsher in an email than it might in a face-to-face conversation, where the tone, the smile, whatever, helps to fill in impressions of the intent.

I’ve sent some of my feedback quickly, and so it may be prone to focus on what I might prefer myself (recognizing that I am not everyone!) or what I (think) I might do differently (even though I’m not the one doing it at the moment).

I’ve been talking to people online since 1982, when I helped with the alpha test of GEnie (a competitor to CompuServ), and so I should recall more often how easy it is to forget about tone.

I don’t know about you, but when I’ve done a presentation at a conference and get those feedback sheets, the one that I see as critical affects me much more than half a dozen saying how great they thought it was. (Maybe I’m just sensitive…)

Good thought. For today, I finished the slides about fifteen minutes before we started. I’ll see what I can pull off for Tuesday.

I understand this just-in-time development, believe me.

And, with regard to your learning-while-doing with Breeze, I think everyone in the group has had a similar experience with some form of technology or other, and that we’re all inclined to be accepting of that.

In a post-beta setting — when you offer the session again to others, especially if like most of us they tend to be low on the currently-using-this-stuff scale — I have two thoughts:

The first is a variation on something I said earlier. I think it’d be good to chose one main vehicle for presenter-to-group and member-to-group communications — like the forums in Frappr, for example. Then say, that’s where we’ll put Jay-to-group, and group-member-to-group stuff.

The second thought would be to say either at the outset or prior to a particular session that we’re going to take a look at Thing A (Breeze, for example). If it’s something relatively new that you’ve been wanting to explore, that’s fine — you certainly are more plugged into what’s new than most of us are. But saying so (“I’ve been wanting to try this…”) helps set expectations (“…we’ll probably run into some snags…”).

And I make that suggestion in part because of one other positive thing about this session: your willingness and eagerness to receive feedback.


By the way, you have had a part in helping launch my family-story site. It was this chance to learn about things like blogs, and reading some of what you’d done with them, that helped plant the seed in my mind. Next Monday will be the fourth week since I put up the HTML-only version of the site (I’d have to check my notes about the WordPress version, but it’s obviously even less time).

I thought about than when you asked (Jane?) about her experience in getting her blog going… and I think you did well to underscore the point that even with her false starts, she accomplished what she set out to do in an hour or so.


Gee, this gets recursive quickly, doesn’t it?

>>Part of my approach in the Unworkshop is to have you experience what other online learners go through. Imagine trying to figure this out if you didn’t know what a blog was. (Thanks for your participation in that discussion by the way.)

I’m with you 100% here, and suspected (actually, simply “figured”) that a try-it-and-see approach was part of your intent.

>>Confusion over which channel is natural, since I was purposely vague…

See? I was right!

>>Given the flexibility of the web, you can actually use any of them… We’ll gravitate toward whatever works best for us…

It sometimes feels more difficult to me in a distance forum to say things casually or simply as a matter of my own opinion without meaning to have them sound like requests for change. I think you got the idea that my comments were opinions and not requests.

>>I once worked at a company that swore by Lotus Notes. Only problem was that nobody used it. Email was a poor workaround but it was all we had.

True story: once during my career with GE Information Services, a “boundaryless” team was looking for ways to reduce our internal costs so that more of our computing capacity was available to sell to clients. One of the paradigm-breaking ideas? “E-mail smokeout” — on Tuesdays, the company would shut down its internal email servers.

You can see how this reduces internal usage by 20%, right?

What the brain trust failed to realize was that we had a hell of a lot of people who supported customers or otherwise dealt with the outside world via email. Since there was no way around the smoke-out, phone bills and FedEx charges (for sending disks where you would have otherwise sent an attached file) skyrocketed.

I don’t think the smokeout lasted three weeks…

>>You’re absolutely correct about Breeze. My introduction of it was confusing. I got flustered when my web cam mysteriously disappeared. I’ll work on some instructions and a demo tomorrow.

Again, mostly because we don’t know one another well, I want to emphasize that my comments were feedback and not criticism. I’m pretty sure that some of Breeze’s behavior is Breeze, not you. In other words, whenever any presenter does X, Breeze does Y.

In fact, I tried sending a private message to Jane (was it?) on the topic of blog versus discussion — the discussion had moved past that — but I gathered from comment on the audio line that the private message was in fact visible to everyone. So it’s good I wasn’t making fun of the presenter, huh?

>>I hope you don’t mind if I post these responses (not your questions or identifying you) on the informL blog was all to learn from.

Not at all… I thought about posting them somewhere, but I thought it was best to send them directly to you.

If you look at the wiki, you’ll see I didn’t hesitate to add a new link (“Show and Tell”) in the sidebar as a suggested location for posting participant blogs. Maybe the aggregator is a better place, but that was what I could manage.



Hi, Jay…

Just a few lines before turning in. I was glad to participant in tonight’s session, and ended up talking for quite some time afterward with Harold.

I appreciate the time you and Dave Lee have put into preparing this.

I wanted to tell you a few areas in which I’m still uncertain about what to do next.

(A) I am feeling confused about which of the several channels we have to use to make comments or provide input.

For example, if I’ve got something to say or to ask, do I post on the Frappr group discussion? In the wiki (and if so, where)? Not in the informL blog; I can only comment on what’s already there.

The main point is not to ask you those specific questions, but just to share my point of view is that perhaps it’d be good at the start of the next workshop to suggest that if people want to say or do X, they could use channel Y first.

Matching that to a suggestion to try all the channels, of course… it’s like saying there are three different ways to, say, make text bold on your PC; for starters, highlight the text and click the B icon.

(B) It’s also unclear from the aggregator (which to my untrained eye looks a lot like another blog) how I’m supposed to put something INTO the aggregator.

(C) In terms of Breeze, I found the interface confusing as well, in that the screen would change its appearance, with some of the subsidiary windows like “notes” disappearing and then reappearing as the presenter did things. (I’m not talking about the occasional full-screen mode.)

I’m sure some of this will go away with time… but a job aid for participants saying here’s how to manage your screen (if you can) could be useful.

Please understand I’m not complaining, just saying that I have no clear picture which to use. I do realize that there isn’t necessarily any “right” way. On the other hand, other than sending individual emails to other participants (e.g., to try and find a blog-browsing partner), I don’t see how to effectively use any of this stuff to contact someone.

It’ll work out, I know. I’m looking forward to the next session.


Unworkshop #2

March 2, 2006

The only way I can make this a business is by having somebody else handle the details. I scheduled Free Conference Call for 4:00 am, not 4:00 pm, so we were 15 minutes Breezing until the phone worked. After comparing session #1 to the first pancake, I  reported that feedback was thin (3) and all over the map. We covered a lot of ground in the 45 minutes available. Networks, the Blogosphere, connections with RSS, aggregation, mash-ups, web 2.0, and internet inside.

Everyone but Jacob attended; he can catch the recording.

I’ve more or less laid down the law that I expect people to work with one another. Tomorrow I have open office hours — and time to reinforce the message.

Unworkshop #1

February 28, 2006

Just finished workshop #1. We ended earlier than I expected. Due to Skype’s lack of conference capability, we ended up using Free Conference Call. I need to practice using Breeze; I was klutzy…and my camera wouldn’t work.

Technique: phone conference call with shared screen. Pro: Literally keeps everyone on the same page. Con: Difficult to get active discussion. Tendency to lapse into Simon Says.