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Focus for 10 years leads to stretch now

Posted By John David Smith On February 6, 2009 @ 12:46 pm In Consulting,tagging,talks | 2 Comments


Almost 10 years ago I decided to focus full time on communities of practice and pretty much everything I’ve done professionally ever since then has revolved around that one subject.  I’ve learned a lot about how to support and understand communities and even gotten better at explaining what I do to for a living other people.  (At a funeral last night it only took me about 45 seconds to start reducing the puzzled look when an acquaintance asked me, “What is it that you do again?”)

Once I do explain it to people they’ll often say, “Wow, that’s a pretty narrow niche!”  It’s true, but look at three talks that I’m working on right now:

  • Provided that the trains run smoothly in Spain, today I’m meeting with people from the ministry of education in Colombia to give feedback on a plan for communities of practice for educators.  It’s fascinating to see all the connections between education in the US and in Colombia.  It’s a bit of extra effort to read their plan, which is in Spanish.  It took me a while, for example to figure out that “taslapada” was a typo and they meant “traslapada” (overlapped).  Before I figured it out, I was grumbling to myself, “Why do educators have to use such obscure language?”
  • Next Wednesday night I’m giving a talk at CHIFOO [1] that feels ambitious to me.  I’m trying to do two different things. First, I’m arguing that design “in a Web 2.0 world” has to start with communities, not end there, as an afterthought.  And second I’m pushing the idea of getting everyone to tag stuff that’s relevant to the year’s discussions (“Collaboration at Work: Putting the ‘Us’ in User Experience”).  I think a lot of people have found that once a community finds its groove in face-to-face mode, it’s difficult to add a tool to its repertoire, even when the community is made up of folks that are as smart as the CHIFOO folks.  (Maybe it will be eaiser than I’ve thought, since any face-to-face discussion more than 50 items have been tagged so far since I proposed the tag in early December: http://delicious.com/tag/chifoo09 [2].
  • The Wednesday after that I’m doing a talk with Beverly Trayner [3] at  the Human Capital Institute [4].  I’m afraid that we’ve promised to explain how all the world’s e-learning problems can be solved in one hour.  Not only that, we’re doing the presentation on a webinar platform [5] which has not been my favorite type of software but which I’m finally going to have to deal with.

So I may be very “niched”, but I’m also feeling very stretched.  Yay!

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URLs in this post:

[1] a talk at CHIFOO: http://www.chifoo.org/index.php/chifoo/events_detail/239/

[2] http://delicious.com/tag/chifoo09: http://delicious.com/tag/chifoo09

[3] Beverly Trayner: http://www.eudaimonia.pt/btsite/

[4] Human Capital Institute: http://www.humancapitalinstitute.org/hci/tracks_elearning.guid

[5] a webinar platform: http://cpsquare.org/wiki/Web_Meeting_tools

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