Jul 19 2010

Community Leadership Summit

I went to an the Community Leadership Summit un-conference on Saturday. Lots of familiar Portland faces and only one session I went to was a dud.  That’s a pretty good average!

A very nice practice that was not emphasized enough in the opening session was having dozens of etherpad rooms configured so that you could easily find where the note-taking should be going on.  Since it’s a wiki page, you could come through afterward and name your session and point directly to the meeting notes.  The session pitching part of the day was a little messier than the Recent Changes Camp because the PA system was a bit flaky and nobody was trying to make the announcement process orderly.  So people did their thing.  In a couple of sessions I was the only one taking notes — the idea of taking notes together seems strange to a lot of people.  That might be worth a little instruction at the beginning of a the day.

I had prepared to do a session on Business Models for communities.  I’ve been thinking about the issue of how communities can get formal enough to have conferences, websites, technology stewards and other staff without loosing their freshness and learning passion for many years now.  Josien Kapma and I have been working on the issue for years and this year’s “shadow the leader” series in CPsquare has focused on her experience with Dutch expatriate dairy farmers.  But I keep having this nagging feeling that there is so much more to the issue.  Maybe there’s a book there.

Anyway, to fish for new ideas and ways into these issues, I went to a copy center and printed the PDF on 3′ by 4′ paper.  Lugging it to the conference and back on a bicycle was not so fun.  The discussion was good: having a big poster-sized canvas was effective because it brought out the unconscious differences in our assumptions.  See the notes on the conference Wiki.  Thanks to Ann Marcus for taking notes during the session.

What was most confusing in the discussion was basic: business model for what?  Some people wanted to talk about a business model for a community entirely sponsored by one company, whether an “inward-facing community” or an “outward-facing community”.  (In this context people are almost always talking about exclusively online communities.)  The tricky thing is that the conversation slipped into one about justifying community to a company that’s asking for an explicit return on investment.  I think a business model exercise is probably part of justifying community-support efforts to a company. But to have a useful conversation in a short period of time (where we didn’t have much time to figure out where each other was coming from ) I had proposed that for discussion we we use the Community Leadership Summit itself as a sample community because that was the context that we all shared at the moment and we all had a bit of information on how things were working.

After I got home I transcribed the really messy text into something that’s more legible.  You can download the PPT here.  The “post-its” can be easily copied and moved around.

In addition to the etherpad resource “rooms” there was supposedly an IRC channel going on.  I could never find it. It seemed to me that there was more of an ensemble note-taking and hanging out scene going on on Twitter using the #cls10 hash-tag.  I still like http://wthashtag.com/Cls10 as a mechanism for capturing tweets during a conference. Once you set up the page, it does a lot of gathering and tracking for you. Great transcript afterward and nice stats, too.

I also ran a session on technology stewardship on the spur of the moment.  That is, I proposed it, facilitated it, took most of the notes, and, according to one participant, talked too much, too.

I thought it was very interesting how some 20-30 people gathered together to help one person figure out how they might move one community “beyond an email list.”  Another reminder that a great way to learn is to try to help someone else.

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