Learning to swarm: skilling up for online collaboration

UPDATE October 19th – Added a list of hands-on practical work we’ll do during the session.

Online collaboration is a key skill enabling desirable outcomes both in working and personal life. If you are good at it, you can engage with lots of interesting people and projects with very limited investment; you simply get more opportunities than if you are not. Occasionally, you can partake or even create “smart swarms” of a great many people, that turn out to be incredibly effective at certain tasks.

Surprisingly few people are good at it, even in an age of digital natives.

Being good at online collaboration does NOT come down to using software – though using software is definitely important. Online collaboration environments are complex creatures made of humans that interact over technology and social protocols. Getting the social protocols right is the hard part: the very many empty collaborative platforms littering the landscape are the result of their creators focusing on the tech and ignoring the humans. In this session, we discuss and practice online collaboration with the goal of making each one of us better at it by sharing our experiences.

We focus on making the most from information and other intellectual input contributed by people collaborating. To this end, we spell out  characteristics we want such information to have, and suggest tools for ensuring it does. We also try these tools out: this is a hands-on session. We will run a practical collaborative exercise, documenting the session itself as part of the CookBook. We shall argue information generated during collaboration can be fruitful (and seed further collaboration) if it is:

  • retrievable, so we look at permalinks, SEO and metadata.
  • accessible, so we look at permission structures (open vs. closed collaboration).
  • reusable, so we look at data structures and licensing.
  • inclusive, so we look at special needs users might have.
  • safe, so we look at moderation policy and leadership in swarms and other unstructured groups.

We use the Edgeryders platform as the context of the session. Why is is the way it is? Does it work? To do what? How could it be improved?

Depending on the interest of Drupal-skilled people, we could add a session in which we, together, tweak the Edgeryders platform according to the results of this session to make it better suited to collaboration for the community.

This session is led by Alberto Cottica, designer and manager of online communities for over 15 years (yes, it started with mailing lists in the 1990s). It is loosely based on the mini-course in online collaboration given by Alberto at the Master in Design For Social Business at Istituto Europeo di Design in Milano in 2011; and Noemi Salantiu, community healer at Edgeryders. A tentative schedule:

Lecture (Alberto) – Online collaboration: how to design it, how to participate in it, how to evolve it. Specifically, we look at Google Docs, Google Groups, blogs, online fora. GitHub (45 mins).

Break (15 mins)

Workshop (Dorotea): the Edgeryders software and community as a platform for collaboration; we then use it to collaborate in documenting our session as a contribution to the Edgeryders cookbook.  (45 mins)

Bringing laptops is desirable, but not mandatory. I will also need a projector and, ideally, a whiteboard.

Notice: these slides are from the 2011 course, and will not be used for the session without a complete overhaul.


UpSkilling in Collaboration

Good morning Alberto :slight_smile:

I think it’s a great session for everyone for everyone.

One question: what do you mean exactly by “check it against the social glue keeping the community together” ? :slight_smile:

I think we could add complementary topics, maybe sessions about:

  • general upSkilling in collaboration (soft skills, human interactions, on and off-line) - as a psychologist I would be interested in participating in this :slight_smile:

(in the form of workshop or BarCamp)

  • community - designing , building , maganement - as you are an expert in this maybe you could lead a BarCamp on this topic ?

I think I qualify as one of the drupal skilled people :slight_smile:

we can talk about it together with the other skilled people (Auli and Matthias)

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Why don’t we do this together?

[Dorotea], would you be up for sharing the session with me? We could change the second part to a “guided exercise” on the Edgeryders platform, which is a more interactive version of the “guided tour” that you are wiling to give. On demand, we could have a “guided customization” for people who want to be on the Dev Team: using Views, Panelizer etc. What do you say?

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In addition…

In addition, something from Bert-Ola would be a good fit for this track/session type. The LGP model for thematic connection of innovators in the field is a simple and effective method of building rapport among doers in the field. Skill-sharing, partnership, and further collaboration issues from these sessions, aswell as community building and mass social capital development amongst innovators. This is paving a way for deployment of ‘dry powder’ from the impact scene among distributed instances of successful and promising socio/ecological ventures.

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good idea

yes, good idea, lets add it as well .


[Dorotea], in updating the text on this session I just took your name out. I remember you wanted to focus on the unDojo and dropped out! Was that a mistake? I had no intention to offend, nor to exclude you, for sure!

yes :slight_smile:

yes, that’s correct, I’ll just assist the session :slight_smile:

I’ll focus on the unDojo this time :slight_smile:

and the role of the unHostess :)