GEO 2011 Keynote

I launched this site a little over four months ago. I needed a place to share what I’ve been learning about increasing the world’s collaborative literacy and to be more intentional about storytelling.

Since launching in December, over 2,300 of you have visited. Almost 1,400 of you keep coming back. About 30 of you have commented on my blog, a third of whom I didn’t know before you posted here. Many more of you have shared my content across multiple social media channels.

Over 100 of you have subscribed to my newsletter. Half of you actually open it (triple the industry average), and a third of you who open it click on a link (double the industry average).

Based on these numbers and some hand-wavy calculations, I’d say that I have an “active” audience of about 100 people — people who are engaging with this site and this work on a regular basis.

What has this meant in practice?

  • Deeper engagement with people I already know. First and foremost, I hear from colleagues a lot more frequently, which in and of itself is gratifying. Moreover, surface-level understanding has evolved into deeper understanding, which is resulting in real impacts in the work. I’m particularly delighted by the number of people who tell me that they’re using one of my toolkits, or that something I wrote helped them with a challenge they were facing.
  • New, interesting colleagues who are expanding my perspective. I love discovering new people and new work! It’s a constant reminder of how many people in the world care about this stuff and are consciously trying to improve.
  • Better quality work. More, real engagement means that the work itself improves. All of my toolkits have gotten better, because more people are using them in real-life situations and are sharing with me what they’re learning. Frankly, simply the act of “forced” reflection is helping me get better at what I do.
  • “Reusable” knowledge nuggets. I’ve been saying a lot of the things I write about in some form or another for many years. Actually writing them down means I can repeat them more easily and that others discover them on their own. The best example of this is my post on networks and power. This has long been foundational thinking for me, and it’s become my most frequently read article, which makes me very happy.
  • Seeding a community of practice. I’ve loved drawing attention to colleagues like Rebecca Petzel and Joe Hsueh, but I love it even more when people start discovering each other serendipitously. That’s when the magic starts to happen.

When you start a website, you naturally think about potential reach. There are almost 2.5 billion people on the Internet today, and they’re all just a click away!

Sure, I’d like to reach a lot of people, but I’m actually a bit overwhelmed just thinking about 100.

A thought exercise I often use with people interested in networks or distributed collaboration is to imagine that magically transporting your group to the same physical location. What would you hope might happen?

I’ve been going through this exercise in my head, visualizing 100 people crowded into my tiny office on a weekly basis (I would definitely need to get a bigger space), thinking about what’s already happened and what might be possible. My first instinct is to try to understand this group better. I want to know:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you care about?
  • What brought you here?
  • What are you learning?
  • Now that you’ve found yourself in a (very crowded) room with 99 other people with similar interests, what would you like to see happen?

I’m looking forward to trying to get some of these answers, to tap into the wonderful potential of these 100 people. You can help by answering these questions in the comments below. Or, if you prefer, drop me an email. Don’t be shy; we all want to hear from you!


  1. Dave Gray
    Co-creation, listening and richer understanding
    Subscribe to your blog but today I saw this on Facebook
    I’m learning a lot about agility these days
    I’m curious who these 99 people are and look forward to learning more about them

  2. * Christopher Allen
    * At the heart of all my creative and professional efforts for over 30 years have been collaboration and tools for collaboration. Yet I believe that we are just beginning to understand how to do it effectively.
    * I noticed in December that you were not present at an old website (was trying to find the Collaborative Pattern Repository), sent email to an old address with no response. Saw your post in Facebook today, decided to look it up. I was not aware of your newsletter until today.
    * Just reviewing your website now. Hoping some of the items from old website are still around or have been updated.
    * I am involved with the Group Pattern Language Project and the deck and website. I feel it is time to have a similar exploration of the patterns of collaboration, and desire it to be culturally broad. For instance, I’ve been doing some work in Los Angeles in the TV industry, and they have a very different, but effective, culture around collaboration than Silicon Valley does. Even east coast and canadian collaboration styles are subtly different. How does collaboration work in Korea? In Russia? With just two people, or groups as large as Wikipedia?

    1. I am from Korea. My interest has been collaboration for a few decades. And Eugene summoned me on this. 🙂

      The thing is I haven’t experienced the collaborative culture other than Korea. Therefore, comparison is limited. However, as modern anthropology has revealed, the variance within a country is much larger than the variance between countries.

      However, you may want to read Hofstede’s cultural dimensions. You can compare South Korea’s culture with other countries.

      1. June, Thank you for the comment!

        My first experience with cultural dimensions was while at an international conference in South Korea on Action Learning. One of the sessions used a more modern version of Hofstede’s cultural dimensions (but I’m not sure which one — one of these: but it may have been GLOBE’s ) and had the participants line up for each of the 6 or 7 cultural dimensions in their model. In most cases I was at an extreme end, and I noticed that there was one particular woman that was almost always at the other end. I ended up having a discussion with her later one evening — she was local from South Korea, and in every respect a professional peer (including teaching and entrepreneurship which is rarer for women in South Korea), yet we had huge underlying differences in how we respond to uncertainty, power, etc. Also interestingly, she said in her culture she was an outlier in my direction on most of these dimensions.

        This experience connected me to the issue of cross-cultural leadership issues and have had it on my wish list to dive deeper at some point specifically on issues of collaboration inside different cultures as well as approaches for cross-cultural collaboration. In the meantime, I have my students in my “Using the Social Web for Social Change” class learn about cultural dimensions in the last week of my class right after I teach about Lakoff’s framing.

  3. Who are you?
    I’m Pete! You know me 🙂

    What do you care about?
    I care about how we share information and build foundations for collaborative decision-making. In my work, I help organizations learn to use Wikipedia appropriately as a platform for sharing encyclopedic knowledge.

    What brought you here?
    My general appreciation for your thinking and storytelling.

    What are you learning?
    I’m never entirely sure, but it’s always something!

    Now that you’ve found yourself in a (very crowded) room with 99 other people with similar interests, what would you like to see happen?
    A dance party.

  4. Who are you? Michael Randel, in Washington DC

    What do you care about? Working with groups and organizations, helping them become more effective and have impact on societal issues

    What brought you here? Following interesting people, and linked to Eugene through Jeff Conklin (Dialogue Maps and wicked problems)

    What are you learning? I think Pete said it well – always something interesting going on to learn about!

    Now that you’ve found yourself in a (very crowded) room with 99 other people with similar interests, what would you like to see happen? Curious about the connections that will take place.

  5. I’m Philipp Birken, Mathematician and (former) Wikimedian, Wikipedian.

    I care about about doing science, communicating it and making change happen. While science has always been about the exchange of ideas, collaboration has become much easier through the internet. And while collaboration between two scientists is commonplace, we are now in a situation, where huge groups of scientists can collaborate on interdisciplinary projects, but it is very difficult to actually do so. Furthermore, the landscape of science is changing in other ways as well, e.g. publishing of the approach to software. All of this requires learning new approaches to collaboration, but also change management. The last thing is something that I was heavily involved at Wikimedia, where I made the extension flagged revisions happen, which was the largest change in workflow in the projects essentially since the beginning. And it is extremely hard to change the way a group of people approaches things. You have to do this in a collaborative way, make people own the process as their own, in particular when participation is voluntary, as is the case with both Wikipedians and scientists.

    I got to know you in San Francisco via Wikimedia when you were working for them. We discussed making change in the Wikimedia projects happen and you said something very powerful: “Space changes people.” I had known this before (I think), but you were able to express it, while I was not. And that is why I am here. I want you to express the mechanisms and workings of collaboration in a way that I simply cannot and thus allow me to be much better at what I care about.

    Well, so far I can only say: Keep up the good work, you’re making me think! I am not learning to become a better collaborative scientist, but well, that’s hard 🙂 But I learned the squirm test and also the slowing down thing.

    What would I like to see? I would like to see more discussion on the blog.

  6. Hi EEKIM – Thanks for the blog. Wish more people asked these questions…

    • Who are you?

    Some may say an aphorist. Others would say polemicist. Others still would say, concerning collaborative literacy, blasphemer, heretic, or apostate. Bottom line for ‘who are you’ is a collaborative iconoclast.

    • What do you care about?

    Achieving authentic collaboration and conversation to propel prosperous outcomes.

    • What brought you here?

    Have known and respected Eugene for a long, long time. We both had Doug Engelbart as mentor.

    • What are you learning?

    There is a vast, intransigent collaborative Establishment that knows little, and worse, learns less.

    • Now that you’ve found yourself in a (very crowded) room with 99 other people with similar interests, what would you like to see happen?

    The ultimate goal would be for people to ‘suspend disbelief’ (even the experts.) If they could unlearn their debilitating Western Cartesianism that would be great. If they could just drop all the harmful technology fetishism that would make me and them very happy. If they could really engage in authentic conversation, that would be thrill.

    If anyone here is up for the challenge, this is a great place to start:

    In honor or Eugene and the Faster 2.0 blog, please use Promotional Code ‘eugene’ for an attractive discount.

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