Smart Mobbin w/ Hiptop Nation. "This paper examines the successful evolution of a specific smart mob into a wireless community of practice. It begins with an examination of a popular wireless blogging website "Hiptop Nation" (http://hiptop.bedope.com). "Hiptop Nation" acts as a central blogging site for owners of the "Sidekick" device, a portable handheld data communications device recently introduced by Danger (http://danger.com). The Sidekick supports wireless AOL Instant Messaging, email, SMS text messages, and web access. Users of the Sidekick can post wireless public blogs on Hiptop Nation via their Sidekick device, as well as upload photographs from the Sidekick's digital camera.
On Halloween, October 31 2002, Hiptop Nation sponsored a photo-scavenger hunt competition across the US. Participants were users of the Hiptop Nation blog site who were placed into competing teams, and participants coordinated their actions as well as acquired and uploaded photographs across the US exclusively via their Sidekick wireless devices. The hunt lasted for 24 hours.
The author of this paper participated as a member of one of the teams (Team Raven), and witnessed firsthand the evolution of an unorganized and homogeneous wirelessly-connected group of people (smart mob) into a highly motivated and organized group of team members with very common goals and flexible roles (wireless community of practice)." [Smart Mobs]
Note: the paper hasn't been written yet, as far as I can tell.
Over at group-forming, Lyn has posted an interesting short piece where he discusses labor organization to derive ideas on group-forming. Here's my reply.
[Lyn,] I would call what you're describing a "latent group". It is a set of people who have a common interest and would need to coordinate their actions in order to further that interest, as isolated actions are unlikely to succeed. The reason why they don't do it is that they are not organized. (which somehow this reminds me of that famous Mrs. Tweedy line from the movie "Chicken Run": "They're chickens ... the most stupid creatures on this planet. They don't plot, they don't scheme, and they are _not_organized !!")
In order to get organized, an essential ingredient is that members of the latent group start communicating. But that in itself is not enough, because they can't just chat about the weather - they need to to discuss and recognize their common interest. (And then make plans. And then act, but I don't want to go into that just yet.)
You're right to point out that there's no need for a powerful "common enemy" in the definition of a latent group. Our very group is a case in point, and I'll try to look at it in terms of what we've just said.
Before it came into being last month, our group was a latent group. We were all somehow interested in the area of group-forming but were not organized. However, we were all weakly connected by a communication system of email, weblogs, mailing lists and the like.
A month ago I posted something about blog-based group-forming on my weblog, triggering a few comments by other webloggers and unknowingly stepping squarely into an area of intense interest on the part of Eric, who happened to follow my weblog. Eric thought it would be a good idea to start a mailing list, so we did. We announced the list in a few places where we thought there could be folks with an interest in group-forming. Then people started subscribing and the group was born.
One thing that I think is important to notice in this is that organization was spontaneous and indeed could not itself be planned with any degree of confidence in the outcome. But it didn't happen entirely by itself either - it wouldn't have happened, at least not in this way, were it not for the fact that Eric was following my weblog, that I made this group-forming idea public, that Eric proposed to start a group, that I agreed to try it out, that other interested folks were present in the places where we announced it, etc...
All of those conditions can be seen in retrospect but couldn't be set up in advance. I suspect that this unpredictability is a fundamental element of group-forming processes. At least those that we are primarily interested in.
As I had hinted at previously, the group-forming mailing list has been reborn over at aquameta into a running instance of the Drupal blog-centric collaboration software, and so far I'm rather pleased with the new dynamics. My email inbox is finally breathing a sigh of relief. I'm slightly worried that some people were more at ease with the mailing list and might reduce their participation as a result of the move, though. Here's the link to the new incarnation of our group-forming community. Here is the RSS feed aggregating the user blogs.
Evan Henshaw-Plath describes himself as "a programmer / tech activist who created and helps run the activist calendar site protest.net.", and has been "very active in building out the network of indymedia centers and websites." Indymedia needs to find ways of enabling groups to form and establish their credibility as sources of news; read his intro to learn more about this very interesting issue. Evan is also involved in a project consisting in recycling old machines, loading them with free software and shipping them off to Ecuador - read "Building the underground computer railroad" over at Salon.
Ian Glendinning, who edits the Psybertron weblog, is interested in "in how a common "language" turns a disorganised collection of people into a group with a shared web of knowledge".
Rainer Volz is "a consultant specializing in virtual teams, distributed projects and organizations."
Spike Hall has "spent [his] professional life working to help teachers work to accelerate the learning of learners of all ages and motivation." He's "very interested in the group's capacity, through its stream of interactions, to accelerate knowledge-making on the part of all members."
weitzman is one of the lead developers of Drupal. He's going to help us customize the system to our needs.
Sebastian Fiedler is obviously unhappy with the way a few of us handle formatting in our weblog, and rightly so.
I really enjoy reading Spike Hall, Sebastien Paquet, and Lilia Efimova... but the way they render their posts has some serious draw back for anybody who wants to cite their stuff. Their posts hit my news aggregator literally flooded with font and color tags. This is awfully bad Web publishing practice in my point of view. I thought CSS has finally brought back the idea of keeping your content separate from your style. So, why would anybody want to hard code a freaking link color in his Weblog post? I don't get it...
I can't speak for the others, but I know close to nothing about CSS and am afraid I don't have time to dig into it, so I take the dumb route and format my posts as I want to read them using the limited controls available to me in the Radio interface. I guess it wouldn't be a big deal for us three culprits to fix this, if someone would care to show us how.
Sebastian, I copied and pasted your post into my Radio entry box, and was careful not to do any fiddling with the format this time. But I'm afraid your own "freaking link colors" are themselves going to show up when this post makes it to your aggregator. I apologize in advance...
Marjorie Heins spoke recently to people from the Colorado Association of Libraries about "a new battleground in the culture wars -- copyright". She identifies four major free-expression safety valves that counterbalance the push for control and allow creators to build on others' work:
The first of these is the so-called idea/expression dichotomy, which allows facts and ideas to be copied as long as the author's particular language, details of plot or character, or specific imagery isn't used.
The second free-expression safety valve is the fair use doctrine. It allows anyone to copy or quote from copyrighted works for purposes of commentary, criticism, study, or even (perhaps especially) mockery.
The third free-expression safety valve -- and an especially important one for libraries -- is the first sale doctrine. Copyright owners control the first sale of their works, but after that, purchasers can give them away, sell them, lend them to friends, or donate them to secondhand stores, libraries, schools, or flea markets.
The fourth free-expression safety valve is the public domain, which makes works available for republishing, translating, selling, copying, or performing as soon as the "limited time" of copyright expires.
She points out that the challenge in coming up with appropriate copyright legislation is to avoid undermining these safety valves, which would happen if we were to tightly lock everything up. Overall, a nice primer on a hot topic, without too much legal mumbo-jumbo.