Early social software adopters eager for extra homework

I never thought assigning homework would be so easy but, this is social software in elementary schools.

… a simple process: find leaders (the heretics who are doing things differently and making change), and then amplify their work, give them a platform, and help them find followers-and things get better. They always get better.

Tribes, Seth Godin

Who wants more homework?
Who wants more homework?
Background

Previously in There are no screw-ups, just Versions, I primed Sara’s elementary school classmates on how to give their own Lunch & Learn. Since then, I prepared the initial wiki page content for their project assignments.

Wow, is this what it’s like to teach?

While I have provided face-to-face training in the past and even hundreds of techies via e-learning (onilne realtime education), I have never experienced so much energy in a classroom. And what’s even more amazing to witness is, it’s not not bound to the 40 minute lunch-time session we share. Sara’s classmates are contributing to their Cynapse site. While they help with homework and contribute fave songs, movies, books, etc., their blogs, wikis & threaded comments are the best. They’re just playing around and naturally having fun!

Seth Godin was right – duhhh

It was that easy: “… amplify their work, give them a platform, and help them find followers-and things get better. They always get better.” So I never handed out their project assignments. They volunteered and even complained that some had more features to cover than they did. Life is good – so far.

Make it fun

I’ve offered my help for any questions they have – provided the questions are posted on the site for others to benefit. I’ve also offered to help them – as best as I can, in creating video blogs (vlogs), recorded how-to interviews, presentations and recorded demos. These would all be “nice-to-haves”. The only “need-to-have” is the updated wiki page deliverables – Cynapse’s Best Practices Guide for Elementary School Students.

Beatles – i get by with a little help from my friends

Help your friends out by posting questions/comments on their assigned wiki pages – before their Lunch & Learn date and I’m sure they’ll help you out with yours!

— my $0.02 (CAD)

The first update after school was this Beatles song. Check back next week to see how they start delivering.

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Kicking off social software in Sara’s elementary school

Emerging Early Adopters: With only 10 min demo, 11 & 12 year-olds pounce on social software in their elementary school.

Social media tools enable them to be connected, extend their outreach, and ensure that all members can have a voice within the tribe.

— Seth Godin, Tribes Q&A

edu.cyn.in Mind Map
edu.

Given my previous post on Max, I was a bit delayed in getting edu.cyn.inCynpase ‘s cyn.in Software as a Service, launched. However, since my Update on pitching social software to Sara’s elementary school post, we did manage to sign-up 34 members – exactly half of which were parents. (This also helps support the grassroots approach to social software adoption.)

Site structure and Permissions

On one of the last days before school broke for the holidays, I was left with only ten minutes of demo time. So I decided to quickly peruse the site structure which has a Space for the elementary school and sub-Spaces for the Students and another for the teachers and parents. I explained to the students that parents & teachers can view, but not write, in their Student Space, so they need to be sure that whatever they post is appropriate. Furthermore, they can’t even view what’s in the teachers’ & parents’ Spaces. However, everyone can post (read/write) in the Home and their school Space. Basically, the students are allowed to write whatever their conscience allows for.

edu.cyn.in Statistics - General
edu.cyn.in Statistics - General
Status Logs

Having explained the Big Brother philosophy and with precious little time remaining, I gave them a quick tour on how to navigate the site & then showed them Cynapse’s Status Logs. This is almost the equivalent of Twitter except:

  • there is no Following, so there’s no need to Follow whoever is in fashion
  • the messages are threaded, which allows members to Comment on a specific Status message, as well as, Reply to those comments.

My only objective was to enable the kids to stay connected during their holiday break. Once back, I’d go into more detail about the different features and then get The Project – referred to back in my Update on pitching social software to Sara’s elementary school, underway.

edu.cyn.in Statistics - Contributors
edu.cyn.in Statistics - Contributors
Most Frequent Contributors (MFCs)

We’re now at the end of the holiday break, and some of the kids are well beyond Status Logs. It’s also interesting to note, that these early adopters – 11 and 12 year-old kids, are following the same patterns as their elders. Back in an earlier post – How to be a hero with stuff like Twitter, Facebook, blogs, delicious, wikis and more, under Step 4: Getting Viral, I refered to Rubicon Consulting & Online Communities and Their Impact on Business: Ignore at Your Peril, where they found 10% of the community members contribute 80% of the content. These Most Frequent Contributors (MFCs) are second to word of mouth when it comes to influencing others. Which is the basis for my grassroots approach to social software adoption.

edu.cyn.in Statistics - Commenters
edu.cyn.in Statistics - Commenters
Site Statistics

Out of the 34 signed-up members, 50% (17) are parents – none of whom, aside from myself, have contributed any content yet. Of the remaining 17 students, nine (9) have contributed. So with an introduction of less than a total of 60 minutes spread over two weeks, the student-MFC numbers (over 26%) better those in the above study of 10%. And that’s over the holiday break!

What does this mean?

My guess, and hope, is that once school starts up again this week, and I start my usually Monday Lunch & Learn sessions the following week, that even more of the students will be contributing content. Once I layout the The Project Plan and dates, I’ll have the students present their own Lunch & Learns about their adopted Features. As their knowledge increases, my guess is their adoption will increase with it. As the student adoption rate increases, my guesss is that the parents and teachers will follow shortly after.

Reflection

What kind of social software adoption rates have you experienced? Are they better/worse/in line with the MFC study?

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The Start-Up Chronicles: Chapter 2. Who, Part 2

My Idea’s Unhidden Agenda, also known as, Work-For-Attribution, and how I hope it will attract community members and contributors – the Who.

Imagination: Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Leaders create things that didn’t exist before. The do this by giving the tribe a vision of something that could happen, but hasn’t (yet).

You can’t manage without knowledge. You can’t lead without imagination.

Tribes, Seth Godin

idea - who
idea - who
Trying to avoid my own Groundhog Day

As written in my Part 1, I needed to find a way build on my lessons learned and try my best to avoid repeating any errs of the past. But even more than needing a way to attract members to my new tribe, I needed to find a way to give them an environment where they could go beyond simple contributions. I needed to find a way for them to build their own opportunities, own quests and maybe even their own tribes.

The Unhidden Agenda

So a little while back, I came up with the following for my collaborators:

How to make this viral
I was also wondering how to make this a community project where we could create the engine and enable/empower other communities to use/build/extend it for purposes we haven’t yet considered, or, may simply not be in our domain of expertise.  In other words, make it “viral”.

This is what I’ve come up with so far
The core engine – to be defined later, is the center of our community.  If you’ve read Seth Godin’s Tribes then you already know that every community needs a leader.  That would be me – Steven Milstein.  And while this is not a democracy, that certainly doesn’t mean that I won’t hear & listen to the members of this tribe.  Now that may sound harsh but, please hear me out – I’m not finished yet.

Since you’re here reading this, then I’m going to guess that you like the idea, or, appeal of leading – maybe even a tribe of your own.  It may not be today, but someday in the foreseeable future.  If this is not the case, then I deeply encourage you to give this some thought.  Because what I’d like to see is each of us exploiting this opportunity to seed own tribes with this core engine.

Unhidden agendas
What I’d like is for each of us to create an entry here with our Unhidden Agenda.  Describe what it is you hope to gain by investing your time, energy, maybe money, in this venture?  (Don’t tell what you can, or, cannot invest.) You have to be honest & you have to be passionate.  Once approved/agreed upon, this Agenda will then represent your social contract to this endeavor.  Break your Agenda, break your contract – you’re out.

I’m not dead certain about this idea & am certainly open to your feedback.  But until then, I think this Unhidden Agenda Model will scale & encourage others to not only participate but contribute.  And if we truly believe in outside-in agile/scrum software development & we strive to maintain the integrity of the core engine then each of us should be able to fulfill our agenda.

For example
My (Steven’s) Unhidden Agenda will elaborate on how I’d like to be the product manager/owner of some leading edge social software product. I’ll go on to say how I want to use this endeavor to prove that I can not only be just that but, also have a touch of vision and more importantly, that I deliver.  I’d also like to boast about the community/communities I seeded and onboarded to social software.

I imagine [Retail IT Guy/Gal] ‘s entry will focus on their retail domain of expertise & how they would like to cultivate their own tribe.

For [Software Engineer Guy/Gal], I can see them seizing the opportunity to build the core engine in their own technical fashion and then sharing & expanding its APIs with the technical community of this growing social network.

Next steps
As I said earlier, this is not written in stone but I would like to find a way to make this more than three guys who live in Montreal.  If we’re all somewhat comfortable with this approach, then here’s what I see happening next:
1. Work & finalize on our agendas
2. Get to work on building a simple proof-of-concept
3. Start blogging about what we’re doing here & post your Unhidden Agenda
4. Find & contribute to your related communities
5. Seek feedback from others & maybe ask a select few join us in our Community
6. Invite some of those to publicly blog their own Unhidden Agenda in the hopes of gaining admittance to this exclusive community – exclusivity matters. (If you believe Seth Godin.)

My back of the napkin “Work-For-Attribution Agreement”

While I originally sought a lawyer’s opinion about the Idea’s monetization possibilities, I was immediately told not to proceed without securing my copyright and ownership of “said” Idea. And that’s when I had visions of Groundhog Day. To be very clear. I did not then, nor do I now, have any money. I did not then, nor do I now, have the time, nor the resources to expend on fantasies and illusions of gazillion dollar exit strategies. This is my Reality Check. (By the way, if you click on any of the links that lead to Amazon and actually buy the book, then I get something back – although I quite honestly don’t even know that that is yet, through their Associates program.)

So as of today’s date, this is the best I can offer:

Whatever work you contribute will be considered “work made for hire” and for whatever reason that may not hold up, then the agreement will be considered a “copyright assignment” from you to my company – Milstein & Associates Inc.

Sounds harsh, eh? But, it is what it is. I’ll post this digital back of the napkin version in the Idea’s community site so folks can sign up – at least in the digital sense.

Now in lieu of any payment, what I hope to do – subject to lawyer approval, is offer an Attribution for your contributions. Something like movie credits, or, if you open Adobe Reader, click on the Help, About, Credits button – for starters. Ideally, as stated in the Unhidden Agenda, I would have to provide a mechanism and venue for folks to discover and explore your contributions, maybe even for you to start your own tribe.

Up next – The Community Venue

My next post will be about the Idea’s Community site and who would be its target audience.

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The Start-Up Chronicles: Chapter 2. Who, Part 1

Here are some lessons learned from past experiences and how I hope to do things a little different this time when choosing Who will be members of this tribe.

A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea. For millions of years, human beings have been part of one tribe or another. A group needs only two things to be a tribe: a shared interest and a way to communicate.

Tribes need leadership. Sometimes one person leads, sometimes more. People want connection and growth and something new. They want change.

You can’t have a tribe without a leader – and you can’t be a leader without a tribe.

Tribes, Seth Godin

idea - who
idea - who
Background post

The Start-Up Chronicles: Chapter 1. An Idea, Five Ws and one H

Lessons learned

Back in Connecting the dots – Part 2, I mentioned my previous dot com experience. Looking back, here’s some of the lessons I learned;

  1. Having a great idea and the ability to code it is simply not enough. Like it or not, you need others. Others who understand things like marketing, sales, support, service, administration and more. However, you just may not need them all from Day One.
  2. Too many chiefs (partners): We had too many voices, too many opinions, too many circumstances requiring votes where majority rules and even Super Majority Rules. Oddly enough, most of these issues were valid & necessary – at some point in time. And that’s exactly my point. At some point in time, we would have to discuss these issues at length. But that time never came.
  3. The “What If This Thing Is Worth A Gazillion Dollars One Day” Scenario: A pre-condition to this scenario is that you have to deliver something that could be worth a gazillion dollars one day. We exerted too much time and energy discussing, fantasizing, negotiating, bickering and haggling over this scenario. We really should have poured that energy and passion into the pre-condition.
  4. Lawyers and accountants: You need these people. You not only need them, but you need to talk to them pretty much from the start. But talk first. Do your best to net-it-out as much as possible. If you’re lucky, you’ll know someone who’ll say something like:

    Drafting an agreement like this and getting all the parties to finalize, could cost you around $10,000 – assuming everyone agrees in principle. But even with that in place, it could be always be argued that … On the other hand, you could just write … on the back of a napkin and get everyone to sign it. Of course that could always be contested too, but at least you’ve got a signed agreement in principle and $10,000 to pay me when you at least have money coming.

And that is the final point. If you don’t have any money coming in then you would not be contesting a dirty old napkin.

How to choose “Who”

So now I needed a way to invite others to help me with my quest. But on top of all my above issues, I had one more whopper. I had no money to pay anyone. Offering equity in nothing would only condemn me to repeating my errs of the past. It would be like Groundhog Day, all over again.

Up next –The Unhidden Agenda

My next post will be about my Unhidden Agenda & how I hope it will attract community members and contributors.

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Connecting the dots – Part 3

There is no plan… well, maybe a little one.

Garr Reynolds' 'Career Advice '08' - Page 100
Garr Reynolds
Background

This is my third and final post in my Connecting the dots Series. Part 1, provided the three sources of inspiration for the series and Part 2 focused on taking inventory of my own dots.

Laying the foundation for my next dot

A few months ago, I had another one of those

Wouldn’t it be great if you could… yada yada yada

moments. And after consulting Anna and the kids, have decided to do my best to bootstrap this yada yada yada into reality – while looking for work of course 🙂

The Start-up Chronicles

Don’t worry! I’m not going to use this blog to promote the start-up – too much. I’ll create a new blog in its appropriate space when the time is right. This blog is going to return to the grass roots of what blogs were once meant to be.

blog noun
: a Web site that contains an online personal journal with reflections, comments, and often hyperlinks provided by the writer ; also : the contents of such a site
Moving forward, I have to trust Seth Godin, Garr Reynolds, Daniel Pink, Steve Jobs & Steven Milstein

Here’s the plan – for now; I’m going to journal my start-up adventures. Decisions I made and ones coming up. Actions I’m taking and those I’m deferring.

So whether you’re among the 90% of Viewers out there, or, among the 10% of Most Fequent Contributors (MFCs), please join me as I chronicle my start-up adventures. But until my next post, I’d love to hear from some of those MFCs out there about their experiences, or, opinions. And for the record, I too was once a Viewer. So Viewers, fill out the Leave a Comment box below and let me know you’re out there following along. It’s actually a lot more fun to leave your mark than just reading all the time.

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Connecting the dots – Part 2

There is no plan… well, maybe a little one.

Garr Reynolds' 'Career Advice '08' - Page 99
Garr Reynolds
Background

In my previous post, Connecting the dots – Part 1, I provided three sources of inspiration for this three part series.

Taking inventory of my own dots

While I may not share much in common with Steve Jobs – aside from a first name, I do feel I have to stop trying to connect my dots looking forward. I’ve been in the business of software development for over 25 years now. Truth be told, if I had to do it all over again, I would still be in this business – but I’d do things a little different. There’s nothing I love more than creating things. And the only thing more exhilarating that thinking

Wouldn’t it be great if you could… yada yada yada” 

is actually bringing it to life.

Back in the dot com days, I was fortunate enough to get asked to join a start-up. We put together an e-learning solution & without going into too much detail, I have yet seen anything better. But as you may have guessed, it was a dot com & it suffered the same fate as many. I held on for three years, despite only being paid for one & picking up the odd contract here & there. Others, for their own reasons, clung on to hope even longer. For myself, with a wife (Anna), two kids (Sara & Alex) and many of the other things that come along with them, it was the hardest lesson I ever learned. It was also the best time of my life. From early morning conference calls to one’s that stretched into Sara’s soccer games, or, Alex’ bottle, to working through the night feeling quilty while Anna was alone watching TV, or asleep in bed. We were at it 24×7 and would gladly have worked more if we could have only found a way.

What started from a 10-minute phone call, went to whiteboard, proof-of-concept, alpha, beta and live. For the first time in my development life, I actually understood and contributed to the value of marketing, sales, service & support. It was the best & the worst all neatly bound together. But my dot (com) s were not going to connect as dreamed.

Dot change

Within a few months, I was fortunate to get a much appreciated job with IBM Canada’s Montreal Rational Software Lab. And while it was a great experience, I never really felt my dots would all of a sudden start aligning. And so, as Seth Godin might say, it was a good Dip-dot, but a dot nonetheless.

Value-dot first, Sales-dot second

And so, here I am. If you’ve seen any of my last few posts, then you may know I’ve been trying to build a case for the shared services of a Community Product Manager. To be quite honest, it’s been a tough sale. Not so much because the concept lacks merit, but more so because it’s difficult to only talk about delivering value. Today, you have to deliver value first and then build on that in order to get the business. Unfortunately, the cost of delivering first and selling later – in this particular case, is just too high for me. So I’m going to consider this a little Dip-dot and simply move on.

My next dot

My next and final post in this three-part series will lay the foundation for my next dot. In the meantime, it’d be nice if any of you could share some of your own dot-stories here.

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It was a good Dip – but a Dip nonetheless

I started off writing my farewell email to my IBM social network but then thought it would make a better post and help drive traffic at the same time 🙂

Cover of "The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches ...

I’m fascinated by social software and the content that runs through it. This is where I want to immerse the next chapter of my career.

To all the IBMers I socialized with …

On the very first page of Seth Godin‘s “The Dip”, he writes:

Most of the time, we deal with obstacles by persevering. Sometimes we get get discouraged and turn to inspirational writing, like stuff from Vince Lombardi: “Quitters never win and winners never quit.” Bad advice. Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time.

I joined IBM three years ago by quitting a start-up. I was the CTO for an online education company that, to this day, I’ve yet to see anything come close to as good as what we had back then. But, three years had gone by and I only got paid for the first one. Things were going from bad to worse and I just had to quit.

Luckily for me (here’s some thoughts on the meaning of “lucky”), I quickly landed a job in the Montreal Rational Software Lab.

Two years later, our only product was heading into maintenance mode and it was obvious that there wouldn’t be much need for my services in the near future. Any other company would have fired me right then and there. But not IBM. I spent the last year improving my skills and increasing my social network looking for work. I tried outside my Brand and when that door shut (gosh darn Global Financial Crisis), I even tried creating two new positions inside Rational. I thought the positions were necessary to the business and equally as important, necessary to me.

I’m fascinated by social software and the content that runs through it. This is where I want to immerse the next chapter of my career and am currently making headway to do just that. Doing anything else just to stay an IBM employee, would be a disservice to IBM and myself. And so Friday 06 Feb 2009 marks the end of this sprint at IBM.

I’m grateful to the greater IBM and it’s values, and to all those in my social network who helped me in one way, or, another with their own values. I wish everyone the best of luck moving forward in these challenging, yet exhilarating times, and hope to meet up again one day.

I’d be honored by any of you who’d like to stay in touch.

You can read my blog and maybe even leave a comment every now and then. By the way, some of you have already been mentioned in Getting my affairs in order – If this were Twitter, I’d just say “Thanks”, or, No one could accuse Big Blue (IBM) of being cold, even at -19c/-5f outside. Please don’t forget to subscribe by pointing your news readers to my news feed. (If you’re not sure what that’s all about, take a look at My Five Ws of RSS in less than 10 minutes (video included).) If you prefer, you could simply subscribe to my blog by email. You could read My Five Ws of Twitter in less than 10 minutes (video included) and then Follow me. If you prefer the more enterprise-like method, you could connect with me on LinkedIn – maybe even give me a recommendation. And finally, there’s always the classic anti-social route – just give me a call at +1-514-990-1697 🙂

Respectfully,
Steven Milstein

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