Hoosgot: Reciprocity and Community Indicator Rolled into One

Dave Sifry is filling the quiet end-of-year time with a project that makes it easy to ask and answer with and for each other online in a variety of ways. Sifry’s Alerts: Announcing Hoosgot: Resurrecting the Lazyweb

Today I’m unveiling a new service that I put together over the last 48 hours. It’s called hoosgot.com. Hoosgot (pronounced “who’s got…”) is a simple way to ask who’s got what you’re looking for. Just put “hoosgot” in a blog post or a Twitter tweet and it’ll show up on Hoosgot. Send a twitter to @hoosgot, it works as well. You can tag a post with hoosgot or lazyweb, and we’ll pick it up as well, as long as your blog is indexed by Technorati. It’s meant to give you a place to send the requests for all of those things that you’ve wanted, but just can’t find – chances are, what you want already exists and someone else out there in the ether knows about it (or has built it!)If someone’s got what you’re looking for, or a clue in that direction, they post a comment. RSS feeds flow from the posts and the comments.

For example, you might ask:

hoosgot an easy-to-use pencil sharpener that has suction cups on the bottom so I can stick it anywhere?


hoosgot a simple camera bag that you can stick a laptop in, and still carry over your shoulder without knocking over pedestrians? Note I’m not looking for a knapsack or a backpack, I want it to act like a messenger bag…

And so on.

It works if you work it: Give back to the web

Of course, you should subscribe to hoosgot, it has RSS feeds (the main feed and the comments feed) so you can watch and participate – for Hoosgot only works if you comment on the questions posed. Happen to know where someone can find the information they seek? Interested in collaborating with them on creating that invention described when the person invoked hoosgot or the lazyweb? Leave a comment on the entry, and give back to the web that has given us so much.

Hoosgot is a great community indicator in that it has its roots in the work of an earlier community (Lazyweb) and many individuals, it is offered as a gift to the world, and it lives that value in the very service it offers. Pretty sweet. Thanks, Dave.

Learning Over Each Other’s Shoulders

(Note: this  blog post dates from September 13th 2007 on my old blog. It had  been in limbo since August 30th. There was so much more to add, but I decided it is time to put it in the wild and not lock the partial thinking in the “draft” queue! Now I am republishing it today as I have a coda to add and the older blog post is hard to find…)

The Original Post

I have been part of quite a few informal conversations recently about how to “learn how to do this web 2.0 stuff.” Not just learn it, but learn it in the context of it adding something useful to our work and lives. The volume, the subtleties of useful practice, can feel overwhelming. Our sense of inadequacy can paralyze.

In Cali, Colombia, I led a workshop about facilitating online interaction and we used the Social Media Game to add context to this flood of “cool new tools with weird names. ” I think the most engaged moment was when people were in small groups, explaining new tools to each other and thinking about what might be useful in their work. It was still pretty abstract. We did not get hands-on. But people noted that the tool stuff was of a great deal of interest.

I always try and promote the people and process stuff, but the reality is that tools are often the “door opener” to the process conversations because they are more tangible. So being able to “look over the shoulder” as someone uses the tools in a social context would be really useful.

In Bogota, Colombia at the very well attended “Quality in eElearning” conference I had a side conversation about ways to usefully use Twitter, Wikispaces and del.icio.us with a couple of my co-presenters, and a separate conversation with Jay Cross about doing an “Over the Shoulder” camp. Inthe instance with Ulf-Daniel Ehlers it didn’t start out as a conversation. I had mentioned and showed a Wikispaces page in my presentation the day before. During the third day where we were relaxed in the “participant” role, I was sitting next to Ulf and noticed he was messing with a wikispaces page he had set up. I showed him a couple of things. He shared a few links. Together, we figured out how to embed del.icio.us links into a Wikispaces page from a great blog post I had found a while back. In the mean time, Virginie Aimard was looking over from the other side, following silently along on our digital journey. Back and forth.

A few weeks later I was the guest for a “10 Minute Lecture” for Leigh Blackall’s Online Learning Communities course, centered in New Zealand. (You can see the slides, audio and Elluminate recording here.) The theme was peer learning – a communities of practice perspective. Leigh had initially asked me to talk specifically about Peer Assists, but I felt a larger issue tugging at me – this “over the shoulder” stuff.

We talked about this mode of learning from each other. I really enjoyed the conversation and poof, the hour was up. But then the blog posts from course members started showing up – those who were in the live session and those who viewed the recording. There the themes of inadequacy, of the pressure of time to do this learning, of possibility. I felt this little frisson of learning, that was a bit of learning over each others’ shoulders. For me, it was then important to comment on each of the blog posts that mentioned my name, thus showing up in my feed reader, because learning from each other has that back-and-forth quality. It is iterative. Conversational.

And so this thinking, doing, experiencing, advocating for over the shoulder learning comes back to a reflective blog post. Because reflection is the final piece that cements it together.

Comments from the original post on Blogger:


Anonymous Beth Kanter said…
Nancy: I love the idea of “over the shoulder” camps. At one point, durin my circuit riders – we used the term “shoulder-to-shoulder” to describe informal, small group computer instruction. So, what you are talking about is the network effect of this type of learning?

3:20 PM
Blogger annelizbeth said…
Fascinating…absolutely fascinating. I am currently engaging in an effort to provide a perspective on the state of “learning” for a npo client…will be sure to include your futuristic thoughts around where we are headed…!

7:43 PM

Today’s Update

I have been sick with the flu the last 10 days, eliminating any chance of finishing my year end work and having time for reflection. I have an RFP that I have to respond to this week so I was reviewing some of my pertinent materials – particularly those related to peer learning and online facilitation.

I realized I have never classified much of my work as “peer learning.” More often this has come under the rubric of learning from and with each other in networks and communities (i.e. communities of practice, etc.) I have had a bias for on-the-job, in-the-moment, just-in-time and informal learning, supported with appropriate formal and structured learning. These peer based options give us the opportunity to learn both in context and with the give and take that reveals the texture and nuances of those contexts.

It is beyond obvious to state that digital technologies have expanded our possibilities for these peer learning forms. So the reflective question going back, and the learning agenda question going forward is what will advance and deepen our ability to learn with and from each other in the coming year?

What do you think?

Circles of love, chocolate, gifts and downtime

Today I was sent a link to Connecting Dotz … Linking people with ideas with people with ideas… and their lovely cards of the Osani: Circle of Love Game. Osani Circle. This struck just the right holiday note for me. Sitting in a circle. Feet touching, playing a the Love Game.

As I enjoy some time off with my family in the drippy, cool Northwest of the US, know that you are all in my heart, in corners big and little, in acquaintance deep and light. I wish you a new years full of learning, love and good health. I wish our world peace, wisdom and joy.

I have made donations to the following organizations in your collective names:

And for your stomachs, here is my family’s tradition – Fudge!

Put in large bowl:
(really big, big, big to allow stirring room):

  • 3 packages chocolate chips – 36 oz. total (I recommend Nestles or Guittard — don’t go cheap!)
  • 1 8-oz jar marshmallow cream (if you can only find 7 oz jars, that’s OK)
  • 2 cubes butter (buy a brand name — sometimes the cheap stuff is full of water and it will ruin the fudge — very sad)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Have ready at hand:

  • 2 cups chopped nuts (optional — you can even add coconut!)

Put in large kettle:
(again, I mean big – the mixture boils up to four times it’s original volume as you cook it!)

  • 4 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 can evaporated milk (not skim or lowfat!)

Bring the sugar/milk mix to a rolling boil stirring constantly. Cook a full eight minutes (timed once the mixture comes to a boil — critical!!!).

Take off heat and pour over chocolate/butter mixture. Beat with mixer until creamy. Add nuts and spread in a pan to cool. Lick the bowl and beaters before washing! I like to use a cookie sheet with high edges, but the size of pan depends on how thick you like your fudge. Mine is about 13×24. My siblings use smaller pans. My mom uses two Pyrex pans. Cut into pieces and enjoy!

Now it is time for some “downtime.” Forgive me if I ignore your emails, twits and posts for a few days. Time for  meals, conversation, books, puzzles, games and just some plain ole NUTHIN!

Happy Holidays


8 Things You Don’t Know About Me

Dave Snowden tagged me over on Cognitive Edge with the “8 things you don’t know about me” meme. (Dave, thanks for the compliment of interesting-even-when-we-disagree – I feel the same about you!) I was so gobsmacked that Dave did these memes, that I’m responding, even though I often take a pass.

Like Dave, it is hard to think of things that many of you don’t know about me, especially those who have hung in as readers over the past 3.5 years of blogging. It is a revelatory medium. But heck, here it goes:

First, the rules:
1. Link to your tagger and post these rules
2. List EIGHT random facts about yourself
3. Tag EIGHT people at the end of your post and list their names
4. Let them know they’ve been tagged


1. I was an exchange student for a year in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1974-75 (I still have some residual Portuguese in my brain.
2. I was in many musical theatre productions from high school through college, most often the colorful, character roles (alto, and yes, I used to tap dance too!). I had one romantic lead, but she was a feisty one (Barbera in “The Apple Tree.”)
3. I played guitar (fingerpick style) and sang in a bluegrass band in North Carolina for a number of years, mostly for beer, branch water and food.
4. I am a recovering Catholic.
5. I dislike black licorice.
6. I have a bit of fear of heights.
7. I need time for my “closet introvert” (despite the fact that I can be very extroverted, but I suspect a lot of that is learned behavior.)
8. I wanted to design and build an underwater city at one point and that led me to majoring in marine botany in university.

So who shall I torture with a tag? How about some people I don’t link to often. A little exposure can be lovely!

1. Michelle Laurie (budding blogger!)
2. Michael Clarke (international development blogger)
3. Honoria Starbuck (look at her art!)
4. Janet Ginsberg (read her germtales!)
5. Gabriela Avram (community of practice blogger)
6. Steve Dale (CoPs, community and public sector work)
7. Caren Levine (new community blogger)
8. Dave Burke (a coder blogger)

We’ll see who follows their vanity feeds and see’s the tag!

Photo by LinBow

Safety, Inclusion, Contribution, Play and the Culture of Love

Take a minute to read this great post from Bob Sprankle (who says he is an elementarytechnology integrator – wow, that’s a new one on me!) What We All Want. Bob shares the results of his deployment of the Pew internet student survey (the online NetDay Survey by “Speak Up,” a national research project conducted by “Project Tomorrow” ) in his classrooms, and with his family. What’s coming out of the survey? That kids care about safety, inclusion and contribution. Spot on!

For me, this is the same thing I hear people wanting from their work groups and their communities of practice. What the words mean in context varies, but the pattern is consistent. Well, the adults also want some relief of the giant to-do lists and endless expectations their work puts up on them. They want safety in that they want to be able to be heard, to have time for reflection and quality in their work and learning, despite high output expectations. (This is not to be confused with the culture of fear that has taken hold of my country. The word ‘safety” has been pretty warped lately!) They want to be part of something and to be a contributor to that “something.” They want their work to matter.

Bob then goes on to talk about the importance of play in learning. Again, this shows up in the adult world, but we still seem resistant to talking about it using that old “P” word. As if it were wasting time and keeping us from the giant to-do-lists that are eating us alive.

As we roll towards the end of the year, it is useful to remember that learning, knowledge creation and sharing, innovation, yes, even productivity, relate back to these four things: safety, inclusion, contribution and play. Together, these make great descriptors of a culture of love.

I’m not sure I’ll be blogging much over the holidays. I have one post that I’m working on, but just in case, Happy Holidays – may they be filled with safety, inclusion, contribution, play and a whole lot of love.

Hat tip to Stephen Downes for spotting Bob’s post.