Winemakers’ Communities of Practice

I don’t know anything about growing grapes and making wine, but an old college buddy of mine has hatched a second vocation/avocation as a grape grower and wine maker. I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with Craig through his blog. Recently he has been sharing some of his practice (I.e Gopher trapping and pruning. Check out the very specific practice categories in his right nav bar if you are looking for ideas about how to share what you/your community knows!) Craig’s work is a great example for communities trying to understand how social media like blogs can be used. So first, this is simply a pointer to a useful practice.

The blog is a great example of “reification” in a community of practice – capturing, making explicit for  sharing out what is known and learned so that others can access it. (I learned this fancy pants term from Etienne Wenger. It mystified me for years, but now I love it. )

This week, Craig’s post rang the old “communities of practice” bell for me with Survivor Wino’s Edition: Episode I: Installing The Trellis System. Now this is more than a “how-to” – it is about how communities share their knowledge and support each other. This is both the “community” and the “practice” part of the three legged stool of CoPs – Community, Domain and Practice.

Photo by Craig JusticeHere’s the teaser…

There is a code of honor among wineries to assist your neighbors with their crush if you’re finished and they’re not. You’d think there would be competition but the best winemaking regions are those where there is cooperation. So when your neighbor puts out the call for help to install her vineyard, you go. That’s just what you do.

“That’s just what you do.” Yup. That is the difference of a community of practice. It is as much about “we” as “me” or the domain, all woven together in a pile of inherently messy human-ness. And Craig, through his generosity of (humourous) blogging of the work of his community makes this visible and accessible to wine makers anywhere, and a great story about communities of practice for those of us looking to understand how we learn together about things we care about. Thanks, Craig!