What are your most useful synchronous online facilitation practices?

It amazes me how much the online interaction world has moved to embrace synchronous interaction. And not just in the same time zone. It is becoming common for me to have meetings at 6am or 9pm with colleagues spread across the world. We’re using VOIP, chats and more web meeting tools.

In exploring design options for synchronous meetings, I have been thinking about a gradient of modalities and technologies. For one shot interactions where you cannot expect a lot of investment in learning tools or processes, the conference call (land line and/or VOIP) is still the dominant choice, but I try to include SOMETHING visual in the mix. It could be a document or slide deck sent in advance via email, or browsing a shared webpage. Skype’s latest, version 3.0, has a plug in for a shared white board. It can only serve 2 people, but it allows another modality. Likewise, they have a co-browsing tool (which I’ve not explored yet) which could be a really great addition.

The reason to have something beyond the voice is two fold: one is to increase our engagement and participation, particularly for those of us who are not great in an aural-only mode. With a visual, I’m less apt to start doing my email or staring out the window. For the same reason, I love my cordless phone because I find I listen to long phone meetings better when I can walk around and move away from my computer. It does something to my thinking. I’m still hard wired for VOIP calls and, despite the price, I am tempted to get a bluetooth headset for the computer.

The second reason is other tools can support the process of the meeting or gathering. Using a chat room to collectively take notes, or a wiki to evolve the agenda and take notes during a meeting. Co-editing WHILE discussing a document. Queing up questions in a larger phone meeting via chat so that a) you know you are on deck to speak and b) people have a chance to be heard, especially if they are less inclined to jump in to a conversation.

When you get to the place where you are doing larger meetings (over 8 or so), or are doing ongoing live meeting practices, it starts making sense to consider more sophisticated tools and pratices. This is where things like web meeting tools, co-browsing, and such can be useful.

What I notice about web meeting tools is that most of us don’t know how to make the most of them. We may learn how to use all the tools and features, but we haven’t had exposure to good facilitation practices. We try and duplicate offlinen experiences (be they useful or not) and not really take advantage of the medium.

People like Jennifer Hoffman and Jonathan Finkelstein are seasoned synchronous facilitators who have written about the practice. I’ve been reading Jonathan’s latest, “Learning in Real Time” and it is full of great advice, particularly in a learning setting. Jonathan covers the why’s what’s and how’s. His technical review of web meeting features is excellent.

In the “why’s” he talks about the “threshold to go live.” In other words, know WHY you are going live. There is still a heck of a lot of useful applications for asynchronous online interaction.

But let’s get to the facilitation bit (Chapter 5) where Jonathan dives into practices. I love his line “inflate a bubble of concentration.” In other words, when we facilitate synchronously we not only have to manage the software, the domain of the conversation, but we also are working to legitimately request and get the attention of participants who, for the most part, we cannot see. We have to do this across a diversity of styles and skills. It is truly a “ringmaster” job.

There are some great examples in the book, and if you are facilitating online get the book. What I notice is that Jonathan writes about something I learned from my colleague, Fernanda Ibarra. It is the masterful use of a shared white board to move people from being consumers of a meeting to being active participants. Fernanda showed me how she prepared a whiteboard screen with clipart of a circle of chairs. As people entered the web meeting space, she invited them to write their names under a chair. This helped orient them to and practie with the tool, created a sense of “group” and gave a visual focus as people entered the “room.” It was brilliant. I’ve riffed on that idea and found it very useful. We’ve done After Action Reviews with the white board taking the place of a flip chart used F2F. We’ve even had virtual parties. This brings together voice, text, and images.

But back to the practices and skills. What would you say are the top three skills of a synchronous facilitator? The top three practices? Why?

Other Resources:
Top Synchronous Training Myths and Their Realities – By Nanette Miner
InSynch Training and their Synchronous Training Blog
LearningTimes training

Archived Post: Diagrams of Identity and Culture

I am doing a little more exploration about digital identity and have mined a few posts from my old blog. While you can search on key words and find the post, they can’t be tagged and categorized the way the post on my newer blog can be. So I’m reposting some old post on WordPress and back dating them to build a stronger archive. Here is the first (source here).

I still haven’t blogged my notes from the 2005 Microsoft Social Computing Symposium (my bad) but I uploaded a hand drawn mind map from our open space session on Culture and Identity to Flikr with the tag “identity. ”

Peter Davis at identity4all picked it up — Diagrams of Identity

“The Technorati Identity tag lead me squarely here at Nancy White’s photo blog w/flickr.

Since I tend to think pictorally, just like this (and have a growing collection of mind-maps myself), I thought I’d blog this one up the stack a bit (and a mental bookmark).

What this map really demonstrates is the true relativity of Identity. Given some completely different context, the map shows compliance, strong authentication, and patient privacy.

So Nancy, the next time you make this great diagram centered on Identity, push the edges a bit, and lets see how diverse these perspectives really are! I’d bet some would recoil and others rejoice! I cannot help but wonder if Identity Perspectives will ever allow Identity Commons?”

I can’t resist an invitation like that, so I took one little branch off the original picture and did this mind map. I left a comment on Peter’s blog and hope he stops by here!


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SXSW: Blogging While Black Panel

Originally Published Monday, March 14, 2005, comments copied below

Blogging While Black
(I’m trying to live blog this one for a friend)
(Ratio of women: total participants [corrected] 28:80)

Lynne D. Johnson is kicking off the panel. She started out journaling online which turns out to be a blog. Also on the panel is Tiffany B. Brown, from Georgia Tech (corrected). She has a personal blog at tiffanybbrown.com, a wine blog and manages a community blog www.blackfeminism.org. George Kelly (updated link 3/15) edits Negrophile.com, has allaboutgeorge.com. Tony Pierce works by day at E and writes http://www.tonypierce.com with writing and photos. Jason Toney is a web developer with blog athttp://www.negroplease.com.

What’s in a name and why does it matter?
Tiffany Brown: Blackfeminism.org – it is what it is and that’s why I picked it!
Tony started the blog at work out of boredom and rides the bus to work.
Jason found other black folks talking about what he was interested in. When he left blogspot for his own domain, he wanted them to know what they are getting. Negroplease tells you. It is more for his minority community, so people can easily find him and a black voice.

George Kelly: AboutGeorge.com was so he could focus on everything. pictures, stories. Started in May 2000. Was not in the loop with other people starting things up. He did not meet them till his firs SXSW conference in 2003. About three years after starting the blog he met Jason and Eric from uppitynegro.com I saw their names and got jealous. I wanted to be a Negro to. So Negrophile – it is in the dictionary.

Jason Toney: People asked me about Negro Please. I like to say Negro out loud.

Does race matter?
Tiffany because I blog about technology, feminism and wine. “I do think race matters online. 1. There is a kind of a role model aspect. Make those connections. Know you are not the only one. If you are a progressive voice it is nice to know there are other people who don’t think you are crazy and you can create

Tony Pierce: “I might be a little different that what people think a black blogger might be. (Pierce) It is important for me to be honest about who I am. When I talk about OJ I’m talking about it from a black man’s perspective. If I’m going to enter into the discussion on my blog, it is important to be transparent. This is a black man talking about this. A kid who grew up with OJ as a hero. Interestingly though, most people who see me don’t’ see a black man and read me don’t think that. So it is important to remind them.

Jason Toney – I was telling someone about this panel and I said Tony was going to be on the panel and they said, why, he’s not black. My personal sight, you see my picture. Negro is the first word. If you google Negro I’m the fourth or fifth page. Everyone who comes on my site knows what they are getting. But as editor for )____ my picture is not there. How does my race affect what I write on LAIST.com The Devon Brown case in LA, our two local papers, wrote about his funeral. I find the Daily News coverage to be culturally insensitive, retarded. I mentioned that and someone commented that you had probably not been to a black funeral. That would not happen on my site because people know who I am. Not on LAist. In the blog world it is easy to assume it is a white man. How does my race affect what I write on a site that is not about race?

George Kelly – I’m a black blogger. I wanted to write about everything and affirm that I have an affiliation with people who look like me, an obligation, not just to represent them but to just try to be wholly myself and true to the people I’m friends with online, read and link to regularly. IT has been full of lessons. The idea that why does it matter, what does it matter if a person is black or white. All that matters should be the words they write. But what they write does not come out of a vacuum, but out of a person from the real world, where real world rules, customs, traditions, expectations apply. Noe of this comes tabula rasa. ON the Daily News Coverage – as a copy editor, one of my jobs is to weigh in on issues of sensitivity if I think someone has come up with a headline that isn’t going to work. I’m in a place I’m pretty happy with my staffers, I’d try to put up a link of percentages of folks in the newsroom.

Tony – when I was in college we capitalized Black, as another term for African American. How do you feel about that?

George – I lower case black. My focus is clarity and readability. Johnson publishing, Ebony, Jet are all upper case.

Jason – there are some limitations and challenges with being known as a black blogger. Someone wrote thatcoloredfella.blogspot.com wrote that people have assumptions about whether or not to respect his opinions based on that. If I don’t cover an issue that’s germane to the Black community I get emails asking why I don’t talk about Michael Jackson… that I should have an opinion on them because I am a Black blogger. Being voices in the larger community, not putting our business out on Front Street. As black people posting on the web, talking about Cosby, should we talk about this within our community before more broadly. Should we talk about negative things in the community and have others use them as a weapon. Two years ago I wrote about the Joe Boxer commercial. I hated that commercial and wrote a really angry piece about it. Not racism, but was uncomfortabel with the imagry. A week later Slate picked it up, how it was a successful spot. For a week regular readers of my site discussed the ad. The day that Slate hit I had 50,000 hits and the conversation changed. The post had not been about race, but it became about race.

Identity blogging – Johnson – Something nominated about a bloggie in 2004, formica.ca, now she can’t use the name formica because the company name out of it. Now she is Notformi.ca (Not Formica). Black bloggers, my posse’s gone virtual. She put up this post about computer networks as social networks. What does it mean to be a black blogger. IN some ways we’ve touched on that. What is the responsibility? Does it mean everything you discuss is black.

Tiffany – it means you write who you are. At first I was reluctant to reveal my identity beyond being a women. When you write with an authentic voice it becomes hard to shield your identity. If I start speaking in black vernacular, that is what I want to express. It is letting who you are inform what you write and how you write.

Jason – I know that I have a lot more white readers than non white readers so I need to educate, throw a different perspective out there. With Michael Jackson all they are talking about is the pajamas, why aren’t we talking about the trial. Some people might call that racism. What about the boy who lied? I feel responsibility to let my uncles and aunts of the past have a voice. Instapundit is not going to write about that. Maybe they will have a different perspective when it comes from a site called NegroPlease. There is also the fact that Los Angeles is so multicultural/multiethnic. There is a lot of black stuff going on. I was dating a Korean girl. Black and Korean aren’t supposed to get along. We’re fixing things right now. I think most of the blogs out there don’t have our perspective so it is important to tell our stories.

George: There is something to be said for the role model aspect. Black people in Technology, in copy editing, in running sites. For knowing there is more than one voice in political discussions. One of the reasons identity blogging is so important. Isntapundit isn’t going to write about it and they are setting the agenda. If you don’t have others writing from other perspectives, will they make it to the agenda? Black, Asian, Gay, Women bloggers.

Jason – IN the larger conversation there is a dearth of alternative voices. We do where are all the women bloggers once a month and where are all the minority bloggers once a month. We are out there talking to each other and wanting to be heard. I did not start out wanting to be heard beyond my 8 friends, but as I’ve grown as a blogger, what I want more is where there are a million bloggers all I see are the same ten white guys on CNN. There was a guy on CNN who made a game called
how to be a black man.” He had a gap tooth and a 1977 hair cut and was being brought on TV as a legitimate black voice. There are a ton of intelligent black voices, but the people that make it to me are doing the ___ routine. It’s killing me. My hope that us doing a panel here, people having an awareness.

Jeanne Sessum who writes allied.blogspot.com and asked “How white is your blog roll” and bloggers where shocked because they had either not considered it or that the blog roll is all white. Your blog roll is a reflection of what you see day to day in your life. People link to the people they see and the voices they reflect as valid voices. If you are a white man who only respects white voices. Your blogroll will look like you. Same for black bloggers. Of the 260 black blogs we are aware of they link to each other. Encourage people to seek out and hear new voices. The identity blogging matters to get those alternative perspectives. We talked about authenticity and transparency yesterday — how it matters for people thinking of your voice as valid. Important to wear our culture on our sleeve so other minority knows we are valid.

George – to be present, link to other people, insert ourselves into germane conversations (and for the fun of it), we have an internal obligation to talk about things amongst us, IM, IRC, mailing list. We have to talk about the things with people we don’t necessarily agree with. The top ranked black bloggers on Truthlaidbare’s ecosystem tend to be conservative in voice. One blogger I’ve met and respect, Michael Bowen (cop). He took it upon himself… he’s been around forever.. I first read him in 1997 posting on USENET. I was impressed by the voice. We became aware of each other again in late 2004 – he makes clear his beliefs of being black, republican, etc . He’s taking it upon himself to gather in other conservative voices and created theconvervativebrotherhood I’m not sure there needs to be a liberal counterpoint, needing to be organized. He tends to speak to black people’s conservative mores or customs. But black people don’t necessarily. vote in conservative ways.

Tiffany – blog role varies between blogs. Thinks she is the only black wine blogger. For technology blog color doesn’t matter, audience is everybody. Disparate. I don’t have a core audience. Each blog has a distinct feel. With black feminism I know it is not just black women, black men, the larger (mostly white) feminist community.

Tony – I’ve been linked by a lot of pot smokers lately and I think that’s awesome. I really wish I had a different name for my blog. If someone came over with a big bag of weed I’d take a picture of it and put in on my blog. But there is no way you are going to see that on my blog.

Jason – I think a wide variety of people. More women than men, a lot of black gay men who are hopeful that I am also, what I found with my blog, a lot of black people who grew up in multicultural communities, meaning they were the only black person. Amazed that there is a black person who likes Jayzee and Bjork. Who went to a college that is different than what they think Is stereotypical. Upwardly mobile black families that are the only family in the community. They see black culture through the media, not through a black neighborhood. I talk about those kind of issues. I like to a lot of women and a lot of black gay guys, hip hop blogs, people I find interesting. Being around all you crazy blog people I’ve been changing my design. I used to have my entire bloglines list. Now just those I consider friends, those I know really well and regular reads, instead of all the tech and pop culture blogs I read.

George – I link to my friends and the people I know on AllAboutGeorge. The friends I make when I got to SXSW or travel to a different city. On Negrophile I link to everybody. Anarchists people of color, soul brothers, true southern bells, Black informants, BlackPundit, and the idea is to find everybody who I think should be in there and have them listed together. If you are going to put a bar, fellow sympathizers and box checkers. Because the point of this is because you are black that is not all you are. You are curious about and engage with other communities. That helps you become more YOU. That’s the whole point.

Tony to Jason – how come all black people on the Real World are bad guys.

(I stopped blogging for a few minutes to do my head count)
Authentic voice – Missed that too. OK it is hard to restart the fast transcription once you stop. We have segued into q&a.


Anonymous metalface said…
Thanks for the excerpts. Almost like being there.

12:38 PM  
Blogger Carla said…
I second that comment. The excerpts are great!

2:54 PM  
Blogger EJ Flavors said…
This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:00 PM  
Blogger j. brotherlove said…
Whew! That was great, Nancy. Thanks a lot for writing and posting this.

4:00 PM  
Blogger EJ Flavors said…
Thank you so much for those excerpts! That was awesome!!!

2:47 AM  
Blogger Ms. World said…
That was great! Thank you for the excerpts. I kind of wished I was there for this panel!

5:28 AM  
Blogger Jeneane Sessum said…
Thank you thank you thank you for capturing what was discussed at this important panel. Wonderful job!!!

5:42 AM  
Blogger tiffanybbrown said…
psst… the blog is blackfeminism.org, not communityfeminism.org.

5:56 AM  
Blogger Nancy White said…
Tiffany, thanks for the heads up on the link. I have community on the brain. It is now fixed! There are some other gaps if anyone has the material to fill in.

6:54 AM  
Blogger Cecily said…
Also – no one calls it GIT – it’s Georgia Tech.

10:36 AM  
Blogger Nancy White said…
Good catch. I’ll fix that when I get some time tonight. Keep the feedback coming. (The moderator said Georgia Institute of Technology and I could not type that fast… thus the horrid acronym! )

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Mama JunkYard said…
Thank you very much for blogging this.

As an African female blogger who does blog about race, I have felt that within the blogsphere Africans are viewed as a sub-set of black bloggers.

There at present a growing number of African bloggers who are blogging not only from the diaspora but from Africa.

What I have come to observe is that those withing the diaspora are perhaps more likely to define themselves as black bloggers, while those blogging from Africa, despite being black, are more likely to define themselves as African.

I am looking forward to a time when we as black people from all over the world can have a conference that discusses our various national/cultural identities and how it relates the experience of blogging while black.

7:11 PM  
Anonymous Jennifer Ambien said…
This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

10:38 AM  
Blogger George Anderson said…
I am a successful African American Blogger. However, my blog is not related to race.
I am the major provider worldwide of anger management training, books, CDs, Posters and other related products.
Should I be discussing race relations?
1:41 PM  
Blogger Nancy White said…
George, I think only you can answer that. It’s your blog. For me, it is not about what others think one should do on one’s blog, it is the blogger’s choice. That’s the beauty of the medium.

What is your blog URL?

3:10 PM  
Blogger Nancy White said…
A littlel quick google. George, is this you?


What is your blog url?

I presume in some situations race is a factor in anger and anger management. Then it matters, eh?

3:12 PM  
Anonymous jasai said…
This was fantastic, thank you. I am trilled to see that black bloggers are doing it while black, and out loud.

9:07 PM  

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