Archive for the 'facilitation' Category

Jan 26 2015

Graphic Facilitation Workshop ‘Rosviz’ 2015

Graphic Facilitation Workshop ‘Rosviz’ 2015 | Michelle Laurie rants and raves reminds us that it is that time again… drum roll….

Graphic Facilitation Workshop ‘Rosviz’ 2015

Welcome to the 6th Annual Graphic Facilitation Workshop July 13-14, 2015

Location: Beautiful Rossland, B.C., Canada 

Imagine you are planning a project, facilitating a meeting or writing a report. Putting words on a page assumes people will understand them exactly.  Adding visuals invites conversation, discussion and exploration. Visuals spark the imagination, help communities plan their futures and help groups track progress. This two-day experiential workshop provides the skills and confidence needed to use a range of visuals in your work and engage beyond words.

IMG_0167   IMG_0271

Day 1: I CAN DRAW – Hands-On Writing on Walls 

Warm up Circles-LinesIMG_1105

IMG_0423The first day, we will start out by touching the paper, playing with the pens and loosening up our drawing muscles. We’ll silence those pesky inner censors and address the basics of “drawing on walls” including basic shapes, lettering and some initial iconography. You will learn a variety of ways to draw faces and people, an often intimidating but key element for visual engagement. We’ll cover basic techniques and tricks that enable any of us to draw as a way of capturing and communicating ideas with each other. At the end of the day, you will apply your skills by visually planning a real project or meeting you have.  Facilitation techniques including icebreakers, giving and receiving feedback and flip chart enhancements will be interspersed throughout the day.

Day 2: Using Visuals For Group Processes & Facilitation Methods 

IMG_0190 Assisting a facilitation challenge using the Samoan Circle.

The second day we will apply our graphic skills in practice.  We will explore how visuals can enhance group processes such as planning, meetings and evaluation. We will create mind maps, mandalas and a range of practical templates.  We’ll look at the use of visuals and participatory graphics (where the pen goes into everyone’s hands) with group facilitation methods such as World Cafe, Open Space, Appreciative Inquiry, and others. We will pay attention to preparation, the actual visual work, and follow up including digital capture of paper-based images. There will be time for lots of practice, feedback and facilitation support.

Throughout the two days you will have a safe, supportive (and fun!) space to practice and build confidence for real work settings.  We also host a community of practitioners online who give constructive feedback and support long after the workshop is over.

“Thanks so much to both of you!  It was an exceptional workshop and we both got a lot out of it on many levels.  You packed it full and yet it felt so fun and energizing!” (Paula Beltgens, 2014 workshop participant)

This workshop is for you if:

–       You plan a lot of meetings and want to make them more engaging, participatory, and meaningful;

–       You do planning, strategy and assessments;

–       You help groups make sense of complex ideas;

–       You want new ideas on how to make your reports, presentations and videos more visually appealing;

–       You want to be more engaging with groups;

–       You want to hone your current practice; or simply…

–       You are looking for a giant boost of inspiration, creativity and fresh ideas!

You might be a facilitator, community planner, team leader, trainer, teacher, project manager, marketing guru, organizational development consultant…everyone is welcome.

“I wanted to send a quick thank you for hosting such a wonderful workshop. I had a fabulous time and learned a lot, even though I already took the workshop 4 years ago I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take again. The content is rich, the hands on application powerful, the people genuine and the instructors first class. Being immersed in this creative process for two whole days is an amazing experience, I would recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about graphic facilitation and how it can help positively transform group process.” (Fern Sabo, 2x participant, 2010 & 2014)

You do NOT need previous experience or have to consider yourself an artist. At some level, we can all draw and use simple visuals to enhance our communications and engage diverse audiences.

As one participant said:

“Learn to draw with wild abandon! Take this course!” (2013 participant)

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Check out our reflections and photos from 2013 workshops here and here, and the Harvest from the 2012 workshop here and one participant’s Prezi showing the rosviz12 Harvest Journal!

Here is more about what people are saying about our workshop:

“Wonderful workshop – best learning experience ever!”

-Leva Lee, BC Campus (2013 workshop participant)

“Thanks Michelle and Nancy – the workshop was amazing – I am already craving more!”

-Janice Watt, Interior Health Authority facilitator (2013 workshop participant)

“I am still on cloud 9 after the Graphic Facilitation workshop. Thank you soooo much. I feel recharged after that! You two are such great facilitators.  You were willing to bend over backwards to ensure we were comfortable and enjoying ourselves/ learning to our full potential.  There wasn’t a moment that I was not completely engaged during the workshop. “

 -Maddy Koch,
 Community Planning Assistant (2012 workshop participant)

“The graphic facilitation workshop that Michelle and Nancy provided for Alberta Agriculture staff in fall 2011 was fantastic!  They began by setting the stage through careful preparation with the intention of the participants knowing it would be a safe place to learn, stretch their abilities and try new things.  And it worked.  Participants found the workshop to be energizing, fun, and interesting, but most of all useful.  Everyone walked away with ways they planned to incorporate the concepts into their daily work to better engage co-workers, partners and clients.  From using it in everything from agendas, minutes, flipcharts and handouts; to ice breakers, meetings, and team building; to note-taking, brainstorming and other planning processes; the graphic facilitation techniques are here to stay.  A huge thank you to Michelle and Nancy for lighting the fire!”

-Sharon Stollery
, Ag Industry Extension Branch, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development (2011 workshop)

Looking for more detailed information? Download the list of skills we will cover: Rosviz14_Tools_Takehome_List

 And More Testimonials:

“What the RosViz11 gave me was the permission to draw without having to be an “artist”. Such joy! Thanks Michelle & Nancy.”

-Laurie Webster
, Consultant with Cognitive Edge (2011 workshop participant)

“I have so many good things to say about the workshop I don’t know where to begin!”

- Sylvia Currie, Curriculum Development and Academic Growth, BC Campus (2010 workshop participant)

“I really thought the workshops was useful for me, and I’m not an artist. In a short period of time (2 days) I was able to learn simple and effective techniques to communicate basic ideas using symbols, easy figures, and colour. What I really liked about the workshops was that it was BIG. Big paper, whole body movements, large images. I’ve always drawn on small pieces of paper and this was a whole body experience!

We also did some great listening exercises where in a short period of time, we had to illustrate big ideas (that were on an audio recording). It was a lot of fun and a new challenge.

Overall, two thumbs up!”

- Rachael Roussin, Consultant (2010 workshop participant)

“Thanks for doing this again, Michelle (and Nancy!!). I highly recommend it!”

- Beth Sanders, Populus Community Planning Inc. (2010 workshop participant)

Preparation:

▪    Come prepared to get your hands dirty.

▪    Dress is comfortable clothes that can get dirty and you won’t be sad if they are stained.

▪    Bring a pad of paper or journal to take notes – unlined is terrific.

▪    Bring a digital camera to record the fruits of your labor.

▪    We will supply the basic materials for the 2 days (and you get a starter kit to take home). Feel free to bring your own set of materials to play with as well. 

COSTS: $850 CAD + GST (5%) (incl. two days training, starter kit and plenty of healthy drinks and snacks).

HOT DEAL! Bring a friend and you both get $50 off! (not combined with other offers)

Please note meals, lodging and transportation are not included.  Accommodation information available upon request.

About your hosts:

Nancy White facilitating from the inner circle.

“I am a learner, mom, gramma and chocoholic. I founded Full Circle Associates to help organizations connect through online and offline strategies.  My practices are diverse, including online interaction designer, facilitator and coach for distributed communities of practice, online learning, distributed teams and online communities, doodler and visual practitioner. I have a special interest in the NGO/NPO sector and the emerging practice of using communities and networks for work and learning. I blog at http://www.fullcirc.com/, teach, present and write on online facilitation and interaction, social architecture, social media and visual practices. I am co-author with Etienne Wenger and John Smith of Digital Habitats: stewarding technology for communities. Lately not only do I like to draw on walls (graphic facilitation), but I spend a lot of time cooing over my granddaughters!!! For more about my visual practice see http://www.fullcirc.com/about/visual-and-graphic-work/.” Nancy White

Michelle Laurie at Rosviz13

“I have a passion for helping organizations and partnerships communicate as well as improve the way they generate and share knowledge.  Lately my work focuses on helping groups create change based on their research. My work explores the interface of environment and development via strategic planning, assessments, facilitation and engagement.  I incorporate visuals wherever I can particularly with the use of participatory graphics, templates, animation and reporting.  I also use visuals in my personal life for planning weddings, newborns and travels!  I am an associate with the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a member of the International Association of Facilitators, the Canadian Evaluation Society and IUCN’s Commission on Education and Communication. I am also your main contact for workshop logistics.” Michelle Laurie

To register you must email  michelle.k.laurie(@)gmail.com to confirm your participation, provide your contact details and submit payment.

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Nov 18 2014

Good Suggestions for “Fixing the Q&A” Session

whatsyourstoryerealitiesThere is a useful post on the HBR blog by  that is a good follow-on to yesterday’s post about webinars. Thomas talks about the mismatch between the intention for interaction with the audience, and the poor design of most Q&A sessions that happen after keynotes or talks. Here is a snippet, then I have some amplifications below.

Some solutions to the Q&A dysfunction already exist. Some hire a professional moderator or use software tools to crowdsource the questions. Others experiment with radically new ways to run events, such as the unconference movement. However, those solutions are often expensive or time-consuming to deploy, making them infeasible for many types of events. Here are four techniques that I’ve used with great results, and that can be deployed without any kind of preparation:

  1. Do an inverse Q&A. An inverse Q&A is when I the speaker pose a question to the audience, asking them to discuss it with the person sitting next to them. A good question is, “For you, what was a key take-away from this session? What might you do differently going forward?” People love the opportunity to voice their thoughts to someone and unlike the traditional Q&A, this approach allows everybody to have their say. It also helps them network with each other in a natural manner, which is something many conferences don’t really cater to.
  2. Ask for reactions, not just questions. When you debrief on the small-group discussion, insisting on the question format makes it awkward for the people who just want to share something. As you open the floor, specifically say “What are your reactions to all this? Questions are great, but you are also welcome to just share an observation, it doesn’t have to be in the form of a question.”
  3. Have people vet the questions in groups. An alternative to the inverse Q&A is to ask people to find good questions in groups. Simply say, “Please spend a minute or two in small groups, and try to find a good question or a reflection you think is relevant for everybody.” Then walk around the room and listen as people talk. If you hear an interesting reflection, ask them to bring it up during the joint discussion, or bring it up yourself.
  4. Share a final story after the Q&A. Given that even the best-run Q&A session is unpredictable, it is best to have the Q&A as the second-to-last element. I always stop the Q&A part a few minutes before the end, so I have time to share one final example before getting off the stage. That way, even if the Q&A part falls flat, you can still end your session with a bang instead of a fizzle.The above methods can help you turn any keynote into a better experience. What other techniques — ideally simple ones — have you seen or used?

via 4 Ways to Fix the Q&A Session – Thomas Wedell-Wedellsborg – Harvard Business Review.

The first thing I really want to amplify is the focus on questions – thinking about them and forming them more intentionally, both from the presenter and from the people formerly known as the audience.  Crap questions generate crap responses. People seeking to be heard often respond in kind with crap responses because they were so busy getting ready to speak, they weren’t listening. So we also see a relationship between crap questions and poor listening. As a speaker, it is your/mine/our job to bring value by offering good questions and to both role model good listening when we hand off the mic, and to make it easier for people to listen well.

How do we make it easier for people to listen well?

  • Present well. This is covered well other places, but if we are rambly (spell check suggested “brambly” which also fits!), unclear or just off point, we will have lost the audience well before the Q&A. Why not aim for having people SO EXCITED by the time you finish speaking…
  • ...so that the only solution is to let them have a conversation. Start with table or pair conversations so this energy can be unleashed, rather than squelched by passing a single mic and constricting/controlling that energy?
  • Harvest. The presenter’s job is then to harvest what was generated out of all that energy, and Thomas’ suggestions are spot on. You can also do post it note harvests, capture visually, among many options. The point here is you steward, you become of service.

One response so far

Nov 17 2014

Beyond the Webinar

The earthLet me confess right up front: I really don’t like webinars. Too often they feel “done unto me.” I am powerless, at the mercy of the organizers. I may have access to a chat room (Thank Goodness!) But more often than not, these are content delivery mechanisms with token participant interaction in the form of crowded Q&A segments or polls with varying degrees of relevance. What is worse is that I have been a perpetrator of these practices so I continue to try and change my evil ways.

Changing ingrained habits requires some reflection – of self and of the state of the practice of these so-called “webinars.”  Recently I had the chance to offer feedback on a webinar I experienced as a recording.  I’ve edited/generalized my thoughts to share. In a follow up post I’ll reflect on my own practice — this is where I need to cut to the bone!
1. Us/Them: It is logical for an organizer or organizing agency to want to  appear well prepared for sharing their work. We all like folks to know we “did our homework.” We get our slides spiffed up and appropriately formatted for the webinar tool we are given. We time our remarks. We practice speaking clearly and at an appropriate pace.

The challenge this presents is that the end product puts the speaker and/or the organization at the center. We create an us/them dynamic before the event even starts. Think about set ups where the only ones who can use the voice tool to communicate are the organizers. Those who bear the presentation file are in control of the message. The tool administrator(s) control the process (i.e determining that they speak for 60 minutes, then there is Q&A.)

The use of a one way style of presentation reinforces the power dynamics of the speaker/expert/organization as central, and everyone else as “audience.” All too often, the audience is never heard. Is that a good use of precious synchronous time? Why not send out a video or narrated PowerPoint? An online gathering is time better spent as a multi-directional mode of “being together” — even online. This does NOT diminish the importance and value of content we “deliver” to others. Here are some options to consider.

Options:

  • Move away from meetings that are primarily broadcast which holds control with the presenter. Sharing information is essential, but synchronous time should always have significant multi directional interaction. For my colleagues in international development, I think everyone has values of inclusiveness and shared participation. We have to “walk this talk” in webinars as well.
  • Small things can create or break down us/them.  For example don’t just show where you are on a map at the start of a webinar, add dots for all the participants and their locations. Better yet, use a tool that allows them to add their own dots. Help the group see not only you,  but “we” – all the people working together about something we all care deeply about.
  • Because we lack body  language online, it is useful to really scrutinize our language.From the wording in the slides and by the speaker, consider changes in language so that it is more inclusive of the participants.

 

2. Strive for  good practices for learning/engaging online. Webinars in general run the risk of being even less engaging than a dark room face to face with a long PowerPoint. There is a saying in the online facilitation world “A bad meeting F2F is a terrible meeting online.” So we need to be even more attentive to how we structure online engagements to reflect a) how adults learn b) the high risk of losing attention (especially due to multi tasking) and c) the cultural and power diversity inherent in your group. Quality content is important, but it alone is not a reason to use an interactive platform — you can deliver content in many ways. Choosing a synchronous mode, to me,  implies interaction.

Options:

  • Consider keeping online meetings to 60 minutes. If not, do a stretch break every at 30 and 60 minutes. Say “let’s take a 60 second break.” Stand up, stretch, look away from the screen and give your body a moment of respite. We’ll call you back in 60 (90-120) seconds (sometimes a bio break is useful!)
  • A useful rule of thumb is to break up information presentation with some means of audience engagement/participation every 7-15 minutes. Use polls, chat, “red/green/yellow” feedback mechanisms, hand raising, checking for understanding, etc. This may mean you have someone facilitating these other channels if it is too distracting for the host and speakers. (Over time it does get easier, but practice is critical!)
  • Take questions approximately every 15 minutes vs holding at end. People stop listening carefully and are thus less prepared to ask questions after longer periods of time. (They are also more prone to multitasking, etc.)
  • Don’t just deliver information – use narrative. Stories hold our attention better than a series of bullet points. In fact, ditch those boring slides unless you are using the printed information to make it easier for people coming from a different first language.
  • Deliver the useful content in a different manner and use the webmeeting entirely for questions and interactions. Send a recording introducing the team. Send a narrated PowerPoint about the topic. Keep these content packages smaller. For example, if you were trying to give an overview of a portfolio of projects, you could break it up into some sub packages. 1) about the team 2) strategy, 3) project descriptions, 4) monitoring and evaluation strategy, etc.
  • Secondary tip: Do not think of these information products as polished products — don’t waste energy overproducing. That sucks the human element out of it. Imperfection is a door to engagement… seriously. Moments of uncertainty, tough questions — these engage the participants.
  • Stay relaxed as a narrator and speak at useful pace for understanding, particularly for those who have English as a second (or third, fourth) language. Keep that human touch. Add little bits of personal information and affect. Be human.
  • Let participants ask question verbally, not just in chat if possible. While there are many technical complications and sometimes the burden of accents on unclear audio channels, voice brings again brings in that human element. (Video does too, but there are bandwidth considerations. When you can, consider using it.)
  • Encourage collective note taking in the chat room or with complementary tool. When people share this task, they listen more carefully and the begin to learn about each others strengths and insights as people add additional information or annotations.
  • When someone asks a question, note who asked the question. This helps everyone see that people are heard, even if the audio option is not practical (for various reasons, no mic, etc. )  At the end of the call, specifically thank by name those who asked questions to encourage the behavior for future interactions.
  • In Q&A sections, consider a visual to help people pay attention. Use the whiteboard for noting the questions, answers, links that refer to what has been spoken about, etc.

There are a few ideas. What are yours?

Also, here are some previous posts about similar issues:

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Sep 29 2014

Liberating Structures Online

I was bummed to miss the September Liberating Structures Seattle User Group meeting as it was about using LS online.  (If you don’t know what LS is, click that first link!)

I am passionately interested in this. Today, I had a chance to see the notes and a “minimum specs” document in the works and was VERY HAPPY. (I uploaded it to GoogleDrive so we can all play with it together! I hope that is OK with Keith McCandless, Jim Best, Alex Dunne and Fisher Qua. Guys, ok?

I first want to share the notes. I’m adding my comments in bold.

User Group members got a good start on Min Specs for bringing virtual meetings back to life.

1. Distributing information must not be the purpose of convening a virtual meeting. Firmly invite participants read the material in advance–no ifs, ands, or buts.  Stop the madness of long-boring-stifling-ineffective PPT presentations. AMEN. True online and offline, but I think even more toxic online. People multitask themselves into oblivion. This is also one of the challenging points to convey to “meeting” sponsors. So thinking more about how to engage positively and proactively on this set up issue is on my mind.

2. Asking questions that invite participants to explore a shared challenge must be part of the virtual meeting purpose.  For example, if the topic is “what can we do about poor employee engagement scores?,” a set of productive questions could include:  How do you know when people are not engaged?  What do you do to maintain your own focus?  How do you help others do the same?  What makes it difficult to maintain a positive and engaged attitude? Do you know anyone or any group who is able to maintain high engagement consistently or effortlessly?  How??  Are any good ideas coming to mind? Any 15% Solutions?  What first steps could we take together? [Adapted from Discovery and Action Dialogue]  This set of questions sparks both self-discovery and action to move forward together.  Ahhhhh.  For me this is true online and offline. So the online elements are how people respond (voice, text, group size — i.e. 1-2.4-all) and what type of design and facilitation enables coherence if we cross different communication forms. Some people type. Some need to talk, etc. 

3. Contributing ideas must be very simple and safe for every participant.  More coming… This builds on my last note from an operational perspective. I also think that sometimes the anonymity or semi-anonymity of the online space can actually make it “safer” than F2F.

via Liberating Structures – User Group Startup.

I keep waffling between the approach – find and adapt a tool and grow from there the practices, or use whatever is at hand and adapt the practices. The practical me says the latter. What do you think? (See more of our collective thinking here and here.)

L

P.S. I know, it has been a LONG time since I blogged. Longest gap ever. And this is a fast post, but I figured better fast than never!

One response so far

Mar 04 2014

Faciliplay: Play as an Online Facilitation Technique

Note: Faciliplay: Play as an Online Facilitation Technique was a post I wrote way back in the early life of this blog, before I moved to WordPress. A lot of those posts feel lost, so I’m picking a few and reposting them. Some, like this one on play, need updating or at least contextualizing. This was written in the day when online interaction was centered on discussion forums, so the advice is framed in that context. It is almost quaint.  Today we can imagine and improvise a much broader repertoire of faciliplay. If you have any great examples, please add them in the comments.

Faciliplay: Play as an Online Facilitation Technique (in discussion forums)

by choconancy

First of all, the members of the Fall 1999 Knowledge Ecology University (now defunct) Online Facilitation Course inspired me write this. Their wonderful expressions in “Just Three Words” confirmed what I’ve felt for a while that play can be a liberating, powerful tool for groups and individuals.

The online manifestations for play are varied. Like offline humor, we need to take care that our choices respect or bridge personal and cultural differences. Segmentation of “playful” spaces and activities help maintain topical and project work in the “serious” spaces. The terms “playful” and “serious” don’t need to be so separate, so inviolate. They can be merged with some attention to group dynamics. But that’s for another time.

What I’d like to share here are some resources on incorporating play into your facilitation repertoire for online conference/discussion spaces; a “bag of toys,” if you will, which you can spread out on the “virtual table.” These are primarily for use in asynchronous bulletin boards or discussion forums but if you use your imagination, I bet you can find many other ways to use them.

As background on the use of play in facilitation, you may wish to check out Bernie DeKoven’s “Deep Fun” site at http://www.deepfun.com. Bernie is the author of The Well-Played Game. Bernie has created a playground to share ideas on play for facilitators, therapists and healers.  Check it out. Add your ideas. Let’s play!

Playful Topics

There is a rich tradition in online play topics from social communities across the net. Many of them became “institutions” at such places as the http://www.well.com,  and other communities. Here are some examples:

  • Just One Word/Just Three Words: as the topic explains, each post has a word limitation. This creates a quick interaction opportunity, allows each poster to “riff” of the previous and can spawn some interesting creative runs. Good for freeing up thinking while brainstorming or using other divergent, creative facilitation strategies. Safe place for anyone to post… you don’t have to create a great literary piece to post! If you want to ratchet it up a notch, try approaches like “rhyme two lines:”

It’s better to jump in and try it yourself
Than let a forum linger, closed, on the shelf…

  • The Never-Ending Story/Limericks, and other Continuation Topics: Group creation of a story, poem or limerick draws people back because they want to see how the next person has built on their contribution. This also demonstrates how responding to others and reciprocity can help build the group. Plus, it can be a creative kick in the pants. In watching these topic grow, a facilitator can also get an idea of what type of team player each participant might be. There will be those who will adhere to the story line, and those who always veer. Both are important parts of a group. But it’s nice to know who is who, eh?
  • Community History Topics: Online architect Amy Jo Kim is a strong proponent of a community “backstory” or history. By providing space for the group to record and comment on the history, to actually create it, you can provide ownership and a place to be “seen” by the community through specific additions to the record.
  • Bars/Grills/Coffeeshops: Hanging out, shooting the breeze, playing around with simulacrums of food and drink is very engaging for a portion of your group. These places are safe spots to let us slowly reveal more about ourselves, both in and out of our “task” or “work/business” concepts. They provide some metaphorical “body language.” 
  • What Are You Reading/Eating/Thinking: Easy places to drop information, have fun without a high intellectual or time overhead. And get great tips on new books, movies or chocolate recipies. Good for longer term communities and groups. These topics don’t build the critical mass in shorter, time-delimited settings unless, of course, it is a topic about chocolate (only kidding…) 
  • Confess and Be Absolved: Sometimes you just need to get it off your chest. Master storyteller Paul Beleserene of Vancouver BC started this topic in the old Electric Minds. It was a people magnet. It could be funny, poignant, it could be a safe way to apologize to a fellow community member. And Paul, as host, absolved every single person and sent him or her on their way feeling just a little bit better about themselves. I confess I still love this topic.

Playful Applications of Interaction Spaces

  • Bulletin Boards/Forums/Discussions: Consider creating a segment of your online space for play to ensure it doesn’t jeopardize your “serious” topics. Not everyone likes to goof around. Make sure your names reflect the purpose of those spaces.
  • Chat: Provide open chat room areas for people to spontaneously chat and get to know, talk about non-project issues or just goof around. Schedule chat times for the group as a coffee klatch or cocktail party as a “get to know” function.
  • Instant Messengers: Quick compliments, silly one liners or a quick emoticon wink can create deeper context for your more serious, recorded activities in a conference. Find a place to share IM contacts.

Playful Communications Tools

  • Emoticons: There are tons of emoticons that serve as text “body language.” Some disdain them, but it is helpful to include a little ;-) if you are using irony or sarcasm in the space where tone and facial expression are absent. Here are a few along with some acronyms commonly used online:

:) or :-) are smiley faces composed of a colon and a right parenthesis mark

;) or ;-) or or ;-> is a more tongue in cheek smile, wink, employing a semi-colon
:O = surprised face (and there are hundreds of variations)

<g> = grin

D or :-D = big grin

:/ or :-/ = chagrin, disappointment, etc.

:( or :-( = frown

btw = by the way

imo = in my opinion (or imho = in my humble opinion)

rotfl = rolling on the floor laughing

lol = laughing out loud

For more emoticons, see Emoticons: Online Body Language

  • Images and Fonts: Sometimes adding a little color or images to a communication can help enhance a message. Here is one of my favorite animated gifs that a member of one of my online communities made in reference to people getting a wee bit too touchy about issues and feeling attacked:

  Image courtesy of Steve Ruano, ©1999 (alas, gif is gone!)

  • Snarfs and Post-a-thons: These are really down-and-dirty techniques that are not for just any online interaction space, but for die-hard online addicts. Most often found in purely social communities, they can inspire quite intense participation and engagement. Now, definitions! A snarf is a post with a particularly toothsome number. Century snarfs (100, 200, 300) are pretty common in big, public communities. Big K’s (1,000’s) are rarer and more prized. Then there are the other odd number combinations which include repeat numbers (555, or the infamous Karen Valentine snarf — 222), numbers with other significance (777, 69) or sometimes people like to snarf numbers that have personal significance like birthdays (51558) or anniversaries. It is totally silly. It can catch like wildfire. It can also destroy the experience for those who do not like snarfing. Consider yourself warned.Post-A-Thons are group efforts to drive up the number of posts in a topic. Again, this is a social community thing. Don’t ask me. I’ve done it. I confess. I really burned out a wrist one weekend trying to get 7,000 posts in one topic as a form of social protest to site management’ capricious decisions at a community that will go unnamed. But you would be amazed how it builds a group over a short period of time. Kind of like a strong, addictive drug. Again, you’ve been warned…. ;-)

The best way to understand these playful applications is to visit some online communities and join in. (ALAS, so many of these are gone!) Check out http://www.electricminds.org, (especially the Playground conference),http://www.salon.com (click on Table Talk) or http://www.utne.com . And have fun!

Image of purple lady from Jeffrey Zeldman Presents

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