Reflections on wolweek

Well…#wolweek (“working out loud” week) didn’t quite turn out as I’d anticipated, when I optimistically wrote a post last week about intending to participate.

Day 1-2 I was mostly offline, madly finishing a work piece to support a huge organisation-wide ERP project. Not quite sure what happened the rest of the week…but I never managed the flurry of tweets and blog posts of updates on work in progress and half baked thoughts I’d imagined at the week’s beginning. I was reflecting on why this was the case, and I think it comes down to the simple fact that it takes more than just intentions to change behaviour. Although I had the intention to participate, I didn’t actually think about how I’d do it. Starting a #wol habit and participating actively in #wolweek involves actively participating in a community. This starts with consciously and habitually checking the feed, responding to other’s updates as well as sharing your own – and integrating this behaviour into your work day. This is the challenge of any new behaviour change.

As Jeff Merrell pointed out on my previous post, #wol isn’t just about sharing publicly, but sharing and being open with anyone you’re working with. Yes, I was in ongoing communication and shared work in progress with stakeholders in the project (something I am consciously working on getting more comfortable with – and have found that early sharing of incomplete work or initial ideas- can be very helpful). But – were there also moments when sharing what I was working on with the broader network outside of my immediate work group could have helped me? Definitely.

Some of these moments included:

  • trying to figure out how to link internally to a set of html files from a page in an elearning authoring tool. Googling it brought up a number of promising looking links – but they were all to the vendor’s (CLOSED) community. When I tried joining the community to access the forum posts, the activation email didn’t work. I gave up, and eventually called the vendor’s support where I eventually got the information I needed to make it work. It was a frustrating experience that could possibly have been short circuited by directly consulting my network. Did I even think of this at the time? No. (This goes back to not having thought about the sorts of things I’d share during #wolweek, and when).
  • toying with the idea of a structural change to the online comms/awareness piece I was working on. I ended up leaving it in the end but at that point when you’ve looked at something 1000 times and lost all objectivity, getting feedback from someone with no background or prior knowledge can be helpful.
  • researching how to develop & deploy an ipad app (scoping the specs so still have a chance to get help on this)

So…although #wolweek is just about over, and didn’t go quite as I’d intended, I’m hoping my reflections on why, how and what i could have done will help keep #wol front of mind for me, and trigger a response to share what I’m working on and learn from others. And at least I’m getting more comfortable with blurting out quick posts.

I’ve also got a bunch of old drafts that I will publish…likely over the next week (as it’s after midnight now and I don’t have the energy to do anything other than post this one!).

Developing a work out loud ‘attitude’

I’ve been conscious that I haven’t posted anything here for several months. Part of this has been a result of me consciously spending less time online in general, to focus on being more ‘present’ at home, to reprioritise a few things and to give genuine attention and time to important relationships in my life.

That said, not publishing anything isn’t the same as not writing – I have numerous ‘draft’ posts in various stages of ‘completeness’ which I haven’t published. I’ve often wondered why this is so…and I think part of it is fear of publishing something which seems ‘incomplete’ or not entirely thought through.

But, as Jeff Merrell so eloquently expressed in a (relatively) recent post ‘Working out loud week lesson: ignore the network’, publishing ‘work out loud’ reflections and ‘half baked thoughts’ has value in itself – for yourself (to articulate and capture your thinking). And more than likely, has value for others – even if you don’t get an immediate or explicit response from anyone telling you so. The value of making something public is that you provide the opportunity for someone, sometime to benefit from it – possibly at some point after you wrote it.

And in fact, this exact thing happened to me around the time I read Jeff’s post: Norman Jackson, who publishes an online magazine on learning, personal development & education, stumbled upon the ‘work in progress’ post I’d written 3 months earlier on the PLN model I was working on as part of my Masters research – and asked if he might publish it as part of an issue on PLNs he was doing for the magazine. It was one of those purely serendipitous moments…but one that was only possible because I’d posted those thoughts publicly, instead of just working on it privately.

Doing this consistently and regularly – and integrating it into part of ‘what you do’ is the challenge. Another post which recently changed the way I viewed ‘working out loud’ was Nigel Young’s ‘When working out loud isn’t really WOL’. The most important point, for me, in his post was the notion that ‘working out loud’ is an attitude – it’s simply about sharing, exploring ideas & seeking feedback openly and in public. This doesn’t necessarily just mean blogging or on social media, it can also be in asking questions and sharing ideas in meetings, on the whiteboard – or in any medium.

So, when I saw Helen Blunden’s post on Third Place inviting the group to join her in ‘work out loud’ week (June 15-21 2015) I thought it might be a good opportunity to start consciously practising and developing this ‘work out loud’ attitude.

And although (as Nigel says) blogging isn’t necessarily the ONLY medium for working out loud, it’s probably one of the more visible options. And there’s nothing like a bit of social accountability and collective action to kickstart a new attitude (or habit). I might even post some of those ‘unfinished’ drafts.

Writing inspiration

Although I’ve been neglecting this blog of late, I felt compelled to write after having just read two inspiring posts by two people I very much admire: Lessons from my first experience of hosting a #PKMChat by Bruno Winck, and Writing to Connect: Knowing the “Other” Outside Time & Space by Maha Bali  (guest posting for #DigiWriMo). And, as it is #WOLweek (International Working Out Loud week), it seems the perfect time to practice active reflection.

Thinking about these two posts, and what inspires me about them – it’s the passion and ambition that both Bruno and Maha inject into seemingly everything they do: they’re both amazing connectors who participate in a wide range of diverse online communities and activities, always taking on new and ever-ambitious challenges, people who reflect and think  deeply about what they do. They think, and act, big.

This became especially apparent to me when I participated in the first #PKMChat last Thursday morning (6am, Sydney time), a twitter chat that  Bruno has started and is running on his own. Picking up on @CBarrows’ suggestion of writing down 1 take away:

There were some great tips and insights contributed. But for me, the single biggest #PKMChat takeaway was not so much what was said, but this: how one person can build a diverse community around them – and pull this community in to give an hour of their time to actively participate in an online conversation with a bunch of other (mostly?) random people. While I certainly knew some people in the chat, there were probably more I didn’t know (or didn’t know well). My primary motivation for participating had been to support Bruno in his endeavour to start up a new chat. I suspect this personal connection was a key motivator for others participating too. Bruno’s been a staunch supporter and regular participant in our monthly #OzLearn chat – and one of  our first international participants. Active participants are the lifeblood of any chat (without them, there is no chat!). Thus, a good twitter chat (or MOOC, or any participatory, community activity) is often a direct reflection of the hosts’ networking and community building skills. I know Bruno participates actively in a number of other diverse chats, MOOCs and online communities – and the diversity of participants in that first #PKMChat was undoubtedly the outcome of Bruno’s contribution and participation in these communities. What this shows I think, is the power of active and regular participation in promoting connection with others in online communities.

Connecting with others online – and more: developing close friendships, knowing and loving online, through writing – is the theme of Maha’s post Writing to Connect: Knowing the “Other” Outside Time & Space.  This was one of the best posts I’ve read for a while. It’s hard to describe exactly what I love about it or why.  The depth and breadth of online writing experiences she describes. The clear, infectious passion for writing and connecting with others she exudes, love that emanates from the screen. The deeply intriguing questions that emerge:

I can “know” some people online, through their writing, better than people I know face-to-face in some ways…

Is it because online, text forces you to make some parts of your thinking more explicit? Is it the distortion of time/space that occurs online, that allows one to have a continuous conversation over days or weeks, during the wee hours of the morning, while in the car or at work or in bed, when our defenses are down?

The drawing out of insights through experience and reflection (which of course, lead to more questions – always the sign of a good post):

This intimacy or closeness online, this knowing and loving, is all contingent upon the amount of mutual sharing and the extent to which people make themselves vulnerable. Every close relationship I’ve built with someone online has had strong elements of private conversation, via direct message, email, hangout, etc, beyond the public. Is it possible that we sometimes trust people online faster because we think we have less to lose? Is this naive, dangerous, or beautiful?

It’s all this of course, and more: it’s the seed of inspiration that it plants, the desire to reflect and to write back. To respond, Connect.