Archive for the 'werewolf' Category

Social Networks, Relationships, and “Friends”

I’ve been hearing quite a bit of discussion lately about how our relationships and the concept of “friends” are evolving as more people spend increasing amounts of time interacting with social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

In a post on the New York Times today, Alex Wright claims that

THE growing popularity of social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Second Life has thrust many of us into a new world where we make “friends” with people we barely know, scrawl messages on each other’s walls and project our identities using totem-like visual symbols.

The more time we spend “talking” online, the less time we spend, well, talking. And as we stretch the definition of a friend to encompass people we may never actually meet, will the strength of our real-world friendships grow diluted as we immerse ourselves in a lattice of hyperlinked “friends”?

Still, the sheer popularity of social networking seems to suggest that for many, these environments strike a deep, perhaps even primal chord. “They fulfill our need to be recognized as human beings, and as members of a community,” Dr. Strate says. “We all want to be told: You exist.”

(Quote from Alex Wright in the New York Times)

This implication that online interactions are somehow wrong and less valuable than face to face interactions bothers me a bit. Maybe my use of social networks is less typical due to my relatively frequent travel to conferences, but I find that I can keep in touch with people who I may only see a few times a year through these networks. It isn’t unusual for me to spend a significant amount of time with a few people during the week of a conference and then not see them for another 6 months until we run into each other at some other conference. Through Twitter and Facebook, we can keep in touch and continue to learn and keep up with each others’ current projects (work and personal). This helps us pick back up where we left off, but with insight into what each of us has been doing over the past 6 months.

I limit my Twitter feed (which is private) to people that I personally know, which allows me to Twitter more freely about where I am and what I’m doing. With Facebook, I am a little more open, accepting not only people who I know in the physical world, but also people where I have some online connection. Both of these services help me make stronger connections to the people that I know. I learn about local and remote tech events that my friends are attending and share information about community events that I am organizing. I get together with these people (the ones living or traveling in the Portland area) regularly for lunches, dinners, events, werewolf games, drinks, and more. I also learn quite a bit from these people through shared links, stories, posts, and ideas increasing my personal and work productivity as a direct result of the online interactions. I tend to think that I have stronger relationships as a result of these services, not weaker ones. These people are part of a broader community, and our participation in this online community is no less valuable because some of the interactions occur online.

I think that many people see these interactions happening online in social networks and assume that these are replacing our other interactions. In many cases, and in my case, my online interactions in social networks do not replace physical interactions with real people, they simply provide a way to augment the relationships I have with my friends.

Related Fast Wonder Posts:

Having Fun at OSCON (Beer, Community, and More!)

I wanted to let people know about a few fun activities during the week of OSCON.

Beer Forge

This is a great after party sponsored by Jive Software (my employer) and POSSE (I’m a member) along with OSL, OpenSourcery, and OTBC.

When: Thursday, July 26, 2007, 6:00 PM to 8:30 PM

Where: Thirsty Lion Pub, 71 SW 2nd Avenue, Portland, OR 97209 (just a couple stops on the MAX Light Rail from the Oregon Convention Center)

How: Please RSVP to rsvp@jivesoftware.com to receive a copy of the invitation or download the invite. I’ll also try to carry around a little stash of invites during OSCON, so let me know if you need one.

Technology Community Leader Meetup

We had so much fun at the Technology Community Leader Meetup in SF before OSBC that I thought we should have another one around OSCON / Ubuntu Live in PDX on July 24th from 6-7:30pm.

Anyone currently leading, managing, or otherwise involved in technology communities (open source, web 2.0, wikis, etc.) is welcome to attend. Feel free to forward this invite on to others. It should be fun!

Location is TBD until I have an idea of how many people plan to attend. It will be somewhere in or near the Portland Convention center. If you would like to attend, please RSVP on upcoming.

Art of Community Session

Danese Cooper and I put together a community panel at OSCON on Thursday from 4:30 – 5:15 (right before BeerForge). We’ll have a great group of people on the panel including:

Jimmy Wales
Karl Fogel
Geir Magnussen
Sulamita Garcia
Whurley

Werewolf

The Portland Werewolf group plans to organize some werewolf games during OSCON (date /time still TBD).

BarCamp Portland was Awesome

OK, as an organizer of the event, I am probably not the most neutral party; however, I do think the we managed to pull of a great BarCamp here in Portland. First of all, a huge thank you to Eva, David, and the rest of the crew at CubeSpace who generously gave us the run of the facility, were an amazing help, let us stay until 11pm both nights, and were extremely flexible when the registrations soared out of control the 3 days leading up to the event from our expected attendance of 125 to a final count of about 250 attendees. Also a huge thank you to Raven Zachary, co-organizer and partner in crime for the event, and the rest of the planning team: Carl Johnson, LaVonne Reimer, Audrey Eschright, Patrick Sullivan, Sioux Fleming, Kelly Mackin, and Rashid Ahmed. Each person on this list was a tremendous help. Todd was also an enormous help: staying up late to help draw the grid; bringing me bubble tea; getting last minute materials cut at Kinkos, putting up with my crap as my grouchiness escalated during final preparations, and much more.

During the initial planning of BarCamp Portland, we thought that would be really cool if we could get maybe 75-100 people at Portland’s first BarCamp. As people began signing up, we thought that 125 was a pretty realistic number (this is what we budgeted for). A week or two before the event, we had 125-150 people signed up, and we felt really good about that number. As we moved closer to the Friday start of BarCamp, the numbers escalated rapidly to 274. Based on signups at the registration desks, we think we had about 250 people physically present at the event. Our sponsors were very generous in making last minute increases in sponsorship funding to provide additional food for the extra people.

A few neat things about BarCamp Portland:

Thanks to everyone who attended. A BarCamp event is only successful if the people who attend make it successful. We had an amazing, geeky, smart, and fun crowd leading to an amazing, geeky, smart, and fun event!

Danah Boyd: The History and Future of Social Networking

Financial Times calls Danah Boyd “The high priestess of internet friendship”, and the title is well earned. I attended a few web 2.0 sessions with Danah (and a few evenings of Werewolf), and this women “gets” social networking better than anyone else I know.

If you want to better understand the evolution of social networking and get a sense for where it is headed, this article based on a Financial Times interview with Danah is a great place to start.

On Foo and Elitism

There has been quite a bit of buzz recently about whether Foo is too exclusive and elitist. After attending my first Foo this year, I have been amazed by the controversy that Foo generates. Yes, only around 200 people are invited; however, keeping the numbers small helps facilitate the self-organization of the conference and allows us to fit (barely) within the O’Reilly campus. The reality is that companies all over the world hold invite-only events where they gather people together to hold discussions on topics relevant to their business.

From Tom Coates,

Everyone who attends FOO feels honoured to be there, but let’s be clear – invitation-only events happen all the time in the tech industry. There are more conferences and seminars happening in and around Silicon Valley than there are days in the year. And any individual or company is free to start their own event and invite whomsoever they choose. (Quote from Tom Coates on plasticbag.org)

Stowe Boyd makes a similar point:

But, candidly, I don’t get it. Why can’t we have closed meetings? Can’t a company like O’Reilly invite a bunch of people to get together and talk about issues that are important to the company’s future business? Does everything they do have to be open to the public, just because they are influential? (Quote from Stowe Boyd on /Message)

Foo just seems to generate more attention than other invite-only events. It may be a result of the breadth of the topics that O’Reilly is interested in discussing. O’Reilly Media is focused on cross-pollination between industries drawing on the idea that we can be smarter and more creative if we broaden our horizons … maybe this explains the popularity of the Werewolf games at Foo. People from across a broad swath of technology industries are invited to Foo, and with the 200 person limit, this means that many really smart and insightful people are not invited. Foo is also an amazing event, and attendees rarely if ever leave Foo with a negative impression, which means that many people naturally want to be invited. I was lucky to be invited this year, and I hope to be invited to attend next year; however, I will not have any hard feelings if I am not invited. People should be able to accept Foo for what it is … a great event where people share amazing ideas. Nothing more, nothing less.

Foo, Cats, and Kids (AKA Sunday Morning at Foo)

Despite being exhausted after two late nights of Werewolf (thank you to the kind werewolf who killed me off so I could go to bed last night), this has been a great morning of talks with a number of interesting themes.

Danese Cooper, Karl Fogel, and I led a session about the Art of Community, and we had a great discussion around the topic. We talked about how open source and other developer communities tend to start with a more tangible end goal, while other communities (social networking, communes) tend to be more about the evolution of the community than about the end goal. The tools also tend to be different across different communities with web 2.0 communities having intuitive user interfaces, while developer communities tend to use the techie tools that developers are comfortable with. The barrier to entry is also a bit higher for many developer communities while anyone can easily get involved in web 2.0 communities. We had an active and engaging discussion with participation from many different people. We even had a mascot for the session.

Geir Magnusson led a discussion about Web 2.0: Fact or Fiction starting with the caveat that he really didn’t know much about web 2.0, so he was hoping to learn from the group discussion. We talked about the definition of web 2.0 as a new method of using data: collective intelligence / user created content along with combining existing data in new ways (mashups). It was such a great discussion that I did not

Danny O’Brien talked about Cat Poop vs. Blogging related back to brain infections (you had to be there), and he even recruited a little help for the session.