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~~~ Ramana Rao's INFORMATION FLOW ~~~ Issue 2.9 ~~~ Sep 2003 ~~~

Information Flow is an opt-in monthly newsletter.  Your email
address was entered on www.ramanarao.com or www.inxight.com.
You may forward this issue in its entirety.
Send me your thoughts and questions:         [email protected]

~~~ IN THIS ISSUE ~~~ September 2003 ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* Introduction
* The 4th Vertex, Communities of Practice, ...
* 49 Classics cont.

~~~ Introduction ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Many of you, no doubt, see the irony in the practice for managing
and consuming information feeds I published last month.  I myself
don't supply Information Flow as an RSS feed.  Many blog tools
and content management systems support automatically creating RSS
feeds, but so far I've been manually assembling newsletter and
web site content.  Each month I keep thinking I should invest in
automating.  The new RSS requirement has pushed me over the edge.

One consequence is that I haven't been able to "think" about new
topics for this issue.  Rather I've made it more of a "link"
issue (ala Eric Raymond's thinker vs. linker distinction).  In
particular, in the first article, I provide links to concepts
related to the 4th Vertex, particularly Communities of Practice.

This is the sixth issue of selecting candidates for the 49
Classics.  It's been a challenging effort, particularly because
at some point, I felt compelled to pick papers that are available
on the Web.  I'd love to hear your feedback on the list and
particular papers.  What would you do to tidy this project up?

~~~ The 4th Vertex, Communities of Practice, ... ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

When I talk about the 4th Vertex, I get two typical reactions.
One is a blank stare.  Hmm, I guess it's early in the formulation
of the concept, and whether or not it coheres remains to be seen.
The other is the question, "Is this just about online
communities?"  Yes, but I'd strike the "just."

~> Information Flow 2.7, The 4th Vertex

Along this line, other related concepts are finding me.  I ran
across a blog entry (~>) that connects the 4th Vertex to the
concept of Communities of Practice (CoP).  This is a concept I'm
quite familiar with because of overlap at PARC with several of
its pioneers including Etienne Wenger.

~> Word up - It's the A-Dawg: The 4th Vertex of Innovation

A recent article, co-authored by Wenger, defines a community of
practice as "a group of people informally bound together by
shared expertise and passion for a joint enterprise."  A number
of other definitions (~>) get at common elements of CoPs as
groups that form around a purpose, a problem, or an interest and
that share knowledge, evolve common practices, and learn

~> Communities of Practice: The Organizational Frontier, Etienne
   Wenger and William M. Snyder, Harvard Business Review, 2000 

~> Definitions of Communities of Practice

As one of the most grounded and useful concepts in Knowledge
Management, the concept of CoPs is well worth understanding (~>).
Clearly, CoPs are related to the 4th Vertex.  CoPs are everywhere
and they have existed for long before the Internet.  They operate
within the institutions of government, commerce, and academia,
and also in the public space of the 4th Vertex.

However, the direction of my own wide-eyed watching is on
understanding how the 4th Vertex is being or can be energized
into a completely different quality of activity and level of
effectiveness.  Thus, the focus is on particular kinds of CoPs or

* they form and operate on the matrix of the open network,
unclassified and outside the firewall

* they attack problems or have missions that take serious
dedication and resource

* they depend crucially on the resources and actions of
individuals outside of their roles in the triangle institutions

* they aren't possible without a shared global space for
supporting interaction and sharing information

Certainly, many of the mechanisms and opportunities around new
technologies and practices apply equally to any arena in which
CoPs operate.  But my sense is that not all do.  That there are
new opportunities in finding the right social processes on a much
larger scale.

Each of the following three articles explore related ideas,
directly or indirectly.  All three of the authors regularly write
remarkable essays.

~> Hackers and Painters
   note: "the day job"
   [thanks to Jaime Guerrero ]

~> Phil Agre Reflects on Bio of Vaclav Havel
   note: "Issue Entrepreneuring"

~> Shirky: Fame vs Fortune: Micropayments and Free Content
   note: "artists with printing presses"

A number of readers have been pointing me at 4th Vertex projects.

~> spaceshipEARTH mission
   [thanks to Robert Blumberg]

   ~> Humanity's Option For Success

~> CharityFocus: 
   [thanks to Chris Duffeld]

   ~> dot-org acquires dot-com

~> Half-Bakery: 
   [thanks to Alex Shapiro]
   ~> Extensive Related Resources

~~~ Communities of Practice Links

~> Communities of Practice (CoP): Selected Readings

~> Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity,
   Etienne Wenger, 1999 

~> Organizational learning and communities-of-practice: Toward a
   unified view of working, learning, and innovation, John Seely
   Brown and Paul Duguid, 1991 

~> Communities of Practice: Learning As a Social System, Etienne
   Wenger, 1998

~> Nurturing Three Dimensional Communities of Practice: How to
   get the most out of human networks, Richard McDermott, 1999

~> The Quest for Collective Intelligence, George Por, 1995

~~~ 49 Classics cont. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The 49 Classics should be coming into the home stretch by raw
numbers.  However, over the six issues so far, I've been very
unsure on my criteria for selection.  The last several months,
I've looked for papers that are available on the web that carry
important ideas that connect to Information Flow.  In the next
few months, I will have to shift into a new phase for wrapping
this project up.  Your thoughts on this would be helpful.

ACM generally allows its authors to distribute their own papers
as long as they include the ACM notices.  However, I wasn't able
to find the last two papers this month on the Web.  At least the
titles and the ACM reference pages are telling.

~> Vernor Vinge on the Singularity

~> Designing for usability: key principles and what designers
   think, John D. Gould , Clayton Lewis, CACM, March 1985 

~> Minimizing Ecological Gaps in Interface Design, John C. Thomas
   and Wendy A. Kellogg, IEEE Software, Jan/Feb 1989

~> Rooms: The use of multiple virtual workspaces to reduce space
   contention in a window-based graphical user interface, Austin
   Henderson and Stuart Card, 1986

~> Spatial Hypertext: Designing for Change, Cathy Marshall, Frank
   Shipman, CACM, 1995

~> How do People Organize their Desks? Implications for the
   Design of Office Information Systems, Thomas Malone, 1983

~> How a personal document's intended use or purpose affects its
   classification in an office, Barbara Kwasnik, 1989 

Ramana Rao is Founder and CTO of Inxight Software, Inc.
Copyright (c) 2003 Ramana Rao.  All Rights Reserved.
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