Sunday, March 1, 2009

Raising metaphorical barns in collaborative networks

In his post Magma Roots, Doc Searls describes his effort to search for an alternative to the "grass roots" metaphor for networked collaboration. He finds inspiration in Ron Schott's effort to build global resources for learning geology:
But maybe we can go deeper than that, below the Earth’s crust. How about “magma roots”? That occurred to me while reading Ron Schott’s post, Building a Google Earth Geology Layer. Ron is a hard rock geologist who has been a good source of wisdom (and occasional correction) toward my own geology obsessions. What Ron proposes (in both his posts title and its detail) is a great idea — for Google, for the geology field, and for the rest of us.

Ron’s goals are modest in manner and ambitious in scale:

What I’d like to do here, with the help of the geoblogosphere (via the comments to this post, initially), is to set out some goals, examples, and use cases that could guide the development of a Google Earth geology layer. If there’s interest in building on this idea, I’d be happy to set up communications tools, create KML tutorials, or do anything else to facilitate a coordinated effort to develop such a layer. Hopefully, by leveraging the knowledge and efforts of the geoblogospheric community, along with excellent new resources for developing KML, we can make a real start toward building a useful geology resource.
Searls concludes his post by disclaiming any formal expertise in geology but strongly supporting the concept:
I’m not a geologist, but I want to do everything I can to help raise this barn. Or, to keep from mixing metaphors, uncork this volcano.

Ron Schott replied to Searls' post by revealing a thought that he had considered in writing his original post but that he left on the editing floor:
The barn raising metaphor is definitely what I was aiming to evoke. In fact, I came very close to including one of the YouTube clips of the “Building the Barn” sequence from Witness (Maurice Jarre’s soundtrack captures the spirit so well), but I figured it would have been over the top.
I agree with Schott's editorial decision, Hollywood's production effects might lead readers to conclude that Amish Country and Hollywood are the only places where people work together for community in this way. Local examples from people like us may inspire us work toward similar projects. The Shelter at Berman Creekside Park in Moscow, Idaho illustrates one such example.

Shelter at Berman Creekside Park, Moscow, ID

Groups of volunteers built the shelter at Berman Creekside Park as a community collaboration under the leadership of Nils Peterson. Volunteers pre-cut the posts, beams, and pegs for months ahead of the raising. Volunteers worked at the Farmer’s Market and other public locations to build community awareness of the project.
Now, the Moscow community builders are raising the Palouse Prairie Charter School: Palouse Prairie to Collaborate with U of Idaho Design Students. The school leaders' commitment to working in public as much as possible means that educators every where can learn from their process, successes and failures:
This news item exemplifies one of the ten design principles of an expeditionary school. # 5 Success and Failure says: "All students need to be successful if they are to build the confidence and capacity to take risks and meet increasingly difficult challenges. But it is also important for students to learn from their failures, to persevere when things are hard, and to learn to turn disabilities into opportunities.” The March denial and appeal process was an occasion for the Palouse Prairie Board to learn from perseverance.
How will we share iTeam processes, successes and failures? How do we build a distributed collaborative community?

1 comment:

Nils Peterson said...

Nice mix if ideas Steve.

I wonder if there is a difference between a barn raising, where a group assembles for a specific purpose and at lease some (but maybe not the case in your blog) collaborative efforts on the Internet. Consider where I'm exploring the semi-accidental creation of an organization -- through the methodology of being intentional about teaching Google to aid those who we don't know (yet).