Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Virtual Community of Practice User Stories

I continue to explore the conundrum of "How do you build a Community of Practice in a closed environment where you can't reach out due to client confidentiality?" The background to this can be found in my previous post titled "Virtual Community of Practice Conundrum". In this post I list what I consider to be the user stories for this cross-boundary community of practice. The purpose of these stories is so we can design the technical infrastructure to facilitate such a community. But first we need to identify the community needs using non-technical terms.
User Roles
I see three primary user roles in which to base the user stories, these are;
  1. Steward - this role provides stewardship (and administration, when necessary) of the community. They are usually community members who mostly have an eye to keeping to community healthy and active. Sometimes they take on an administrative role when technical issues arise.
  2. Member - someone who participates by contributing and engaging with the community. This participation can come in many forms; leading discussions, adding rich media content, organizing companion face-to-face activities, speaking up and adding to discussion, linking to relevant and related materials, using the community hashtag, and consuming content from multiple devices.
  3. Lurker - someone who consumes the community content from many of their devices, yet never participates by contributing content. Don't underestimate the value of lurkers to your community!
User Stories
This is the set of user stories I have identified for the community of practice which crosses organizational boundaries while also honoring client confidentiality. Please feel free to add others as comments to this blog post...
  • As a member I want to participate in community discussion.
  • As a member I want to learn new things regarding the communities subject domain.
  • As a member I want a way to pull notifications.
  • As a member I want to be able to block notifications.
  • As a member I want to add content (text, images, video, presentations, etc) to the community.
  • As a member I want to link to external resources.
  • As a member I want to share openly without violating client confidentiality.
  • As a member I want to invite friends and peers to the community.
  • As a member I want a way to reach out to other members.
  • As a member I'd like multiple ways to participate (even face-to-face...)
  • As a lurker I want to view community content across all my devices.
  • As a lurker I want my read-only participation to remain anonymous.
  • As a lurker I want to have the ability to become a participating member.
  • As a lurker I'd like multiple ways to participate (even only a spectator)
  • As a steward I want a way to push notifications to community members.
  • As a steward I want to prevent confidential information entering the community.
  • As a steward I want to remove content and block members who are adding inappropriate content (ie. spam, adult content, sales information, self promotion).
  • As a steward I want to reduce internet trolls.
  • As a steward I want a common hashtag(s) for the community.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Virtual Community of Practice Conundrum

-- T L D R ----------------

What do you need to consider when building a Community of Practice (CoP) that spans organizational boundaries where client confidentiality needs to be honored. There are a plethora of things to be considered when building an online (virtual) community of practice, these include; the team and the contexts' relationship with openness, the memberships ability to be self-determined, how online communication will be broadened and followed, and how the internet is the platform.


How does a Community of Practice (CoP) steward itself across organizational boundaries? What are the requirements and restraints to successfully build a CoP when openness and confidentiality are in conflict with one another? What technology platforms support a closed virtual learning community but can integrate with a busy and confidential work-schedule? Can you leverage all the innovative social media technologies, which can be very well applied to learning (CoP), from a closed virtual community? This series of blog posts sets out to answer many of the questions... but first,

Some background
I've been building Communities of Practice (CoP) for over 10 years. It started during my M.Ed where I was bringing together 15 years of professional technology experience with 10 years of college level teaching and online learning. I now see my skills and knowledge being well applied with building large complex information technology systems and being a seasoned educational technologist. I also believe it is important to provide some of my personal background, beliefs, and experience on the subject of CoP. What I believe is particularly relevant to this post is my time spent with both open projects and corporate enterprise projects. These projects include; Mozilla, Mediawiki, WikiEducator, Wikiversity, P2Pu, Bowen eGovernment, UNESCO, Open Data, CLEBC, ICBC, Commonwealth of Learning, and other smaller projects. This experience has exposed me to open democracies, open spaces, open communities, open boards of directors, open, open, open. Where the sharing of information is crazy transparent and all meetings are open to everyone. This experience has also exposed me to large enterprises; closed, locked-down, proprietary, and obfuscated information exchanges. Having other people filter information is the standard practice in many of these other closed type organizations. My work has occurred at the extremes of both of these types of organizations, but also, much of my work has happened in the middle ground. From all this it is my belief that open communication is better than the alternative; particularly, when wanting to encourage learning or when building a community of practice. It is best to let employees be their own filters of information, and exchanging information helps everyone learn. The current and emerging pedagogical approaches also supports openness vs. closed. I believe it is important for learners working within a CoP to be able to reach out to the larger community and draw in resources from these other external communities.

Some history (or key technologies)
What do I consider the key information technologies and attributes of learning communities that have emerged over the last 20 years and have the biggest impact on virtual and online learning communities of practice?
  • Communities of Practice - obviously the work of √Čtienne Wenger is big here. The idea that "most learning does not take place with the master, it takes place among the apprentices" IMO is important to building a virtual learning community.
  • Open Approaches - Open Space, Open Leadership, Open Data, Open Etc... In my opinion, and experience, openness is very important to learning and in successfully building a community of practice. New people, new opinions, ongoing mentorship and peer learning needs to be refreshed. Without openness it becomes closed and stagnant. I have yet to experience a CoP that remains active beyond a year without having new people involved and ideas coming in from outside the group. Openness is key.
  • Autodidactism / Heutogogy - Participants in CoP need to be self-determined learners. This means you can just lurk in a community, at some point you need to participate. It is the internal commitment to learning in the subject domain that must come first. Then participation in the community becomes part of the self-determined learning. In my opinion this is one of the keys to a valuable CoP. The commitment level of the members.
  • Visual Communication - People need to share through a variety of mediums, this should not be restrained within the CoP. Often the results of a visual meeting (or otherwise) can be shared for record keeping, review and to prompt further discussion, etc...
  • Social Media - social media is not social learning, but it is important in building community and allowing people to participate online where they want and when they want.
  • Tagging - social tagging can be an excellent way to draw a community together by allowing members to share there learning and related reference materials across different social media platforms.
  • Platforms - having an online place to host the community is essential. But given a solid tagging approach this doesn't have to be a traditional platform, it could be the internet as a whole. What is important is that it is accessible by everyone - from everywhere, on any device. In the end, you need to consider the whole internet as the platform.
Some assumptions
Most learning occurs outside of traditional approaches, it occurs 24 hours a day, and is a continuous activity that includes (and should not be limited too) the use of open social media tools. A community of practice is social learning and is further enhanced with access to online and virtual communities. Blended learning is important, as face-to-face time (when available) should be encouraged. Even if the face time is among a sub-set of the community members.
Being a self-determined learner is important as it provides the intrinsic motivation to deepen the engagement within the CoP. It is a valid amount of participation to only lurk within the CoP, but there does come a point where members need to dive in and participate. Learning will be deeper and broader, but the motivation needs to be there. And most often for long term commitment to participate comes from an intrinsic motivation.

The conundrum
How do you build a Community of Practice in a closed environment where you can't reach out due to client confidentiality?

In the next post on this theme we will discuss the requirements of a community of practice where client confidentiality is key. The thinking being if we can correctly identify the requirements, we will then be able to identify a platform best suited to cross organizational boundaries.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Proposed ACAITA Event Schedule

Thursday January 16th Lunchtime
Location: 1:00 - 2:30 pm Erin's Pub
- Roles of the IT Architect
- Approaches to building the ACAITA

Thursday January 30th Online 
Location: Google Hangout
- Professional Development of the IT Architect
- Approaches to building the ACAITA

Thursday February 13th Lunchtime
Location: TBD
- Certification paths available to the IT Architect
- Managing complexity within IT Architecture

Thursday February 27th Online 
Location: Google Hangout
- Certification paths available to the IT Architect
- Teamwork among the Solution and Enterprise Architects
- in other words: Roles and Responsibilities of the Solution and Enterprise Architects

Basic Vertically Aligned Synergistically
Partitioned (VASP) Architecture
Thursday March 13th Evening
Location: Erin's Pub
- Impact of Open Source on IT Architecture
- Professional Development of the IT Architect
- Approaches to building the ACAITA

Thursday March 27th Online
Location: Google Hangout
- Discussion / Review of the Snowman Architecture
Approaches to building the ACAITA

Monday, December 09, 2013

Inaugural ACAITA Google Hangout

The community building continues. Next week we have the inaugural ACAITA Google Hangout. This will be the first of many Google Hangouts with the focus this month being in how to build the community and how to reach-out to related professional associations within Atlantic Canada.

Time: 8:00 pm - 9:30 pm NL time
Date: December 19th, 2013
Location: Online - https://plus.google.com/events/c3gcdv4qdefgbfjaljjmqg8cn0k

  1. Welcome and brief introductions
  2. Architectural Groups and Frameworks
  3. Professional development opportunities
  4. Where do we want ACAITA to go?
  5. Community building approaches
  6. Reaching out to Atlantic Canadian IT Professionals
  7. Other (make suggestions)

Thursday, December 05, 2013

ACAITA Next Steps

Inaugural meeting of the ACAITA started with humble beginnings. I found myself in the Georgetown Pub all alone... Seriously, for a couple of minutes I was in the Pub all alone, even the bar maid went out for a smoke!

This free time being alone provided me an opportunity to reflect upon some of the amazing feedback I have received in starting an IT focused Architectural Association in Atlantic Canada. Here is a brief summary;
  • Have daytime meetings... Atlantic Canada IT professionals are much more likely to participate in professional type events during the day.
  • Don't start an association in December... The Atlantic Canadians are focused on family and December is a month of family and friends.
  • Use online tools like Google Hangouts more frequently... people are interested in participating, getting together face-to-face creates a huge barrier. Particularly for those who don't live downtown St. John's.
  • Be patient, people express interest... but actually getting them out to participate is difficult.
  • Some people are willing to put in considerable effort in supporting this idea. They will make introductions and reach out with very relevant resources. 
  • I have had 14 serious inquiries from three of four Atlantic Provinces and the traffic coming into my blog posts on the idea is well over 400 views.
Even though I am alone in the Georgetown Pub, I am still very encouraged by the interest I have had in the idea...

Next Steps;

  1. Continue to build community.
  2. Have face-to-face meetings downtown during the day.
  3. Prepare for online hangouts. Consider having themes with speakers.
  4. Reach-back to experts offering assistance.
  5. Keep the vision, hold the space!

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Inaugural ACAITA meeting

On Thursday December 5th we have the inaugural meeting for the Atlantic Canada Association of IT Architects (ACAITA). We really are at the beginning of the formation of the group... so far I have been surprised by the response. We have five people committed to the first meeting at the Georgetown pub, and a whole lot of interest from Atlantic Canada. All counted over 10 people have contacted me expressing interest in and supporting the idea of Atlantic Canada Association of IT Architects (ACAITA). To get more details of the meeting look to the meetup invite. The meeting agenda covers the following themes;

I hope we all take the time to introduce ourselves to each other. Reach out... enjoy the company of the others who are leaning toward IT architecture.

There are way more architecture frameworks than most people are aware of. The ISO Architecture group has put together an excellent list of frameworks which can be found here. The two frameworks I find most useful, are;
  • TOGAF - an Open Group Standard, is a proven Enterprise Architecture methodology and framework used by the world's leading organizations to improve business efficiency.
  • Zachman - The Zachman Framework™ is a schema best understood by reading many of the artifacts made available by Zachman International.
There are a number of groups, professional associations, etc. involved with developing and forwarding the practice of IT architecture. The ones I see most important to developing an IT Architecture association are as follows; (I am open to discussing more than these five groups when it comes to how we align the association, everything that deepens architectural understanding is good for all of us).
  1. IASA - An association for all IT Architects
  2. OpenGroup - Vendor neutral IT standards and certifications
  3. EACOE - Enterprise Architecture Centre of Excellence
  4. FEAC - Training and Certification Institution for Enterprise Architects
  5. ISC - Vendor-neutral education products, career services, and Gold Standard credentials to professionals.
Roles of the Architect
There are many roles for the IT Architect. And they all have a place in getting projects to finished... When you read over the different group sites (above) you will begin to get a sense there are a lot of definitions for architects. Listed below are how I see the collection of different architecture role definitions.

  • Solution Architect - focused on the architecture for a particular solution built to meet a defined business need and / or business strategy.
  • Enterprise Architect - aligning IT architecture with business strategy. More focused on governance.
  • Application Architect - specifying the architecture for a particular software application. Differs from Solution Architect in that the application is for a specific business domain, where the solution architect is focused on a business need and evaluates many applications to fulfill the need.
  • Component Architect - designs and architects complex and mission critical software components.
  • Technical Architect - takes on the technically challenging aspects of engineering a software solution. Optimizes the design for reuse, performance, etc.
  • Database Architect - specializes in architecting data storage solutions.
  • Infrastructure Architect - focused on the server, networking and infrastructure architecture.
  • Security Architect - focused upon all things security within IT.
  • Information Architect - organizing and architecting information for usability.
  • Business Architect - plays a key part in shaping and fostering continuous improvement, business transformation business innovation initiatives.
Next Steps 
  1. Growing the Community. 
  2. Preparing for the Google Hangout.
  3. Other
See everyone at the Georgetown Pub, 8:00 pm, Thursday December 5th...

Friday, November 22, 2013

Atlantic Canada Association of IT Architects (ACAITA)

One of the things I wanted to get involved with once I settled in Atlantic Canada was to engage with the IT Architecture community. I wanted this engagement to be at the grass-roots level where the focus is with deepening the skills and knowledge of existing architects and encouraging senior developers to broaden there skills and knowledge into architecture. I see the group starting in St. John's and quickly reaching-out to other areas of Atlantic Canada. To facilitate the geographic distribution I believe we could use many of the on-line tools available to facilitate community engagement. My time with Mozilla, WikiEducator and CLE taught me much about facilitating online community and distributed work teams. I really don't want to build this on my own, so if others know of similar activities I would really appreciate being pointed in there direction.

I was thinking we could name the professional group the Atlantic Canada Association of  IT Architects (ACAITA). It would be very agnostic toward which of the existing professional IT groups it would align itself. The ACAITA would aspire to have associations with all related professional associations.

I also don't believe it should focus on any particular architectural framework or process. The group should work diligently toward building skills and knowledge of all frameworks and processes.

zachman framework togaf process

I believe the group should meet the 1st and 3rd Thursday evening of every month. Keep in mind that this is a Community of Practice with a focus on creating an association of architects, peer learning, mentorship and improving the quality of IT architecture within Atlantic Canada. I see there will be two different kinds of meetings;
  • 1st Thursday is a face-to-face meeting at a predetermined location
  • 3rd Thursday is using Google Hangouts and online social media
I am open to changing this schedule, maybe even having meetings during the day rather than in the evening. Or providing a mix of both. This is a collaborative effort and what the membership agrees to is what we could move forward with. All good.

Thursday December 5th - Kickoff and Introductions
Location: Georgetown Pub, Hayward Avenue, St. John's, Newfoundland
Agenda: Introductions, Frameworks and Groups, What are the different roles of the architect?

December 19th - Whats available for the Architect?
Location: Google Hangout
Agenda: Introductions, Certification Options, Online Architecture Resources

2014 and beyond - TBD

If you are interested in joining, participating, providing insight into what has gone on before, hanging with a bunch of other architectural geeks, learning more about IT architecture, etc... please get in contact with me. Comment here on this blog, message me, reach-out... I look forward to connecting...