We’ve been discussing ALF membranes recently. With the ALF website coming online and the network growing, being able to define who is an ALF and what kind of ALF they are is getting to be increasingly important. At it’s base there is a need to validate and recognize that people understand and embody our roots, principles, and practices. There is also a need to create membranes of trust so that as our network grows we can better identify who has what skills and who should be a part of which conversations.
Currently we are using tongue-in-cheek working titles to describe a “baking” process where new ALFs start as Eggs, become Kneaded, get baked, then move on to become muffin holders and muffin tins.
The following chart describes each area and level of ALFing (source):
I have already
I agree to
The Network agrees to
-fill out online form saying “I have an interest in learning to ALF”
-Not a spam bot
-Read about ALC
-Be open to communication with the Network
-Collect form submissions
-give feedback to that person
-shares the info on that form with others in the Network
Been invited into an ALC space to participate
-To begin practicing being an ALF
-honor agreements (general & specific to community)
Provides support for Cake Holders to exisit (Cake holders work with rising ALFs, not necessarly Network, obviously there may be some exceptions here)
Has been declared “Baked” through the process of a peer review
-Creates shareable value (blog, youtube video, speaking at alternative ed events, etc)
-participate in ongoing collaboration
-abide by ALF Network CMB
-model tool use and principales embodiment (to support RAs)
-Brands you as “baked”
-Adds you to ALF email list & weekly calls
-Invited to contribute in ALF Summer
Started holidng space or coherence for a domain:
-ability to translate tools & practices in different contexts / ability to facilitate facilitators
-focus on supporting, nurtureing, growing the ALC network
I agree to
-Support RAs & BAs
-be responsible for space/domain
-refrain from dogmatisim
-support CHs and MTs
-outward faces of Network
The Network agrees to
-Stay in conversation about needs and available resources
-Affirms your efficacy through peer review process annually
Notice how the chart at first describes a linear process, one moves from Egg to Kneaded, to Baked. Then the diagram shifts to describe how an ALF can choose to move into different areas of focus. This whole process is very unusual. We are trying to create a structure that doesn’t grant people authority over others but opens the possibility for individuals to attain high levels of trust in the community.
In an attempt to make this process more clear I’ve created a flow chart that describes the path an individual takes from being a normal person to becoming an ALF.
I’ve been trying to gather feedback for a card on the ALF Community Mastery Board:
I feel like it isn’t being taken serious largely due to the amazing community we have who operate from a place of trust, respect, and understanding. It doesn’t feel like a big deal to define agreements because if something comes up we can “deal with it” on a case by case basis.
Perhaps that is right, but I don’t think so. We are growing at a fast rate, 5 new ALC Startups in the past 2 months, with nearly zero advertising on our part. The folks working on network infrastructure (like the website, etc) are foreseeing a “flood” of new interest in the coming year.
I work to keep our communication infrastructure running and transparent. Most of this is configuring web services, documenting their use, and working on making clear how they function. A part of this upkeep is also keeping cultural technology well functioning. An email list or website activity feed isn’t working if it’s full of spam or harassing messages.
Why General group communication agreements?
Right now there are about 6 email lists, multiple forums and discussion spaces on this website, plus endless comment threads on each blog post (including this one). We have no explicit agreement about what is and is not acceptable on any of these channels.
For the most part people can delete comments on their own websites, administrators of groups can moderate their forums, and empowered users can remove toxic people from email lists (which hasn’t ever happened). This is a fine system when we have only about 150 users. What happens when we have 1500 users? 15,000?
I want the General group communication agreements to act as a “baseline” agreement that is applied automatically to all ALC communication channels. Groups can exercise their autonomy to make their own communication agreements by over writing or adding to the general agreements.
What’s the big deal?
This isn’t the first site of this kind I’ve built. In 2011 I worked with a team of activist technologist to build a very similar site for #OCCUPYWALLSTREET in NYC. There was a need to coordinate and communicate about the encampment in the park digitally. It’s scope was limited to the NYC metro area and participants limited to people actually on the ground.
Even with this limited—trust based—scope things quickly spiraled out of control on the website. A minority of people began to create a very unsafe space online for other users. The tech working group who oversaw the site didn’t have clear guidelines around how to remove people. We were too afraid to use our autonomy to police the site because it hadn’t been clearly defined or granted to us by the larger community.
Our site, which we had worked so hard on, died. Only the trolls remained on the site and all the nice people who were interested in social change were driven out.
I don’t think the same thing will happen to the ALC site, the stakes are much lower and the community is much more grounded in trust.
The thing is, I don’t want to wait till something bad happens to have a process in place! I don’t want me and the other people I have granted admin rights to make arbitrary decisions about if a person is damaging the communication channels of our community. I want to be able to look to an agreement that is clear, which I can show to someone in “violation” and say “what you are doing is against our communities’ agreements”.
The Draft Agreements
– Keep posting relevant to the charter of the tool, no spam (irrelevant or inappropriate messages)
– Respect each other, no hate (any form of hate speech will result in immediate removal)
Any ban, blocking, or censorship will be forwarded to the Network Culture Committee Working Group (not yet a thing)
I think this could be much better. If we model it after student agreements, which are agreements that students sign to play in a space, then anyone in that space is empowered to point out violations of these agreements. This saves people like me from having to be the police and from normal users feeling powerless to deal with spammers or bullies.
What an amazing week! I’ve been in Asheville NC visiting the Endor ALC crew. I was housed by two amazing collective homes full of wonderful and amazing people who kept me well fed and in good company. I spent most of my time co-working with @liam and @rochellehudson which fueled one of my most productive weeks I’ve had in a long time. So, what did I do?
I’ve updated the network website to a point where it clearly outlines what ALC is. Gratitudes to my fellow ALFs, especially @tomis, @nancy, @abbyo, @artbrock for their contributions in content and design.
We’ve switched to the network theme which is a lot cleaner and clearer now. The front page covers much more about what ALC is and how to get involved.
I did a bit of work on designing visual elements for the page and getting it to a point of being pretty okay.
I’m very proud of the ALC directory which I created using Google Fusion Tables. This takes a spreadsheet and outputs it as a map. I did some custom design using a Google Map Style Wizard, it’s pretty fun, try it. Then I implemented some custom code to get it to display real nice on the welcome page:
Each of those icons is generated automagically as new schools are added to the directory. Each icon is clickable and displays information from the directory.
I’m super excited to expand on this work. To tighten and expand on the design and layout. I now feel like I can send people to our website without worrying that they might not “get” what’s going on.
Foldy Release Party!
@liam and I printed out about 50 of my School, Yay! foldys for a Wednesday event at Fire Storm Books & Coffee. There was a great turn out and even with no planning we were able to pull of a successful info sharing session about ALC and Endor. I used a Kanban to manage the flow of the event.
There was some great questions from our audience and super awesome input from @liam, @rochellehudson, and Keli (a new ALF from Asheville).
The foldy was also a great success!
Organizing and Orienting ALFs
I spent a lot of time working on some internal pages for alf.agilelearningcenters.org and our supporting systems to better organize our communication and collaboration within the network.
The Newbie page
I created a page for newbie ALFs (and forgetful ALFs like me). A quick aside: newbie is a term for someone who is new and thus inexperienced, it’s a term of endearment, unlike n00b which describes a person who acts dumb. The newbie page covers all of our internal tools and links to our support documents and other such things.
The Baked ALF checklist
Along with the help of @nancy and other “bakers” I started to develop what I hope to be one of many internal checklists for doing network jobs. This one focuses on what to do once a person has had their peer review, submitted their documents, and been “baked” (a title we are using to indicate a particular status of an ALF).
Added Helpful documentation
I spent a lot of time writing up helpful documentation about how to use some of our internal organizing tools. One that I’m really proud of is the ALF Community Mastery Trello Board that we use to create ALF cultural norms. This board covers how we handles meetings, what meetings there are, what software we use, and the protocol we follow for doing everything from sending emails to adding new people to the network. It’s an interactive tool that makes our community agreements and structure not only visible to all members but changeable (through our monthly change-up meetings) for all members! It’s something that deserves it’s own blog post. You can read about a real ALC example on the Everett page.
Created “easy links”
Using a redirection plugin I’ve created a number of links to important documents and services that we use. So rather than sending around long links like:
to point to the long link. Which is also very helpful if the link has to change! If we find that the hangout link stops working all i’ve got to do is edit the redirect and no one will have to be told about the change, it will just work!
Playing with Slack
We’ve started using this cool service called Slack, which is a group chat room on steroids. It’s really cool! What’s more cool is that is has a bunch of service integrations that can do all sorts of things like listen to a website’s RSS feed or display changes to a Trello card. I spend some time setting up a number of these tools along with @tomis.
The Great List Migration
Part of the work I did over ALF summer was to migrate from the NYC Google Apps for Education account to the ALC Network Apps for Education account. One of the big items of that migration was to switch over the email list serves that we use to communicate. I wrote up an email about what was going on and what people could expect
Upgraded ALC Everett
I’ve spent a lot of time writing about what happened at ALC Everett but I left the website in a kind of limbo. Anyone who was visiting the site wouldn’t exactly know that the school had become inactive or that I had written a comprehensive debrief on the whole thing, including a bunch of documentation around tools and practices. So I spend some time making the site look nice, adding a bunch of links to the debrief and the tool box as well as explanations of what the current status was and a way to contact folks at ALC incase they were from the area and wanted to learn more.
ALC Domain Mapping
This didn’t exactly happen this week, but I wanted to share. @artbrock and I managed to finally get some backend features working that allow schools (or anyone with an ALC site) to map the site to their personal domain name. This means that our school sites can use their own domain while still being part of the network!
So now sites like alcoahu.agilelearningcenters.org will show up as alcoahu.org! So cool.
This has been such an energizing week or productivity! I really feel like I’ve been in a great flow and hope to continue it into the rest of the month.