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Love the Lurkers

A couple days ago I had a BIG conversation with Bill Mills, the Community Manager for Mozilla Science Lab, about open learning, designing for participation, online engagement, collaboration, inspiration and a bunch of other metaphysical ideas that I often create practical implementations for. During our conversation, Bill asked if I had any advice for designing learning experiences that can engage and activate the far ends of the introvert / extrovert spectrum, and I said something along the lines of “The extroverts are easy, and the introverts just need time.”

Later, I was mulling this over and thinking about how hard it is for an outgoing person such as myself to understand people who are shy or don’t participate the way I do. I was thinking about why in our online spaces we have so many people lurking and so few participating. Why don’t more people contribute?

Then I got an email from a blog I follow, and I realized I’m a lurker too. For almost two years, I’ve been lurking around a community that I quite admire. I’ve never said hello, never reached out, never participated in the challenges, or submitted a comment. I’ve not gone to any of their events. But I read what they’re talking about, and I try out their ideas. My life has, without a doubt, changed for the better since I started lurking in this particular community. And no one on Earth knows it, except for me (and you, kind of, though you don’t know what community I’m talking about or the topics they care about).

That website, and the people who participate there, have done a fine job of designing for participation. They have made me feel welcome, I feel like I know people there, I trust those people to a certain extent. I wonder what they’re up to when I haven’t been around in a while. So why don’t I say hello? Why don’t I say “Hey guys, you’re a cool community, thanks for the things you’ve put out in the world. It’s helped me,”?

Simple: I don’t feel like I need to.

I have a global community I like, the Open Community is where I choose to spend my time interacting online. I have the issues that I want to discuss in the open, and the themes of this other place I lurk around aren’t things I feel like I need to discuss. But I’m growing, I’m a better person, I support what they’re doing over there.

We can’t force people to participate, and if we really care about educating people, we shouldn’t try. We should build and design for the people who are participating, and we should be careful to ensure that the lurkers feel welcome. We should create safe spaces of learning and mentorship where even those who don’t complete the call to action still start to develop trust in us, in our products. The fact is you are always a lurker before you participate, so we should be careful not to push people away by implying that they don’t count if they aren’t like us. If we work to love our lurkers, maybe some of them will find their reason to participate.

New Modules at Webmaker Training

In the two weeks that lead up to the September 15th launch of Connected Courses (#ccourses), a connectivst experience to help you build your own connectivist experiences (META), Howard Rheingold, Alan Levine, Jim Groom and the organizers of #ccourses will be helping you get set up with your own space in the web, so that you can start blogging, building your network and otherwise practicing openness.

In a happy coincidence, Webmaker Training is posting two under-development modules that can help you understand the ins and outs of building your online presence and beginning to tinker around with the web.  The “Building an Online Presence” and “HTML Basic” modules are renewed and remixed, maker centric intros to becoming a master of the technology behind open learning. Using peer to peer methodologies (hey, this content was built together with P2PU!) and clear production oriented tasks Webmaker Training can help you learn everything you need to know to have your own space of the web.

The entire Webmaker Community is eager to #TeachTheWeb, and we’re looking forward to helping people who are starting to dabble. Have a look at the modules, and pop into our discussion forum or a community call and ask questions, share ideas and get advice.

Looking forward to making and learning with you.

Connected Courses

I’m quite pleased to point you to a new online learning experience being put together by a group of amazing educators from the Connected Learning community. Starting September 15th we’re going to be talking about openness and blended learning in a 12 week course that aims to help people run their own connected courses. It’s meta! I love meta. The coursework will help you understand how we work in the digital space by demystifying the tools and trade of openness. We’ll explore why you might run a Connectivist learning experience, how to get started, how to connect online and offline participants, and how to MAKE things that support this kind of learning. We’ll talk about building networks, maintaining networks, diversifying networks and living and working in a connected space. We’ll learn together, share ideas and start making action plans for our own connected courses. You might understand, based on the above, why I’m excited about this. For the past couple of years I’ve been learning how to run connected courses, and I’ve been looking to people like the organizers of Connected Courses for advice, best practices and support. I’ve learned so much about how open online learning can activate and inspire people, and I’ve spent loads of time trying to understand the hows and whys in order to make Webmaker’s #TeachTheWeb program a sustainable engine of learning and support for our community. This course aims to simplify many of the trials and tribulations I’ve had organizing in this educational space, so that anyone can run these experiences and join in on open culture. Everyone is welcome and no experience is required. The first unit starts on September 15th, but you can sign up now and find more details about the topics we'll be exploring at See you there!

Join Mozilla for global teach-ins on Net Neutrality

reposted from the Webmaker blog

At Mozilla, we exist to protect the free and open web. Today, that openness and freedom is under threat.

The open Internet’s founding principle is under attack. Policymakers in the U.S. are considering rules that would erase “Net Neutrality,” the principle that all data on the Internet should be treated equally. If these rule changes go through, many fear it will create a “two-tier” Internet, where monopolies are able to charge huge fees for special “fast lanes” while everyone else gets the slow lane. This would threaten the very openness, level playing field and innovation that make the web great — not only in the U.S., but around the world.

Using the open web to save the open web

This is a crucial moment that will affect the open web’s future. But not enough people know about it or understand what’s at stake. Net Neutrality’s opponents are banking on the fact that Net Neutrality is so “geeky,” complex, and hard to explain that people just won’t care. That’s why Mozilla is inviting you to join us and other Internet Freedom organizations to educate, empower, organize and win.

Local “teach-ins” around the world…

Join the global Mozilla community and our partners to host a series of Internet Freedom “teach-ins” around the world. Beginning Aug 4th, we’re offering free training to help empower local organizers, activists and people like you. Together we’ll share best practices for explaining what Net Neutrality is, why it matters to your local community, and how we can protect it together. Then we’ll help local organizers like you host local events and teach-ins around the world, sharing tools and increasing our impact together.

…plus global action

In addition to increasing awareness of the importance of Net Neutrality, the teach-ins will also allow participants to have an impact by taking immediate action. Imagine hundreds of videos in support of #TeamInternet and Net Neutrality, thousands of letters to the editor, and thousands of new signatures on Mozilla’s petition.

We’ll be joined by partners like Reddit, Free Press, Open Media, IMLS / ALA, Media Alliance Every Library and Engine Advocacy.

Get involved

1) Host an event. Ready to get started? Host a local meet-up or teach-in on Net Neutrality in your community. Our Maker Party event guides and platform make it easy. We even have a special guide for a 1 hour Net Neutrality Maker Party.

2) Get free training and help. Need a little help? We’ll tell you everything you need to know. From free resources and best practices for talking about Net Neutrality to nuts and bolts logistics and organizing. The free and open online training begins Monday, Aug 4th. All are welcome, no experience necessary.You’ll leave the training armed with everything you need to host your own local teach-in. Or just better explain the issue to friends and family.

3) Use our new Net Neutrality toolkit. Our new Net Neutrality teaching kit makes it easy for educators and activists to explain the issue and empower others. We’re gathering lots more resources here.

4) Spread the word. Here are some example tweets you can use:

  • I’m on #TeamInternet! That’s why I’m joining @Mozilla’s global teach-in on Net Neutrality. #teachtheweb
  • Join @Mozilla’s global teach-in on Net Neutrality. Let’s educate, empower, organize and win. #TeamInternet #teachtheweb
  • The internet is under attack. Join @Mozilla’s global teach-in to preserve Net Neutrality. #TeamInternet #teachtheweb

:For Librarians

The four modules of Webmaker Training are somewhat non-specific. They are mainly designed to be an on-ramp for people who don’t have much experience with trying to #TeachTheWeb or people who are new to our community and the idea of Connected Learning. The four modules are the basics of what we as a community care about and why. We’ve tried to gather information that is useful when people are beginning to think about their involvement in the Mozilla community and in Maker Party, and we’ve tried to help people develop digital skills by prompting them to make using free and open tools. Since we have a wide reaching and global community, we have lots of different interests to think about. With Webmaker Training, I feel like we’ve found a model that can work for any interest, so I’m excited to see if I’m right.

Enter the Librarian.

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="200"] made for TV gone B Movie Franchise![/caption] In the fall, we will be running Webmaker Training: For Librarians as our first specific interest group. In thinking about the specific learning modules librarians would need, I felt like I need a little bit of backup. So I used me some connected networking skills and I reached out to some Mozillians who know libraries and librarians*.

Notes about this audience

1. Jennie said that one of her favorite quotes from the “sleep cell librarian crew” in our community was
“Librarians are trained by vendors.”
She explained that it’s normally proprietary software that ends up in libraries and, thus, librarians are helping people use that stuff. Solution 1: We’re a “vendor”, our software is the Web. Bam. 2. It was also pointed out to me that whether or not a librarian can justify his participation in #TeachTheWeb to a library director will determine if the modules are successful or not. Solution 2: Everything is open and free. I guess that most libraries in N. America are members of the ALA, but their e-learning resources are…uh…not free. Also, there’s not much in the way of information literacy or digital making in their e-learning catalog, so programs like Webmaker Training can augment. I don’t really know what a library director is looking for, but libraries are the perfect establishments for things like Maker Parties, digital skills workshops, web - ahem - literacy work. 3. There is a huge age gap in librarians, so there’s also a huge skill gap when it comes to technology. Solution 3: Karen suggested facilitating connections between generations, and I like this idea. I also think that modules for developing specific technical skills are a good idea. 4. There’s a difference between academic vs public libraries.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="300"]:For Librarians Public[/caption]
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="291"]:For Librarians Academic[/caption]
Solution 4: I think we can solve this with modularity. Kaitlin and Greg over at the Mozilla Science Lab and Software Carpentry have been working with academic research librarians, so we have a jumping off place for things like data skills, indexing, unix, etc. I mean, look at these lessons. 5. There’s a difference between urban vs rural libraries. Solution 5: Oh yeah, I know! What can a rural librarian teach an urban librarian and vice versa? How does technology play a part in each library? What resources do libraries need? Let’s MAKE them together! 6. Librarians have some of the pedagogy stuff, so we need to have a stronger focus on the technical details. Solution 6: That aligns with my sense that we need some smaller more focused “skill” modules ;) It was also mentioned that Webinars, videos and anything people can consume at work world be helpful, so I’m thinking popcorn videos should make their way to 7. This group needs to understand how they can use this network and why it’s valuable to them. Solution 7: This is a discussion we should have together, but we have lots of case studies we can put together in an easily digestible format. Webpage to ebook anyone?


I’ve had quite a bit to think about in terms of how :For Librarians can fit into overarching visions of what Webmaker Training is or should become. These are my initial thoughts after digesting everything the “Mozillarians” had to say. I’d appreciate it if you collaborate with me on this by giving feedback, adding thoughts, curating content, donating ideas for good make prompts and otherwise help me push :For Librarians further.

Ideas for NEW modules

  1. Logistics (how to organize a Webmaker event / Maker Party - could be an education remix of the Event kits!), maintaining and developing free public spaces (finding funding and programming opportunities, understanding distribution).
  2. Building Online Networks (setting up a blog, HTML basics, online networking)
  3. Privacy and Security for Public Spaces (How to make online anonymity default, 3rd party cookies, https, do not track, Lightbeam)

Ideas for Building :For Librarians

As I said, we have lots of amazing baseline content. We don’t need an entirely new Building module, we need learning activities that would be valuable to lots of librarians. So what does each librarian want to make that would immediately benefit his/her library? A couple ideas for make prompts:
  • Make your typical learner profile (who are your largest group of patrons? Marginalized teens? Seniors? Children?)
  • Teaching Kit for Computer Basics (click, double click). I found this resource, got excited about what the community could do with it.
  • Top ten programs at your library
  • Top ten problems your library has
  • Teaching Kit for Searching (Especially in North America, library patrons are often elderly or disadvantaged who need basic training in everyday internet usage. Librarians are teaching people how to find health info, filing taxes, etc. How can we teach those basic skills in a way that people to keep coming to the library to level up?)
  • What else? Help!

Discourse discussions we should have

  • Best practices for encouraging critical literacies Honest and Open communication; (Exploring - could be based on typical learner profile) Community building (Connecting - could be based on “top ten programs”)
So that’s where I am in my :For Librarians thinking. What do you think? Leave a comment, or better yet, join the discussion. * Thanks to Emily, Jennie, Kaitlin and Karen for brain dumping for me, and to the folks feeding me ideas in email ;)