Re: [cp] Backchannelling
- Hi there :-).
That particular forum system is a bit particular :-), but let's see...
I'm afraid it's August already so the answer may be long-winded:
1. Paid or volunteers?
All moderators are volunteers. Admins may be different; project leaders
may be different; moderators never. Policy.
2. Selection process?
Now that is a good question. I always say they self-select :-). Some
- I believe in aligning "moral authority" (user respect) and "technical
power" (moderation tools), so a moderator must be a good person well
liked and respected by peers. A "people" person.
- Also I believe moderators are more than technicians, they need to know
and like the matter. So a moderator needs to know his field quite
well... No gurus though.
- I don't believe in pushing people. So moderator candidates are people
who are proactive and already try to help as much as they can.
- There needs to be a coherent, united team of moderators. So I only
select people who have proven to have a constructive take on rules and
moderation (may not like something, but say so politely and reasonably:
no troublemakers). I don't do this in person, but we run almost a
background check on candidates. Saves a lot of trouble.
- The critical point is difficult to describe. I try to avoid people who
need applause, who hog the limelight from others, or who have too much
of a messianic complex. They usually backfire: moderation is best when
it is not noticed.
The selection process itself is another matter. It is a group decision.
We identify the need for some more collaboration somewhere (understaffed
forum, new forum, new initiative), and all moderators discuss possible
candidates; we may also ask for volunteers. Upon finding two or three
good choices, we dissect them and finally ask one or two onboard. Very
rarely, the first choice declines and we get the second.
We have some periodical statistics. One of them is "answers per thread"
in a given forum. I watch it a lot. Also, I make sure all threads have
an answer in each forum. And I like to see moderators taking part in
moderator coordination, though that is not compulsory.
But there is no formal, internal monitoring process beyond that. Users
do it themselves. They send me internal messages when they are
dissatisfied with methods or presence. Other moderators do too. That way
we've got rid of some moderators who were overexerting or underexerting
their powers; thankfully not many :-).
4. Who takes decisiones?
Hmmm. I am the management :-), together with another partner, so that is
a curious issue. I try to make all decisions (that affect moderation) as
shared as possible. When the senior moderators agree on something, I
usually let them have their way even if I disagree. But there is a clear
understanding that I can (and occasionally do) make or override
decisions based on reasons other than moderation criteria.
For instance. I don't consult technical development, but I do consult on
useful new services. I don't ask when changing servers, but I do ask
when redesigning the site. I do ask when setting up a new communications
policy, or a new event management policy... but that decision is not
On the other hand, moderation decisions on a daily basis are completely
delegated into each moderator's hands.
In formal terms, let's say I report to the owners, who pay for CoP
expenses. Those owners can (and do) close onerous services, demand more
CoP-derived income, demand that some practice be stopped (like sharing
content), ... for business reasons.
Thankfully I'm a co-owner so that is not usually a problem.
About backchannel and IMing :-). Personally I'd say it's a good idea for
people to know that they can take their ideas directly and privately to
you. So it's a good policy to make clear that there's a lot of "IMing"
going on :-).
On the other hand, if things are not private, why make them so? Trying
to keep most things public is a good idea. Creating coordination forums
with a clear audience is effective too: everyone who should know can
It's just the content of private conversations that needs to be private
Hope that experience is interesting :-). Best regards,
De: email@example.com [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] En nombre
de Rosanna Tarsiero Enviado el: viernes, 29 de julio de 2005 1:06
Asunto: R: [cp] Backchannelling
"Solving procedural doubts (35 moderators and over 20 forums make for a
lot of them)."
I too am in charge of several moderators (8) in many forums (20) and
wanted to ask you... how do you "manage" them? Meaning:
1. Are they paid or volunteers?
2. How do you select them onto?
3. How do you evaluate them onto? (and btw do you have performance
report template to share *grin*) 4. Who takes decisions (you or
5. Who do you report to?
You also wrote:
"And of course private talk is private. Bad manners to comment on its
content in public ;-)."
I have to confess, I thought that hinting at "positive" backchannelling
was a good thing to do, up to the moment in which folks made me realize
that it would give the impression the group was composed of an
***clique*** of older members. So now I refer to IMing or phoning *only*
when it is indispensable (ie: to give context about a situation).
I would be much interested to see if you (or any of you reading folks)
have a similar (or different) experience about it.
"There's nothing so practical as a good theory" --- Kurt Lewin Blog on
*-- The email forum on communities of practice --* Yahoo! Groups Links
- Rosanna and Miguel,
Interesting questions and comments here... I think that Patrick Lambe and
Shawn Callahan have unearthed some interesting stuff by doing some in-depth
interviews among members of the ACT-KM yahoo Group. As I understand it,
there was a face-to-face conversation in Canberra that was the back-bone of
the group in terms of facilitation and leadership. But some people felt
like it was an unaccountable cabal of some sort.
It seems to me that a "legitimate peripheral participation" framework can
help make sense of some issues by putting back-channel and public
communication in a common frame. Obviously it's useful to distinguish
between back-channel and its opposite, but core and periphery might be even
more fundamental (although core might use bach-channel slightly more than
* John D. Smith - John.Smith@... V: 503.963.8229
* CoP Foundations workshop starts Oct 3: www.cpsquare.org/edu/foundations
* "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our
* decisions on the next seven generations." -- Iroquois Nation Maxim
- Hey Miguel,
apparently, we have experiences that are amazingly similar.
"All moderators are volunteers. Admins may be different; project leaders may
be different; moderators never. Policy."
I was just discussing (with a co-owner) the possibility of hiring paid
moderators. I opposed it, he endorsed it. The reason I came up with in
defending my opposing it was servant-leadership. I too select members FROM
the group (which also "creates identity") and want them to be unpaid (see
more about motivation below).
"Now that is a good question. I always say they self-select :-)."
I said that too but it's a blatant lie LOL I mean, "organizational" culture
determines whether they leave or stay, and who decides to stay. By nurturing
a given kind of culture, you foster a given kind of selection. So the "self"
selection is appearent, in that it's pretty deterministic (oh don't you just
love science *wink*).
My "tricks" I use to select people are:
1) this overview of the volunteering process:
that provides perspective volunteers with an idea of what volunteering at
Dream could be like
2) the code of ethics we wrote:
The nine points are discussed one by one in detail.
In this way I screened out most applicants (*choke*) but the ones that made
thru it either stayed for a long time or when they left they didn't create
problems almost at all.
My criteria are pretty similar to yours. Some caught my eye more than
a."No gurus though". I make a BIG point out of this one. All experts are
welcome IF they behave like "primus inter pares" (which in English is more
like saying "First one among peers"), which means NO contests, NO arguments,
NO "ipse dixit" (today I am fond of Latin, apparently: "Ipse dixit" means
"He said that" where he=Aristotle, that is to say the fact that a supposed
authority stated something isn't enough to claim it true). Opinion clashes,
discussions, disagreements are *welcome* whenever there is "meat" to
disagree about (other than Ego and power struggles).
See my blog entry:
b. "I don't believe in pushing people." Here I only partially agree. You
(generic) can't push people into participation, true, because participation
is close to identity, and if participating doesn't have a meaning for that
particular member, you can't RAM a meaning down a member's throat. But, the
*kind* of participation *can* be pushed, it all depends on which
facilitation style you use.
Take a look at:
c. "I try to avoid people who need applause, who hog the limelight from
others, or who have too much of a messianic complex. They usually backfire:
moderation is best when it is not noticed."
WOW this is impressive, and I'll tell you why.
Since you manage moderators that are volunteers, you could be referred to as
a "volunteer manager". Volunteer managers worldwide are taught to stroke
their volunteers ego BIGTIME, with cheesey "recognition events" and such.
We/they also are taught that there are many reasons for a volunteer might
want to serve, one being "receiving praise" and that that is OK. I on the
contrary screen this kind of persons OUT... I believe this statement
"Volunteers are recognized and praised publicly for their awareness and
contribution to the life of group and volunteer team. Futile thank yous are
avoided, because we think that a volunteer's fulfillment has to come from
either accomplishment recognition or the inside." is responsible of most of
the screen-out rate.
About evaluation, you wrote: "We have some periodical statistics."
What about *qualitative* measures? Any?
"But there is a clear understanding that I can (and occasionally do) make or
override decisions based on reasons other than moderation criteria."
I do that too. It sounds to me to be very much like Linus Torvalds'
"On the other hand, moderation decisions on a daily basis are completely
delegated into each moderator's hands."
I do pretty much the same thing with my mods. My posts are about my own
participation as a member, and I issue policy statements. I also post info
and quotes and OCCASIONALLY facilitate the dialogue when other mods are
unable/uncertain how to.
"On the other hand, if things are not private, why make them so? Trying to
keep most things public is a good idea."
DITTO! I keep all group stuff in the group and all private stuff private.
That is, if a member contacts me (or another mod) about a *person*, I keep
it private; if a member contacts me about the group, I try to redirect
him/her to the group. Of course, it takes the mods to be able to facilitate
REAL issues and for the group to be mature enough to deal with them in order
to solve the problem rather than winning somebody else over on an issue.
So Miguel why aren't you on holiday yet? It's August *wink*
"There's nothing so practical as a good theory" --- Kurt Lewin Blog on
"Obviously it's useful to distinguish between back-channel and its opposite,
but core and periphery might be even more fundamental (although core might
use bach-channel slightly more than periphery, right?)."
It's interesting the way you frame it!
From my perspective, I've always thought that LP participants backchannelled
more but "participate" (publicly, in the group) less, while
core-participants participated into the group but backchannelled less.
Reason for I think so (I have no proof, just experience about myself and an
opinion about how others do it -- which could be different from how I do it,
which is why I think that knowing oneself is not enough to know others!) is
that backchannelling and posting *concur* for time allocation (unless one
has nothing else to do), and therefore we tend to prioritize. Because of
that, if a person values his/her participation to the group more than the
backchannelling, s/he'll choose the group against the backchannel *unless*
the backchannelling is clearly related to a group shared activity (like, for
example, a summary of a conversation, contribution to a wiki, collaborative
presentations, and such).
Would you like to articulate more on your reasons to think core members
backchannel more? There might very well be something I have overseen....
Another thing on backchannelling I've always focused onto, is the
*directionality* of the conversation. Backchannelling is bi-directional,
immediately conversational, more appropriate (maybe?) for generating
community. Participation is more uni-directional, not intrinsically
conversational (other members can decide not to reply to your posts!), more
appropriate (maybe?) for shooting out ideas and see "who's there" where you
are in terms of interest.
It's fascinating how people with same interest, same practice and belonging
to the same community can still frame the same event in basically opposite
ways.... not that it matters who is wrong or right, BUT I am most interested
in reflecting on how opposite interpretations can be generated so to
"package" them in a theory/model that can proof/disproof/change existing
"There's nothing so practical as a good theory" --- Kurt Lewin
Blog on CoPs: http://gionnetto.blogspot.com/
- John Smith wrote:
> Interesting questions and comments here... I think that PatrickLambe and
> Shawn Callahan have unearthed some interesting stuff by doing somein-depth
> interviews among members of the ACT-KM yahoo Group. As I understand it,back-bone of
> there was a face-to-face conversation in Canberra that was the
> the group in terms of facilitation and leadership. But some people feltHi John, Actually it was Trish Milne and I who did some work on
> like it was an unaccountable cabal of some sort.
understanding non-posting members and we found that they were avid
readers of the ActKM list and then talked at their workplace about
what was happening on the list. These members highly valued the list
but were unmoved to post partly because the public sector culture
worked against talking about their agencies in a public forum.
The issue about the "unaccountable cabal", as you colourfully put it
John, was real. Members didn't really know who were the coordinators
and what they did. All the activities Miguel posted make up the
efforts of this voluntary team. I have suggested the coordinators
establish a blog to make their activities more visible to the membership.
Trish and I have a paper describing our results coming out in the
January edition of Int Journal of KM.