Sunday, August 28, 2011

What I Learned at Useful Information Summer School

The first round of a useful information summer meetings concluded last Thursday in much the same way it began:

  1. One stalwart member whose attendance record is as visible as her contact details are hidden.

  2. A marketing professional whose feigned technophobia belies her online sophistication.

  3. A community-based non-profiteer  looking to raise awareness and funding for some local groups.

No one knew the other.

No credit cards were swiped. No RSVPs were required.

There were no commitments for additional classes or word-of-mouth campaigns for swelling the ranks.

[caption id="attachment_726" align="alignleft" width="116" caption="Courtesy of Livbaldino on Flickr"][/caption]

I was as pleased with three attendees as I was happy with the dozen who came the week after the Greenfield Recorder's Chris Curtis profiled the Society for Useful Information made the rounds in local media circles. Strangers now familiar with my work were intrigued by Chris's piece and needed to see for themselves. Friends and family who've never sat in on a useful society session felt like they had after they read the same article. My fifteen fame minutes were spent in the right place.

I was prepared for the next dozen or nobody and I was ready to launch with intermittent WIFI from the Bookmill or to model frameworks in lieu of another feeble Verizon / Comcast signal in Montague Center. (Apparently the Bookmill is as hard to find for WIFI signals as the patrons who come prepared to shop for dispensible books).

What They Don't Teach You in Information Wants to be Free School

My Delicious page was base camp leading outward for all investigations. That's how I could keep my dualing promises of minimal memorization, free sourcing, and optimal confusion. I also led the group through the basic building blocks of query formation  -- syntax, semantics, and operators. When the WIFI failed it challenged me to teach the source conjugation frameworks that go to the motivations of information providers both in terms of why they would share and what they would hope to achieve. There's no better search tool than Google -- when it's not Google's nest being padded by the investigation in question. We are, after all, the products being monetized, not the customers being serviced.

We also spent some time on establishing information oceans, lakes, and ponds, and what's in store in terms of expectations and time sinks when we dip our rods in these vastly different search environments. Not surprisingly the relatedness of social networks and topics were a source of great debate and interest among most attendees. This is a far cry and a heartening refresh from the binary constraints of corporate information fetishes around silo-driven expertise, the disregard for interdependent thinking, and the culpability of knowledge. Thank you, Pioneer Valley!

What I enjoy the most in these sessions is not only the co-mingling of multidimensional inputs and interpretations but the ability to throw a browser window up on the pale, thumbtack hole-infested walls of the Sawmill River Arts gallery and abolish online isolation, at least for a few hours. The ability to team lead around both intentional and serendipitous discovery is the most compelling kind of learning I know.

I'm pleased that this heady blessing will continue after a four week respite with classes resuming on Thursday evening, September 29th.   In the meantime I hope that no one shows up  unannounced with an empty shopping cart.

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attentionSpin is a consulting practice formed in 1990 to create, automate and apply a universal scoring system (“The Biggest Picture”) to brands, celebrities, events and policy issues in the public eye. In the Biggest Picture, attentionSpin applies the principles of market research to the process of media analytics to score the volume and nature of media coverage. The explanatory power of this research model: 1. Allows practitioners to understand the requirements for managing the quality of attention they receive 2. Shows influencers the level of authority they hold in forums where companies, office-seekers, celebrities and experts sell their visions, opinions and skills 3. Creates meaningful standards for measuring the success and failure of campaigns and their connection to marketable assets.