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How to use your cognitive surplus in the community

I just finished watching the video of Clay Shirky’s presentation “Gin and Cognitive Surplus” at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco and I thought it was a great presentation from an excellent speaker in which Shirky discusses the difference between consumption and participation as it relates to popular media.

After I watched this video, I started to think about how its message related to our communities and the difference between consumption and participation as it relates to this environment.

Recently, I heard that the e-learning section of the SAP Communities was one of the most popular areas in terms of usage. For me, this is a sign that the main focus of the community is still focused on consumption rather than participation. 

In his presentation, Shirky keeps mentioning the Wikipedia as an example of the potential of exploiting this cognitive surplus. I keep comparing the activity in the community wikis with other collaborative areas (for example, forums) and finding that the wiki usage is still lagging way behind.  Of course, forums and blogs are a form of collaboration as well but I think the wiki takes this collaboration to a new level. 

So turn off those TVs, use your cognitive surplus and collaborate with others (especially in this community).

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  • SDN is still very much consumption oriented. only participation is in Forums. The wikis does not grow much. As for me new resolution for every Forum reply there should be at least one Wiki entry or something like that.
    • I agree the wiki should be pushed more. The question is how to motivate individuals to collaborate there in addition to the forums.   I still think that most individuals look at the forums first, then blogs and then maybe the wiki.

      Thanks for your comment.


      • I’m trying to focus on wiki gardening, one foot at a time.  If many people make small improvements the value will grow.  An example of what I want to do  is pointers to google map blogs; I found a couple dozen already. Jim
  • Since I think my last blog post might have provided you with the link, I want to say, yep, this was exactly the content that Maggie showed me and talked about during Sapphire.  The idea of “media being targeted AT you but does not INCLUDE you”.  Let’s put that in our collective hat and smoke it.  If the wikis aren’t working FOR the audience, maybe we had better be taking a long, hard look at what INCLUDE means.
    This is the original link to Maggie Fox’s post
    • I think the big question is how do we discover what “INCLUDE” means. Is it a tool-issue? Or a problem that deals with a certain type of user type (developer vs BPX). I’m assuming that it is a mixture of both.

      Maybe, this inclusion takes place outside of the community but uses the social network of the community. The group of individuals from the community who use twitter to communicate with one another for example.

      I would love to solve this problem but I think it might be present in most communities. It would be interesting to talk to the people at Oracle or Microsoft to see if they have other insights.


      • An additional comment to your observation about the interest in e-learning.  I would like to propose making the distinction between e-learning and rich media.  Rich media is often a consumption medium while e-learning is a participation activity.  I think the boundaries will blur in the future between these mediums as we move to modes like Kyte TV, Flickr, YouTube, Seesmic, interactive videos where comments, interaction, interative conversations abound.  That’s the difference between a picture slideshow site and Flickr.  Flickr means community, dialogue, tagging, favorites.  I hate when people say e-learning but really refer to static rich media that provides no real options for engagement.

        I think Jim Spath alluded to the key differentiating INCLUDE factor: ownership; taking action.  Watching talking heads is usually not really learning.  Asking questions, answering questions, experiencing and engaging is closer to the mark.  Do people like watching rich media?  You bet ‘ya.  Is that learning? Often times it’s not very reinforcing.  I think elearning needs to include some kind of assessment and that is the classical distinction as to whether learning has taken place.  In the absence of that, it might be just edutainment of the spectator sort.  The real question is to how to up it a notch to a team sport.
        • I agree. In its current form, e-learning on SDN is much like watching TV with the implication that Shirky’s comments about cognitive surplus definitely apply.  The question might be how to combine this technology with a more collaborative flavor.
          Maybe, the ability to chat with experts on the subject would be a possibility. For example, I’m watching a demonstration on portal technology and I have a question. On the right side of the screen is a list of portal experts currently on-line. I click on a name and a chat starts with this individual.  Of course, this would imply that SDN needs to have a more real-time collaboration functionality. Just had an idea, what about somehow using existing twitter technology for something like this. You need a widget in SDN that somehow allows these questions to be posted on twitter.  Just an idea.