Monday, April 29, 2013

Cacophony of How Great Thou Art #edcamp

We so often, agree to disagree. Learning conversations suffer for that, don't they?

A few years ago, I wrote a blog entry that observed how little pushback blog entries get. You know, it's  so easy to publish and no one really takes you to task for it. I suspect that educators are such timid creatures that it's easier to avoid conflict than it is to have a conflict.

Being conflict-averse, I'm sensitive to it. That's why I was delighted to read Todd Nesloney's pushback (relevant section below) on Kristy Vincent's post about Edcamps being hijacked below:
Ok I've been debating wether or not to chime in here. I feel like this post was done in very poor taste. . .Teachers connected. Teachers learned. Teachers shared. Teachers had fun. What more could you ask for? Is there work to be done to make this edcamp better? Of course!!! But why attack it minutes after its over. I ageee in freedom of speech, but this feels highly unprofessional.
What is it that we really want out of blogging and conversations they enable? Do we want to learn--and learning sometimes necessitates vigorous discussion, disagreement, apoplectic vehement refusal of concepts--or do we want to harmonize and be friends?

Notice the sucker's choices:
Agree and be friends
Disagree and be enemies
In truth, we can seldom ensure that our communications will be perfectly crafted to ensure little heartache with those we connect with. Sometimes, we have to take the risk to speak imperfectly, disagree with prevailing thought that would have us all in harmony and singing gospel songs about how great thou art.

If that is the blogosphere of today, a cacophony of how great thou art, then we have chosen poorly (ignoring Indiana Jones and The Quest for the Holy Grail images racing through my mind).

According to Crucial Conversations authors, our ability to keep our friends after we tell them our truth about what has happened is dependent on several factors. Those factors include:

  • Mutual Purpose - In this area, we have to ask:
    • Do others believe I care about their goals in this conversation?
    • Do they trust my motives?
  • Mutual Respect - We must ask:
    • Do others believe I respect them?
    • What are ways in which we are similar?
When I re-read Kristy's email, I do think she had mutual purpose and mutual respect. Given that, I wouldn't worry too much about the pushback. But she probably could write something like the following:
Please accept my apology for sending the wrong message with my imperfectly worded post. I did my best at communicating, and sometimes, that isn't what others consider to be the best way. 
What I didn't mean to do was criticize the hard work that others engaged in to prepare edcamp. I have the utmost respect for the work that went into the edcamp since it was a successful conference. I don't want you to think I wasn't satisfied with the quality of the edcamp as an education conference. 
What I did mean to do was to more carefully align actual edcamps to the edcamp ideal and see what the result might be. This is important because the gain is increased awareness of  how to improve future edcamps. Many of us are "presenters" in our daily work.  Edcamps level the field for all because they strip away our "presenter persona" and move us back to learners who are connecting with one another. I want you to know that I will stay in this conversation until we achieve implementation of edcamp the way it has been intended.

While there could be more to say, it would probably be worth just ending that communication with something like the following:
I hope that you will forgive my imperfect communication strategy about edcamps in the past. I also hope you will consent to help me organize an edcamp that is true to what we both want--learning conversations that achieve the reality of what an unconference experience can be.

 Note: This email is just made-up and a fun experience to illustrate my blog entry; it was NOT written by Kristy Vincent. Finally, I really appreciate Kristy and Todd for giving me this opportunity to learn from their interaction.

Moments like these are ones that are made easier because one has the luxury of not being embroiled in the midst of it. That's the power of avoiding the how great thou art conversation and exchanging it for real conversations. In fact, it makes me want to reflect on my recent disappointment with Evernote.

For example, if I wanted to write a similar email for Evernote discontinuing RSS feeds, it might read something like this:

Please accept the Evernote Team's apologies for discontinuing a service that you and others prized highly, namely, RSS feeds for public notebooks. I sincerely respect the work you are about as content curators, serving as human filters for information and ideas worth sharing with a broader audience. That Evernote is integral to your efforts makes us intensely proud of what we've created. We don't want you to think that we made the RSS feed discontinuation without careful thought since that might reflect negatively on our internal decision-making processes. Unfortunately, while we gave that consideration, we realize that not involving those who make Evernote a service worth boasting about was a serious oversight. 
What we meant to accomplish with RSS discontinuation was to ease a burden that taxed our servers. Although we would like to offer RSS for public notebooks, we will have to build to that demand slowly over time. Once we build capacity by September, 2013--which is an eternity online, I know--RSS feeds will be re-enabled. I know this is not what you were hoping to hear, but I hope it will be a compromise position that allows us to keep your business as a Premium user and encourage others to use our Public Notebooks for content curation.
Wouldn't it be neat to get an email like that from Evernote or from any vendor that disappointed you? I know I would definitely change my tone if I knew that Evernote was working towards improving its service.

What do you think? Am I way off on this?

Check out Miguel's Workshop Materials online at

Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

No comments:

Genuine Leadership #4: Gratitude