Saturday, April 11, 2009

The all new HighTouch book club

Image representing FriendFeed as depicted in C...Image via CrunchBase

Back in December we tried an experiment with starting a book club using the technology found at BookSprouts:

I've created the Hightouch book club, the place for us to read and discuss books that touch on the intersection of technology and culture (loosely defined). I've nominated a couple of books for reading, but it's a social site, and y'all can suggest books for the club to read. The site has a database of pretty much every book ever written so adding new suggestions is super easy. I set the initial ramp-up period on the longish side--10 days.Please join, suggest books, and be ready to cast your vote for our first read.

I've pretty much declared the first book club a failure. We had a good group of people subscribe to the club, we voted on a book to read, we gave everyone some time to purchase the book and start reading, we started the discussion, and we made it slightly halfway through the book with some good discussion. At least I thought it was a good discussion. Then the conversation died.

We could debrief the failure, but I'm not going to. It'd be easy to blame it on the technology, but that is rarely the reason these things fail. I'm just going to proclaim it a failure and move on. I'm ready to announce the new HighTouch Book Club. It is quite simply a FriendFeed feed. You can subscribe to the feed here: HighTouch Book Club.

Here's how it works:

  1. I pick a book. (I'm open to suggestions, however.)
  2. I post notes about what I'm reading to the feed.
  3. Anyone can read along and post their thoughts as well.
  4. Whether you're reading the book or not everyone is welcome to post their comments.
That's it. Pretty simple. I read. You read. We comment. When we're done we move on to the next.

The club's first book is What Would Google Do? by Jeff Jarvis. Please join us.

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Anonymous said...

I realize you didn't want to get hung up on the failure part, but I'd like to clarify that I think the 1st HighTouch book club is an exampled of highly helpful LEARNED failure. I learned a ton from it. Here are 4 I can share now:

Learned Failures:

1)I realized many differences in f-t-f bookclub vs. online. I won't examine all, but maybe the thing I missed most is that in a f-t-f book club people interrupt you b4 you go on and on with a bad thought.

2)If it's a heavy topic, you may want to voice your opinion carefully, because (as I often forget) it stays there forever- thus you can regret your comment forever! Otherwise, find a tool that lets you delete after posting. (maybe this suits your chapter 6 question some)

3)Shirky's book has a lot to think about. I'm still coming up with answers to Chapter 5 & 6. I can't help but think this may be part of the reason it didn't go further faster. It's not exactly a quick read. And the more experience you have with the concepts with the book, the better it gets and the more you can apply what Shirky says.

4)Shirky's book "Here Comes Everybody" clarified many things for me about how our CoP may begin to function to its full potential. It also brought all my random thoughts about how we should proceed together. Concepts I would still like to see explored further among CoPs include the peer review process, transparency and guidelines, harnessing social capital to create bonding and bridging capital..

Glad to have the chance to get through 5 Chapters with the group. Looking forward to learning from the next.

Kevin Gamble said...


Dave Snowden says we learn most from failure. So failure is not something that should feel badly. Actually, we should celebrate failure.

Perhaps the book club (#1) wasn't a community at all, and that's why it failed? My experience is that with true communities it's next to impossible to keep people from engaging.


Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree and was alluding to one of Snowden's principles: "Tolerated failure imprints learning better than success". I find myself applying those principles a lot lately, so thanks for leading us to them.

So, onto this community.
Have you thought about posting this Invitation on the About wiki blog? I think there are many CoP people that might like the chance to participate, but they just aren't up on the social networking yet..this would be a great way to introduce people into FF and some of the other SN outlets.

Also, if you care or have time to share, I'm interested in why you are choosing your materials and methods for bookclub #2. How or why do you think this true community may happen in this next bookclub? Is it trial and error or are you testing some theories?


Kevin Gamble said...


Glad you like Dave Snowden. I use his stuff a lot too. I especially like the above-the-flow and in-the-flow thinking.

About blog: Well, I don't know if you've noticed but I have never once in this blog mentioned where I work or what I do. I have on occasion mentioned things our workgroup does, but never the actual nature of the work. I know in some ways this is hypocritical as I have often talked about how it is next to impossible to separate your personal from your work life. I know that it would only take people 30 seconds to put 2 and 2 together. That said, it just seems to work better for me to attempt to keep some distance and keep things more generic. I'm certainly happy that so many of our professional colleagues find this blog of some value, and I hope it provides some food for thought.

Materials and methods: How'd I pick the book? In the old BC I'd suggested that we would read books that addressed issues of technology and culture. I still think that's the focus. So the _what_ is basically what I'm reading at the time. Why FriendFeed? It's where I spend most my online time so it made the most sense. I think choosing a FF feed as a place to put my notes fits with the delicious principle: personal value precedes network value. The personal value to me is that I am reading and thinking. Posting to the feed keeps some personal pressure on to read. I own a lot of half-read books.

FriendFeed works for me. (I think.) Do I think it is possible to build community around the feed? Perhaps. I don't think I've said anything too profound so far. I suspect that at some point I will say something that will spark some conversation. Sometimes it's the simplest of things that get people talking. I write blog posts that I think are really interesting and no one comments. Then some things that I think are trivial and not worth posting will get tons of comments. So I don't even pretend to have this figured out.

I think it would be really interesting if others would start feeds and share what they are reading. To me, that would be the ultimate success. More sharing, more conversation, more interesting things to aggregate.

If people wanted to read along and comment that would be great too. (Knowing that it is very hard to keep busy people in any kind of sync.) After this book, I think I will take a little more time to pick the next one and announce it in advance.

I really appreciate your comments. Thank you so much!