How Prepared are You for the future?

In an review entitled, “The 4 Waves of AI: Who Will Own the Future of Technology?” on The Singularity Hub, Peter Diamandis provides a succinct review of Kai-Fu Lee’s AI Superpowers.

Diamandis’s review focuses on Lee’s analysis of the completion between the United States and China and it’s a sobering analysis for those who aspire to at least maintain the balance of power between the countries.

It also clearly shows how the general non-interest in learning how AI and the other emerging technologies is putting the US in a very bad competitive position. It seems Americans are generally uninterested in the technologies that will soon be entwined in our lives – except for their entertainment value. It’s imperative that we come to an understanding of what makes these technologies tick, what benefits they bring and what threats they will enable.

Lee discusses 4 Waves of AI and share’s his analysis of the competitive balance between the US and China today and 5-10 years in the future.

AI Market Today

  • US has clear lead today
  • particularly in 2nd and 4th waves

1st Wave – Internet AI

Recommendation engines are the big piece of this wave. Think Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify. The Chinese have Alibaba and Baidu as heavyweights in this category. But Lee points to Tautiao as the example of where this wave is headed. Tautiao provides hyper personalization of the news to millions of subscribers – even rewriting headlines to fit individual profiles.

Lee calls the current 1st Wave market a dead heat between the two countries, but sees China surging a bit ahead within 5 years.

2nd Wave – Business AI

Business AI leverages historical data to identify previously unseen patterns and correlations. While Lee places the US far ahead in this Wave (90-10), he points to a few factors that may tip this Wave dramatically toward China.

Because it is a fair newer economy, China has fewer legacy issues regarding its data – particularly the credit market basis of US business. In addition, China’s economy is primarily dependent upon mobile payments rather than credit cards. Rather than crunching numbers to determine a customer’s likelihood to repay a loan, China’s lenders are looking at customers’ behaviors. Smart Finance takes into consideration over 1200 data points – some seemingly unrelated to finance like typing speed and battery percentage data from your phone – to help determine your credit worthiness. Sound crazy? Smart Finance has an astounding repayment rate.

We don’t need human beings to tell us who’s a good customer and who’s bad. Technology is our risk control.’ —Yongqianbao founder and CEO Jiao Ke

Want a Loan in China? Keep Your Phone Charged,

3rd Wave – Perception AI

In this Wave, Diamandis writes “AI gets an upgrade with eyes, ears, and myriad other senses, merging the digital world with our physical environments.” Sensors are going to be everywhere able to watch us, follow us, and guide us. The beginning of this Wave is your Alexa home system and your Nest thermostat.

With the added fuel of Chinese government support and a relaxed Chinese attitude toward data privacy, China’s lead may even reach 80-20 in the next five years.

Lee has this Wave as somewhat close today with China leading 60-40. But with infrastructure already in place and a manufacturing advantage for creating smart devices, he sees China dominating this Wave 80-20 in the next 5 years.

AI Market in 5 years

  • China will be clear leader
  • significant advantages in 2nd and 3rd waves

4th Wave – Autonomous AI

This Wave is where all predictions become wilder and more encompassing. Right now autonomous vehicles and Boston Dynamic’s Atlas humanoid and other robots are leading examples. In the 4th Wave all of the characteristics of the previous three Waves are joined together to give AI the ability to sense and react to its environment.

While 4th Wave technologies can very quickly begin to sound like things only found in science fiction, Boston Dynamic’s Spot dog robot and cars that park themselves and can take actions based on their environment are on the market or soon will be.

Lee puts the US far ahead (90-10) of China today in this Wave. But with government investment ramping up, he estimates that this Wave will be a dead heat in 5 years.

Where Does This Lead Us

As learning professionals in the workplace, we have a responsibility to understand the changes the organizations we work for will need to undertake to compete in a very fast changing world. We need to understand the skills employees will need to have in 5 years and develop strategies to help them make the necessary transition. This requires that we come to an understanding of what these technologies are and the impact they are going to have on our employees, our organizations, and our communities.

Here are the questions I’m asking myself:

  • Am I learning how these emerging technologies work?
  • Do I understand the gains that the organization will achieve with their implementation?
  • Does my management team have a clear understanding of the changes that will be required?
  • What skills will be needed to enable my organization to transition and the operate at a high level in this future state?


Do you think these regulations will change anything? Will they drive greater support for data collection in learning? Motivate more collaboration between the business units and L&D?

Feature image provided by PNG ALL under a Creative Commons 4.0 BY-NC  license.

Vacation (from blogging) is Over

So, it’s been quite a while since my last post here on new eelearning. One of these days I’ll figure out how to keep blogging when live gets stressful.

The last several months of unemployment (read – running out of money and facing oblivion) were times where there was no spare time. Then gratefully, a job finally landed my way. Having not worked in a in-office, 9-5 job in approximately 15 years, the transition to full-time work with a 75 minute commute on either end of the day was equally as stressful as unemployment. Four months on the job, I’m finally getting my feet underneath me. When did they make weekends so short?!?!

So after yet another hiatus, I’m back again – for now.

The job I started in March is Senior Manager for Learning and Product Solutions with the Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM). As it turns out, it is pretty much a dream job. My main project is to conceptualize and launch ASCM’s online learning presence. Unbelievably, I don’t have to contend with a legacy LMS or other systems. The organization has invested in new, state-of-the-art technologies. I’m being encouraged to apply modern Workplace Learning principles. I feel like this job is the natural culmination of 12-15 years of work and learning.

So I’m back in my blog seat again and will resume sharing what I see and learn about my own learning, how others can be helped to learn what they need to perform, and organizations preparing for the transformation of the world economy that is underway. In other words, “workplace learning from my perspective.”

Featured Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Net Promoter Score

One metric that you should be borrowing from your social media marketing colleagues is Net Promoter Score (NPS).  NPS is a broad measurement of an audience’s view of an organization or product.  In business it is used to gauge the reputation of a company’s brand or how loyal customers are to a product.  Two things it would be great to understand about your community or your learning and development offerings.

NPS is calculated from the answers to the question, 

“how likely is it that you would recommend [product/brand] to a friend or colleague?”

An 11-point Likert scale is used to enable customers to rate their satisfaction with their experience.Net Promoter Score

Scores are gathered and totaled with answers between 0-6 being labeled distractors, 7-8 labeled passive and 9-10 as promoters.  If you subtract the distractors from the promoters, the result is your NPS.  It reflects the overall satisfaction with, in this case, your community.  The raw number (in the example, -2.7%) is not that valuable.  But by watching the movement of your score over time you can effectively gauge the relative health of your community.

You can also look at the number of promoters vs the number of detractors for insights as well.  Because of the behaviors of promoters, passives, and detractors, the NPS has been shown to be predictive of business growth in three areas. Because they are behavioral, they can be indicative of engagement and loyalty and thus applied to our communities.

Higher Margins and Spend

At first, this may not seem applicable, but let’s parse it out a bit.  If you do have a revenue line (ie, membership fees or products/courses that your members purchase), promoters are less-price sensitive while detractors are price conscious.  Promoters will be more likely to buy more and less likely to complain about the membership fee.

Higher Retention Rate

Detractors defect from an organization or brand at a higher rate than promoters.  Thus membership will drop. Interest in participating in learning activities will suffer.

Greater Word of Mouth

Promoters account for most referrals.  This will lead to more new members and greater retention of more current member.  It’s the promoters who convert Linkers and Lurkers to Learners in our communities.  Detractors are responsible for negative word of mouth which can lead to members leaving the community and overall negativity.

But What Does it Mean?

In my example above, we found an NPS of -2.7.  So what does that mean? In and of itself it honestly doesn’t mean a thing.  NPS is not a fixed measurement. -2.7 could be good or bad, depending on what your NPS has been in the past. 

If our NPS has traditionally been in the +10 to +15 range, then this -2.7 indicates that something negative happened in the last period.  If the NPS rebounds to it’s traditional level, then the event was one that came and went and your members have let it pass.  If however it remains at the lower level, you have a more systemic issue to deal with. 

If on the other hand, your NPS has been in the negatives for a long time, the -2.7 NPS could be indicating that your efforts to improve your community and engage your members and customers is working.

Net Promoter Score is not a silver bullet metric, but it should be in your list of key metrics. It can clearly alert you to whether your members and customers are happy or not. It can help you understand if new engagement initiatives are working. It can sound the alert that something is not sitting right with your members and customers.


Do you think these regulations will change anything? Will they drive greater support for data collection in learning? Motivate more collaboration between the business units and L&D?

Roles in CoP’s Revisited: Learning

Learning is the role that defines a community. Interaction amongst members is the lifeblood. In this post I look at what, how and why members learn.

(This is the fifth post in a series of six that is a revision of a post I wrote on ATD’s “Learning Circuit’s Blog” on June 10, 2006, entitled “Roles in CoP’s” in which I introduced the 4L Model of Roles in Online Communities.)

Now we get to where the action is at in communities – Learning.  Communities are at their best when they are jointly:

  • seeking new knowledge,
  • sharing ideas and information,
  • recombining those ideas and information into new ideas,
  • co-creating products and content,
  • learning and practicing new skills,
  • sharing what the community has aggregated and created within the community and beyond.
Learners and Leaders
Learners and Leaders are at the core of the community.

But not only is learning the “stuff” that a community collects and creates, but the process of learning is the driving mechanism that makes a community run and thrive. For a community to work, it needs a solid core of members who are interacting with each other and the rest of the community.

In the comments to my post back in 2006, it was suggested that I was missing another role in my model.  One person even suggested that it was a 5th L – Love.  While it is true that in strong communities, love and compassion among members is quite normal, it is a characteristic of the community, not a role to be played.

Sense of Community

While greatly outnumbered by the Linkers and Lurkers, it is the Learning group of participants who drive the success of the community.  They identify themselves as “the community” and are the example to Linkers and Lurkers of what it means to be a member of the community.  For a community to endure, there must be a strong sense of what it means to be a member of that community.  Richard Millington of Feverbee characterizes sense of community as when members, “sacrifice part of their own identity to accept, embrace, and then defend the group identity.”

A community thrives by its connections, not by its collections!

– Valdis Krebs

In their article, Sense of Community: A Definition and Theory, David McMillan and David Chavis outline four foundational elements that contribute to a sense of community:

  1. Membership – Membership is a feeling that one has invested part of oneself to become a member and therefore has a right to belong.
  2. Influence – People only participate in a community if they feel they can influence the community
  3. Integration and Fulfillment of Needs – We want to join groups that make us better than we are today
  4. Shared Emotional Connections – Members have to feel that fellow members share the same values

The challenge is that these elements are hard, if at all possible, to teach in an in-person training event or a series of online courses. The best way to help develop these elements is through real-life experiences. Communities enable this sort of learning as members can experiment with new roles, take on new challenges, find mentors, and other experiential learning situations.

A Scenario of Learning

In a healthy community, interaction among members has a multiplier effect as engagement and involvement will. If during a project we are working on together you share with me a technique for accomplishing a task. I incorporate it into my work and my team is blown away and they adopt it. A fellow community member was looking at our project and suggested that we should do an online webinar for the community regarding our application of your technique. In addition to the spread of a great idea there are a number of other positives:

  • I learned how creative you are and how much you care about your work (learning about others),
  • I learned that collaborating can be effective and fun, (learning new ways of working),
  • You had never attended a webinar, let alone co-facilitated one and now you’re talking about doing a regular session (expanding skills),
  • Neither of us knew how many people were involved in the organization’s webinar program (learning about the organization),
  • Jane Smith asked me to join a committee in the organization (gaining exposure),
  • I never would have thought I would be able to attempt a project like this. And here we are – done. (learning about ourselves)

Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger proposed that this situated learning – learning in real time in a context that is real, not simulated – is the way members of a community move from novice to fully participating members.

It is through becoming involved in the work of the community that members gain new knowledge, develop new skills, and expand their professional network. In working with others who share similar goals, attitudes, and beliefs that learners find the safety to experiment with new concepts and behaviors, share new ideas, challenge the way they have worked, and try out new roles.

Vehicles of Learning

Yes, there are passive learning opportunities – reading community content, watching videos, attending webinars. But the unique power of a community comes in collaborative activity amongst members. Some of those activities include:

  • co-creation of materials (reports, communication, marketing)
  • participation in discussion groups
  • research activities (surveys, data collection, reports)
  • presentations, workshops, and webinars
  • creation and presentation of events and conferences
  • projects for the community
  • helping other participants (new member outreach, mentoring)
  • administrative work to help manage the community
  • participation in work teams and committees
  • recruiting of new members

The key to Learners being active and participating is in the hands of the community leadership. In the next post in this series, I’ll discuss the Leading role.

Previous posts in the series:

Coming posts in the series:

  • 6) Roles in CoP’s Revisted: Leading

15th of 100 Days: Foundation and Curation

15 days of a 100-day journey down. 85 to go. #SL100 #seasaltlearning

I’m participating in a group of Sea Salt Learning crewmates who are working through Julian Stodd’s Social Leadership: My First 100 Days.  Day 15 we were asked to reflect on the first part of our journey.

Thus far we have covered foundational ideas like power, authenticity, where we gather information, trust, knowledge, and generosity.  What kind of Social Leader do I want to be?  What is the journey I must take to get there?

Julian asks us, “What have you started to do differently since we started our voyage?”

The biggest thing I’ve done differently is gotten to Day 15.  I’ve tried to work through this guided journey 3 times prior to this attempt and I haven’t gotten to Day 15 before.  I’d fall behind or completely forget about my commitment to do this.  This time, I’m sticking to it.  Although I’ve fallen behind a few times, I’ve picked it back up and continued each time.  Much of this has to do with working through it together with colleagues.

One a-ha that I’ve had is that I’ve been very good at gathering and curating relevant content, but when it comes to sharing what I’ve found let alone sharing it I’ve not done as well.  Sure, I have a live feed of my Diigo entries that runs over there in the right-hand column here on new eelearning.  I occasionally will re-post something to LinkedIn, Twitter, and/or my Facebook page.  But I need to do better at synthesizing what I have learned and share it more regularly.

All in all, the first 15 days of this 100-day journey have provided a few good insights, confirmed a few things, and set the stage for the next 85.

Learn more about Social Leadership: My 1st 100 Days at


Roles in CoPs Revisited: Lurking

4th of 6 in a series of posts on roles in online communities.

(This is the fourth post in a series of six that is a revision of a post I wrote on ATD’s “Learning Circuit’s Blog” on June 10, 2006 entitled “Roles in CoP’s” in which I introduced the 4L Model of Roles in Online Communities.)

The Lurkers comprise the largest segment of any open online communities (remember closed communities, by nature, don’t have linkers and lurkers).  Yet their participation is very limited.  Don’t be distressed when you discover this is true for your community because research has shown that Participation Inequality happens in all social media and online communities. The 90-9-1 rule applies to all online social media environments. It says that 90% of participants will be lurkers, 9% will contribute to the community, and 1% will do most of the work of the community.

I’ve come to think of Lurkers as participants who have not yet developed a “voice” in the community.  In a recent learning community in which I was serving as Community Manager, I conducted 1-on-1 interviews with participants to gauge a number of factors.  As I was preparing to talk to one participant, I noted that he hadn’t completed any activities and hadn’t posted anything in the community except his introduction.  Obviously, I asked him about his lack of participant.  He explained that he’s a listener. Even in face-to-face situations he seldom shares his ideas unless they are truly an addition to what has already been said.  He assured me that he was keeping up.  In work later in the cohort, his actions with his team proved that he was right.  He was a highly engaged Lurker.

Lurking Behaviors

Lurkers tend to download resources provided by the community and read but not contribute to discussion boards, blogs, and wikis.  (This is why Vanessa DiMauro and others prefer to call them Active Readers.) They may participate in liking, rating, promoting/demoting content.  If they do contribute, it is sporadic and not enough to build a voice in the community.

But according to research that DiMauro and colleagues conducted, lurkers can be very engaged community members even if you don’t see it.

  1. They are engaged in personal development and chose to “listen and learn”
  2. They are often taking your content and share it with others,
  3. They talk about what they learned from your community, and
  4. They even provide referrals to your community.

Many Lurkers consider themselves to be part of the fabric of your community because of these activities.  They can be brand champions. They are also the most likely candidates to move into Learner and Leader roles in the future.  In many cases, they are engaged, but not committed.

It is also important to remember that amongst the Lurkers are former Learners and Leaders.  Those who have had good experiences with the community but stepped back from more involved roles can serve as mentors and champions of the community to Lurkers.  They can be advocates for Lurkers who are interested in increasing their involvement in the community.  They can model desired community behaviors.  In short, they can be a real asset to the community.

Find ways to show them that they are important.  Highlight their contributions when they do work up the motivation to add to the community.  Give them opportunities to co-create.  Make it crystal clear as to how to contribute and how they can get involved.  Have community mentors/stewards who are resources to help interested members create and amplify their voices within the community and beyond.

On the other hand, it’s important to remember that not all members are happy and looking to add to the community.

Lurking amongst the Lurkers you will find folks who aren’t working for the community’s purpose.  They may even be working against it or to undermine it.  It could be members who are frustrated because they have been trying to get more involved but are frustrated by unclear processes or an unapproachable leadership.  They may be former leaders who were forced out due to politics or their own incompetence.  It’s important to watch such members and to work with them to not do harm to the community.

Engaging Lurkers

Lurkers are getting to know the community.  Some will be satisfied indefinitely with being DiMauro’s Active Readers.  Consuming what the community produces and, in many cases, sharing it with those around them outside of the community.  Encourage them by providing a flow of good content and experiences to keep them coming back and to build their loyalty.

Others want to get involved deeper into the community but either aren’t yet ready – due to their time, their perceived knowledge of the community or not yet confident in their standing in the community – or they don’t understand how they can be more involved.  In either case, they will need help from the Learner and Leader groups to make the transition to greater involvement.

Richard McDermott talks about providing benches for participants to get to know each other.  These benches should move beyond a standard discussion board.  Webinars, videocasts, strategic planning sessions, town halls, conference calls are all examples of activities that encourage members to get to know each other.  TLDC’s daily TLDCasts are a great example of this.

Getting to Know Your Lurkers

There are numerous ways to track lurkers, including:

  • number of downloads
  • participation in events (webinars, videocasts)
  • number of likes, ratings, comments
  • engagement surveys
  • discussion board contributions
  • Net Promoter Score

But no matter how you quantify the activity of Lurkers, you really won’t understand them until you dig deeper and get to know them.  What brought them to your community?  Why are they staying?  Why aren’t they more active?  What is there motivation? 1-on-1 conversations, focus groups, and strategy sessions are time consuming but understanding this part of your community will give you the opportunity to drive growth and loyalty.

Your Turn:  What do you think of the Lurkers in your communities?  If you are a Leader, do you feel you know your Lurkers well?  How do you learn about them?  What do you think about Lurkers who are silent but utilize the community’s content?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

In the next post in this series, I’ll discuss the Learner group of participants.

Previous posts in the series:

Coming posts in the series:

Roles in CoP’s Revisited: Linking

(This is the third post in a series of six that is a revision of a post I wrote on ATD’s “Learning Circuit’s Blog” on June 10, 2006 entitled “Roles in CoP’s” in which I introduced the 4L Model of Roles in Online Communities.)

Why do people join online communities?

  • Socialization – They want to be around like-minded people.  “I want to be around people who speak my language and understand my problems.”
  • Expertise – They want to learn from and with the leaders on a topic. “I want to learn from them.” “I want to understand how they do what they do.”
  • Reputation – They want to build their status within the community, field, or their own organization.  “I want to be respected by these people.”
  • Affiliation – They are attracted by the community’s purpose and membership.  “I want to be a part of that group.” “I want people to know I’m a member of this group.”
  • Behavior – They want to do what the community does or helps people do.  “I want to do what they are doing.” “I want to change what I’ve been doing.”
  • Contribution – They want to help a community achieve its purpose.  “I want to use my knowledge and skills to help.” “I want to give my time and efforts to a worthy cause.”
  • Competition – They want to learn what is going on in other organizations.  They may even be looking for employees or experts to poach.  “I want to know if they are doing something that we don’t know about.” ” I want to find out who they are talking to/with.”
  • Assignment – and some people are assigned to participate in communities for projects or courses.

To be clear, I am defining “joining” as taking an action that intentionally brings a community into my life.  This can be as formal as paying a membership fee or achieving a certification or as minimal as signing up for a newsletter or bookmarking a web link.

Groups in Online Communities (formerly Roles in CoPs)

I know, about time. Right?

Let me start with a couple of key principles around groups.

  1. These groups are not mutually exclusive of each other. The boundaries between the groups are not starkly defined. The groups are descriptors of general behaviors.
  2. An individual can play more than one role in a community.
  3. We all play different roles in the different communities we join.

There may be a fifth group to consider, but I’m not to the point of adding them to my model, but I will talk about them briefly.  Based on his research around the Landscape of Trust and Communities of Practice, Julian Stodd is suggesting that communities are more defined by their community than by their common purpose.  He argues that the shape of the community may come from understanding who is left out – disenfranchised, excluded, denied membership, lack of technical access, lack of specific knowledge, etc – than by who is in the community.

Linking and Lurking

The first two roles I’ll discuss are Linking and Lurking.  Often these two groups are lumped together, but I think there are differences between the two that are important.

Research has clearly shown that these combined groups are by far the largest group of people involved in open online communities.  Closed communities that restrict access to a membership and internal communities will not have these groups of members (or very limited ones). Valdis Krebs, says this group can be as much as 2/3’s of a community’s participants.

Back in 2006, there was very little ability to see Linkers and Lurkers.  Today, thanks in

Linkers and Lurkers Illustration
Linkers and Lurkers in Online Communities

large part to the efforts of our colleagues over in Marketing who have had to deal with the massive shift to Social Media Marketing, there are simple ways to get an understanding of not only how many Linkers and Lurkers an online community have, but to understand a great deal about who they are, what they value, and what they do.


These people have taken the most minimal actions possible to join your community. They may have bookmarked your URL or signed up for your mailing list. Some may not realize that you consider them to be a part of your community.

Of course, the question begged here is “If they aren’t involved in the activities of the community, why should we care about them?”  There are several reasons to strive to understand these members of your community.

  1. Future members – Clearly they are interested enough in what you are doing to have taken action to join your community. Analyze what the action was that drew them in. Follow up with more similar opportunities.
  2. Feedback for Improvement – You likely have some way of reaching out to these folks.  Survey them regarding why they haven’t participated.  What would it take to get them more involved?
  3. Dissonant Voices – It’s very likely that there are disgruntled potential participants and former participants among your Linkers.  While approaching them may be tricky, they are likely a drag on the community now. Find out what their pain points are and see if you can’t meet them.
  4. Your Brand – Despite their lack of participation, there are a lot of them and their views on your community can have an impact on your brand’s reputation in the marketplace. Letting Linkers know you are aware they are there can create that little spark that will lead them on a path to becoming members.  Asking their opinions can accelerate that process.

Some Linkers will “check in” on your community from time to time.  Make sure the initial image of your community is dynamic and current.  If they are linked to you by a newsletter, make sure the newsletter is appealing and tells a compelling story about your community.  In both cases, you might have a special offer of new content or a simple community poll. These efforts could be the thing that gets a Linker to start Lurking.  The key is to make sure that the public facing side of your community is attractive to potential new members.

How Do We Know They are There?

When I wrote the original post in 2006, there was really no great way to tell who was a Linker. Sure there were things like tracking if someone posted your permalink somewhere – but that data was limited and didn’t include folks who simply bookmarked your site. At Learning Circuits Blog, we tried a number of tactics to get a better idea of how many linkers we had.  The best tool we added were anonymous mini polls that addressed an issue in the blog post. This did shine a temporary light on our linkers.  We had proven they were there, but only episodically.

Today there are a number of devices and tools that Social Media Marketers have developed to see who is visiting their sites, where they are coming from, what campaigns led them to their site, etc.  In addition, social media listening tools are powerful ways to keep an eye on what people are saying about your community. We in L&D need to spend time understanding these techniques and adapt them to meet our needs.

In the next post in this series, I’ll discuss the Lurking role.

Previous posts in the series:

Coming posts in the series:


Organizing Your Lightbulbs

Vint Cerf, “one of the Fathers of the Internet,” presents a list of properties he feel are vital to the Internet of Things being a success in the Shannon Luminary Lecture at Nokia Bell Labs in March of 2018.

Earlier this summer I came across the video below.  It is a recording of the Shannon Luminary lecture by Vint Cerf at Nokia Bell Labs in March of this year. Cerf is often referred to as the “Father of the Internet” for his work co-inventing the TCP/IP protocol which is the foundation of the internet and enabled it to scale to the ubiquitous utility it is today.

The reality is this may be fairly complicated.  Figuring out how do we do this in a smooth way that will be intuitive is going to be a challenge?   – Vint Cerf

In this presentation, Cerf turns his attention to the Internet of Things and particularly the properties that need to be addressed to enable the Internet of Things to prosper in the same way the Internet did.

It’s a lengthy video, but he’s pretty entertaining.

Cerf walks through a long list of scenarios that he believes the developers of IoT devises and systems must collectively and collaboratively consider to ultimately lead to successful implementation of this emerging technology.

He lists 16 categories that he feels need to be addressed to assure a smooth running, intuitive IoT that may meet the expectations for a new world filled with tools that make our lives easier and more comfortable.  They are:

  • Reliability – They work all the time
  • Safety – Won’t use if not safe
  • Security – Won’t use if it appears that it can be easily hacked
  • Privacy – Will by privacy be secure or will
  • Interoperability – All the devices need to be able to work together
  • Autonomy – If the internet goes down, the IoT house continues to function
  • Scaleability – Installation and configuration must work for a dozen devices to thousands
  • Permissions – How will systems know who has the right to access which devices
    • Parents, kids, guests, emergency responders
    • what authorities are given to who?  To which devices?  How are they rescinded?
    • Would emergency responders have situational access? overrides?
    • Parental controls/User controls
    • How do you add a new user?  Drop one?
  • Ownership – What happens when devices are transferred to a new owner or a new owner takes possession of a house/office?
  • Updates – how do the devices know that updates are legitimate
  • Instrumentation – must easily know that each device is working properly
  • Data Control – Does data need to be shared? With whom? Under what circumstances?
  • Firewalls/Hubs – How do the lesser devices (like lightbulbs) protect themselves?  or how are they protected?
  • Effortless Configuration – How do you set up a system?
  • Paranoid Devices – Devices need to be smart enough to know where they belong and don’t.  Systems need to know what devices belong to them.
  • Standards – A devices following industry-wide standards to ensure interoperability of various devices with each other.

How do I refer to the lights I want to turn off and on? Do I have to give them names like George and Eddie and Frank?  – Vint Cerf

My reaction to this lecture was one of a bit of relief.  With all the soaring predictions of robots and chatbots and artificial intelligence transforming our world, Cerf’s concerns sound like brakes being applied to the headlong rush into the future.

Meeting the optimal end of all 16 of these principles is going to be challenging and will simply take time to reach the nirvana some predict IoT will bring.  Although between now and then or if we stray from pushing for these properties, we may experience “Nightmare on Elm Street”, as Cerf calls it.

Cerf finishes with a number of “Bottom Line” comments:

  • We’re going to put billions of these devices to work
  • some of them will get inadequate or no support after installation
  • Some of them will not meat reliability, privacy, and safety expectations
  • Roles for regulation, industry standards/norms, consumer training
  • New jobs: IoT Installers, Maintainers, Remote Diagnosticians
  • IoT could herald a utopian future or usher in a new Nightmare on Elm Street
  • It is a shared responsibility to try for the former and avoid the latter

YOUR TURN:  Where do you sit with IoT and the impact it will have on the future?  Do you have any IoT devices currently?  Do any of Cerf’s properties ring true to you given your experiences?  Please leave your ideas in the comment section below.



Photo by Diz Play on Unsplash  (lightbulbs)

Photo by Gian D. on Unsplash (billions)

xAPI Cohort – TorranceLearning

I’ve signed up for the Fall 2018 xAPI Cohort sponsored by TorranceLearning.  It’ll be my 2nd Cohort as an active participant – assuming I find a team to join.   Fall 2017 I was a “lurker” – meaning I was involved in a team, but because I had registered for the Cohort, I was able to attend any of the weekly sessions and to dip in and out of the project teams’ work that was in Slack.  Yes, this a planned role in the xAPI Cohort!

The Spring 2017 Cohort had 40 +/- active participants (if my recollection is right).  Last report was there are well over 400 signed up for the Fall 2018 Cohort!  But don’t let that intimidate you.  That’s 400 people who you can learn from by joining, forming, or following one or more projects!

And it’s all FREE!  The xAPI Cohort is an exploratory, experience-based learning community at it’s best.  Project teams form after the first weekly session and report out on their progress each week so that everyone learns from all of the projects.

In Spring 2017 I was on a small, but a dogged team that set out to explore different ways to use learning analytics and data visualization to utilize xAPI data provide learning insights.  To be honest, we failed miserably to meet the original goals of the group.  But fortunately, the primary goal of the xAPI Cohort is truly “learn something – together.”

I know I learned more applicable information regarding data collection, privacy, control, and governance; well as how Webhooks and API’s work and, oh yeah, how xAPI statements are well constructed (as well as how they can be poorly structured) than I likely would have in a traditional academic course.  Team Analytics met with and overcame a number of obstacles and, in the end, had a long list of “lessons learned” that we were able to share with the community.  Here is our report to the Cohort.

If you are interested in moving your knowledge and skills regarding xAPI forward, consider joining me starting September 7, 2018 and let’s learn together!

Roles in CoP’s Revisited: Purposes, Characteristics, and Types

(This is the second post in a series of six that is a revision of a post I wrote on ATD’s “Learning Circuit’s Blog” on June 10, 2006 entitled “Roles in CoP’s” in which I introduced the 4L Model of Roles in Online Communities.)


One of the key characteristics of a community – online or face-to-face – is that it has a purpose. Wenger defines communities as “groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” Communities form and grow when new members are attracted to participation by the purpose of the community as it manifests through its activities, content, and members.

These days there are online communities for pretty much anything you can think of. It doesn’t matter what the purpose a community has. What matters is that all members know what it is and are working together toward it. A community’s purpose is the glue that holds it together and the beacon that attracts new members.

You may have noticed I’ve changed my discussion from Communities of Practice (CoP’s) to simply online communities. While many of the principles and practices of communities apply regardless whether they are online, face-to-face, or a mix of the two; narrowing this discussion to online communities allows some efficiency in the discussion. Also, the innovation in the workplace has been the emergence of communities based online.

Finally, Communities of Practice is a specific type of community. (For a complete definition of CoP’s check out There are various types of communities which our organizations can use to drive learning both in and outside the walls of our offices.

Characteristics of Communities

Before I move to types of communities, I think it’s helpful to look at the characteristics of online communities. In his discussion of communities in The Social Leadership Handbook 2/e, Julian Stodd provides a concise characterization of communities by identifying where they fit on three scales (visible to hidden, formal to social, and internal to external). What I like about his categorizations is they avoid characterizing communities by transactions (ie, member/non-members, refereed content/contributed content, etc.). His categories are continuums with numerous combinations possible.

Visible/Hidden – This scale describes how much of the community’s activity, content, and membership is openly available to a wider community beyond. Some communities are completely hidden because they are focused on a defined membership, event, or project. Hidden communities encourage candid sharing and provide safe places to disagree and try new ideas and processes. Totally visible communities have no barriers to participation, access to content and other members.

Most communities fall somewhere in between with part of the community “for members only” and other areas open to the public or the organization as a whole. One example of a hybrid community is the Community Roundtable. On one level, it is an open resource center with a nice array of content available to anyone interested in online communities, but the real community activity is only available to members (who have to meet a set of criteria and pay a membership fee). I’m a lurker in this community, learning from the public content that is the product of the community’s activities.

Formal/Social – This scale has to do with where the power sits, the governance, and control. In a formal community, a sponsoring organization may be providing funding because it created the community to meet specific organizational needs. They might provide staff and control the content. (Although too much control by any person or group can kill off a community quickly.) In other formal communities, membership may be restricted to specific groups of people and/or activities may be prescribed to meet the purpose of the community.

In a totally social community the members set the agenda, any leadership roles are voluntary and likely rotate regularly. Those who wish to participate in a totally social community may need to register with the community, but this is usually a technical consideration to set up an identity in the community. If the community has expenses, they may be covered by nominal membership fees, donations, or advertising revenue.

A good example of a hybrid community along this continuum is Github. This community for developers hosts some of the world’s largest open source tools (including the xAPI specification) providing a common structure and protocol that is open for any project while also including for-fee closed, secure spaces for non-open source tools. Access to GitHub is available to anyone. Participation is limited only by your knowledge and it is filled with folks who will patiently help you learn – if you are authentically willing to work. I’m somewhere between a lurker and learner on. GitHub.  I have learned about specifics of the xAPI specification via content posted in Github and I’ve downloaded a couple of open source tools.  I say I’m a lurker/learner because I’ve been learning from the community, but not with the community.

Internal/External – this scale is about where a community seeks to draw its membership from and the scope of its purpose. Internal communities may be formed by a company for a project, a change management initiative, or to connect a franchise network. Often they will focus on proprietary issues to be held confidential within the organization. External communities are set up either by an organization to empower, engage, or learn from the marketplace or their customers.  Communities of interest are often not part of any organization – forming completely on their own.

Hybrid communities are common along this scale, combining organizational content, context, and control with customer and user feedback.  Microsoft’s customer support communities or Articulate’s E-Learning Heroes are two examples.

Types of Online Communities

If you google “types of communities” you’ll see quickly that there is no real agreement on what types of communities there are.  I do believe that the above conversation about characteristics of communities may help in reducing the noise regarding types of communities.  In the end, true communities are individual and unique from any other community but there is some benefit in setting a few broad types.

Communities of Practice – These communities are formed to create and build together.  They can be focused on a specific project or missioned with identifying and solving a problem.  Others may be formed to advance the practice of a field or a segment of an organization.

Examples Activities: Sharing of best practices, areas to share and co-create content, project management tools, process and procedure documentation, meeting scheduling and documentation, curated resource list, roster of participant profiles.

Communities of Purpose – These communities are formed to advocate for a position or cause.  They are focused on evangelizing an idea by joining members together to plan and create resources to advance a common cause.  A community created to drive enterprise-wide culture change or promoting a new product or service would be examples.

Example Activities: Testimonials and reviews, creation of position statements and white papers, creation and presentation of webinars, defining and evangelizing mission, vision, and principles, training of newcomers and customers/audience, community-based FAQ, curation of lessons learned.

Communities of Interest – These communities are formed to share ideas, best practices, and experiences.  They are focused on advancing concepts and connecting people who share common interests.  Professional communities, customer support communities, and advocacy communities are examples of communities of interest.

Example Activities:  Rating and ranking tools, sharing of expertise/techniques/knowledge, new feeds, media reviews, summaries and photos from in-person activities (meetups, presentations, etc.), polls/surveys, curation of appropriate content, directory of members, games and quizzes to test members and potential members about their knowledge of topic of the community.

Learning Communities – While all communities are in some way about learning, these communities are usually formed for a specific learning experience and are usually closed to invited attendees only.  They can be used especially in situations where the learning experience is focused on soft skills like building trust, negotiating mean, understanding the power of diversity, and dealing with ambiguity.

They can be organized as one of the types listed above or be a combination of all three.

Learning communities are created to provide a safe place for participants to learn, challenge, and fail with each other in order to further their knowledge and skills in a specified area of content.  Participation is limited in order to create a safe environment for experimentation, discovery of new ways of thinking and behaving, practice of new skills, and sharing of opinions and new, incomplete ideas.

Example Activities: sharing of expertise via webinars, links, team challenges, newsfeeds, coaching and mentoring by facilitators and experts, networking, co-creation of content, participant lead teach-back sessions, scenario-based learning, project-based learning, and event-based, experiential learning,

All four types of online communities can serve learning and development outcomes.  Choosing the type of community and establishing where they fit in the characteristic spectrums I’ve discussed varies depending upon the purpose the community is created to fulfill.

In the next four posts, I’ll explore the 4L roles in online communities starting with Linking.

YOUR TURN: What do you think about online communities?  Must they be focused on a purpose?  Are there any other scales of characteristics of communities I should add?  What are your thoughts on my categorization of types of online communities?  Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Previous posts in the series:

Coming posts in the series: