Volunteer for Kitchen duty

Recovered from the Wayback Machine

A few weeks ago I was approached by a person (who has asked to remain anonymous), about holding a two-week clinic for webloggers and those who read webloggers and even those who don’t but still manage to use the web without stumbling all over us. He would provide the funding and I would manage the rest, with the stipulation that the focus of the clinic was on community participation, contribution, and benefit.

After a bit of chatting with some other folks, we came up with the idea for the IT Kitchen an open participatory clinic that makes use of different technologies to facilitate interaction.

The clinic will start on a Monday and continue until Friday, the following week. Each day we’ll feature a different topic (a preliminary list is at bottom of this post), which forms the basis of the essays contributed that day. There will be different weblogging tools installed to meet people’s preferences, and an online aggregation of the different posts to one specific page. So if you want your weblogging tool installed, just volunteer to write an essay on any of the days, and we’ll install it (unless there are licensing issues associated with the tool and the tool vendor won’t waive licensing for this effort).

In conjunction with the weblog postings, I’m setting up a Wiki for Weblogging, which splits each topic into sub-topics on separate pages. The sub-topic could be from a specific question a person has, and needs more detailed information; or it could be specific categories that others want to address. On the day that the topic is released, people are encouraged to basically swarm the topic and sub-topics for that day, and add or edit the information. They can also, of course, add and edit information for the previous days’ writings, too.

During the clinic, we’ll also have an IRC channel to facilitate realtime conversations, and forums for those who prefer a more linear conversation.

Those who love photography will be asked to contribute photos to be used for the background on all of the pages, and those with design skills will hopefully volunteer to help design one or more pages.

By the end of the clinic, the writings from the weblogs will be grouped into a nice downloadable format and released online. If there is enough interest, the weblogs will be kept alive, for additional contributions over time, or as training tools for those who want to learn more about the tools. The Wiki for Webloggers will definitely be kept alive, and we can only hope, flourish with the same energy that has fed the role model for this effort, the Wikipedia. The same can be said for the IRC and the forums.

To ensure that the material can be re-used, all contributions to all of the pages will be licensed to allow copying and re-use, but not commercial sale. The wiki will, of course, also allow modifications, as will the site designs and CSS, but the weblog essays will be released, as is, without modification unless each individual author specifies a more general license at the end of their text. The same applies to the photographs and other graphics – copy and reuse with attribution, but no modification unless the contributor states such.

In addition, if anyone else would like to add technology to the environment in order to facilitate the enjoyment and enrichment of all those involved, send me a note and we’ll see if we can incororate it in.

Does this whole thing sound ambitious? Frankly, it is, and has a real potential to be chaotic, too. However, I think that chaos would be a better result than the opposite, which is little or no community participation. I will admit, my initial reaction about this clinic was nervousness, because a workshop that’s based on community participation can fall flat if enough of the community doesn’t participate. But I felt that if the topics were of interest enough, and the technology and facilities were open enough, the subjects broad enough to reach out to people with different levels of expertise, there would be enough participants to at least have a fun time, if not more.

After the initial nervousness, my next reaction then was to think about who I would invite to participate – who I would extend invitations to, to have write an essay or manage a particular topic at the wiki, or join in on the IRC channel setup for the clinic. After all, the key attraction to these events is the names of the people who participate. Gotta have names. And since most of these names are good people who share of their time willingly, I felt fairly confident that most would accept.

However, lately it seems all that weblogging has become is a cluster of very well known people, each with his or her cloud of semi-anonymous supporters. We complain about not hearing new voices, but we don’t give new voices an opportunity to participate in many of the events we hold: the conferences, the talks, the meetings, the online collaboration and group efforts. We foster the very illusion we would hope to break–that weblogging is primarily a small, visible group of ’successful’ bloggers, and a much larger number of other people who aren’t read, according to a recent New York Times article.

Well, pish tosh on that. Instead of inviting specific people and making much of them, giving them the star treatment, this entire effort is completely open: from the essays written at the weblogs, to the IRC channel and forums, and especially the Wiki for Webloggers. Everyone is invited to participate, and for those looking to extend their readership, hopefully this will be a good way to do so. Even if you’re not looking to extend your readership, think of this as a new challenge leading to personal growth; or a way of making new friends, and helping other folks int he community who are not as knowledgeable about all the ins and outs.

I still hope that several names will choose to volunteer, because most are very interesting and likable people who have a lot to contribute ; but if they do so, they’ll be a part of the Kitchen Crew – no more, no less.

(Note, though, that if you have expertise with any of the technologies mentioned here, I may ask for help if you don’t volunteer. You know who you are. Might as well volunteer and get hero points, and spare yourself my wheedling.)

The site that is hosting all of this is called the IT Kitchen, but people don’t have to be technical experts to participate. I hope that there will be those who write expertly on comment spam or issues of accessibility and CSS; but I’m just as much interested in the human aspect of all of this, including anecdotes about experiences. The only limit on your participation is your time.

As to the dates this clinic is being held: We’re starting it October 25th, and it ends November 5th, 2004. Yes, the clinic takes place at the exact same time as the US elections this November.

The reason we picked this date, specifically, is that weblogging is in real danger of becoming too US centric, and far too focused on the American political system. Though this is a topic of interest, and one that can have serious impact beyond just the US borders, it’s still just one component of the rich world of interaction that attracted most of us to weblogging in the first place.

It is a gamble holding the clinic at this time, but a good one we hope. One that re-affirms that there is more to all of this than picking one man over another in an election.

(That’s not to say that there won’t be discussion about politics during the clinic. For instance, the use of weblogs for politicians could be covered, as well as some of the work currently being done to ensure the accuracy of this election. But these will be sub-topics, and given no more prominance than any other topic. )

I’ve started a preliminary list of topics, below, and hope to get some feedback on them. I also hope to start getting volunteers for writing essays in the weblog, as well as suggestions for good sub-topic ideas for the wiki. I particularly need help now with setting up the infrastructure of all this, designing the pages, and kitchen and food-related photographs for the sites. And I need “Vounteer for Kitchen Duty” buttons that can be placed on web sites to promote this in weblogs and other sites.

(Attribution will be given to all those who participate. And a great big virtual hug from me, too.)

Thanks and I hope that you’ll all consider volunteering for Kitchen Duty.

Possible Topics:

Languages? We gotcher languages here! Programming and scripting languages used with weblogging

Many Cooks are Good! Collaboration and social software

Frying Spam ’bout what you think it is, comment, email, and referrer spam

The Stylish Webber Site design and CSS and issues of accessibility, because every stylish webber follows accessibility guidelines

Slice and Dice Syndication and Aggregation and Promotion

The Kitchen Tools Weblogging tools, how-tos, introductions, migration, porting, templates

Beyond The Kitchen Tools Extending the tools through plugins, embedded scripts, direct database intervention

Pretty as a Picture Photography and graphics, including Flash

Basic Ingredients What makes a web site tick, and what you can and cannot control, such as htaccess, hot link prevention, and so on

Movable Feast Uses and issues of moblogging, audioblogging, streaming, video blogging

Salt and Pepper Are there ethics in weblogging? Rules and regs, or is this the ultimate free environment?

Open Kitchen Two days set aside where any topic related to weblogging is welcome

Suggestions, please! Help, please! Send beer!