I have been thinking a lot about how the different communities working on different aspects of open standards innovation for the web can understand how they are working together with each other - in relationship.
Community Diplomacy is the name I propose for a set of patterns and practices that already happens. By naming it and recognizing the people who do it - clarity could emerge.
Community Diplomat This is perhaps a new 'role' that if named in community can help bring clarity. These people can some times be called 'evangelist' but not necessarily. They are 'sent out' by one community on a mission to connect with and build relationship with another.
An example of this would be how Thomas Roessler Security Activity Lead at W3C have both done this for our respective communities. I first met Thomas at the W3C workshop Toward a More Secure Web - W3C Workshop on Transparency and Usability of Web Authentication. I instigated the writing of two papers that articulated activity going on in our 'user-centric' community one about Yadis and one about Identity Rights Agreements. I was bringing news from my community and taking back information from the gathering.
A few months later Thomas came to the Identity Open Space (Like Internet Identity Workshops but produced in partnership with other groups lie Liberty Alliance and DIDW) in Vancouver following a Liberty Alliance Meeting. He contributed to our meeting and took information from there back to his community (W3C).
Neither of us was going to become 'full members' the other community but we quite explicitly were there to grow mutual understanding and increase information exchange between our two communities.
I think there are a few more terms to help us be clear about terms and intentions. To talk about how we and the communities we are connected to can inter-relate.
Community Bridges These are people who are explicitly working to link different communities together - using social network analysis we see that communities have a core and a periphery. I know people are a part of many many communities - for the sake of this post I will just talk about the links between two communities.
So there are several forms of being a bridge you can be:
At the core of both
At the core of one and periphery of another
At the periphery of both
It is important to remember the language of social network analysis is descriptive - cores are not better than periphery. The core of a network is the engine that 'gets stuff done' together they have strong ties - meaning the communication on those pathways is frequent AND they are all interlinked to each other. The periphery of a network has links to people in the 'core' but not to as intensely these are also called weak ties because communication happens less frequently. The periphery of a community is where new ideas come in through it is as important to healthy functioning as a connected core.
Drummond Reed is a great example of someone who is rooted in several communities and fully participates in them. He is at the core of the XRI/XDI community and is a very active participant in OpenID (he is on the board). He is at the core of both.
Adriana Lukas who is in the VRM community leadership is a great example of someone who is very active in the core of one community - AND participating at the margins of several others related to aspects of the identity and technology that are needed for VRM.
I would describe myself as being in the periphery of two communities the Nonprofit Tech Community and the Open Source Community. I relationships with people who's day to day work is deeply focused in these areas. I have attended both their major conferences for the past several years and my work relates to both but I am not at the Core of either community.
Community Cultivators - these people sit at the core of a community and work to grow and take care of it. They are looking out for new people who might contribute and helping them find a niche in the system. While researching this article I found my friend Jean's article about Field Building that describes this process too.
Examples from the past week of work:
I inviting the two guys I met at the identity meetup Ryan and Tony we had in NYC to join Newbies 4 Newbies cause they are both new to the community & interested in learning more. I also connected with Mike Ozburn a long time community member via phone and in talking with him thought he would be a great fit for the Enterprise Positioning Group as he is currently working with Sprint.
Community to Community Diplomats and Diplomacy in Action
I think that if we name these practices it will be easier to trust/know that we have informational and relational links between communities via articulating these articulated - not formal but at least named connections.
I am watching the dataportability.org group begin a research initiative to understand what communities efforts relate to their goals. I know that I did and still do a lot of research and outreach for the Identity Commons community dating back to 2004 - out reaching to the SocialPhysics project at Berkman, to Doc Searls etc....
I hope the language put forward here can help us all be able to understand how we are linked and seek to build bridges between our efforts. There will never be 'one' organization or effort that links everything - there will always be many different 'attractors' that have different missions, strengths and purposes. I would like to see some further articulation of the practices and patterns that people who play these rolls do.
Identity Commons structure is designed to support the kinds of links - the people to people - community to community along with explicit information flow between groups to foster loose connection and space for collaboration between groups. Heallth of the overall identity commons community can be measured by the number and nature of cross community linkages (people). I have a post coming out shortly about the balance between parts (working groups) and the whole and how the balance we have is working and how it can be maintained.