On Documentation

Documentation, is a common term in our communities.

It is much needed as a justification of activity, capture of value generated, and as a means of sharing knowledge within the community – the most critical factor.

However invariably it falls short.

In terms of value our metrics are focused on short term outputs, capturing limited value metrics (number of participants), immediate outcomes, instead relationships formed, ongoing collaboration, resultant ideas, and long term projects.

With respect to the sharing of knowledge it falls short both at the point of communication and at the point of delivery. We create knowledge that we feel is important, but our time constraints mean we have to filter most of our learning, without being certain of the value being offered.

At the point of receipt if the information is too long to read, the information may go unread or filed for a later date.

As a result of a conversation with Tayo from Afrilabs network, and also my own present challenges to document the outcomes of the Felucca Festival it occurs to me that we need to explore as a network how better to address these issues. This requires thinking about both what we document and the manner by which we document, as creating content that will go unused is a waste of everybody’s time especially if it doesn’t reach the mind of the intended recipient.

What to document?

We need to shift our thinking from short term metrics and quantitative data towards long term impact assessment, relationship metrics (friendships, collaborations), personal development and ongoing projects. Likewise this is how we should view our events. actions and activities – what are we doing with the people and how does how we work with them affect their personal development (for example “What is the impact of an “Expert Culture”?).

But this is my view of what to document, my own lens of what is important, my own offer. We need to begin with what we want to learn from and gain from the network.

Spontaneous Capture of Value

As an example of why we need to change our documentation practices, the below is an illustration of multiple points of value creation within the network, but occurring months after the original events (one an icealex activity, the other the result of coffee’s in Berlin, and icehubs/GIZ network events). The value creation in this instance is ongoing.

This is the mistake of most Value Capture Metrics, they view a point and not a path, they see the event as the end and not the beginning.

So what are we seeing below. Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 18.59.36

Sahar was inspired by a previous workshop and has been collaborating to build an air filtration prototype, she seeks to evaluate by making tests and evaluating scientifically.

I’m actively weaving this with Afrimaker’s project (driven by Stefania Druga, created after an inspirational coffee discussion, and connected with Afrilabs and ice spaces via events). The Air Pollution Monitoring kit, was developed by Stefania supported (financially) by me and built on Open Source Technology.

It’s a continuation of activity, with multiple parties and stories undocumented in the background. A mere hint. Behind there are the stories of the events themselves, of the conscious behaviors and soft skills applied underneath the processes themselves. There are the stories of the groups and of the projects. So many insights to be gleaned. Yet all we have documented is a sign up sheet, an event description, and maybe some pictures of “stuff happening”. The Value Generated is unpredictable and unmanaged. Presently we create a justification of activity, but we miss our most meaningful impacts and the opportunity for shared reflection and knowledge exchange, especially where these activities happen in informal contexts (as is often the case).

How to document?

I’ve already reflected on this as a part of a Document-a-thon I hosted in Berlin. The outcomes can be found here.

This is focused more on the Maker movement, however the general principles can be applied to the challenges we face. However practice is different from philosophy (as born out by the fact I’m writing this in a lengthy blog no one will read ;))

So from this point on, I will attempt to experiment with the process of documentation itself. The key is I believe to find appropriate tools and processes that are easily available to all and simple to implement. Below is the first proposed experiment.

Learning Triad Google Hang Out
1 Person interviews another with respect to a specific area of knowledge or reflection on an event, the 3rd documents the core insights shared (maybe in a drawing), whole thing also recorded as a sound file/podcast and shared with image. If multiple parties participated in the event, or have something to contribute, they can alternate roles.

I would like to offer some of my own undocumented learning experiences as a prototype for this, I would be happy to discuss any of the following.

How to document – an experiment to document a discussion on documentation 😉
Collaborating with local communities – building relationships and learning about individual and collective capabilities
Lessons from the Felucca Festival
How to get people to make stuff rather than talk about stuff
Or pick something from the provocation above you would like to explore in more detail

Below is the result of a further discussion with Daniela Marzavan around the topic of documentation which I also find interesting. Highlights are my own.


hey mister- thank you for the 4 hours tapas-talk yesterday 🙂

we did not really focus on documentation or anything like that but this is what I LOVE about meeting you and exchanging ideas and thoughts with you. we go with the flow and things get to where ideas and the dynamic of our thoughts lead us to and they are leading us. The plans we made before were not important- that is just the excuse to meet up “oh we should talk about x y, let’s meet tomorrow at 5 :))”

I thought about the documenting, writing, recording ideas and thoughts- and about how capturing these brilliant or stupid ideas somehow kills them- the word ‘capturing’ already says it all- we are talking about capturing ideas- which are free like birds and capturing them even if it is in a golden-cage(like a great video or nice layout book) or in a hippie/freeestyle-cage (like a blog or tweet or facebook status) would still steal the freedom of that thought… That is the beauty of talking or any other artistic expression – you keep the freedom of the idea.

I see different possibilities- you either have the talking in form of lecture, speech, presentation- preferably not streamed or recorded- or you have an interview format,as we discussed – or there are different artistic ways to express like a small sketch, artistic intervention, dance, performance etc. I would even put the felucca festival in that category. It was a transformative intervention in a society, a performance that involved the public to participate. I remember back in the days when I was doing theater- we had this multi-media-co-creative approach and would always somehow involve the audience in our play. Either trough basic means like interviewing them just before entering and having them screened live on stage- thing that they would only notice when entering the theater hall – That caused irritation!
Another thing was moving the stage to the public. So playing in the middle of the audience and involving them in the story or making them part of if- That is quite as intrusive as it is to EMPOWER somebody without him explicitly asking for it.

When you go and see a play you are the spectator, you are a voyeur, you are in the safe space of your comfortable seat, you pay money to get entertained. As soon as you have to give sth into the mix it is irritating- you have to work?!? you came here to relax! and payed money for not being bothered! For being in a safe place, not exposed to critics, love or opinions of other.

Same thing happens in class- students are used to get fed with information, entertained and left alone. Same thing happens when you give workshops, facilitate things, organize a festival or an event. People come to consume. They do not want to produce, they want to consume – and bringing these two things together is the secret I think. Making people understand that they can also easily become producer! That somebody else will consume what they produced, that they can produce an consume at the same time..maybe that is the hard thing. They are being thought how to consume or how to sell/market what other produce. But rarely they are being thought how to produce or that they even CAN produce/and by that I mean create something valuable. They lack the self-confidence and the exercise.


In the spirit of what Daniela is saying, consider the above not as a permanent thing, but something to grow in your own mind, share and let it evolve in public. A moment of flow in an ongoing dialogue rather than a permanent and resolved conclusion. From a network sharing perspective, I would suggest the following.


Image taken from the mighty Valve Handbook, which is a must read for collaborative practices, autonomy, and networked working models.

Update… the conversation continues

Screen Shot 2014-01-16 at 4.35.07 PM


About society2point0

Serial Entrepreneur and Dragons Den Survivor now concerning himself with using web and mobile technologies to empower society and encourage real world interactions.

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