Thoughts on ALA Bootcamp: An L20 Manifesto

May 21, 2006 at 12:36 pm 7 comments

Some of you may be following the conversation going on concerning ALA’s Library 2.0 Boot Camp. (If you want to catch up, read here, here, here, here (audio here), here, here, here, here and here).

I am a participant in the workshop, and I see the conversation that’s playing out as one big, (public) demonstration of the power and value of L20. There are both positive and negative examples for us to learn from here. My working group in L20 Bootcamp has been charged with answering the question: “How can Library 2.0 be used to enhance [ALA] membership?” What follows is my response.

First, a few thoughts:

I understand the Otter Group’s motivation to defend themselves against perceived attacks. I believe they set out to do good with this workshop. I’ll grant that their motivations are pure. I imagine they must be feeling a bit like “no good deed goes unpunished.” Having said that, I think their evolving response to the criticisms being levied at them could have been plucked whole-cloth from the ClueTrain Manifesto, under the heading, “What not to do” or “Example of corporation 1.0 in its’ death throes.” That is to say, while running a course that is, at its heart, about having conversations, they are investing time and energy and (allegedly) using the language of intimidation and threats of legal action to stamp out conversation because they don’t like what’s being said.

This is great!!! It’s great because it offers us a real-time, unfolding case-study, ripe with lessons we can sink our teeth into. I do not see this as a simple case of the big bad corporation versus the noble defenders of good. It’s a little more nuanced than that (most things are, right?). To the extent that we can resist our impulses to cast this as a drama of good v. evil, we can extract some useful lessons.

That I am getting value from my Bootcamp experience and the conversations that have sprung up around it is unquestionable. As far as I’m concerned, the fact that ALA is doing anything is a huge overriding value. I’m aware that much of the value I’m extracting as a participant is because of Otter’s (and Jenny Levine’s and Michael Stephens’) contributions. And some of it is in spite of their contributions. Right now people are talking about the “in spite” part. That’s ok. That’s natural. That’s healthy. But it’s not the whole story. What follows is my attempt to frame what I’m seeing, hearing, reading, and experiencing in a way that will help me learn and extract value from this experience. Nothing more, nothing less.

El Tuo’s L20 Manifesto: (Thoughts on using L20 to enhance membership in ALA

  1. L20 is a conversation.
  2. Don’t try to put the conversation in a box.
  3. Conversations do not occur in boxes.
  4. Conversations are organic. They go where they go. They grow where they grow.
  5. The further a conversation goes the better. The wider it grows the better.
  6. Go where the conversation goes or you will cease to be a part of it.
  7. No one controls the conversation.
  8. If you try to control the conversation, it will affect how others perceive you in spite of anything or everything else you are doing.
  9. If you try to control the conversation, you will lose credibility (at best).
  10. Credibility is the coin of the web 2.0 realm.
  11. If you try to control the conversation, you will ignite and draw peoples’ anger or ridicule or both (if you’re lucky).
  12. Your response to anger and ridicule can be a part of the conversation or separate from it, in which case it is simply prologue to your epitaph.
  13. If you try to control the conversation you will be ignored as irrelevant (at worst).
  14. Irrelevance is worse than death. People say nice things about the dead, but the irrelevant are seldom mentioned.
  15. Anyone can participate in the conversation.
  16. We add value by participating in the conversation.
  17. It is the quality of our participation, not the quantity, that determines how much value we bring to the conversation.
  18. We extract value by listening to the conversation.
  19. The best listeners extract the most value.
  20. The organization that listens best extracts the most value.
  21. Organizations can’t just listen… They must participate.
  22. ALL feedback is good.
  23. Conversations flourish when ALL feedback is seen as good.
  24. All feedback is useful.
  25. Conversations flourish when ALL feedback is seen as useful.
  26. The appropriate response to feedback is to say thank you.
  27. Find another way to say thank you.
  28. Repeat.
  29. Now offer a thoughtful response to feedback.
  30. Congratulations, we are now having a conversation.

(This manifesto has been cross-posted to: I encourage fellow boot camp participants and anyone else interested in growing the manifesto to jump in and edit. The pwd is eltuo.)


EDIT: This was written and posted before reading Michael Stephen’s latest post at Tame the Web–really! A little bit of sychronicity…


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  • 1. Michael Casey  |  May 21, 2006 at 3:35 pm

    I greatly enjoyed this post. I want to state up front that I never had any intention of harming or defaming Otter. It was only my intent to draw attention to what I saw as a poor implementation of 2.0 ideas in a course about, of all things, 2.0 ideas. Otter’s response was frustrating because of its immediate use of a threatening tone. I’d like to think that, had communications between myself and Otter developed differently, I would have been able to have my say without having Otter feel harmed. But that’s not how it developed. After my post, the first time I heard from them was in an email that, in MY OPINION, I perceived as being threatening. I do not blog for money, and I do not have insurance that I can reply upon in case of lawsuits. So, in the end, I retracted the post and refrained from naming the company in my direct post (though it’s since been named in the comments).

    I think the ALA deserves much credit for getting this course off the ground and for working so closely with Michael Stephens and Jenny Levine. I have been critical of the outgoing ALA president, but this criticism does not reflect on the ALA as a whole. Their willingness to jump so early into the L2 arena is a bold statement in progressive organizational decision making.

    Library 2.0, like all of the 2.0 concepts now being discussed, is an exciting idea that is ripe with opportunities to improve library service. I wish you the best of luck in your course.

  • 2. vonjobi  |  May 23, 2006 at 7:41 am

    what do 2.0 and the da vinci code have in common? controversy =)

    threats of legal action and excommunication notwithstanding, i hope we can all learn from the dialogue that takes place.

  • 3. An Injury to One is an Injury to All  |  May 23, 2006 at 2:09 pm

    Why use the metaphor, BOOTCAMP? Why emulate a military model? In Florida they send juvenile offenders to bootcamp and they get killed.”Martin Lee Anderson was suffocated to death by guards who held his mouth and forced him to inhale ammonia fumes, a special prosecutor investigating the 14-year-old boy’s Jan. 6 death announced today.”[Youth was suffocated by guards at bootcamp,Miami Herald,May 5, 2006]. Bootcamp does not conjure up a positive attitude.Also, it’s a fairly prosaic cliche. Bloomberg bootcamp,baby bootcamp,taxonomy bootcamp, blah-blah bootcamp.

  • 4. Liz RH  |  May 25, 2006 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks for the great post! It was helpful for me to think of Library 2.0 as something as simple and powerful as a human conversation. I’m pretty new to the conversation, so I’ll try to be one of the good listeners extracting value for awhile 🙂

    In addition to listening, I liked it so much that I blogged about it, but I can’t figure out how to add a link to your page without joining blogger, so here goes:

    I’m also enjoying Library Garden a lot!
    Thanks for your comments. I assure you that if you “hang in there” there IS some really exciting stuff in store. There’s a lot of room to succeed and make a difference in this profession if you choose to.
    I enjoyed reading your first few posts which are clear, honest and funny. You have a great voice! Looking forward to reading more in the future. -Pete

  • 5. Peter Bromberg  |  May 25, 2006 at 7:33 pm


    Thanks for your comments. I assure you that if you “hang in there” there IS some really exciting stuff in store. There’s a lot of room to succeed and make a difference in this profession if you choose to.

    I enjoyed reading your first few posts which are clear, honest and funny. You have a great voice! Looking forward to reading more in the future. -Pete

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