Once thinking and processing concepts, time's up to implement them and find working methods!

Animation of collaborative tools : restraints and enablers.

Card's author : Outils-réseaux
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description : animer

What restrains

  • Lack of participation
  • At tools level
  • At facilitator's level
  • At project level
  • Lack of time

What enables

  • At people's level
  • At tools level
  • At organisation level
  • At projects level
  • The 9 laws of cooperation

1. What restrains

Main pitfall : lack of participation (non-collaborative situation)

At people's level

  • Lack of time : to handle the tools, to use them
  • Fear of other people's opinion, of judgement (from peers), of being ridiculous
  • Problem with writing, with the language
  • Disconnection with real life (too virtual, which person(s) and which project(s) are behind the tool ?
  • Difficulty to change one's practices to adopt those of the group (resistance to change)
  • Problems of copyrights, intellectual property, fear that information might be stolen, Fear of losing power by sharing information.
  • Difficulty in handling tools, technical fear :
    • fear of difficulty
    • fear with web tools
    • computer = complicated
    • heterogeneousness of the group with the handling of tools.
  • A difficult access to internet :
    • slow connection
    • obsolete software
  • Difficulty to get logged in :
    • loss of the password
    • loss of the web address
  • Lack of motivation for the project, members don't make the link with their own personal interests :
    • fear of misunderstanding messages
    • habit of a centralized working
    • institutional environment

At tools level

  • Fear of tools, of difficulty, of an not enough ergonomic interface : the computer is a problem.
  • Equipment, obsolete connexion
  • Protection, identification.
  • Not adapted needs.
  • An implementation that is not progressive enough, that doesn't take sufficiently into account the different stages of the group's life.
  • Difficulty to translate texts with emotion and hidden meaning.
  • Several tools for the same use.
  • Need for a paper base, for concrete.
  • Complicated Tools.
  • One can't find how to participate.
  • An evolution of tools that goes too fast (displays, features).

At facilitator's level

  • Too many requests (urgent ! To validate, misled question).
  • Omnipresence or absence of the facilitator.
  • Messages too long, too many items of information , not enough transparency.
  • Founder = gravedigger.
  • Employee : the financing of the job overrides on the network's objectives.
  • Not enough listening of the group's needs.
  • The facilitator does himself instead of making do.
  • Mixing up in the roles : management, leadership, facilitator.

At project level

  • Ethical drift, risk of rupture.
  • Institutional representation ( Fear of losing power by sharing information.).
  • Demobbing : bad apprehension of involvement.
  • Difficulty in perceiving concretely the projects, its results.
  • Relevance of the project.
  • Vocabulary : level of the shared jargon ?
  • Complexity : members can't see the entirety of the project any more.
  • Level of involvement that is too high.
  • Lack of visibility: of the time required, of the project's interest, of its purpose.
  • No facilitator.
  • No tracks of the project's story.

The time

  • Lack of time :
    • for the handling of tools
    • for the involvement in the project.
  • Different rhythms: employees / volunteers.

2. What eases

At people's level

  • Physical meetings, friendliness
  • Esteem assessment, quotation of all contributors
  • Mixing up of audiences (see forum)
  • Reduction of the risk of participating, enabling exit and multi : -membership : simplified membership procedure, possibility of disengagement!
  • Virtuous circle of motivation :
    • Project / meaningful action
    • Feeling of ability
    • controllability :
      • cognitive engagement
      • perseverance
      • success.
  • Making up individual interest with collective interest.
  • Showing the mechanism.
  • Win-win strategy
  • Questioning people on their objectives
  • Welcoming new comers, sponsoring.
  • Technical back up : knowing where to find the technical referent, getting instructions for use, assistance sections

At tools level

  • Behaving rules
  • Netiquette
  • Progressive implementation
  • Simplify !!! Hide features
  • Instructions for use, assistance section, trainings...

At organisation level

Upload file Cea.jpg
  • Showing the group's activity : summary, reformulation, historical background, showing what is happening in sub-groups, regular news : summaries (TST)
  • Strong incentive to develop habits : only put reports on the wiki, make mistakes in the spelling of people's names on purpose
  • « Professional » facilitators :
    • emerging jobs
    • separating organization from facilitation
    • know how to be rather than know how to do
    • being in permanent alert
  • Synthesizing, reformulating, gardening

At project level

  • Propose an historical background, an notebook of events
  • Minimize the needs at the beginning : putting on line unfinished productions
  • Control critical tasks : compromise between flexibility and continuity of the system, the project must content itself with a minimum contributions
  • Work rather with thoughtfulness than with intention : and projects emerge by listening to the group, pinpointing objectives instead of expected results
  • Risk analysis : will of success or fear of failure ?
  • Definition of purposes and running (SAGACE matrix)
  • Clear objectives , charter
  • Productions : Free Licenses to turn them into common properties

The 9 laws of cooperation

  • Reduce participation risks
  • Lower the threshold of acting out
  • Non consumables goods and environment of abundance
  • Communities which last converge on cooperation
  • Evaluation by esteem
  • Minimizing needs at the beginning
  • Minimizing failure risks by controlling critical tasks
  • Time for opportunities
  • Never forget any of the rules !

Lowering the threshold of acting out

Acting out with human beings tallies with a rude fall

  • Free software :
    • Giving, before any other action, an a priori authorization for use and modification thanks to a license rather than imposing an authorization request is another example of elements which ease the acting out. (Jean-Michel Cornu)
  • Tela Botanica :
    • Registration is easy, licence and charge free.
    • Use of Forum and Wiki
  • Incentive to participation with simple exercises :
    • Make a mistake on purpose in the spelling of a person's name to have her react and encourage her to correct it by herself

Non consumables goods and environment of abundance

  • Tela Botanica : the Flora of Metropolitan France project
    • Stemming from the work of one person : work of naming and taxonomy on 75 000 names.
    • 55 599 files modified by members of the community
    • Adding of 46 794 vernacular names (several languages)

Communities which last converge on cooperation


  • Joining very much upstream to avoid competition downstream.
    • GNU/Linux
      • GNU and Free Software Foundation : 1985
      • Linux : 1991
    • the Flora of Metropolitan France project : 2001

Evaluation by esteem

  • Tela : Project of compiling botanical articles (25674 articles)

  • De Boissieu Henri - Un acer hybride nouveau pour la flore française. - 1912 - dendrologie, plante hybride, acer x bormulleri, localité, p. 77-78 - Société Botanique de France, Bulletin de la Société Botanique de France, Bull. Soc. Bot. Fr. (1904), Tome 59 - Fascicule 1 - Saisie : Jean TIMBAL -Art. n°13807.

  • Delahaye Thierry, Henze Gaston, Lequay Arthur - Les orchidées de Monthoux - 1996 - Savoie, Avant-pays, Acéracées, acer monspessulanum, Fabacées, Argyrolobium zanonii, p. 15-19 - Départ./Région : 73 - Société Mycologique et Botanique de Chambéry, Bull. de la sté Myco et Bota de la Région Chambérienne, N°1 - Saisie : Sylvie SERVE - Art. n°479.

  • Delahaye Thierry, Lequay Arthur, Prunier Patrice - Les découvertes botaniques de nos sociétaires en 1996 - 1997 - Savoie, violacées, Viola collina, loranthacées, Viscum album, acéracées, acer monspessulanum, joncacées, Juncus arcticus, liliacées, Erythronium dens-canis, p. 31-32 - Départ./Région : 73 - Société Mycologique et Botanique de Chambéry, Bull. de la sté Myco et Bota de la Région Chambérienne, N°2 - Saisie : Sylvie SERVE - Art. n°495.

Minimizing needs at the beginning

  • Linus started by re-using codes and ideas of Minixa (the whole of Minix code has been given up or completly re-wrote since)
  • The "Cathédrale et Bazar " example : Fetchmail based on popclient and Fetchpop
  • Tela :
    • Recovery of a synonymy work by M. Kerguelen on 75 000 names
    • recovery of numerous data bases constituted by amateurs.
  • Putting online unfinished documents because they can be improved by contributors. If the putting-online needs the completion of the document, the group's dynamics won't get under way.

Minimizing failure risks by controlling critical tasks

  • Brooks Law : "adding manpower to a late software project makes it later " : complexity increases as well as the number of exchanges and therefore as the square number of persons.
  • Tela Botanica :
    • The association contracts partnerships and et takes responsibility for the consequences
    • Employees are on duty and provide tools and services
    • Members of the community carry out plans and give sense to the network
    • The piloting committee operates coordination and validates decisions

Risk analysis

  • The fear of failure leads to a minimum risk-taking. One is then tempted to protect everything, and this is typical of today : everything is tagged, locked (in particular legally saying). For example, within administrations, there is a lack of opening which reflects a rigid mental functioning.
  • On the contrary, willing to succeed implies the implementation of means to reach the appointed aim. This approach refers to a mental model much open and dynamic.

Auteurs : Association Outils-Réseaux et tous ses stagiaires
Crédits illustrations sous licence Creative Commons : CC-By Outils-Réseaux - CC-By Ell Brown - CC-By Cea - CC-By Marc Smith

Collaborative writing

Card's author : Outils-réseaux
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description : Conceived as a support for building collective knowledge, Web 2.0 has lead to a deep change in the way information is thought of. By freeing writing from the closed universe of printed supports, it has unfolded a whole change in this field. It is now possible for several people to work on a same document at the same time! The enormous success of the Wikipedia, one of the most visited websites in the World, has opened the door to new ways of writing. Defined as a “project for a collectively written free encyclopaedia”, it has proved to what extent collaboration can contribute quality and make a written document so much richer. Richer for the community who benefits from finding different points of view on a same topic. Also richer for the person participating in a project that will lead them to elaborate new writing strategies and to feed on new ideas.

Co-writing, a difficult process

Collaborative writing is the result of a process that is often considered complex and difficult. The authors explain this difficulty by the fact that to the task of writing individually (based on planning, translation and reviewing, according to the authors), collaborative writing brings in three more levels of complexity. LOWRY, Paul, CURTIS, Aaron and LOWRY, Michelle. A taxonomy of collaborative writing to improve empirical research, writing practice, and tool development. Journal of Business Communication (JBC). 2004. Vol. 41, no. 1, p. 66–99.

A Taxonomy of Collaborative Writing to Improve Empirical Research, Writing Practice, and Tool Development, published in 2004, Lowry P.B., Curtis A. and Lowry M.R.
1. Intellectual
2. Social
3. Procedural

This corresponds to three questions posed by collaborative writing:

1. How do we pool and harmonise individual knowledge to produce collective knowledge?
2. How do we coordinate the members and their different opinions for the project to be successful? How do we overcome social and affective conflicts that arise in this collective exercise?
3. How do we establish a common planning and deadline?

Group dynamics: the core of collaborative writing

The truth is that beyond the intellectual and procedural dimensions mentioned above, what appears to be the real core of collaborative writing is the social dimension that will then allow all the rest to “run smoothly”. By “social dimension” we understand the ability to generate group dynamics that bring each of the members together around a common goal (producing a text), where each of them will find their place. Dynamics that will make it as easy as possible for its members to become engaged and that, if it does not exist, will make the whole cooperative project unavoidably fail.

Collaborative writing can, indeed, generate social and affective conflicts (different points of view, the feeling that one is being judged, etc.) that may seem difficult to overcome. The act of co-writing also requires:

  • A high level of reciprocal interaction between the members that is nurtured by frequent exchanges
  • Taking into account the different points of view and giving value to the contributions of each member to the community, and encourage them all to participate while remembering this sentence by Paul Ricoeur "Tolerance is not a concession I make to the other, it is about recognizing the principle that a part of truth escapes me."
  • That the facilitator is capable to regulate social and affective conflicts arising from different ideas and natures.

The work of a network facilitator is precisely to contribute a convergence within the community and to create constructive work dynamics that promote everyone's participation:

JM Cornu - La Coopération en 28 mots-clés - 4. Convergence et conflit
(Transcript in english)

Facilitating the contribution of everyone using the method of the 6 hats

In order to make it easier for everyone to participate and for new ideas to emerge in a group, the psychologist Edward de Bono, specialist in cognitive science, developed in 1987 a method called the “6 hats”. Starting from the idea that searching for solutions goes through six clearly defined phases, this method invites each group member to explore, in a meeting, six concrete ways of thinking, symbolised by six hats of different colours.

Briefly, the objectives are:
  • to allow each member to perceive an idea, re-think it from a different perspective and thus make his or her point of view on that idea evolve;
  • to avoid any censorship on new ideas that arise in a group;
  • to create a favourable climate for exchange and creativity, favouring freedom of speech;
  • to solve problems in a collaborative way;
  • to offer a global vision and go deeper into the situation;

More specifically, once the problem has been posed, each of the group members adopt, one at a time, a different position by imagining they are wearing a hat, and start exploring new solutions:

  • The White hat represents neutrality. The person wearing it must simply announce the facts leaving all possible interpretations aside.
  • The Red hat represents emotions. The person can freely express his or her feelings and intuitions.
  • The Green hat means creativity. The person wearing it looks for alternatives, while trying to consider the problem from a different perspective.
  • The Yellow hat represents constructive criticism. The person "admits their craziest ideas and dreams".
  • The Black hat means negative criticism, judging. The person wearing this hat announces the weaknesses and the risks entailed by this idea.
  • The Blue hat represents organization, channelling the ideas and process. The person will look at the expressed idea from a distance.

This method that pushes participants to leave their usual way of thinking may prove very useful when it comes to writing collectively.

Three approaches for collaborative writing

Collective writing can be done in many different ways, depending on the levels of collaboration:
  • One member starts by writing an article which is then modified and added to by another member, and so forth until a “document” that is deemed complete by the whole group and that generates consensus is drafted.
  • An approach that is more cooperative than collaborative is when each of the members works on a part of the article. Then the different parts of the document are linked to one another and harmonised to constitute a single and coherent article.
A variation of this cooperation could be that each member, according to their skills and wishes, does one part of the work. For example, one person drafts, the other corrects, the third reads through it, etc.
  • Finally, the most collaborative approach is maybe one that includes all members in thinking about how they are going to write the article; one where there is no real distinction between roles. Each member participates in all the different phases. We will analyse the elaboration phases that could cover this last point.

Elaboration phases: tricks and tips for participatory writing

Each group can find their own method that fits best. However, to have some points of reference, here are some tricks and tips to start with participatory writing:

1. Generating "an irreversible cooperative experience"

When preparing a group for collective writing, there is nothing better than to start by making them live a “Small Irreversible Cooperative Experience” (SICE). This is done to overcome any possible barriers, to bring about the first exchanges and to give a sense to the collaborative task. One of the best tips is to use Etherpad, an on-line service that allows several people to take notes simultaneously, jotting down unfinished contents that will then be corrected or one containing many spelling mistakes. This simple action will instinctively get people to correct the spelling mistakes despite any barriers they may encounter. This tip is even more efficient when the mistake leads to a person: to the quest for perfect spelling we must add ego….The harm is done: the person thus lives their first collaborative experience!

2. Brainstorming

After this first step is taken, then comes a second phase that can be done organising a collective brainstorm; i.e. a meeting to gather ideas that will then allow bringing together all the points of view and the writing proposals of the group. This technique encourages the group members to put ideas into words, to compare them to others and to re-formulate them. It also encourages creativity. Using a mind map is also very useful to gather all this information, create a hierarchy of ideas and have a general overview. The principle is simple: the facilitator creates a mind map covering the points mentioned by each group member and classifies these ideas by topics and sub-topics. Projecting it on a screen, everyone can see if there is information missing and makes it easier for them to intervene. This exercise makes it quick and easy for ideas to emerge and to take all points of view into account!

There are many mind map tools, including Freeplane, which is very easy to use.

3. Drafting

Once the work has been done, the group is ready to establish a drafting plan. The real drafting work will start with this plan. From the start, it may be useful to test different modes of writing (individual or directly in a group, the framework to be used, etc.) to find the way that fits the group best. A reflection on what induces the publication (=exposition) will also be necessary.

Drafting can be done using on-line tools that allow each member to edit and modify the document, improve the common writing work and have a real-time view of the state of the document.

Google Document is quite useful for drafting in small groups. It allows several people to draft an on-line document at the same time that can be modified by each member and where all these changes are automatically included in the document. The advantage of this tool is that work is never isolated and members can see how the drafting process is taking place and, with this, they can make their ideas on the project evolve along the way.

For larger groups, a Wiki could be a good option. Just as Google Doc and Etherpad, it allows publishing all creations or page modifications instantly and having a global vision besides offering other interesting options. In fact, there is the option of commenting on pages, with a more visual display of page contents, to decide on the on-line publishing of the document on the spot and also managing the record of drafting. It also allows a collaborative work that is possibly more structured.

Small feedback on the experience of Animacoop regarding collective drafting

During the Outils-Réseaux training “Facilitating a collaborative network” (Montpellier, October-December 2010), trainers suggested that the group of trainees from Animacoop drafted three articles for their newsletter collectively and at distance. The group members were accustomed to working together and writing an article allowed them to value a common good, a creation. “For the trainers, this writing exercise was sort of a methodological challenge”, say the persons in charge of the training: “How can we test the collective capacity to synthesise crosscutting contents produced during a training? Second challenge: how do we get trainees motivated to do some extra work that is not expected?”

The testimonials of the trainees for this experience (method followed, stages, time management…) can be read on-line (in French):

Photo credits under Creative Commons licence: by bgblogging, by Yves Guillou.

Conceive a training session

Card's author : Outils-Réseaux
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description : A conception methodology formalized in six stages :

  • Preceding survey
  • Analysis of information.
  • Architecture's conception.
  • Course guide.
  • Create material.
  • Finalization.

1. Preceding survey

The first step in the conception of a training session is to carry out a survey on future participants and their needs in training.
Exchanging with the sponsor is important to determine the demand of this latter (conditions of contract or call for tenders) and identify the true training needs.

Knowing the audience

Questions that must be addressed :
Who are they ? What are their jobs and how are they evolving, Do they have experience ? Have they got an initial training ? How is the project of training session going to be presented to them ? What do they need to know ? What are the favourable conditions for their training ?...

Identifying the needs in training

First quality criteria of a training session : it must fit the participants needs.
In this context, the need is specified as a gap between noticed and expected skills.


What is the meaning of "skills" ?
It is the knowledge of how to act resulting from mobilization and an efficient use of all internal and external resources in a professional environment.
  • internal resources : knowledge, attitudes (manners), skills (know-how)
  • external resources : environment, motivation...

How to identify initial skills ?
  • interviews with the future trainees (that happens very rarely)
  • preliminary questionnaire.

How to identify the skills to get ?
  • interview with the sponsor
  • observation in the field
  • analysis of the professional environment evolution (what will be the future professional environment of the trainee ?) ...

Identifying the environment

Where does the training session project come from ? What makes it a stake coming within the competence of training ? Why now ? Which means and resources are already available ? What are the drawbacks ? What may be the consequences of training on trainees environment ? (which impact will the training have on the trainees environment ?)...

Choosing a rallying dea

To give birth and support the interest on the project, it is useful to crystallize expectations on a main idea, a meaningful theme which accompany the project all along its evolution. This idea will often be the guiding principle along the conception.

2. Analysis of information

It's about being in proposal forces by translating the identified training needs into training objectives, available in conveyable content (knowledge) and in means to do it (methods).

Choice of objectives

To start the conception of a training session correctly, one must be sure to have a sharp and correctly stated training objective.

The objective is important because it is :
  • a contract: towards trainees, towards the sponsor.
  • a safeguard: against a great quantity of information. Thecriteria is simple : why saying or doing this will help people to achieve their goal ?

To start with, the major objectives of the training session must be clarified (session). They can be formulated with the sentence : "When the session is over, the trainee must be able to ... "
Afterwards, this objective must be divided into sub-objectives linkable to the different sequences of the session... (three domains must be covered : knowledge, know-how, manners).
The last stage is about hierarchizing these sub-objectives, specifying those which maybe deleted if time is short.

useful to know :
Objectives are expressed in verbs.
The SMART diagram enables to check quickly the quality of objectives. A good objective is :
  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • reachable
  • Realistic
  • Temporally defined

Choice of content

From objectives, content and sequences get more precise. Knowledge have to be worked out : concepts, information, examples, activities...
All the things needed by the trainee to get the pointed out skills.


Knowing how to choose educational methods means to know how to be educational.
The method defines the transmission mode for the trainer and the acquisition mode for the trainee. There are 4 great educational methods:


Advantages and drawbacks of the different educational methods


Evaluation indicators

The last point of educational analysis of information. It's about pointing out criteria which allows to say that a goal is reached.
It's a teadous work but it's important to start it as soon as the training session is designed.

3. Design of the training session's framework

When the step of gathering all the information is over, the educational itinerary has to be studied. The main question of this stage is : how do we reach the goal of this training session ?

Considering the initial level of audiences :
  • it can be either done in one sequence but it's rarely the case,
  • or the progression can be divided in several intermediate stages (sequences, modules...)

Division into sequences

The division into sequences more often found in the conception of short training sessions (1 to 3 days). In longer sessions, these intermediate stages are rather called modules.
An intermediate objective called "educational objective" matches each stage (sequence or module).

How to proceed?
A "sequencing diagram " can be used to realize the educational study
for example :

sequence/module (name/ code) objective contents technics technics length
M : 1 objective know the concepts linked to cooperation course 12 facets of cooperation report 3 h
M : 2
M : 3

Framework or educational thread

The framework is an organisation of sequences over time. It allows a global vision over the training but is also a mean to adapt the sequences progress to external constraints (holidays, bank holidays, events specific to the trainees environment) or to daily rythms in short training sessions.

Characteristics of a good framework:
  • logical and progressive
  • with a good pace (steadiness...)
  • which alternates technics
  • which respects les

Cooperation or collaboration : what differences ?

Card's author : Outils-réseaux
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description : Between cooperation and collaboration, the difference is finely shaded.
F. Henri and K. Lundgren-Cayrol analyse in a very clear way the difference between these two notions.
The following presentation resume widely this analysis.

The first difference : how is the work shared?

Generally, collaborative and cooperative groups work together on a common or shared purpose.
The difference is very much visible in the way the work is shared :

By cooperating


The group is divided in specialized teams which take over part of the tasks. Members of each team have specific responsibilities. The set is achieved only when all members have done their part of the work.

The first difference : how is the work shared?

By collaborating


Members of the group work on a common purpose. But each, individually, tries to reach by himself the consensual purpose. Two productions occur in parallel : a collective production and the individual productions of each participant.

Other differences

From this way of doing the common task ensue other differences :
  • Groups maturity
  • Interactions between people
  • The way to consider the purpose

Groups maturity

  • The cooperative approach is more structured and framing. The manager organizes and "checks" the work. That kind of work suits better the "child group";
  • The collaborative approach is more flexible and members of the group have more freedom. It suits the "adult group".

image maturite_groupe.png

The cooperative approach can be seen as a method of initiation and preparation to true collaboration.

Interactions between people

Interactions between members of the group play a major role.
  • by cooperating, the complementarity of tasks creates a feeling of mutual dependence, interactions are therefore very strong but "hierarchized"
  • by collaborating, pooling of ideas prevails, interactions are rather associative, they are then richer and more intense.

The way to consider the purpose

Why are we working together?

image coop (5.6kB)

By cooperating, each member is responsible for an action or an under-task. The purpose is a collective production, the group reaches a purpose as an entity.
image coll.png (5.6kB)

In collaborative approaches, each one uses all the resources within the group.

In conclusion

These two notions are not "stabilized" yet even though we agree that collaboration involves a more democratic process: relations are more egalitarian.

Cultural filters are strong and in both cases they may have a "negative" connotation :
  • "collaborate" sends back to the dark days of World War II,
  • "cooperating" associates with abusive policies of rich African countries

In reality the difference between these two ways of doing is not as clear-cut: we swap easily from one approach to the other

Editorial usability or the art of building an information architecture

Card's author : Outils-réseaux
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description : Many are the people who neglect editorial usability and focus all their attention on writing techniques, believing these are sufficient to share and publish quality content on the Internet. However, the specificity of reading on a screen leads to reinterpreting the way information is valued and the way it can be structured to make it accessible to Internet surfers. And this is precisely where editorial usability kicks in: reflecting on the best technique that can be borrowed to adapt to the technical “constraints” of the Internet and to facilitate the browsing experience to users as much as possible focusing the work especially on how contents are organised. In summary, it is about creating a text scenario that pushes users to read in greater depth.

The challenges of editorial usability

Eve Demange, the author of the blog Plume Interactive is a specialist in this field in France, and explains the specificities and the challenges of editorial usability: "Architecture improves the usability of websites by reviewing some elements such as the structure of information, links to other pages, the design. Editorial usability ensures that the words used to guide browsing are clear enough, short enough, that they allow visitors to find their way easily. It is not about drafting or re-writing a text adapting it to web reading (even if this does improve editorial usability too); it is all about weighting the words. It is a different job, specific to web media. A good web writer can do this job, but also an experienced web designer or a specialist in usability that is sensitive to the editorial part."

The specificities of reading on a screen

Illustration source: Site du zéro

This field finds its basis on the fact that people surfing the net read and take in information differently on-line. Eyetracking carried out a study, lead by Jakob Nielsen, to try and capture the eye movements on a screen and analyse what the user is really looking at when reading a website. These movements are illustrated with coloured areas. So, the read areas are those that were looked at the most by internet users, the yellow areas deserved less attention, the blue areas even less. As for the grey areas, they simply went unseen. If one can trust this study, people surfing the net would tend to scan the page, reading diagonally and stopping at the top of the page, the first paragraph and the beginning of the next paragraphs.

Other studies have shown that long before stopping at illustrations, Internet users would stop at the titles and text. What can be deduced from different studies is that it is words that guide internet users' actions.

Some good practices

Without going into the details of the several studies made on this topic, there are some base principles to optimize Internet surfers' browsing, to make reading easier and encourage users to visit a site again. In a nutshell, these studies point out two main aspects: visual comfort and content accessibility (i.e. the way to facilitate content comprehension).

Regarding visual comfort, there are four practical recommendations:
  • Taking care not to increase the information load of an article using too many colours and fonts or placing background images or animations that result overwhelming.
  • Optimising the colours used privileging a positive contrast (clear background/dark letters) rather than a negative contrast (dark background/clear letters). A positive contrast is less straining on eyesight.
  • Writing in lower case letters rather than in capital letters, for the same reasons mentioned above.
  • Creating visual gaps to catch the user's attention by using lists of bullet points, head tags (h1, h2, strong...) that give significance to the text, block quotes, etc.

To improve content accessibility it is advisable to:
  • Organise contents in a way that the user can tell the start from the end of the different topics easily.
  • Break up the text by displaying information hierarchically: short and descriptive titles (they should provide information to the user on what to find), etc.
  • Use relevant and explicit external links to offer more information on the topic and thus enrich the content.
  • Place important titles and information at the start of the line.
  • Privilege several relatively short articles to one long one with two much information or offer a printable format (PDF, for example) for long texts.
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How to produce a document when you are several hundred persons (Part 1)

Card's author : Jean-Michel Cornu
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description :

How to turn armchair philosophy into collective intelligence ?

parable of blind men and an elephant 1

It was six men of Indostan to learning much inclined, who went to see the Elephant (Though all of them were blind), that each by observation might satisfy his mind. The First approached the Elephant, and happening to fall against his broad and sturdy side, at once began to bawl: "God bless me!—but the Elephant Is very like a wall! " The Second, feeling of the tusk, cried: "Ho!—what have we here so very round and smooth and sharp? To me 't is mighty clear this wonder of an Elephant is very like a spear! " The Third approached the animal, and happening to take the squirming trunk within his hands, thus boldly up and spake "I see, " quoth he, "the Elephant is very like a snake! " The Fourth reached out his eager hand, and felt about the knee. "What most this wondrous beast is like Is mighty plain, " quoth he; "'T is clear enough the Elephant is very like a tree! " The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, said: "E'en the blindest man can tell what this resembles most; Deny the fact who can, this marvel of an Elephant is very like a fan! " The Sixth no sooner had begun about the beast to grope, than, seizing on the swinging tail that fell within his scope, "I see, " quoth he, "the Elephant is very like a rope! " And so these men of Indostan disputed loud and long, each in his own opinion exceeding stiff and strong, though each was partly in the right, and all were in the wrong!

From armchair philosophy 2 ...

We usually seize that if an idea is true then its contrary is false. It is called the law of non-contradiction upon which our logic, as defined by Aristotle, is based. Therefore Eubulide of Millet, who fighted this law, has demonstrated through to the liar's paradox 3 that it was not necessarily true : "A man was saying he was lying. Was this true or false ? ". This sentence cannot be either true... nor false! As well as in the parable of the elephant, some assertions may sound in contradiction but all of them or true 4 . We then talk of antinomy. It's especially the case when we try to have several different points of view on a subject.
Equipped with the law of non-contradiction, we don't spend time searching what is true and what is false but justifying what we have said formerly... and therefore demonstrating that people with different arguments are wrong. Each member spends most of the discussion's time repeating and justifying his own assertion to be sure it will be taken into account. Very often the background of the debate is not about searching the truth but about avoiding being caught out and possibly gaining recognition from other members for having said something seen as true.

...To collective intelligence

To get out of armchair philosophy, it's compulsory first not to look for what is true on a topic but the different points of view on a it. The more people with a point of view, the more complete the view. At this stage, the debate can cope with approximative, not to say apparently false views. The aim is to gather the biggest number of points of view and to create new ones to complete those already found.
But we also have to compromise with our own cognitive limits. Thus, we can only remember the three last elements of a discussion 5 . When we look at the discussion objectively, we can have an overview of the differents assertions or arguments, but there too we are limited and can only remember from 5 to 9 ideas 6 . In order to deal with a subject using collective intelligence, we will then have to apply a method to work with a great number of persons, to map the whole of the ideas but stopping ourselves, first to select some ideas and eliminate others.

The three principles of ideas-co-building

Managing a lifting of collective discussion's difficulties needs to take into account three principles of collective intelligence which are rather counterintuitive but which will be the bases for the construction of a method allowing the production of ideas and contents from several hundred persons.

Size of the group and parts of members 7

As soon as a group is over a dozen people, each member adopts a proactive, observer or idle position and can move from one to another according to a number of criteria. Rather counterintuitively, it is observed that the percentage of active persons stays remarkably constant (principle of 90-9-1) : proactive people are one and over percent and reactive people are between ten and a few dozens of percent.
Different types of groups differing from the number of members :
Small groups up to twelve people whom can be managed restrictively (expecting the action particular to each different member) ;
Intermediates groups between twelve and a hundred people whom need more efforts from the manager to get reactions ;
Large groups between a hundred and one or two thousand people which allows to produce collaboratively... provided a focus is done on reactive persons ;
Very large intermediate groups of several thousand people where the group composed by proactive people becomes easily illogical ;
Very large groups over several dozens of thousand where proactive people are numerous enough to make management less restrictive ;
Large groups between a hundred and one or two thousand people are particularly interesting : they are a prerequisite for groups doomed to become very large, and moreover they represent a good corresponding size to the number of persons which can be gathered on many rather sharp topics. However reactive people need to be taken into account (they can be reached through online systems by push-tools such as email, Facebook or Twitter rather than pull tools as the web or forums) and not only proactive people whom in this case are not enough.

The post factum choice 8

There are several strategies according to the environment around us :
Planning : in a predictable situation where resources are scarce, prediction is needed to optimize them and avoid their spoiling ;
Negotiation: when ressources are scarce but the situation not predictable, negotiation enables a choice in real time since it could not be done in advance ;
The post factum choice: when ressources are abundant (large group, abundant information) but when the situation is not predictable, it is better then to arouse an abundancy of choices and to choose only post factum, within all possibilities ;
Most of the time we do not choose our strategy but we use the one we know better whatever the context. We need to adapt ourselves to our environment in order to choose the best strategy. Sometimes a situation can be predictable for some things and unpredictable for others, some ressources can be abundant, some rare. In this case, we need to adapt ourselves and even to juggle with the strategies.
For instance in a large group of over a hundred persons, thanks to the number of reactive members acting it is possible to arouse the maximum points of view and to choose only afterward those to keep : "Whith enough observers, all appliable solutions to a problem are blindingly obvious ". But if the group is smaller than one or two thousand people, the number of proactive members and moreover the number of persons who join the coordination is weak. The coordination of groups under several thousands must call on planning and/or negotiation strategies.

Mapping for an overview 9

In a debate with several people, and even more in a confrontation, each one tends to defend his idea, to repeat it constantly so it is taken into account. In practice it's often seen that different points of view don 't rule each other out but on the contrary complement each other to give altogether an overview. To go past the facts, me must take into account the two ways of thinking that are each using a different working memory.

The first, based on speech consist in sayings ideas one after the other, just as we make a step after another to progress from a starting point until an arrival. This way of thinking especially allows a rational approach but it hardly takes into account conflict (a starting point, two directions), collective intelligence (several points of view on the same arrival) or else creativity (finding new ways between several starting points and several arrivals) which are all three using another complementary way.

The second way of thinking is based on mapping. It consists in arranging on the same mind map ideas according to their proximity, without trying to select them offhand, to get the more complete vision on ideas and possible progressions. Mind maps (mind mapping in english) which are co-built and projected to all during sessions are very efficient to give a global vision to the whole group and allow therefore to look for new ideas and new points of view rather than having each member focusing on one or two former ideas.

To go further, two possible approaches :
The Method of Loci : During synchronous meetings (online or face-to-face), a map of idea can be coupled with another map, often of territories that each one can keep in his long term memory. It can be a place known to all (for monks in the Middlle Ages, their cathedral) or if this can't be found, a co-built place (in the long term a place is easier to remember than ideas) ;
Textual maps : in asynchronous online exchanges, people who behave reactively (ten times more numerous than proactive people) and the observers (even more numerous) use tools which cannot stand graphics mode very well (email, Facebook, Twitter). Therefore proposing a drawn map needs to share a link to a web page where the map is. But then only half of participants will see the map. The possible use of text laying-out can then be used to allow the drawing of a textual map which won't need to be read in its whole as a text but can be read as a map : lists of bullet points, formulation of short ideas in one line maximum, bold, underlined and italics to enhance some keywords ;

Applying these principles to produce collective intelligence

From the principles presented in the previous parts, we can start to edit some rules to allow the production of ideas and contents with several hundred people. We will deal here especially with online asynchronous exchanges which can be punctually improved by face-to-face or online synchronous meetings.
1. The group must have at least a hundred members.
These won't contribute systematically as in a small group. As long as the group stays under several dozens of thousand people, it's important to focus on the members with a reactive attitude (it is the most common size of group. Even in very large groups of dozens thousand people, only a sub group will take an interest in a specific content). According to the 90-9-1 rule, reactive people will be at least a dozen which will be enough to start a dynamic and possibly encourage other participation.
2. The critical part of facilitator(s).
By definition facilitators do have to be proactive. But within a group of between a hundred and one or two thousand people, they are few. Mistakes or lack of proactivity from a facilitator can lead the whole group to inaction. In a young group (generally less than two years old), the facilitator or the small group of facilitators has a central part. It is even in the freeware Benevolent Dictator for Life. For maturer group, different people can, according to topics, have a leading part. In this case, eventhough animating the discussion is a restrictive part, it is not as much for the whole of the group which may have discussions leading to an achievement or not.
3. First, let people express ideas without choosing.
On the contrary, it is necessary "to open up the fields of possibilities " to point out all ideas that could be added, rather that suppressing those already spoken. Ideas seeming out of hand may happen to be very rich although "a priori " counterintuitive. Even if an idea turns out to be stupid, it can spark off other interesting ones.
4. A map shaped summary gives an overview of ideas exchanges.
In the case of online asynchronous ideas exchanges, it's better to use mind map which anyone can receive. It does not need to be wholy read as a text would, but can be glanced through like a map (with bullet lists, bold and underline laying out...) That point requires the more work. Tools and methods enable to reduce this time.
5.At least a few items of information need to be "pushed ".
To reach reactive people, some items of information need to pushed (information is sent directly to an account that he persons read regularly : email, Facebook ou Twitter). But according to the number of members, the energy of the discussion and the more or less great agreement from members to receive information directly, there is also a need to give a wide access to the whole of information with pull tools (the person fetches by herself the information by visiting a forum, browsing archives or other webpages). A fair balance is then to be found between what is sent to all and what is not sent but has to be looked for by those who want (from the mailing list where everything is received by everyone to the sending of summaries only, including the extra sending of a selection of some stimulating contributions encouraging readers to react).
6.Iterations of contributions/summaries contribute to collective intelligence 10 .
The mapping of different points of view allows to have an overview (as the parable of blind men and an elephant). But collective intelligence really starts when participants lean on what others have said (or to be sharper on the global map of the discussion) to propose new ideas that they would not have had otherwise. Thus each contribution increases the level of collective intelligence and enables proposals, some particularly innovating and smart.

Method to produce a collective text when you are up to several thousand participants

This method aims to produce content collaboratively, not only by including former contributions but also and most of all contributions resulting from exchanges of ideas. It is based on regular text map summaries (a text that can be read as a map rather than scoured, with bullet lists, bold an underline laying out to enhance some words, etc.).
This methods is concentrated on "large online groups ", large enough to obtain reactions without to much effort (a hundred or more members) but still not reaching the needed size to allow a concentration on proactive people only (over several thousand). It is a major part of online groups wishing to produce contents on a specific topic. In this case the stress is the most reactive persons whom are generally ten times more numerous than those with a proactive attitude.
The two parts below concentrate on tools and how to make the group up for those who are creating groups or those whose groups are still too small. The next part on web watch, common understanding and ideation is the heart of the method to build a structured overview of collective ideas. The two last parts on ideas selection and writing enables to have a text easy-to-read for people whom did not take part in the discussion or did not know the topic very well.

Implementation of tools

Tools for discussion
The first stage is to choose push (information is brought to participant : email, Facebook, Twitter...) and pull (the participant seeks for information : forum, webpages..;) tools. For a rather small group of up to several hundred people whom are all using emails, a simple mailing list is enough. The records of the list enable proactive people to seek for old items of information and eases the facilitator's job in charge of mapping.
More and more often, participants read regularly their messages with different tools : some are on Facebook and scarcely read their emails, some follow Twitter but have deserted Facebook. Some only use one of these three tools, sometimes two but rarely all of them. Other groups use a general social network (Linkedin, Viadeo) or a network particular to their community (based on softwares Elgg, Diaspora, Movim, Daisychain...). There is therefore a necessity for : either keeping up with all the different tools used by the group's members or... a reduction of the group to the members whom only use such or such tool.
More over, when a group gets bigger, the number of contributions grows too and can overtake the bearable level for a participant. In an online world where post people suffer from "infobesity " (too much information), even in a relatively small group, some can be annoyed by emails coming from the discussion. To prevent the cancellation of subscriptions or disaffections (emails automatically filed without reading, not to say tagged as spam...), only the most important information is to be sent to all or to those who want : regular mapping of the discussions, a selection of some contributions gathered in the same message to stimulate partipation, etc. In that case it is even more important that the whole of the contributions should be available (by pull way) to allow those who wish, and of course to facilitators who make maps, to find the detailed contributions. It is thus by allying push and pull tools that discussion will allow the sending of some messages to everyone (to reach the reactive people) but keeping the amount of messages at a reasonable level (to avoid over-information).
Find more about the subject : the Fing, link between email and social network under Elgg 11
Since 2010 and after the testing of quite a few online tools for its collaborative works (mailing lists, blogs, forums), the Fing has progressively implemented its social network, an Elgg platform which enables to standardize its contibutors collaborative network environments : some members being involved in several discussions, managing subscriptions to scattered platforms and mailing lists was indeed a problem.
At first, the choice was made to combine the web platform (to publish) and the email (to exchange). At the launching of Digital questions in mid 2012 , the Fing chose to interface the two modes. Each forum of its network allows web or email interaction : for example, a forum subject is posted on the web and notified by email to the 260 persons of the Digital Questions group, who can react either by return of email or by logging in on the platform. Users seem to choose email for quick answers and web when elaborated answers are needed.
This practical detail also allows to have, like on any forum, several parallel threads of discussion, provided a special care is given to titles. It eases access to new comers and open-cast work and lowers the entrance barriers. Activated on forums, this feature can also be easily activated on comments from other publications : blogs, document-sharing, events...

Get to know more : ADEO group, use of Google groups in push and in pull 12
The ADEO group is a firm of 70000 persons dispatched in 13 countries and 27 Business Units (BU). Very much decentralized, turned towards the sharing of Knowledge and Power, ADEO has launched for nearly 20 years into numerous steps of shared Vision with all the staff of some of its BU.
The Communauté Produit, Achat et Supply-Chain (PAS), grouping together the central buying services, the logistic departments of the BU and the PAS Group's Direction has initiated in mid-2011 a transverse step : VisionPAS 2023, the Vision on cooperation PAS of the ADEO Group by associating thus more than 2000 staff. Different collaborative techniques have been used to extract the true substance : work units, creativity seminar, Design Thinking mode prototypes, … but none of these involving more than 150 persons altogether.
In order to do the writing of our target in 10 years, we have decided to divide in 8 great main lines according to the following structure : Benchmark, TOFW (Threats, Opportunities, Forces, Weaknesses), 10 years vision. Nearly 50 work units of 15 persons which have allowed us to make up this very rich and complementary material (see : parable of blind men and an elephant) . We have then realized a first summary on each topic. The importance was then to find ways to make the whole community react on this VO to make the most of collective intelligence. But very soon in an international group with no reference language, the linguistic issue aroused. We didn't have either CRM tools, enriched repertories nor a firm social network. In consequence we have implemented a 6 weeks Digital Debate targetting 1500 persons helped by Google Groups.
The need :
  • Multilingual Forum to favour individual speech.
  • Possibility to send mass emails from the Forum towards mailboxes with an option to answer directly on the Forum without having to join (this criterion made us exclude the Nabble tool that does not allow mass-emails sending)
The solution :
  • 7 Forums = 7 Google Groups (1 per language: french, english, spanish, italian, polish, portuguese, russian) bringing in a group of translators
  • One week of intensive processing on a topic with different and coherent push tools according to
  • 1. Launching of the debate by the sending of a summary on the topic
  • 2. Sending of inspiration on the same topic : open-mindedness, proposal of external perspectives
  • 3. Publication of the latest contributions : the message we want to send is : "the debate is progressing, your colleagues are taking part in it, new ideas are rising, join in ! "
  • 4. Publication of a new summary enhanced by the debate : contributors recognize their hand in the wording of the final deliverable and notice the enhancement of the final summary thanks to the collective debate.
  • A simple system to contribute : answer by email which feeds instantaneously the thread of the forum OR direct contribution on the forum by posting a comment. On the forum, contributions on a topic can be seen indistinctly.
Strong points :
  • Strategic topics tackled in 7 languages : richness of contributions made easier by individual expression.
  • Volunteers within the company for the translation helped to make translations reactive and flexible, which was vital to stick to our rather short deadlines.
  • No hierarchical diagram : all ideas are kept and exploited similarly in the final wording of the final deliverable. Besides, contributions put forward in Flash emails onlyy quote the contributor's surname, not his/her name.
push by daily email : contributor's sollicitation through the media they use most today. Contributions are for stocked in one and same place : the Goggle Group (1 per language). Each person "must " receive information but she is free afterwards to follow or not the thread on an additional tool, here the Google Group. In order to avoid missing the "best " contributions, we "push " to all a selection of these latest.
Difficulties :
  • A forum per language but no transversality between the 7 forums : what is posted in the polish forum cannot be seen by Spanish. EXCEPT that the dissemination of "best comments " in the flash could come from the 7 forums and summaries were common in all languages.
  • Only the coordinator had subscribed to Google Group so that participants would receive summaries but not all contributions. With no CRM, sendings were done from a Gmail account wit a return adredd that was the Gmail account's o ne.Even the Gmail account was opened so that participants could join in if they wanted.
  • Need to have a Gmail account to have access to Google Groups.
  • Need of fitting tools (enlarge repertories, CRM, …) for that sending volume.
  • The not-always-easy-to-implement need for accomplices enabling the bustling of debates.
Results and figures :
  • A 6 weeks live debate on 8 strategic topics.
  • A participation rate of around 13% with more than 400 multilingual commentaries multi-lingues which have enriched the Vision notebooks.
  • Contributions done in 7 languages : "only " 55% of commentaries are in French.
  • 8 input "Vision V1" notebooks of our International Meeting which gathered in february 2013 for 3 days 700 PAS community managers of the Groupe ADEO to do a collective reading 13 .
To conclude, this first ADEO's large scale Digital Debate was rich in learnings. It allowed us to follow the major stages referred to in the paragraph "Applying these principles to produce collective intelligence ". It allowed us to validate this participative method and will surely call out for more.

Tools for capture and text maps
To create a text-map summary which enables the group to have an overview, interesting contributions need first to be captured within the different messages (there can several in the same message), eventually given a shorter (less than a line) and more explicit name and then organized into a hierarchy. This last action may need to create new entries in the hierarchy to gather several ideas which can be found there.

Find more about it : reorganize levels while discussing
Let's imagine a discussion on the implementation of this method where the current vision is described by the following text-map :
  • Tools of discussion
  • Mail (push tool : information sent directly to participants)
  • Take into account those who like Facebook rather than email
  • Forum (Pull tool : the participant fetches himself the item of information he wants)
Contributors propose to add the idea of also using Twitter as well as other social networks. The map could then be reorganized under the following shape :
Tools of discussion
  • Pushtools (information sent directly to participants)
  • Mail
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Other social networks
  • Allowing several push tools to leave a choice to participants ?
  • Pull tools (the participant fetches himself the item of information he wants)
  • Forum
  • Something else ?
In this case, not only the idea of "email " moves to the level of "push tool " which includes Facebook, Twitter and other social networks, but the person who does the mapping had the idea to add the possibility of mixing tools and also organized identically the pull tools to leave room for other choices. In doing that, we do not have exactly a summary of the discussion but rather a map of the current vision understanding of the problem. Reorganizing a map often gives additional ideas and even the map-maker can add ideas, which can be completed or corrected by participants during the next iteration of contributions.

The mapping of exchanges can be done by hand with eventually post-it notes on a wall in order to reorganize ideas easily. But when the discussion is important, one iteration of the map can take about 5 hours and this happens once or twice a week during the phase of ideation... organizing such a discussion is greedy in time for facilitators and particularly for those who make or complete maps.
Too reduce the mapping time and therefore allow the animation of groups even by persons for whom it's not the "official job 14 ", time must be reduced to one or maximum two hours a week. The aim of the app Assembl developed by Imagination for People in partnership with the Institut du Nouveau Monde in Québec, is to ease the capture of smart contributions, to help renaming them and to reorganize them easily despite the small size of a computer screen.

Find more about it : Assembl a tool to map contributions 15
Assembl is an online discussion system aimed for groups of people which have to produce collectively a deliverable (opinion, consensus, document, patterns, alternatives, etc.) on any subject. Although it is relatively easy nowadays to mobilize people on a stake through social networks, for a multitude of purposes the quality of a deliverable does not increase the number of participants. This is the main problem tackled by Assembl.
First of all by combining a chronological discussion (necessary to ease implication, feeling of membership and group dynamics) and a more structured and synthesized presentation of the discussion (necessary to enable each participant to have an overview on exchanges and proposals whatever the time and the level of attention he can devote to it).
Assembl enables humans to play a facilitator part in a team. With the help of tools making these tasks productive, they point out key-ideas, disseminate them synthetically and guide participants towards constructive discussions.
Assembl tries not to repeat what we see as weaknesses of preceding systems, thus, Assembl:
  • Doesn't force participants to write their contributions in a special format (the structure must help the discussion, not take its place)
  • Acknowledges that some participants will like better a push mode (for example: mailing lists) and some a pull mode (for example : : web forums web, Facebook groups), and enables them to chat together by breaking those "havens " of discusion 16 .
  • Doesn't brake existing communities by forcing migrations. It can be introduced progressively in the current mailing list of an already active community.
  • Doesn't disconnect maps of discussions that gave birth to it. Reactions to discussion are available from the global version and vice-versa.
  • Doesn't make obligatory a structure of discussion (numerous systems are focused on for/against debates) and imposes less constraints to methods of animation.

Continuation of this text available here

  • 1 parable of Jaïnism, made famous by the american poet John Godfrey Saxe in the middle of the XIXth centuray. Source :
Sanskrit Heritage Dictionary. [online]. [Accessed 4 February 2014]. Available from :, Quoted par Wikipédia : The Sanskrit Heritage Dictionary. Wikipédia [online]. [Accessed 4 February 2014]. Available from :
  • 2 The equivalent expression in english could be "bar-room politics " or even better "armchair philosophy " refering to cultured but idle people , whom talk a lot but act little (rather than to people who would have had too much too drink and would talk nonsense) : café du commerce.  WordReference [online]. [Accessed 4 February 2014]. Available from :
  • 3 A paradox which might have been invented by Eubulide of Millet (IVth century) from the Cretan of Epimenide. Paradoxe du menteur. Wikipédia [online]. [Accessed 4 February 2014]. Available from :
  • 4 Alfred Korzybski, author of General Semantics, understood during the first World War that the mechanisms of thinking which caused the war rested on the postulates of Aristotle's logic (principle of identity, of non contradiction and of excluded middle). He expressed then a new non-aristototelitian logic based on new postulates corresponding to scientific advancements in the XXth century : Sémantique générale. Wikipédia [online]. [Accessed 4 February 2014]. Available from :
  • 5 It 's about a limitation of one of our working memories called phonologiacl loop, which only allows us to keep in mind three items in a chain of ideas. For the model of the different working memories, see : BADDELEY, Alan D. and HITCH, G. J. Working memory. In : BOWER, G. H. (ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation : Advances in research and theory Volume 8. New York : Academic Press, 1974. p. 47–90. ISBN 9780080863597 0080863590 0125433085 9780125433082.
  • 6 This second working memory concerns the whole of the project or ideas we can remember in our short term memory. It's named after a visuo-spatial notebook. It enables us for example to count post factum the windows in a house when we don't see it anymore... considering their number is limited. It's also this same working memory which allows to create new ideas by linking two former ones. MILLER, George A. The magical number seven, plus or minus two : some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological review. 1956. Vol. 63, no. 2, p. 81.
  • 7 To know more about the topic, see the complete text: "Size of groups and roles of members"
  • 8 To know more about the topic, see the complete text:  "//Post factum// choice"
  • 9 To know more about the topic, see the complete text: "Mapping to give an overview". These ideas were presented formerly in : CORNU, Jean-Michel. Modes de pensée et conflit d’intérêt. In : Nouvelles technologies, nouvelles pensées ? [online]. Limoges, France : FYP éditions, 2008. Innovation, ISSN 1961-8328. ISBN 978-2-916571-03-4. Available from :
  • 10 See also the Delphi method which enables aware people to improve their forecasting on a topic by an iterative approach enhancing the fields of convergence and incertainty : LINSTONE, Harold A. and TUROFF, Murray (eds.). The delphi method [online]. Addison-Wesley Reading, MA, 2002. [Accessed 4 February 2014]. ISBN 0 - 201 - 04294 - 0. Available from :
  • 11 This part was written by Jacques-François Marchandise de la Fing
  • 12 This part was written by Victoria Masson and Jean Duclos from the ADEO group
  • 13 See the paragraph "Text Wording : collectivre re-reading "
  • 14 The animation of a debate may be done by volunteers or professionals whom will find interesting to be in the heart of the discussion in order to catch ideas and subtelties fully. This job of animation should not officially be part of the working time.
  • 15 This part was written by Benoît Grégoire from Imagination for People. Imagination for People | Repérer et soutenir des projets sociaux créatifs. [online]. [Accessed 4 February 2014]. Available from :
  • 16 See the paragraph "Size of groups and roles of members" about the difference between proactive and reactive participants

How to produce a document when you are several hundred persons (Part 2)

Card's author : Jean-Michel Cornu
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description : The first part of this document is available here

Constitution of the group

Invitation to join in
First you need to invite people to form a group. This can be done collectively or individually. Both are complementary. An invitation is not a subscription, the person must give her authorization to be part of the group. But, if she is interested, her subscription must be as easy as possible : a simple click on a link in a email with as little information to give as possible (generally first name and name, sometimes the firm. The email address can be detected directly). Otherwise, a simple return answer by email can be suggested in order to lower even more the threshold of acting out 17 . The answer may be manually treated or automatically with a return heading to a robot which allows to register the person directly (by detecting in the email address the person's email or his/her account in the social network as well as his/her name).

For the collective invitation, niches for the information display must be chosen first : emailing lists (discussion or diffusion), social networks, newsletter... Be careful not to spam groups where such an invitation would not be in the subject. A natural niche where the invitation could be sent would be the list of members, the newsletters and the social networks of the organization(s) which is or are managing the new group. With a CRM (Customer Relationship Management, profiles and sending management system in an organization), it is even possible to personalize the message of the invitation especially by mentioning the name and/or first name of the person.
For those you particularly want in the group
The first individual job to do is to draw up the list of people you wish to have in the group. This can be done for example with a spreadsheet where for each person to invite a field for "First name Name " <adresse_mail> (format which allows an easy sending with not only the email adress address but also the name). Other columns can bear the organization, a field for commentaries on the interest of having this person in the group or else a field with the sending date, the answer, the possible date for first and second reminder, etc. This board (or a more efficent efficient app) allows to keep an eye on individual invitations 18 . If after a week the person has not answered, a first and then a second reminder can be sent. No need to insist, consider that someone who has not answered after two or three reminders, doesn't want to join the group. Invitations and messages need to be personal with first name and name, at least at the beginning, even in a standard message. It can be useful too to have to kinds of messages : familiar and formal (the type of sent message must be quoted in the board) 19 . The message has to be as short as possible but still very clear and complete (it must not take up more than an average computer screen) and it must end with the signature of one or two persons with possibly their status rather than being anonymous and signed by a group or an organization. This way of handling individual invitation, when well carried out and with a minimum knowledge of the guests (messages could be ideally signed by a person who knows the guest) allows a good return rate (up to 80 or 90%).

It can be wise to mention in the invitation that contribution to be part of the group is not compulsory (between 60 to 90% of members are observers or even completely idle 20 ), that the number of messages will be reasonable (for example only summaries and a selection of contributions will be sent with a maximum of five emails per week, details being available on the web) and that unsubscribing is possible any time 21 .

To know more about the subject : example of customized individual messages
Example of customizedindividual message (aimed for a man and using a familiar tone)
Subject : starting up of a work on monetary innovation

Dear <first name>,

I am launching within the Foundation Internet Nouvelle Génération (Fing) an "expedition " (a collective work of several months) on "Monetary innovation " : Today more than 5000 "complementary currencies " are circulating in the world. The crisis, the research in new means of development, the internet and finally the mobile phone have speed up its development. What if the same factors could also help to reinvent the very uses of these currencies and what they make possible?

All the results of the expedition will be made public and freely reusable. The objective is to open up new opportunities and to provoke action. With regards to your knowledge on currencies, I suggest that you join us to take part in this reflexion. If it's ok for you, simply click on the following link <link to register> or, if you prefer, you can email me back and I will take care personally of you registration.

Looking forward to exchanging on the topic with you.

Best wishes.

Jean-Michel Cornu

Example of reminder (aimed for man and using a familiar tone)

Dear <first name>,

The first discussions of the Monetary Innovation group will soon occur. If you want to follow the debate on the new definitions for currency uses and what they enable (and maybe participate if you have time), click on the following link : <link to register> or, if you prefer, you can email me back and I will take care personally of you registration.

Best wishes.

Jean-Michel Cornu

[copy of the previous invitation email]

First gathering of exchanges
Once the number of participant reaches one hundred, the first thing to do is to invite each participant to present himself briefly in one or two sentences adding what he expects from the group and how he might contribute. This first pool may seem useless particularly in social networks where each member has a user profile, but its aim is to have the maximum people speaking a first time with a simple question that can be answered immediately. Those who have already posted a message have more luck to contribute later, allowing a larger number of contributors (not counting those who systematically contributes...). It shows to other members of the group that they are numerous and that many of them contribute, a fact which also catalyse participation. For the launching of this first gathering of opinions, partners which will introduce themselves very fast might be required to encourage others to introduce themselves as well. That kind of gathering of opinions may enable a participation of up to 40% in large groups.

This first email inviting people to introduce themselves is also the opportunity to present short and simple rules for the functioning of the group. They have to be easily agreed by all members and will allow remarks to contributors whom will not respect them.

To know more about the subject : example of three short functioning rules
Short reminder of rules for our exchanges
  • Be short : one email one screen (except for summaries...)
  • Be constructive : no one has all the solutions, each contribution improves the debate
  • Dare to contribute and welcome new contributors : no idea is useless

If the group is long to set up (over fifteen days), it may be necessary to send, before the first gathering of opinions, a message to inform that the group is underway, that discussions will soon start. On the other hand, it's not compulsory to wait for all registrations to start the first gathering of opinions (there might be just few individual reminders to send after fifteen days).

Once the group is over a hundred and that the first gathering of opinions has enabled a maximum people to talk, the group is ready to undertake a work of collective intelligence. The introducing cycle often continues while the first question on the topic is asked. It's normal, once participants see that more and more people are contributing, that some undergo a certain stress which leads them to introduce themselves in their turn. Others won't. It's important then that messages from the manager put a stress on the fact that there is no guilt to have for people whom did not contribute (in a large group the non-contribution is normal), but those who want to share an idea even a simple one, are welcome anytime no matter whether they have contributed before or not.

Besides a group of partners has to be identified : people that you know well and that you may contact individually to ask for their contribution in order to initiate the discussion, hence creating a "catalysis " effect for the reactive people within the group.

Web watch, common understanding and ideation : an iterative mapping

This stage is made of an alternation of phases of contributions followed by textual maps summaries giving an instantaneous overall view on the problem's understanding. It can be separated in 3 main functions : web watch, building of a common understanding and pointing out of new ideas. It may be interesting to present them one by one, but they often occur simultaneously. Therefore, a more precise understanding of certain subdivisions of the initial question will lead some participant to quote web watch resources and new ideas will often make compulsory the reorganization of previous knowledge with an improved classification.
The initial question
This stage starts with the wording of the question or even better, when a prep work has been done, with a first map. The debate is even more motivating for contributors that it is well advanced while leaving numerous domains to explore. From this question or this textual map, the question is now to ask the group members what are, in their opinion, the missing knowledge and to start quoting relevant resources in those domains (watch).

As in each "stage-email ", rules can be reminded briefly (see previously "example of three short functioning rules ").
Contributions : from "partners " to "reactive people "
To spark off first contributions which are going to spark the following ones, partners can be called for : ask directly some persons of the group whom you know very well and outside of collective messages, to react to your messages the faster they can to initiate the discussion. Of course you will do that just before sending the initial email or the intermediate maps. Even if not all partners will react, contacting them directly increases relevantly the percentage of those who will contribute. By contacting from 6 to 10 people you are sure to have between 3 to 5 first contributions which will encourage other participants to react.

Leave a little time too (generally a week or little less if many contributions) in order to enable the reaction of those who wish to. In groups where everyone sees all contributions (list of discussion for instance), answers from others have a boosting effect. In groups where only some messages are sent to the whole group, sending a message quickly written with a selection of the contributions received just after the initial email (one or two days after the sending of the initial answer or the intermediate map) may be useful. These contributions will contain those from your partners but also some more spontaneous ones

Boosting exchanges can also be done by pointing out domains where contributions are fewer. You can also suggest to identify web watch items (with references or URL), to improve the differentiation between two very close concepts (and bearing sometimes the same name) to achieve a better common understanding or else to suggest the developing of new and not yet identified ideas. Participants often focus on some approaches keeping the discussions in the same fields. As presented by Plato in his dialogues of Socrates, maieutics is 22 "the art of delivering a soul " by asking questions. By suggesting the group to focus especially on such or such part or approach, you will improve the final result quality.

To know more about the subject : the method of the six thinking hats
The Edward de Bono's method of the six thinking hats 23 allows to point out the angles of the different contributions. Relaunching the group towards insufficiently developed approaches becomes possible then:
  • white hat : which ideas can be suggested from a rational point of view ?
  • red hat : what can be added from an emotional and intuitive point of view ?
  • black hat : what are the problems from a pessimistic point of view ?
  • yellow hat : which new opportunities from an optimistic point of view ?
  • green hat : let's start anew from a creative point of view
  • blue hat : which management to develop the control over the process ?

In a debate, more comprehensive methods enable to point out the domains that are insufficiently covered in order to get an optimal quality 24 .
This part of iteration can also be done during online or face-to-face sessions, as a supplement to online asynchronous exchanges. Within the framework of the Lift meetings an underway map about monetary innovation 25 was submitted in two different workshops in Marseille and Paris, by asking the participants what in their opinion was lacking. Even though the assembly was composed of participants from the group and of people unaware of the topic, the presentation of each part of the map has enabled each time a discussion with the emergence of new trails and new concepts. Each time these meetings allowed the updating of a map that was then submitted back and online to the group. A third meeting has been organized in the high place of Design in Paris inviting three speakers from different disciplines (anthropology, economy and philosophy) to react to the map resulting from these collective works. In another group, a stage of contribution has been tested during an online session about stigmergy 26 (a mechanism of indirect coordination between agents which allows a system of allocated self-organization) by adding items from the SECI method for animating a session proposed by Nonaka and Takeushi 27 . Iterations can be mixed during asynchronous online exchanges (from half a week to a week long)and online or face-to-face sessions (lasting from an hour and half and three hours), in order to get the maximum diversity within the contributors. Some are more comfortable with written or oral contributions, even among those whom attend both exchanges and sessions.
Textual mapping
Once a week, twice if contributions are numerous, improve the map which summarize the items coming from the participants watch, understanding and new ideas.
The first stage consists in catching contributions items in the different messages from the group. There can be two or more contributions in a message. To ease their use, they can be characterized by a reformulated sentence of one line maximum. Keep the name of the contributor to ease the esteem mechanisms within the group 28 .
The following step consists in completing the textual map of the debate (or creating it if it's the first time) by inserting new contributions wisely. This process often needs to reorganize the map by adding levels to distinguish concepts which were before mixed up.
The map is aiming to give an overall view of exchanges. It appears under the shape of a bullet list with different levels. In order to keep the map as short as possible and to avoid scrolling to read it, there is one contribution per line. The first name of the contributor can be added at the end of each line. The objective is to circulate on the textual map as you read a graphics board : instead of needing a complete reading, we must be able to point out quickly the key items and then to look closer at the parts we are interested in. For that purpose, the use of bold, underlined, italic lay out allows to enhance some important words or group of words. Colours can also be used, red for example to point out special items.

To know more about the topic : example of map about to show cooperation
Which cooperation sell ?
  • 1) Safeguarding general interest forgetting short term personal interest (altruism) (Mathieu)
    • Foundations exist but they are complicated (theory of green beards...)
  • 2) Joining on the long term collective and personal interest (Michel)
    • it is the foundation of cooperation (Jean-Michel)
    • there are economic models : radical collaboration, coopetition (Gatien)
    • What simple examples to understand easily ?
How to join personal interest with collective interest
  • Giving a long term vision (Mathieu)
    • "the shadow of future " in the jargon of economists (Gatien)
  • Developingabundance rather than rarity(Jean-Michel)
  • Favouringesteem mechanisms
  • Taking part in a collective work and sharing it (Michel)
  • Transforming the mechanisms of support for projects (Michel)
Cooperation can help us to gain time... or to loose some...
  • by the contacts it brings in (networking)
  • belonging to a community creates confidence and legitimacy (Richard)
  • the production of the group can help us to gain time (mutualization) (Philippe Olivier)
  • but cooperation needs to be less time-consuming
    • for participants : method of online exchanges (Jean-Michel)
    • for managers : by being a "lazy smart " as Linus Torvarld (Michel)
Cooperation can help us to earn money... or to loose some (This side needs developing)
  • Living better collectively : redirecting rivers to irrigate soils (Mathieu)
  • Innovating economical models (see free, web 2, music...) (Jean-Michel)

The map is not only a summary of the discussion. In fact, by reorganizing it, the manager often sees what is obvious in terms of new ideas. He must not do without adding them on the map because the next iteration of comments might invalidate or complete his choice.
End of the stage
After several iterations, contributions tend to dry up and participants stop adding new ideas. This may occur after the first iteration (but in this case the contributors ideas have not been exchanged) but we have example of exchanges including up to 7 iterations 29 . Besides, if the manager thinks that enough angles were treated (see for instance the six thinking hats method above), then a final map can be displayed within the group. The question is now to make choices and more than that to show results under a form that anyone who is ignorant on the subject will understand.

Choice : an approximate consensus

Not all discussions need to be finalized by choices. Sometimes it's useful to keep everything in order to show the maximum approaches, for example when one wants to publish a guide on how to implement a project 30 . On the contrary in other cases, a collective choice has to be made within the diversity of submitted ideas on actions to be implemented by the group or on proposals to carry out. The method used for the previous stage enables to lessen the problem generated by the people's tendency to fight first for his point of view against other's.The most interesting ideas are often those coming after several iterations. Even if they come from one participant, they blossom from the numerous exchanges and cannot be attributed to only one person (even if the first name of the person is quoted in the textual map). People choose more easily from collective ideas than from individual ideas.
An efficient approach is the rough consensus one. It is neither a consensus (hard even impossible to achieve) nor a vote which leaves aside part of the participants choices. In the rough consensus, the question is "has anyone got a major objection to the actual choice ? ". Like in all large groups where participation is an exception and non-contribution a majority, the rough consensus only asks people who would have a real problem with the choice to react. It is therefore possible to reach a point where all the choices made, even though they are not those each person would have made individually, are acceptable enough for all.
The rough consensus is one of the base of the IETF, Internet Engineering Task Force, the community which specifies the standards of the Internet since 1986. Despite the important stake for many industrials to choose a standard rather than an other, the IETF methods have enabled the development of standards agreed by all 31 .

Text writing : collective proofreading

Once the group has pointed out all items of reference, concepts and ideas – and eventually has made choices among them – the whole work still needs to be turned into a document that anyone outside the group can understand. This stage is undertaken more traditionally by one or two "scribes " for the writing and the whole group for the proofreading and the comments.

The proofreading by the group is useful because even with the best will in the world, no one understands all the subtleties written in the final map, not even the manager who drew it ! So, by writing the whole in a literary style, words considered as synonyms are often used to lighten the style. But one contributor may notice that if the word used in the map is right, it is not any more in the proposed text. There still are therefore many implicit items in the final map. If the map is accepted by all members of the group, a slightly different wording which would be harmless to the majority of the group, may be unacceptable to some.

The map done by the group can either give birth to a text of one or two pages or to an important text. So, in the example of the group on monetary innovation, the six weeks of online debate and the three working sessions have issued on 7 versions of the map and a 160 pages book 32 . The Book sprint 33 methodology used by Floss Manuals 34 to carry out collective books in a week time can be useful. A group of people gathered for five days to write each a part of the book. In our case, it is not so much experts in one domain whom will bring their knowledge but people whom have taken part in the exchanges and whom will try to transcribe as faithfully as possible the final map in a way understandable to all. The contents is parted between the different participants (numerous enough to write their part in just a few days) and each written part is submitted online to the group for comments. Tools which enable to comment online such as Co_ment 35 or Google Drive 36 are useful during this stage.

Once the writing is up and stamped by the group, an edition work to hunt mistakes, improve style and homogenize the whole. At this stage, avoiding adding mistakes is very important. It is also interesting to have the final text displayed with the modifications, done on the text proposed by writers, visible (added text in bold and removed text crossed out), in order to enable the group to have an easier final proofreading only focused on changes.

Once the work is completely over, a wide online and/or printed diffusion still needs to be done. The use of a CC-BY-SA 3.0 Creative commons licence 37 allows to ease its diffusion and its taking over by a large community.

ICTs at the service of territorial projects

Card's author : Outils-réseaux
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description :
Carte ProjetTerritoire 2
The impact of information and communication technologies (ICTs) on the territories poses some questions, summarised by the contributors to this work ICTs and territories. What are the consequences of information and communication technologies on urban life, territories and mobility? (2005):
  • does the existence of a virtual world mean the end of distances and territories?
  • to what extent can ICTs contribute to the development of territories and, eventually, to the reduction of spatial inequalities?
  • can new tools usefully accompany the process of conciliation and public debate and the construction of a network democracy?
  • how can we conciliate three ICT appropriation logics: individual, to reorganize the ways of working and a last one which is half-individual, half-public, where the challenge is using the potential of ICTs for the benefit of collective objectives?

In a nutshell: obstacles and success factors

1. Obstacles

  • Territorial projects generally have a strong political dimension to them, whether they are lead by a group or not: when tackling the notion of “territory”, the concept of “power” is never far…, a dimension that must be taken into account.
  • Be careful with poisonous people: in a local territory, creating on-line tools for public expression could become a tool for people with bad intentions, who will try to express their ideas outside the rules of democratic debate.

2. Success factors

Some key actors

  • The inhabitants of a territory! They must play an active role and this requires time!
  • Decision-makers (and potential funders of actions): without them, without their support, it is difficult to get durable projects that mobilize on a large scale.
  • Indispensable facilitators: DPS (Digital Public Spaces), to accompany the public towards new tools and uses.
  • A dense social tissue that is willing to cooperate.

A project aligned with the territory

  • A diagnosis of the territory: the features (and problems) will guide any possible projects and their objectives. For example, projects will be different between territories: large / very small, rural / urban, targeting an ageing population / a mixed uprooted population…
Beware of territorial diagnosis made by people from outside the territory when there has been no consultation with the population. It is important to have a participatory analysis (permanent observatory).
  • It shouldn't only be virtual: the project must fit into the reality of the territory: and make visible and link events that happen in the territory, initiatives…

Answers for the territory?: feedback on experiences

To get an idea of what can be done, let's explore some dimensions offered by ICTs when they are used in territorial projects to:

1. Create links between its inhabitants

In many other types of projects, strengthening the links between the inhabitants of a territory is the crosscutting goal: links between generations, social means, to fight isolation, de-compartmentalize actors and create innovation…

Tools to support organizing local events
  • neighbourhood meals
  • the day of the neighbour
  • ads

Social networks
  • La Ruche (in Rennes, and Brest): a local social network
  • Peuplade: a site linking neighbours

Local themed networks
  • Directories of actors, skills…
  • Environmental education: Coopere 34 (Hérault), APLRE

2. Inventories of resources and creating a common good

Participatory inventories

  • Territorial wikis: "A territorial wiki is a wiki that hosts a base of knowledge linked to a geographical space: a territory, municipality or region. Started up by a territorial group, an association or by volunteers, they aim to develop collaborative writing on a territory." (Wikipedia)
  • Wiki-brest
  • wiki-manche
  • Picardia
  • wiki-Toulouse
  • WikiPompignan (Languedoc-Roussillon)

  • Carto party : collectively making a map of a territory using Openstreetmap (an application that allows making a copyright-free map) and Chimere (to add a layer with the information for that territory: heritage sites, resources, points of interest… without overloading Openstreetmap):
  • Plouarzel Carto party: the first French commune to be fully charted using Open Street Map. (

Making public information free

Public information financed with public funds should be reusable for everyone. However, in most cases this information is protected by copyright. Making this information free would be a powerful driver of innovation to create new services, new values. There are several territories that became involved in this path, starting in England and the US:

3. Recovering the territory

Its resources, heritage, initiatives…

Territorial websites
The first devices created.

Aggregating RSS feeds
RSS feeds allow grouping, “aggregating” all news information on a territory. They give visibility to the dynamism of a territory for a very low price.

Territorial calendars
Bringing together and disseminating on several sites the news and activities in a territory using standard formats

Territorial resources databases
Balades scientifiques (by Connaissances): an inventory on the scientific heritage in the Languedoc-Roussillon region:

Augmented reality
Potential projects?
Territoires sonores: a site aiming at bringing value to the territory of Cap de la Chèvre using sound media:

4. Allowing participation and citizen expression

City or neighbourhood forums on the websites of local institutions or associations: there are many of these on the Internet and were one of the first tools established within the territorial projects framework.
Neighbourhood blog

Participatory TV

Participatory debates
  • Facilitating the debate on the future of the scrubland (Les Ecologistes de l'Euzière, Languedoc-Roussillon) with Freemind
  • Wiki created by the city of Clermont Ferrand for a consultation with its citizens on town development ( )

Participatory multimedia creation
  • etoileur (by Kawenga in Montpellier): "e-toileur" is an accompaniment project allowing an artist or performer to find a place in a Multimedia Access Space and develop a cultural action together. (
  • Audiomaton is a device created by the artist Cécile Guigny using an old photo-booth that has been transformed into a simple system to record sounds. At an event (Internet Festival…) the testimonials of users can be posted on-line and feed an audio library. ( )

5. Making services more accessible

Taxes, job centres, administrative procedures…: increasingly, a larger number of administrations are providing (or imposing) on-line services. The basis of this baseline movement is to make these public services more accessible, even in the most remote areas. This dematerialization does eliminate some physical distances, but one must be careful not to forget the technological barrier that leaves many “digital illiterates” aside.

Relocating professional activities and creating shared working spaces in less central areas:  ZeVillage (

E-learning and ODL
Dematerialised pedagogical resources.

6. At the service of the sustainable development of territories

This is one of the big challenges our territories are facing today: how to develop without mortgaging future development?

With this idea in mind, the following has been suggested:
  • the possibility of dematerialising services and activities as a way of minimising the carbon footprint
  • the possibility of citizen participation and consultation

7. To inter-link territories (inter-cultural dimension)

ICTs and the Internet in a certain way bridge gaps and increase the possibilities of inter-linking distant territories.


Mapping to get an overview

Card's author : Jean-Michel Cornu
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description : 1

Long live antagonisms !

Whether during a collective discussion with different points of view, or moreover during an argument, everyone defends his idea and keeps repeating it to be sure it will be taken into account - or more - impose itself to others. This quirk usually prevents everybody from having an overview on the proposed ideas : each one looks for what justifies his position and possibly what discredits the other's. The discussion goes round and round.

If we look closer, they are two things in these exchanges : members try to reach altogether a truth or a solution, but often replacing the rational approach by a late justification of the chosen positions 2 ; and besides there is an often unconscious game going on where every member tries not to be caught out but rather to be held in high esteem by the others. Very often, there is a presupposition that only one solution is true or at least is the best. This situation frequently prevents members from looking for other proposals than those given by them at the beginning . Techniques of creativity enables to break this vicious circle but keeping all that is said and proposing new issues to members.

An antagonism is a "situation where two phenomenons or their consequences have opposite effects 3". In the tale of the blind men and an elephant 4 , each blind persons touches a different part of the animal and draws a different conclusion which seems opposite to the others. But an opposite is not a contrary, which is completely incompatible with the proposal of the beginning. So, we often oppose success and failure. But these two opposites are not as incompatible as they seem at first sight. Those who have carried out projects are well aware that during a lifetime one comes across both success and failures... unless one doesn't do anything which enables neither to succeed nor fail5

It is then important in a discussion not to exclude proposals from the start, but on the contrary to look for new ideas in order to sketch the "map" of possibilities before trying to choose. 6

Limits of the speech

Let's illustrate a speech. It has a point of departure – often a question – a progression and an arrival, the conclusion. It looks like a walk in a forest for instance , with its point of departure, its progression and its arrival. But if we try to walk altogether without accepting to follow one and only one person, then things get bad. The conflict may be shown as a common departure point and two opposite progressions. How can we depict this conflict as only one speech ? We can depict each progression, but we can't depict only one departure point, only one progression and only one arrival as when we argue... Similarly collective intelligence can be represented as several departure points (several points of view) for the same arrival (the topic to keep in mind) . As in the story with the blind men and an elephant, it's not possible to have only one speech. Creation consists in linking two ideas to create a new one. Here too a unique speech cannot enable to leave from several potential towards numerous arrivals. The speech is therefore limited in its ability to show some domains 7. Sometimes we even turn round and round ! Jacques Monod 8 showed that it is our symbolic language and our capacity to build up speeches which makes up our intelligence. So, we humans have an intelligence allowing us sometimes to make rational speeches. It has enabled to develop civilizations and even to send men on the Moon. But this kind of intelligence is of no help neither for solving conflicts nor dealing with collective intelligence or to apply creativity ! That is surely why we are the only animals smart enough to master nuclear power but stupid enough to use it to shatter the Planet in thousands pieces...

A map to avoid turning round and round

Fortunately, classical language and speeches are not the only things we have to develop our intelligence. Cognitive sciences have shown that we have several working memories 9 enabling us to keep these concepts in mind. Yet, thinking means linking ideas. We do this with ideas we have in mind, in our working memories. "The phonological loop" is a working memory interested in linked ideas as in our speech or, to get back to our analogy, as the different steps of our walk. We also have at disposal a visio-spatial sketchpad, another working memory interested in different unconnected concepts. If we go back to our walk-in-the-forest analogy, this memory allows the sketching of a map with different items to find directions. In that case, it is possible to keep in mind several opposite or just different ideas. As well as the disposal of a map four our collective walk allows to locate us and the others, it is possible to make a map of ideas to locate ourselves in the debate. We have named this way of thinking, particularly adapted to conflict-solving, to collective intelligence or to creativity, "thinking-2" taking up Edward de Bono's words 10. The map enables to see all the paths simultaneously and to find some new and unexplored ones. We can co-build it with the ideas and progressions of every one during an exchange of views. Such tools as mind maps (mind mapping en anglais) exactly allows to map debates very efficiently.

But contrary to our long term memories, our working memories are very limited. The phonological loop which allows the chain of ideas only allows to keep in mind three concepts 11. This limit appears when we try to remember the thread of a recent conversation. We easily find the three last ideas but it's difficult to go any further. With this limit, we shouldn't be able to build up a speech of more than three ideas. It's in case the fact in animal language. But we humans have managed to go beyond that barrier thanks to a... cultural increase. Invention of symbolic language has allowed us to stock in our long-term memory 12 several thousands of concepts under the shape of symbolic words. We dig in this memory to feed our small short-term memory chaining words one after another to constitute speeches. So, thanks to this continuous feeding of concepts wrapped in words, we can constitute endless speeches. We are so proud of this major progress that we don't stop talking... Even our unconscious talks as Jacques Lacan says !

Our second working memory, the visio-spatial sketchpad allowing us to draw mind maps that we can try to link later on, is also limited. Its "memory span", the size of what we can keep in mind at a given time, is between five and nine 13. We can have an idea of this limit when looking at a picture with several persons on it and once the picture is away, we are asked how many people there were. If the number is rather low, up to seven, we can find from the mental image that we have kept of the picture. But if the number is higher, we can't count them afterward. Once more, we have a common limit most animals. But without cognitive tools enabling us to overtake it, we can't remember more than five to nine ideas in an exchange and we loose the richness of the debate. The human being of the XXIst century is even disadvantaged because of the continuous requests and the need to keep in mind several things. Very often in a debate, we only react to one or two ideas which have marked us forgetting all the others...

Increasing our ability to map debates

As well as we have been able to increase our capacity to build up speeches by stocking symbolic words in our long term memory, we can increase our ability to make mind maps. "the Method of Loci" means to stock symbolic places – here called loci - in one's long term memory and then to associate them with ideas appearing in exchanges ( in the long run it's easier to memorize territories than ideas). We can keep then in our long term memory enough concepts to overtake the limits of our short term memory

Method of Loci14

In the case of thinking-2, we saw we were limited by the size of our short term working memory. To overtake this fact, we could use a map already kept in our long term memory (for example, a city map) to stock different concepts which will be linked to a place on our map.

That's exactly how the Method of Loci works 15 which goes back to the Greeks according to Cicero 16. He says that during a banquet, the poet Simonide de Ceos was invited to praise the master of the house, a custom peculiar to those times. But he included some praises to Castor and Pollux. Scopas, the master, then said to Simonide that he would only pay half what he owed him and that he could ask the twin gods for the balance. A little later during the meal, someone called Simonide to tell him two youngsters were waiting for him outside. As soon as he was out of the house, the roof collapsed on the whole of the guests. Bodies were so squashed that they could not be recognized by their family. But the poet was able to remember the whole of the victims by the places they occupied during the deadly banquet.

Progressively, from a simple mnemonic system, the Method of Loci turned into a system willing to categorize the whole of human thinking on a spatial map. Well over a simple mnemonic process, this system was drawing an art of creating thinking 17. But the use itself of the expression "art of memory" has undoubtedly forced to forget these techniques when printing, then computers substituted themselves to our memory capacities. Nevertheless this kind of method, used since the Middle Ages by monks, allows to think with a great number of concept simply by associating them with parts of a known places, itself being kept in the long term .

Traces of these methods combining concepts and symbolic places – not always real spots but also learnt and memorized maps -are often found in numerous domains : in the use of psalms 18, spoken tales 19, African griots, Yi King, Chinese calligraphy...

Which map for which collective intelligence ?

To enable the development of collective intelligence in the writing of a collective document or in the solving of conflicts for instance, maps can be used to show the different progressions of members and discover some new ones. The use of mind maps (mind mapping) is particularly powerful. During face-to-face meetings, maps can be cast on a wall so that everyone has an overview. Thus it changes completely the way people propose new ideas rather than repeating those they remember... generally theirs.

But there are limits to this approach : mind map soon becomes complex. Someone who arrives along the way will find it difficult to understand. Those who were there from the start can use it rather effectively... until the projector is switched off. The amount of ideas on the map often exceed our working memory's limits and soon after the work session we stop thinking and remember only a few conclusions that poorly illustrate the richness of the discussion. We have successfully tested the superimposition of a mind map on a territory according to the «method of Loci» method. The metaverse francophone library has created a virtual island 20 hosting the different concepts of our book Prospectic 21 on emerging sciences and technologies (Nanotechnologies, Biotechnologies, Complex systems theory, IT, Neurosciences, Cognition...). Besides, in the framework of a 6-sessions public debate on synthesic biology set up by Vivagora, we have mapped real time ideas and opinions about an imaginary city 22.

This method using mind maps proved to be particularly powerful during face-to-face sessions or else during online meetings (synchronous meetings). It's different with asynchronous online meetings, when each member reacts in the debate when he chooses to. Indeed, in this case, the level of member's attention fluctuates from pro-activity to episodic observation 23. Co-mapping step-by-step with everyone's attention becomes difficult. Besides, it's hard to find spots known by all and which can we can use as bases to locate one or two hundreds concepts. Our houses and our environment are well memorized and they can be a media for the method of Loci. But they are different for each member and can only be used individually. The world map could possibly be used as a base because we have all already memorized a part of it, but it's tricky to locate ideas-most of the time subjective- on inhabited countries or territories. For example where would be located the notion of deviance? The best applicant seems to be the human body where even a uneducated person can locate dozens of different spots. Vivian Labrie has experimented this approach with human sculptures composed of several members during debates about poverty in Quebec 24. Besides, during an online debate, reactive participants which are ten times more numerous than proactive ones, get information and summaries through a tool rather geared to text (mail, Facebook, Twitter) 25 which they read regularly and don't really make the effort to look at a graphical mind map on a specific web page. Asking to click on a link in a sent text will reduce by half the number of potentially reactive persons.

Therefore during online debates, it is more interesting to have a mind map exclusively built with (even if with Twitter there is still the need to click on link to propose more than 144 characters). When formatted, the text enables that kind of possibilities with item-structured lists (which make an arborescence as mind maps) and different artifacts allowing to browse a text just like a map, reading an exhaustive reading needless (bold, underlined...). By keeping short the "textual mind map", the size of an average computer screen, we enable participants to have an overview of exchanges and to use Thinking-2 to produce collective intelligence.

  • 1 Thes ideas are originally presented in : CORNU, Jean-Michel. Modes de pensée et conflit d’intérêt. In : Nouvelles technologies, nouvelles pensées ? [online]. Limoges, France : FYP éditions, 2008. Innovation, ISSN 1961-8328. ISBN 978-2-916571-03-4. Available from :
Available from article : Nous avons non pas un mais deux modes de pensée. Le blog de Jean-Michel Cornu [online]. [Accessed 4 February 2014]. Available from:
  • 2 The rational reasoning process is to put forward an hypothesis and then to try to refute it. Since Aristotle we actually know that it is not possible to demonstrate that a global theory - Aristotle talks of " universal proposal" -is true (a sentence like all rabbits have a tail cannot be completely checked because how can we be sure we have seen all the rabbits...). The rational reasoning process is then to demonstrate that the theory is wrong. If it can't be done, the theory is considered sufficiently good to be provisionally true... until a refutation invalidates it. The scientific reasoning process is based on the rational reasoning process but it attempt tempting to draw checkable forecasts from the theory which allow a refutation... or not.
  • 3 Antagonisme. Wikipédia [online]. [Accessed 4 February 2014]. Available from :
  • 4 See How to produce a text when you are several hundred persons - La parabole des aveugles et de l'éléphant
  • 5 get to know more, see the square of opposition : Le carré Sémiotique. Le blog de Jean-Michel Cornu [online]. [Accessed 4 February 2014]. Available from :
  • 6 Voir The post factum choice
  • 7 It is because of the use of spoken or written language which unrolls sequentially. Other forms of language could allow to translate simultaneously two or more notions. Like in dance for instance. Bees use that form of language (yet without having an elaborated symbolic language as ours). As well as the language of signs for deaf and hearing-impaired enables things which are not possible with spoken language, for example telling one thing with the left hand and something else even contrary with the right one !
  • 8 MONOD, Jacques. Le hasard et la nécessité: essai sur la philosophie naturelle de la biologie moderne. Paris, France : Éd. du Seuil, 1970. Points. Série Essais, ISSN 1264-5524, 43. ISBN 978-2-02-000618-7.
  • 9 BADDELEY, Alan D. and HITCH, G. J. Working memory. In : BOWER, G. H. (ed.), The psychology of learning and motivation : Advances in research and theory Volume 8. New York : Academic Press, 1974. p. 47–90. ISBN 9780080863597 0080863590 0125433085 9780125433082.
  • 10 DE BONO, Edward. Conflits: comment les résoudre. Paris, France : Eyrolles, 2007. ISBN 978-2-212-53952-3.
  • 11 BADDELEY, Alan D. and HITCH, G. J.ibid.
  • 12 Called "semantic memory"
  • 13 MILLER, George A. The magical number seven, plus or minus two: some limits on our capacity for processing information. Psychological review [online]. 1956. Vol. 63, no. 2, p. 81. [Accessed 4 February 2014]. Available from :
  • 14 CORNU, Jean-Michel. Nouvelles technologies, nouvelles pensées ? Limoges, France : FYP éditions, 2008. Innovation (Limoges), ISSN 1961-8328. ISBN 978-2-916571-03-4.
  • 15 YATES, Frances Amelia. L’art de la mémoire. Paris, France : Gallimard, 1987. Bibliothèque des histoires, ISSN 0768-0724. ISBN 2-07-070982-5, 978-2-07-070982-3.
  • 16 CICÉRON. De l’orateur. Paris, France : Les Belles Lettres, 1966. Collection des universités de France, ISSN 0184-7155.
  • 17 CARRUTHERS, Mary J. Machina memorialis : méditation, rhétorique et fabrication des images au Moyen Age. Paris, France : Gallimard, 2002. Bibliothèque des histoires, ISSN 0768-0724. ISBN 2-07-075746-3.
  • 18 CARRUTHERS, Mary J.ibid.
  • 19 Des cartes pour décrire des contes : rencontre avec Vivian Labrie. Le blog de Jean-Michel Cornu [online]. [Accessed 4 February 2014]. Available from :
  • 20 ile Prospectic. ProspecTIC [online]. [Accessed 4 February 2014]. Available from :
  • 21 CORNU, Jean-Michel. Nouvelles technologies, nouvelles pensées ? Limoges, France : FYP éditions, 2008. Innovation (Limoges), ISSN 1961-8328. ISBN 978-2-916571-03-4.
  • 22 Biosynth-ville : la ville de la biologie synthétique. Vivagora [online]. [Accessed 4 February 2014]. Available from :
  • 23 Voir Size of groups and parts of members
  • 24 Collectif pour un Québec sans pauvreté. [online]. [Accessed 4 February 2014]. Available from :
  • 25 Voir Size of groups and parts of members

To sum up

In a debate with several people, and even more in a confrontation, each one tends to defend his idea and to repeat it constantly so it is taken into account. In practice it's often seen that different points of view don 't rule each other out but on the contrary complement each other to give altogether an overview. To go past the facts, me must take into account the two ways of thinking that are each using a different working memory.

The first, based on speech consist in sayings ideas one after the other, just as we make a step after another to progress from a starting point until an arrival. This way of thinking especially allows a rational approach but it hardly takes into account conflict (a starting point, two directions), collective intelligence (several points of view on the same arrival) or else creativity (finding new ways between several starting points and several arrivals) which are all three using another complementary way.

The second way of thinking is based on mapping. It consists in arranging on the same mind map ideas according to their proximity, without trying to select them offhand, to get the more complete vision on ideas and possible progressions. Mind maps (mind mapping in English) which are co-built and projected to all during sessions are very efficient to give a global vision to the whole group and allow therefore to look for new ideas and new points of view rather than having each member focusing on one or two former ideas.
To go further, two possible approaches :
  • the Method of Loci : During synchronous meetings (online or face-to-face), a map of idea can be coupled with another map, often of territories that each one can keep in his long term memory. It can be a place known to all (their cathedral for monks in the Middle Ages)or failing that a co-built place (in the long term a place is easier to remember than ideas) ;
  • Textual maps : in asynchronous online exchanges, people who behave reactively (ten times more numerous than proactive) and the observers (even more numerous) use tools which cannot stand graphics mode very well (mail, Facebook, Twitter). Therefore proposing a drawn map needs to share a link to a web page where the map is hosted. But then only a half of participants will see the map. The possible use of text laying out can then be used to allow the drawing of a textual map which won't need to be read in its whole as a text but can be read as a map : lists of bullet points, formulation of short ideas in one line maximum, bold, underlined and italics to enhance some keywords.

Mot clé : #cartographier

Copyrights : By วาดโดยบุญศิริ เทพภูธร สพอ. นครหลวง จ.พระนครศรีอยุธยา [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Organising a participatory event

Card's author : Outils-réseaux Vincent Tardieu
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description :

Facilitation to boost face-to-face participation and cooperation


Putting democratic dialogue and participatory democracy (PD) into practice is something we learn!
Nothing is innate or given in advance to make it easy living in a group. Even in groups that are sensitive to these issues.
In general terms, to get along together, participatory democracy requires a real investment of early-stage group meetings, taking into account the stages before the meetings as a moment that is just as important as the meeting itself, and the moments after the meeting.
The aim of this initiative is also not to limit PD to the phases before and after the meeting itself, when organisers will not take the time to foster participation and get the largest number of people engaged. This obviously leads to frustration…
Accepting to take some time and energy during all stages and steps in a collective discussion does not mean “losing time” but gaining time for a collective reflection.
Finally, too often we use these participatory procedures to deal with “hot topics” when we really haven't learnt anything. Participation and cooperation require a specific training that should be separated from their operational use even at risk of hearing "I had already warned you that participation doesn't work"...

1. Before a meeting...

It is always wise to start this "training" in PD with a simple action, in a way that isn't too “engaging” -disturbing. Just a quick try, to see how it works… A good way of getting a feeling of the virtues and demands of PD, and of not going too far and then having to go back to practices without much democracy. We will work on generating “small irreversible experiences”

Ex.1 Many small steps yield big results

Let's imagine a situation with a one-day seminar on “preserving biodiversity in agricultural practices”, for which each potential participant can refer to a website presenting the global aims of the meeting, its dates and venue, etc. to the organisers.
This introduction to PD could start by asking each person that has registered for the event a few additional questions to their information. For example:
  • the three key words you associate with the word agriculture (free or from a list)
  • the same for the word biodiversity
  • two bibliographical references that you would recommend on these two topics
  • etc...
This brief personal questionnaire will be given to every new person that registers some weeks before the seminar, and the answers given by each participant will be posted on-line with the possibility of replying or commenting on each one.
If there is no website for the seminar, this PD process could be started by a round at the start of the seminar asking these same questions. This would be an introduction that would be more original than saying “I am Mr. XX and I do this or that in life…”. Right from the start, this round of presentations, allows diving into the topic with everyone participating.
It also allows, through these collective references that are in the process of being made, or through this bibliography, creating a common good that is useful to all and free.

Ex.2 You have been tagged

  • In order to better engage participants in a meeting it is especially interesting that each of them can be geo-referenced and discover common grounds, friends or shared acquaintances, etc. Especially in a seminar with dozens of people who do not know each other very well.


Doing this is easy: the same procedure will be used for the Internet option and for the brief personal questionnaire, asking each participant to indicate on a French administrative map or a different one (templates are available on-line) their place of residence and/or work, depending on the nature of the meeting.
When there isn't a seminar website, we can get an IGN or Michelin map and post it by the entrance of the seminar room together with coloured push-pins so that everyone can give their location, and also with paper strips where everyone can write their name (and an telephone number or email address). In cases where a photograph is required for registration, this could even be used in a small version placing it next to the location...
  • Depending on the meeting, it would also be possible to do the same using a map of the structures and organizations at the seminar; this would allow everyone to know who is there and who isn't, the structures of the organization's boards that are there, etc… We could also add a blank sheet next to the map to explain the acronyms of each organization to the others…
  • And finally, it would also be possible to add a geo-theme to the geo-reference. For example, for the topics of the seminar mentioned above, there could be a chart with questions and key words for reflection that would be suggested for a collective discussion. By clicking on one or other of these, participants could indicate which of them are of a special interest. It is also good to leave one or more empty boxes so that anyone can add other themes and questions that were left out by the organisers. This mapping can be done either on the Internet, before the seminar takes place, or by the entrance to the seminar room on a physical board on the wall.
This mapping is an excellent way of generating collective reactions, discussions and reflections even before the seminar starts!
It is even possible to take this exercise one step further by allowing participants to add a brief note or information to complement their position, on the internet or on the physical board.
  • The same idea can be used with a "search notice": a chart on the Internet that could then be printed and posted by the entrance to the seminar room, where everyone could write “I am looking for information on the performance of RCW techniques (Ramial Chipped Wood) to preserve the biodiversity of earth organisms” or “I wonder if agri-environmental measures discussed in the framework of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy) integrate the establishment of apiculture set-aside areas?” etc. Each participant would add a telephone number or email address to their question so that, before or after the seminar, others can (continue to) answer the question.


A small and intelligent internet sheet (that can easily be printed and posted on a wall) would allow people to post replies below the question or request so that everyone could see them (together with contact information). This is part of the collective reflection process and also allows anyone who has posted a question on the “search notice” to go back home after the seminar with the contact information for the people with whom he or she may continue discussing the matter.
It would be appropriate to ask each author of a “search notice” to give the group a summarised feedback on the answers received, at the end of the seminar or via Internet some days later.

Ex. 3 On the use of cooperative tools

Within the framework of an internet network that organises meetings or information exchanges, we could add a series of very simple yet extremely useful tools, such as a shared calendar so that everyone can visualise the group activities and meetings and also make suggestions for activities in an available slot, thus avoiding overlapping emails and leaving people out of participating.
Whatever the content of these maps and charts, the organisers of a seminar should make sure they mark on the physical map or chart that is posted by the entrance to the seminar room all the location points, mappings, search notices, etc. sent by participants via the Internet.
These on-line tools (surveys, calendars, etc.) can be managed by modules and access to their parameters allows giving them a format and modifying them. A preliminary discussion on these points is therefore required in a group.
It's clear, then: To start, some time and space is required for this dialogue between participants to take place, and planning for this dialogue to continue after the meeting.

2. During the meeting...

After the preliminary stages, let's move into the real PD!
The facilitator of the meeting will have a strong interest in gathering the “materials” with comments and questions obtained during the preparatory stages to feed and start the group work and discussions, avoid starting a discussion with a big blank board, don't hesitate to write down even a few key words, even controversial ones…This is excellent to get people talking!
Also, in a general way, here are two procedures that encourage participants to wake up to participation during the whole seminar, other than using buckets of cold water, swearwords and kicking their rear ends, of course!

  • 1. Tell participants that all presentations (refer to point 3), power point and others, will be available on-line some days or weeks after the seminar. This is to avoid people using their time to compulsively take notes during the presentations and stop listening to the content!
Keeping the minutes of the seminar (including the discussions) can also be done on-line to make the seminar last longer with an audio or audiovisual recording of the seminar –or a part of it– depending on the available means, that can then be posted on the website.

  • 2. The facilitator will make recaps as often as possible during the seminar, almost in real-time depending on the nature and complexity of discussions and the IT means available (i.e. screen projector with Freemind software), all to get people to engage further, to listen, reflect and discuss rather than writing down the words of others.
The facilitator will really be doing the facilitation then… These regular recaps can also feed into the discussions in workshops after an initial plenary session. It could also be useful to use a tool such as Etherpad so that participants can draft the minutes of the seminar between several people, a small irreversible cooperation experience.
Recaps can also be done by others, especially in workshops, taking notes (or using Freemind) so that the feedback can really be discussed before going back to the plenary room. This recap work can be made easier by handing out forms specially designed for this (by the organisers and facilitator) to the people in charge of the recaps.

This recap work entails a prior discussion on the focus that organisers expect from the sessions and workshops.
And instead of preparing the recaps and conclusions beforehand, even before the seminar takes place - a big classic in international meetings! - it will be important for organisers and facilitators to discuss the focuses of the sessions and workshops during the preparatory stage of the meeting. These focuses can also be suggested in advance to registered participants of a seminar, meaning they are posted on-line before the seminar takes place. Like this they can be changed by participants before and during the seminar.

This procedure:
  • will largely facilitate global recaps of the seminar,
  • will favour a more democratic preparation than usual,
  • and will ensure a reasonable rhythm to communicate the recaps after the seminar.
The exercise of placing a series of simple questions by the entrance to the seminar room to be answered during a round of presentations (when presenting each of the concepts or items, for example) and then asking the same questions again at the end of the seminar, is a very good way of getting a collective assessment of the path followed and the usefulness of the seminar.
This exercise can be particularly useful for the organisers of a seminar or the host organisation, who can then keep track of the work accomplished. These preliminary and posterior stages can also be done through the seminar's website. It can be modulated in thousands of ways and allows keeping a record of some collective progresses.
In this same sense, it is also possible to share the answers to the questions asked on-line so that they can then be added to and re-formulated live, collectively. This ensures a continuity between the phases of the seminar and justifies the efforts made by those who took the time to participate on this on-line game.
In order to encourage opinions and questions, even if people don't like talking much and are not used to speaking in public, we can suggest using “question or comment cards” (just a few lines).
They will be distributed at the entrance to the seminar room, several copies. Once they have been completed, they can then be put into a box during the seminar (organisers shall have to empty this box for questions and comments regularly) or given to the facilitator during a session.


The facilitator can then group several of the questions and comments before the feedback and answer them live.
If there is not enough time for this, questions and comments can be posted on-line to extend the discussion even beyond the end of the seminar. This could lead to Creating discussion forums
Another possible solution is for the facilitator to group the questions and comments by topic and then go to a resource person to communicate them to this person: this resource person then takes the time to answer these questions and comments publicly on the Internet.
It is also possible to imagine this person giving the answers to the facilitator who will then read them out in a public session or post them on-line. This solution using the facilitator has the advantage of being synthetic -where a “specialist” would probably delay the answers - but it multiplies the number of intermediaries…and carries the risk of losing information and quality along the way.
Developing role-play. We are mentioning this here, but it deserves a much larger explanation further on. Role-play can be an excellent way of making ideas, reflections and behaviours surface; also to overcome conflicts, express things that go untold, etc. There is a large variety or role-play exercises and techniques for this. They are very useful as long as the facilitator really masters them and is able to coordinate it; the facilitator must then analyse the role-play and then give a public summary of them.

3. After the meeting the discussions go on!

One of the first discussions the facilitator will have with the seminar organisers -and they will have with the guest speakers- has to do with the status of the documents and presentations (PP or others) of guest speakers. More specifically, they will discuss the level of dissemination before and after the seminar. This point is extremely important and relates to the question on access to and dissemination of information and data contained in these presentations.
Today, a broad discussion has started in different media on free access to information in all its forms. And the definition of the different access status (licence) is suggested under the concept of Creative Commons to which we adhere. These different licences turn information into a common good, a private good, a private but collective good, a common good subject to certain conditions (being quoted, only for reading, for reading and modification, that may be used commercially but with no appropriation, etc.) For further information, visit the site
To summarise: data, information and documents presented during this seminar may be disseminated outside the meeting, especially via the seminar's website, in several ways:
  • guest speakers may publish a summary or a presentation that is drafted specifically for public dissemination (a presentation that is reviewed and watered down in some of the elements deemed confidential);
  • they may accept on-line publication but only for the participants in the seminar (access in this case is granted by providing participants with a username and password);
  • they may accept on-line publication for all, both participants in the seminar and people visiting the website;
  • they may refuse to publish their presentation on-line. In this case there are two options: either the organisers who will have talked to the guest speaker to discuss a rule for dissemination beforehand withdraw the speaker from the list; or they go with the speaker's decision with a smile on their face…
Whatever the case may be, publishing documents and presentations on-line must, in all cases, be done after the seminar, in the days following. Otherwise, the dynamic created during the seminar is interrupted and participants who had accepted to drop their pens and listen to the presentations more actively will feel frustrated. Therefore, the task of publishing on-line must be planned by the organizers so that it really is done as part of the process.

Authors : Association Outils-Réseaux, Vincent Tardieu
Illustration credits under creativecommons: by Moustic 2011 - by Ultimcodex - by Moustic 2011 - by Outils-Réseaux - by Zerojay

Project accelerators

Card's author : Laurent Tézenas - Montpellier SupAgro
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description : To ensure this activity works, it is important to take the method onboard and follow the rules.
There must be three roles:
  • a presenter: the person presenting the situation or problem
  • a facilitator - the guardian of the method: who briefly introduces the methodology, gives a reminder of the rules, and ensures everything runs smoothly.
  • a secretary: the person taking notes (this is shared on Etherpad)

Phase 0: preparation (5 min.)
At the start of the meeting, the group must choose:
  • a person to introduce the situation-problem: they are advised to prepare the question right from the start based on their reflection on what they see as a difficulty in their professional practice.
  • a facilitator (guardian of the exercise)
  • a person to take notes (or a role shared on a pad)

Phase 1 : introducing the problem or the situation (5 min)
The person who has accepted to talk about their problem presents the situation as clearly as possible and explains the background. Then he or she explains how they define the problem. The other members of the team listen.

Phase 2: Clarifying the problem (5 min)
Group members ask any questions they may have to properly understand the situation; during this phase they must stick to questions relating to factual information (to better understand the context, for example). The person who explained the situation then makes the clarifying remarks.

Phase 3: contract - reformulation of the question (1 min)
The person who explained the situation clearly states what he or she expects from the other group members. (I would like the group to help me to....)

Phase 4: reactions, comments, suggestions (20- 30 min)
It is especially the other members of the group who intervene: they give their impressions, reactions, perceptions after assessing and interpreting the situation. They work especially to come up with a different way of looking at the situation, fitting a new framework around it. They can give practical suggestions or give advice.
The person who introduced the situation listens and refrains from intervening. This person is interested in noting down what they thought was important to retain.

Phase 5: Synthesis and action plan (5-10 min)
The person who explained his/her situation takes a few minutes to complete a small action plan with the remarks made by the group members (a personal summary of what he/she retained). During this time, the other participants take notes on the ideas and remarks that may be useful to them in their projects (crosscutting ideas, etc.)
After this time to take notes, the person who explained their situation presents their action plan, indicating how he or she will follow it up. Other members do not discuss the choices of the person or his/her action plan; they simply witness the path this person has decided to take; they can express their support and encouragement. “Crosscutting” ideas noted by other participants are presented after this in a large group.
Phase 6: Evaluation and integrating lessons learnt from the experience (5 -10 min)
To close the meeting correctly, it is convenient to have a recap on what happened. The person who asked for help can explain his or her experience; the group can evaluate how he or she proceeded and, if required, can make corrections for the next meeting. The group is advised to leave some minutes so that each group member can take notes on what he/she has retained from the meeting.

Adapted from : PAYETTE, Adrien and CHAMPAGNE, Claude. Le groupe de codéveloppement professionnel. Québec, Canada : Presses de l’université du Québec, 1997. ISBN 2-7605-0981-8.

You may download a simple version, adapted by Laurent Tézenas Download Accelerateur_de_projet.pdf (92.2kB) (in French)

RSS feed and syndication

Card's author : Outils-réseaux
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description : What do this mysterious symbol and barbarian acronym mean?...

What is an RSS feed ?

Whether we call it "RSS feed" ("Rich Site Summary" or "Really Simple Syndication"), "RSS channel", "RSS thread", "information thread", the principle remains the same: it is a data format to disseminate updates of websites whose contents change very often (information websites, blogs...).
An RSS feed gives a summary of the latest information on a website: generally a title, a very brief description and a link to the original page with the information.
The RSS file is updated constantly: it contains all the latest published information.

What is it used for?

There are two ways in which an RSS feed can be used:
  • for one's own personal information: to subscribe to and check all the latest information of websites from one single place, without having to visit all the sites. Essential for searches and to follow the activity of open cooperative devices and also to ensure an “ex-post” moderation…

  • for a webmaster to syndicate content, which means publishing information coming from other websites automatically on a website. This is essential to grow the networks, and to avoid publishing the same information twice, to make one's site dynamic without becoming exhausted ;-)

RSS feed readers

To subscribe to an RSS feed individually one needs a specific tool called “RSS reader” or “RSS aggregator”

There are two types of these:
  • Workstation tools:
    • Thunderbird:
      • +: very easy to use, a simple interface, multi-platform (Mac, Windows, Linux), this software is more than a simple feed reader
      • -: this software is more than a simple feed reader
    • RSSowl :
      • +: advanced functions, tag browsing, multi-platform (Mac, Windows, Linux)
      • -: not always easy to use, slow (JAVA)
    • Feedreader (Windows), NetNewsWire Lite (Mac), or Liferea (Linux)
      • +: very easy to use, simple interface
      • -: mono-platform (Mac OR Windows OR Linux)
    • Akregator (Linux)
    • Firefox

  • On-line tools:
    • Netvibes
    • iGoogle


Generally speaking "content syndication" refers to the possibility of re-publishing on a website content from a different website, in theory automatically.


Be careful with copyright!

Credits : ejk* on Flick CC-BY-SA
Keywords :

Shared and collaborative web watch

Card's author : Hélène Laxenaire - SupAgro Florac
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description :

1. What is web watch ?

It's a monitoring. In military terms , it's a sentry in night duty

1.1 Definitions

"Know, plan and do ", detection of weak signals
The different stages of web watch :
  • Collect information
  • Sort out, process information
  • Spread to a chosen audience
  • Decide according to the collected information
But according to the kind of watch, all stages are not compulsory (the spreading, in the case of an individual web watch for instance ) or formalized (most often the decision making).
There are different kinds of watch which vary according to the topic (legal, informative,...) and the objective (strategic watch where an eye is kept on competitors in order to position one's firm and products, creative watch on designers works in order to detect new trends, ...)
In all cases, watch is an iterative and continuous process
  • iterative : round trips between results and sources (and tools) so as to improve the watch's results with regard to its objectives. This round trip also allows to develop the watch compared with the development of or compared with the evolution peculiar to the topic of the watch (emergence of new themes in the watch's field for instance).
  • continuous : watch is not an inventory of fixtures at a given time or a situation of art but a continuous process following current events or the development of topics.

1.2 An informative … and collaborative web watch

Within the framework of this course,we'll be interested in "informative " web watch.
Examples of watched contents :
  • The theme news
  • Calendar of events, colloquium
  • Similar group initiatives but in another environment (that brings in some fresh air)
  • Research news
  • Watch on new publications (bibliography)
  • Collaborative initiatives
  • Regulatory web watch (light)
  • ....
The stages of collaborative web watch are the same as those of individual watch but they are done by all its participants.
Collect information (together)
  • Sort out, process information (together)
  • Spread to a chosen audience (to the group and beyond)
  • Decide according to the collected information (rarely formalized for informative watch).
These tasks are done by all the people and are not distributed).
The most important point is the spreading : we agree on the content, on the selection of criteria of what is going to be brought to the collaborative watch, with all the participants. It may be the watch which interests the group and/or the watch aiming a specific audience.
It's the difference between the shared watch and the collaborative watch :
  • shared watch : I do my watch according to my own criteria and I share it,
  • collaborative watch : the group agrees on the topic of the watch and only feeds the collaborative watch about this topic.

2. What does web watch change ?

Watch is the processing of flow

2.1 Before the Internet

Flows: radio, television, newspapers
Stages of watch :
  • Collect : Subscription to newspaper and newsletter
  • Sort out, process : press review, documentary file
  • Spread : press review, provision of files
  • Decide : summaries, reports

2.2 Now

New flows of information which add in to old ones :
  • RSS feeds
  • Social networks
  • Newsletters, mailing lists
  • Emails
  • Alarm system (on line services which alarm via an email or a RSS feeds when a new article comes out on chosen key-words)
  • Website watch (enables to follow news from sites without feeds).
And often one finds himself alone : no selection, no publishing

3. Set up a web watch

3.1 Define field and themes

3.2 Find sources

Finding the right sources is attempting the impossible in front of the profusion of information available on the Internet !
Canvassing is done through browsers, social bookmarking tools (Diigo, Pearltrees,...), newspapers, recommendations from colleagues, etc... But there is afterwards a constant revaluation of sources (addition, deletion) according to the watch's results : constant toing and froing.
In the model proposed by Jean-Michel Cornu : abundance/rarity/opportunity/constraint, web watch is located on the abundance's side, the abundance of information on the Internet.

Modèle rareté abondance

(Crédit : Marc Lanssens - SupAgro Florac - CC By-Sa )
The winning strategy is therefore the opportunity strategy and not the planning strategy : I can't know in advance what information I will find, because the watch is exactly the supervision of news and weak signals. One must "try " sources and according to results modify them.
The struggling is to know where to start, where to find the right end of the thread. Indeed, as the watch gets structured and becomes more and more relevant, the different sources refer to other relevant sources. It is as if a bonus to the winner was given : the more evolved and structured the watch is, the easier it gets to improve it ! And suggestion algorithms proposed by watch tools (Google reader, Twitter) strengthen this paradox : the more relevant the sources already composing our watch are, the more numerous the sources automatically proposed get. In order to limit this pernicious effect, it is more interesting to start spotting sources used by watch on close topics rather than starting from a search engine. That is all the interest of shared web watch. This sentry has put on-line a RSS feeds aggregator on a theme close to mine, what are the sources he used ? I think relevant the web watch used by this user of Twitter, who is he following ? Who is he followed by ? So, gradually, groping along, one makes his own selection benefitting from the selection work already done by other sentries and adapting it to his own needs.

3.3 Evaluate sources

3.3.1 Problematic of the evaluation The hardware world : a known world where authority prevails
Materiality of the hardware medium (paper, magnetic tape, DVD,...) implies the resource's "rarity " : a billion books can't be published each time ! Information goes through define and limited channels (by materiality and/or regulations : the CSA attributes radio and television frequencies because they are in limited numbers, an efficient broadcasting of a book needs to be done by an editor (who will take a financial risk) who will go through a distributor to carry the books in well defined point of sale. And the work will need a legal deposit to the BNF. In conclusion, the low number of channels added to an information scene which has not changed for 30 years allows to have marks to easily evaluate information : name of the editor, of author, of the radio station, the kind of periodical and even the model of the periodical are often enough.
Evaluation is done from the authority : whether it is the one granted by the author or more often the publisher, the periodical which broadcasts or the radio or television channel to which it belongs Web 2.0 or dilution of authority and classical marks
There is no publishing left for most contents. Hierarchization of information is often left to algorithms : hierarchy of results with search engines, linked videos on Youtube, etc.
More over, the data carrier, out of reality, is not restricted to only one identified source. Information coming automatically from several external sources (RSS feeds, nested pages) may be found on a single web page without it being obvious for the reader.
The data carrier enables collaborative writing, where the author is not know any more (Wikipedia) but also contents which are automatically generated through data bases : for a same research, an Amazon page will be different according to former researches, purchases already done, purchases done by other users, etc.
Opportunities given by the copy-paste function contributes to this dilution of authority. Some texts are made up of a collection (more or less successful) of other texts.
3.3.2 Evaluation criteria of sources on the web 2.0 Evaluation of primary sources
Primary sources : sites which contains articles. They are watched on through the site's feeds, web watch, subscription to newsletter publishing new publications.
Evaluation criteria :
  • Authority : the author, the site editor : I keep an eye on the blog of such author who is specialist in …, I follow the feeds of the Whatnot Institute.
  • External criteria (when neither the author or the editor of the site are known)
    • intrinsic quality of the text
    • consistence with what is already known
    • vocabulary, text construction
    • sources
When evaluating external criteria, we need to be careful to the " credibility look " consisting in giving a website all the appearances of credibility. (see Fogg, B. J. 2002. Persuasive Technology: Using Computers to Change What We Think and Do. 1st ed. Morgan Kaufmann) Evaluation of secondary sources
Secondary sources : spotted and indicated articles through Twitter, Facebook, a shared web watch, a watch bulletin...
Evaluation criteria : the confidence given to the person who indicated the link.
(Little historical and informative digression:
we have been used to trusting information officer for the choice of selected and available documents : we rarely check the liability or the serious of a work from an information center, assuming that the document has been selected. When the Internet became mass appeal in the mid 90's, the pattern was applied to the web under the form of a directory listing and classifying web sites which were selected by humans (and nevertheless information officers). In front of the scale of the task and the improvement of selections done by search engine, non-specialized directories disappeared for the benefit of search engines. It's the beginning of the Google era when the confidence formerly given to human beings has been transferred to a research algorithm. Then Web 2 with social bookmarking or data curation tools but also web watch through social networks (particularly Twitter) reaffirmed the profit of selection.)
In this environment, shared space and/or collaborative web watch shows all its strength, because selection of information is done within the community of interest and then besides the relevance, it's the level of confidence that is high and which endows all its value to that kind of watch.

3.4 Classify and order one's watch

We are showered with information flows, sources are multiplying thanks to web 2, there is an overflowing, a flood, so to avoid drowning, we need to do a little plumbing...
Spotting relevant sources thanks to tools, filtering, gathering and bringing them to us.
3.4.1 In practice : aggregate sources in the same spot : Padawan learner
Tools to aggregate feeds and/or flows from social networks :
  • all the flows : iGoogle, Google reader
  • automatic publishing :, Feedly
This allows to optimize the time dedicated to the watch and to extract it from email reading, because the time spent reading emails is not necessarily the time dedicated to web watch.
3.4.2 In practice : filter, reconstitute sources : Jedi apprentice
  • Gather in one several flows
  • Filterone or several flows to reconstitute another one (Yahoo Pipes)
  • Create an new flow from a shared web watch (Delicious, Diigo)
  • Connect several web 2 services (Itttf)
3.4.3 Recreate a human scale informative space in the web ocean
The risk of this sorting is to reach only what is know, comfortable without facing other opinions or visions. But here again, collaborative web watch helps us to avoid this pitfall :
  • sources are many (all the sources from all participants)
  • But information is selected
  • It's the opportunity with sources multiplicity (outer intelligence, aeration) without the weight of infobesity!
  • Same thing with social networks but with less relevance (and therefore more noise)
  • A serendipity that increases more on the internet than in the real world. And we must accept it !

3.5 Select to avoid drowning !

To avoid drowning and still find your way around, one must learn to evaluate information coming from secondary data : You must not read everything !
3.5.1 Selection criteria
  • Secondary data : title, comments, etc.
Hence the necessity to make them as clear as possible
  • Redundancy
It's no longer an enemy(noise) but an alert on the importance of the information
  • I read or not / I keep or not / I transfer or not

3.6 Spread without drowning others !

Beware of the "God will recognise his own people" syndrome. Don't send everything to everybody thinking : "they will select" or "there will surely be someone interested". The content and the audience of what is spread must be selected. The opposite is counterproductive. That is the great advantage of collaborative web watch, the audience is well known and identified. Only what is of interest for the group must be spread.
What is of interest for us should be spread on social networks and not what could potentially interest those who follow us because choice is subjective, this publishing is the capital gain of our web watch. Social networks are the place for an assumed subjectivity, its actual strength.
How to spread your web watch ?
  • Social Networks : retweet, sharing
  • Creation of RSS feeds (Diigo, Delicious)
  • PDF bulletin automatically generated from a flow : Zinepal
  • Avoid newsletter-shaped email
  • Collaborative web watch : use of a key-word specific to the group to redistribute the information which is especially dedicated to the group : Diigo,

4. Capitalize

4.1 Everything must not to be kept ! Change in position

Two logics :
  • Logic of collection : in a world of rarity, we try to gather everything in the same place (library). It's the world of paper backup.
  • Logic of flow : in a world of abundance, tools and methods are implemented to spot interesting information. It's the world of online backup.
Furthermore, the value of writings has changed. In the real world, we speak more than we write. Most of the time the written work is a trace, a protection. On the web, we write more than we speak but it is a written work which is equivalent to the words we used to say, it's particularly the case with emails, far less formal and far more fleeting than a written mail. You don't keep an email saying "Are you coming Saturday? Neither do you record the voice of the person who is asking directly. The value of writings on Twitter is more like the value of information on the radio : you don't record the news from France Inter because you did not ear it. If I don't go on Twitter for a week, I am not going to read all the tweets of the week, nor feel guilty because I missed them. And conversely, the value of audio information changes too. With podcast, I can listen to a radio programme months after.

4.2 How ?

We know perfectly how to manage information coming from "former " channels : written mails, telephone, etc. We don't know yet how to manage the disproportionate e-arrival of information. A knowledge managing method has then to be implemented. They are many of them, the GTD method for instance can help. Must choose one method, whichever one. Once chosen, tools enable to implement it.

5. But I don't have time !

  • Automate all that can be.
Machines are there to relieve humans from repetitive tasks and enable them to benefit from more time for really intelligent. For example, take time to settle filters on your electronic mail to get rid of spams or to tidy up in files emails from newsletters which you will read later. Chain your web 2 apps to post your web watch in only one spot so that it can be sent automatically to other media. Most services offer it but you can do it more widely with services like IFTTT. Example: I had a piece of news to my shared watch on Diigo, it is automatically published on Facebook, Twitter and on my watch's feeds.
  • Define a time in your schedule for watch and respect it ! (i.e turn down if possible any meetings during this slot: "no, I am not available") If you decide to do your watch just when you don't have anything left to do, you'll never do it.
  • Take advantage of others watch thanks to shared web watch !!

Focus on collaborative web watch

Gathering : indicate

  • While doing your watch, spot what could be of interest for the community
    • Key-words: Delicious, Diigo
    • Hashtag : Twitter
    • Sharing with a group : Facebook
  • Use redundancy : Yahoo Pipes


  • RSS Feeds : aggregator, web site
  • Facebook page
  • Email (can be automatically generated by the feed)
  • PDF (can be automatically generated by the feed)


  • : key-word
  • Delicious : stack
  • Pearltrees
  • Zotero

The 'Getting Things Done' Approach

Card's author : Hélène Laxenaire
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description : The GTD (Getting Things Done) approach was presented by David Allen in his work : ALLEN, David. Getting things done: the art of stress-free productivity. New York : Penguin Books, 2001. ISBN 978-0-14-200028-1.

This method of organizing yourself aims to implement a strong and sound enough system to relieve your mind from things to do and from the guilt of not having done it them, in order to start working calmly. It's the same principle as the Pensieve used by the magician Dumbledore in Harry Potter : a container onto which he offloads his thoughts and memories, knowing he can find them back any moment. See below how I use it but I advise that you read David Allen's work if you wish to implement it.

Make a list of projects and divide them in operational task

When implementing the GTD approach, the first thing to write out an exhaustive list of all your plans, from the most simplistic (make an appointment at the dentist) to the most important (setting up a international collaborative colloquium) and to sort out first those that will be done soon or those which are under way and those which will be fulfilled later, maybe (learn to play the accordion). Once the list is done, you must think of the first smallest operational thing to do to get it started : "Ask Brenda the name of her dentist " or "read the card in the Cooptic e-book on how to organize participative events ". All the tasks in the list of things to do have to be operational and indivisible in smaller tasks. So instead of noting down "Plan the General Assembly ", it's better to note down "make a Doodle to set the date of the General Assembly " or even "Ask Brenda the list of members " (in order to send the Doodle link for setting the date of the General Assembly ". "Plan the General Assembly " is a project, not a task.

Define your priorities according to what you can do

One of the principles of this approach is to sort out and select things to do asking yourself : "Which action can I take here and now? ". Actually for David Allen what directs the choice of a task are its intrinsic conditions for carrying it out, before any idea of a prioripriority. Therefore each task goes along with criteria which allow to choose the one that is going to be done here and now :
1. environment : place (I can do this task only if I am at my office) or person (I can do this task only if I am with Steven) or a tool (I can do this task only if I have a computer connected to the Internet)
2. available time : I need such time to carry out this task
3. available stamina : to carry out this task I must be in tip-top form, or very careful or else I can carry it out even if I can't think properly.
4. priority : priority of the plan or of of the task.
But priority is only taken into account in the end, it does not work out the task but it works out the possible task corresponding to environment, available time and stamina that I will finally.
I decide to carry out a task only if I can really do it.

Implementation of the approach

This said, how does I t work in practical terms ?

The Entry Box

It is the first tool of the GTD approach, an entry box which receives all that arrives : mails to process, the brainwave we had while in the shower, documents, things noted down at the end of a meeting. For the brainwave while in the shower or the thing not to forget and that you remember before going to sleep (and to avoid repeating it constantly hoping you won't forget it by the morning, which is no good for a good night rest), you just have to not it down immediately and drop it as soon as possible in you entry box. This means that you have by your bed (or in the shower !) a small pen and notepad, a smartphone, a dictaphone, whatever the technical mean, but you must always have something by yourself to note down : the thing to do, to buy or the brainwave.
Everything must arrive in the entry box. For my part, I have two : one for paper (a plastic tray) one for e-data (my mailbox). Then one should treat his/her entry box(es) very regularly according to a definite procedure. For my part, I do it once a day.

Treatment of the entry box

In the entry box we pile things as they arrive : brainwave while in the shower, the latest General Assembly's report, restaurant's slip for which we need to be refunded, bills and even batteries which need recharging.
When treating it, each item is taken one by one and goes through successive filters :
Does the item need an operational treatment? ?

Yes : operational action

1. Can I treat in less than two minutes ?
  • if yes : do it (presto, batteries are in the charger).
  • si no :
2. Is it up to me to do it ?
  • if yes : what is the first operational action to carry out to treat it ?
    • I add it to the list of tasks (contextualizing it) : environment, length of time, stamina, priority)
    • if the task involves a special day and hour, I add it in my agenda (for the use of agenda see below)
  • si ifno : I delegate

No : no operational action

1. It's something for a project to come : I add it to my 'one day maybe " list
2. It's a document I will need later
  • It's a reference document I will need, I classify it straight away in my reference files (for example : catalogues, regulations, etc.)
  • It's a support document for an under-way project : I put it in the corresponding folder (for example : application form for a, article for a training session to come). It often comes with a task to carry out. So I note down in my list of tasks "Look for a copy of the association 's registration form for the subsidy request " and I classify the form in my "under-way : subsidy request " folder.
3. It's none of the former item : trash can. It goes for most of the mails and emails we receive ! Watch out not to yield to keeping everything "just in case ", it requires a real good thinking about whether ot or not the item will be needed one day. (When I started the GTD myself, I threw all the electricity bills of my former apartments, some dated from more than 15 years)
Beware : nothing must go back to the entry box, everything must be processed, in the same order as the documents. Otherwise we start again with the circle of guilt with the document that we don't want to treat and which stays in the bottom of the entry box.
When the entry box is empty or when there isn't an email left in the box : Gosh ! What a relief !

The agenda

In the GTD approach; the agenda is sacred and must be used only for what is actually and really happening at a date and a time : a meeting, a train departure. It must not be a secondary list of tasks. Indeed, the decision to start doing a task does not depend upon a chosen moment, planned upstream : "Wednesday, I start to work on the spoken's report " but of the environment. It's a safe bet that the chosen Wednesday, your colleague may be at home with her/his child to look after and that this will mean that you will have to answer the phone all day long. On Wednesday eve, the result will be that instead of enjoying the thrill of a good working day you'll be pesting because "You didn't work on the spoken's report ". That said, nothing prevents you from creating the right environment to carry out priority tasks and to book days when you just refuse all reunions in order to have time to concentrate on tasks which need it.


Both paper or digitalized files are of two kinds, those which refer to under-way projects (meeting reports, etc.) and those which enable to classify reference documents. David Allen proposes to create a folder for each project, as small as it is even if it only counts one sheet of paper rather than having a system of folders and subfolders. All the folders can be prefixed in order to be recognized easily (for my part, all the under-way projects folders start with UW – and all folders with reference documents start with Rdoc - ).


Regularly, the task's list must be checked to see which plans are over but also to see if they are new tasks to carry out. It's an opportunity to tidy up folders of under-way projects which are finished. Operational documents are deleted and some support documents can go into the general references. It's also the time to read again the list of "Maybe one day " projects just to see if the moment has not come !

Crédit Photos : carlescv sur Flickr - CC By-SA

The rules of an educator

Card's author : Outils-réseaux
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description : Here we mention some principles that should be taken into account when building a training action.

How do we learn?

Learning a new skill is done through a progression of four stages:


A person can start the learning mechanisms by noticing something is lacking.

In a learning situation, this thread can correspond to the activities suggested:
  • an activity that destabilises or questions something (conscious lack of skills),
  • followed by a stabilising activity that contributes the necessary knowledge and know-how (conscious skill)
  • an activity that has an application (when faced with an unconscious skill)

10 rules for adult learning

  • Adults are not children. They do not obey a parent or teacher.
  • Adults are not here to have fun. They are responsible and request what is recognised in them, this sense of responsibility.
  • Adults possess a human, family, social and professional experience that teachers should use as a support.
  • Adults work in a team, even if sometimes they also need to work alone.
  • Adults always combine theory with practice when learning.
  • Adults have a very good understanding of the logics of symbolic exchange: give-receive-provide. They will make more of an effort when they feel that the teacher is not sparing any time or energy; they will not hesitate to share their specific knowledge with others.
  • Adults need spaces to share with others and time to assimilate.
  • Adults always study the interest of their time for training.
  • Adults possess knowledge and can continue to learn, even at an advanced age.
  • Adults respect knowledge, but they respect human relationships even more.
  • Adults are not a “filing cabinet”…and are not interested in purely academic knowledge.
  • Adults are open to a multi-disciplinary approach to problems. They will often consider a question as “a problem to be solved” specifically.

The day's tempo

There are many studies showing that the levels of productivity and attention change throughout the day. On a “normal” working day (9am to 6pm) the following events are seen:
  • mornings : are a better time for intellectual work than afternoons
Therefore it is best to do theory-based exercises in the morning and practice exercises in the afternoon
  • hypoglycaemia periods: 11:30-12:30am and 5.00-6h00pm approx: possible fatigue and irritability. Avoid activities with a conscious lack of skills and favour work in small groups or pairs
  • strong digestion period : 2:00-3:30pm approx: passivity, sleepiness and diversion. Favour discovery activities with an application
  • the ideal duration of a day of training: 7 hours. Concentration is difficult to maintain for any longer

How do we retain information?

Things to remember when preparing a course. We retain:
  • 10% of what we read
  • 20% of what we hear
  • 30% of what we see
  • 50% of what we see and hear at the same time
  • 80% of what we say
  • 90% of what we say when we are actively engaged

Lines, processes, methods…what are we referring to?

A brief teaching guide to learn the basic concepts.
Guide prepared by (in French)

Trainer 2.0 : a new way of training

Card's author : Outils-réseaux
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description :

New technologies, digital technologies : new issues for training

Undoubtedly, the advent of digital technology and the Internet has given the sector countless training opportunities.

The change in methods that follows goes beyond technological contributions, and the whole organization of information, space, distance and time is changed.

Factors of change linked to new technologies :

  • Unlimited access to resources (ITyPA! Or the Internet, Tout Y est Pour Apprendre)
  • Remote multidirectional interaction, the remote "presence " where the valuation of relationship is meaningful
  • horizontal communication network
  • the introduction of virtual reality and micro-worlds
  • the logic of participation driven by digital culture

All these items lead to foresee a new model of education:


Which implies:


Annex concept :

Opportunities and challenges of ICT for training

Trainers of the Network of Remote French-speaking education of Canada REFAD have pointed out very exhaustively opportunities and challenges linked to the Web 2.0's tools :

Opportunities :

  • Mobility and portability and hence an increased flexibility for users which have access anywhere and anytime.
  • An increased motivation of at least part of the trainees, particularly the youngest, leading maybe to more persevering.
  • The trainee as a producer of learning contents, and thus a more visible apprenticeship leading to an improvement of his taking over of the matter, of his autonomy and of his getting a sense of responsability.
  • Numerous possibilities of cooperation, of socialization and exchanges and thus of apprenticeship of collaboration and team work so much for the students than for the trainers and institutions.
  • Theexpression under various forms, including multimédia, allowing a personalization and a suppport to different styles of apprenticeship.
  • Theease and speed of the information's dissemination at very low cost, independent of distance, increasing its impact.
  • The multiplicity ou pervasiveness of tools being able to bear all the aspects of an educational experience.
  • Awide access to contents, to experts and trainings, constituting a factor of levelling out, in particular between regions.
  • New possibilities of organizing information and of creation of metadata.
  • An opportunity of apprenticeship of the use of media and ICT tools and of information literacy, transferable to other contexts.
  • Anopportunity of educational innovation, of widening to new approaches and organizational innovation, among other more personalized and contextualized learnings.

Challenges :

  • The need for teachers and institutions to share their power and supervision. An evaluation of authority towards transparency, from expert to facilitator, from presentation to participation.
  • The support to motivation and participation necessary to the evolution of the trainee's role from passive listener to active and creative participant.
  • A need for apprenticeship of numerous information literacies : use of technologies, informational skills, management of digital identity, etc.
  • Questions linked to intellectual property and to evolution in contents of producing practices and works (assemblies, cooperations, etc).
  • The management of immediacy of communications and fast evolution of social softwares.
  • Risks linked to safety of information on the Web and to cybercrime.
  • Choice of tools and of their integration to institutional systems or not.

in : WIKIS, BLOGS AND WEB 2.0 ,Opportunités et impacts pour la formation à distance , 2010 Full text

Specific educational practices

The reasons to adopt new technologies are at first educational, in connection with the trainees needs.
So they can have important impacts on the design of the device and on the modalities of supervision. Here are some tips :

Motivation and participation support

Designing trainings needs to plan important fluctuations in interest and participation and to implement measures to arouse and maintain it beyond initial enthusiasm. Tools only are not enough, the purpose or direction given by the pedagogical scenario for their use remains central.

Social media play a motivating role in most educational experiences. They offer an empowerment feeling to trainees and new possibilities of socialization. They advantageously request each trainees perseverance on longer trainings.

Two items related to the motivation of the trainees are often given:
  • evaluation of participation : it's more a forced choice to participate than a deliberate one. It is also a risk of a minimal participation aiming only at the infringement of the evaluation's criteria. Contrary to the preconceived ideas according to which the pupils will make only the works which will formally be estimated, the absence of stiff constraints (relative to the blog e.g.) incites the pupils to blog even more. The dosage between constraint and freedom is to be found.
  • wide broadcasting of the contributions : opening gives visibility, pride and allows the reuse. It is thus generally seen as a factor of motivation. This practice is systematically used in Animacoop's trainings. The trainees produce diffusable contents. It is a more binding but also more appreciated work. (e.g.:

Individual, collaborative or cooperative paths

The multiplicity of communication tools and the different needs lead to a diverse range of pathways. Then the good teaching position would be to vary in order to give trainees, whom have different learning styles, the possibilities of a more adapted path.

Collaborative activities, facilitated by Web 2.0 tools, have however a particular interest : they are both "a good learning vector" and a mean "to promote the development of social ties between trainees", they allow to "fight against the risk of isolation and demotivation especially in distance learning". They achieve various goals simultaneously:

  • accomplishment,
  • reasoning of higher level,
  • gain of working time,
  • transfer of learning,
  • motivation for achievement,
  • intrinsic and continuous motivation,
  • social and cognitive development,
  • interpersonal attraction,
  • social support, friendships,
  • reduction of stereotypes and prejudices,
  • valuing differences,
  • psychological health, self-esteem,
  • social skills,
  • internalization of values,
  • quality of the learning environment ... and many others.

However the arrival of digital technologies only reveals some hang-up of collaborative learning: sharing critical information efficiently for a joint project is an additional step that many organizations do not take, on one hand by lack of shared culture, and on the other hand because of the basic needs of individuals. The collaborative work is based, primarily, on voluntary service and can not be an obligation.

A more personalized apprenticeship and environment

The culture and the multiplicity of choices given by the Web 2.0, combined to its opportunities of directing the "I", calls for a greater personalization of paths, as indicated above, but also for methods of expression and tools. It can be a very limited personalization : profile and personal pages, photos, etc, added inside an institutional apprenticeship environment, focused on the course or the term rather than on the trainee. But more often, as said in the former chapter, we talk of a more fundamental questioning in which the trainee builds his own apprenticeship environment, from his own choice of tools, independantly from successive institutions that he will spend time in and where he will constitute the portfolio testifying of his training and experience and of his digital identity.

Active educations and more contextualized apprenticeship

More over tools of the Web 2.0 promote an apprenticeship in action, more authentic or more located. The trainee can for example build up resources reusable by the community. E.g. : articles written by Animacoop trainees are reused by trainers for the production of new courses.

Multimedia contents

Another challenge for educators presented by these tools is the trend towards less textual learning resources. Videos in particular encounters a lightning popularity.
  • The use of blog : it allows to leave tracks of one's apprenticeships and is excellent in the practices of formative assesment.
  • Wiki shows the contributions of each member to a collaborative work.
  • Vidéo and video conference enable to assess the spoken expression or the content's appropriation. We can also build on existing content, e.g. evaluate or complete an article on a wiki.

The use of appropriate tools

Placed in front of an abundancey of tools, the trainer must be able to choose the most relevant for the desired apprenticeship. Often, if his institution hasn't done it for him, he also has to select the software to support them. The discussions between trainers on specialized newsgroups show very well their perplexity in front of the multiplicity of offered tools and the difficulty to choose those which will fit best their educational activity.
Farther we propose you a small selection of tools classified according to their uses.


To exceed the level of simple comment or formatting, to progress to a training of higher level, such as the development of argument, criticism and synthesis, a steady veducational support is essential.

The supervision of interactive progresses as those allowed by Web 2.0 asks thus not only more time, but also a steadier availability. To face this greater need for time and for availability, several solutions are proposed.
  • the need to establish, from the beginning, slots of availability,
  • the collaborative work. The supervision was assumed in team of four trainers : "This way of working favors students who receive instant answers as well as trainers who share the task of answering emails".

Tricks and tips to start a cooperative network

Card's author : Outils-Réseaux
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description : Since 2003, Outils-Réseaux has been helping groups to take cooperative methods and tools onboard. Doing this we have been able to identify some facilitating elements or, on the contrary, some barriers to cooperation and participation.
Tools are not cooperative by nature; they become cooperative when they are used correctly and in a favourable context.
The “tricks and tips” listed here do not require extraordinary technical skills or a large budget. A facilitation technique, using a tool that can be created with 2 clicks or an adequate set of mind of a network facilitator can achieve much more than building oversized factories running on gas, which are expensive (literally and figuratively).
This list draws on this experience but must also be extended!

Co-operator humanum est

Cooperation is a unique feature to the human being, our main driver and survival tool. Three centuries of competition should not allow us to forget that we come from thousands of years of cooperation and collaboration.

Three fields

Our era will have to deal with three challenges in the field of cooperation:
  • Learning to cooperate between humans: Countries from the global South / Rich countries from the global North / poor people, people with different religions, men / women…
  • Making humans cooperate with the environment: less pollution, less harmful activities, ...
  • Allowing each person to cooperate better with him or herself: reconcile humanity with animals, the female side with the masculine side...


Separating learning from cooperation...

...and using it for hot topics!
It is best avoiding controversial issues to start cooperating. It is better to test cooperative methodologies and tools on small projects that are not too challenging rather than on projects that are vital to the network.
For example, pooling teaching materials for an education network on the environment, while what is vital for the network's members is to find funds. When the network members have gained some experience in cooperation and have developed a common experience, then they can start working on a project to pool financial means.

Generating small irreversible cooperation experiences

Every large voyage starts with small steps.
Even if it seems that cooperation is a major component in human existence, centuries of “healthy competition”, “we mustn't copy” and “to exist, it's best not owing anything to anyone” have handicapped the people engaging in it. It is therefore useful to gradually bring the cooperative dimension back into the equation.
All changes are a process of rupture that requires a change in a person's representations, ideas and methods.
For a network to start cooperating, these ruptures must be caused, these changes that are often irreversible: for this we suggest generating small irreversible cooperation experiences:
  • lifting a rock, 340 men gently pulling in opposite directions: an excellent experience, but one needs the occasion to do this.
  • several people taking notes at the same time and on the same page (using Etherpad, Google doc or Gobby: tools that enable co-writing a text on-line), is easier than lifting a rock and much more effective.
  • facilitating a discussion using mind maps (freeplane, freemind, Xmind…), projected live onto a screen, a technique that allows visualising all the group's ideas quickly, moving from a linear mindset to a way of sailing through ideas that can adapt to the audience (where it is easy to bring in new ideas).
  • drafting and valuing recaps of discussion lists (see the example of Tela Botanica); the network members sometimes discuss very specific topics. The person who started the discussion should make the recap. There is a list of recaps from the following discussion lists that is a copy-paste or a more organised drafting).
  • including content that is not perfect, to be corrected: hearing only the bravery to defend the purity of language, those who yesterday totally opposed participating in a computing tool overcome the technical barrier and correct mistakes! (this tip is even more effective when an error is linked to a person's name: to the worry for a perfect spelling, there is also the spur of ego…)
  • organising cooperative games: for example the Tao game.

Starting face-to-face

When talking of a “cooperative network”, we often imagine a group that is not always in the same space and at the same time: there is distance work involved, synchronous and asynchronous exchanges. In the opposite sense, there are very few virtual communities that only work at distance: meetings and gatherings are important moments for the network dynamics.
When starting up a network, it is always good to use this “face-to-face” time to test and experiment with tools and methods that could continue to be used at distance: establishing what is going to be used at distance when people are together.
This will allow everyone to become familiar with them and learn, and will ensure a continuity between the face-to-face and distance work.
For example, in a network's meeting, one of the members asks a question to the other members. Everyone can give one or more answers written on small pieces of paper giving their contact details. This way answers are summarised and are made visible to all. Then the person who asked the question can get the contact details of the people who answered to the question and can create a discussion list to continue exchanging from a distance.
For example, it is possible to establish tools to work from a distance that will all of a sudden generate questions on how to proceed face-to-face: rules on taking the floor, decision-making…very often these rules are implicit. In a group, drafting the minutes of a meeting is often done by one person. If we have a co-writing tool to take notes, this will automatically generate questions: can everyone write? Who will validate the minutes? It is clear that the tool isn't the problem, it simply generates questions.

Starting by oneself

Charity begins at home. or To change the world you must first change yourself.
Many structures have a project to make a group cooperate, a network. But first of all one has to start using cooperative methods and practices: it is about applying to oneself what one wishes to apply to others.
cf. The ITPTS, "Interactions Transformation Personnelle, Transformation Sociale" (Interactions Personal Transformation, Social Transformation): not opposing the wishes to change the world and work on oneself, both are related and must be articulated
A fact: a structure that does not cooperate internally and doesn't use tools for this will find it very difficult to find cooperation around it.
But how to proceed when you're in a highly static and restricted context that is not very open to these practices? One needs to start off from the smallest of places to cooperate, some trustworthy friends, a small and venturesome working group…One can always find two or three people who are willing to play the game!

Starting with simple things

Use tools that are easy to use for people
When working with IT tools, the first step is the most important. If the first contact is easy, contributors will feel reassured and will want to engage a little further and will accept that some time to learn or become familiar with the tools is necessary.
It could also be possible to hide some of the functions from users at a first stage and wait for the group to become more mature before gradually adding new bricks. Or wait for them to ask for this and make the technical tool advance based on the group's demands.

Keeping things practical

Using tools that are easy to install and configure and that don't require technical skills
Rather than waiting to have the necessary means to create a customised tool, it is best to start from the moment the network dynamics starts to see a need to have ready-to-use tools that are easy to install and use: crafting some tools that are not too burdensome but that allow starting to work on cooperative issues (Google doc, Netvibes).
Of course this is not perfect: it would be better to have one's own tool with free software. And some may even be against using free on-line services that stock your information with the risk of them being used for commercial purposes. This is true, but the network facilitator must remain practical. These tools are to be used knowing what they are for and what they are: free on-line services, not tools that allow you to be totally independent. Nevertheless, thanks to their simplicity they can be used to surface cooperative dynamics.
We will wait to see real uses fall into place before moving on the specific developments if they are required.

Guiding in use

Guiding with attention rather than with intention:
  • managing a project "with intention": from the start, the coordinator plans some goals, the execution of the project, the timeframe, the budget… <this is the traditional project methodology>
  • managing a project “with attention”: the facilitator creates cooperative situations (getting people to meet, getting them to introduce themselves, so they can exchange…) and then being pursuant and reactive (suggesting supports so that what arises from the cooperative situation can lead to projects, actions, cooperative work…) <cooperative project methodology>
The facilitator must force him or herself to be quiet, to leave his or her ideas aside and to adopt an attitude of listening and observation.
Furthermore, the facilitator must create favourable conditions for the collective needs to appear: for example, a questionnaire where the results are shared collectively. Google Drive is perfect for this purpose since it allows you to process the answers statistically and to create graphs. Giving everyone the results in real time allows the facilitator not to monopolise the global vision: the group is made visible to the group.

Beautiful, beautiful...

Contrary to what we could believe, aesthetics and graphics are very important: they have a power to motivate the group members and brings value to the collective productions.
We can even use flashy things, highly appreciated by some:
  • flash animations,
  • rollovers and drag and drop functions using jquery technologies or mootools,
  • Rolex...

Mirror mirror on the wall

Establishing processes for the group to have a collective image of itself
Making the group visible to the group is an essential stage to get cooperation moving between the members. It is the concept of “holopticism” described by Jean-François Noubel.
Different techniques and tools can be used:
  • mappings of the members: to represent the community so it can take shape, so it is less virtual and adopts a geographical dimension.
  • making an inventory of skills (identifying everyone's strong points and writing it on a mind map, for example) or of things we are ready to share (what resources does the group member have that they could share with the other members?)
  • sharing problems and obstructions to one another, and things that others can help you with.

Encouraging contributions

To get cooperative dynamics started (and to extend it in time) based on voluntary participation it is important to bring value even to the slightest of contributions. For example, mentioning all those who have contributed to a project, even those with a minimal contribution (apology of the positive reinforcement).
There is nothing wrong with pleasure!
It may also be very useful for a network facilitator to get to know people who contribute occasionally very well to find the link between their concerns and the project.

Clarifying the terms of use

When imagining a cooperative network it is extremely likely that exchanges will lead to common collective productions.
To avoid any problems or misunderstandings, it is best to sit down and discuss the terms of use and the rights that apply to common productions right from the beginning of the dynamics:
  • who owns the contents produced collectively?
  • can this content be sold?
  • can it be transformed? ...
Creative Commons licences (a flexible copyright contract to make works free) would help thinking about this issue and would provide a legal framework for the creation of common goods.

Being surrounded by good “followers”

"It is quite often said that a group's liveliness depends on the quality of the facilitation. Of course, this is partly true. But in this short home video you will see a talented explanation on how leadership is essential to get things started, but that without followers engaging in the action, things wouldn't work."

(article taken from the blog

Getting people moving, producing and cooperating

Producing and getting common goods produced

It's up to you!

Understand by yourself what is going on in your group

Card's author : Jean-Michel Cornu
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description : There is not a unique way brought from outside that can make your group work. On the contrary, it's up to the participants of the group to ask themselves the right questions – without fogetting forgetting any- to find suitable answers. This questionnaire enables to srutinize scrutinise the group from all angles. It can be filled up by the manager(s) but much better than that, by all members even those who are little or not active at all.

Note : before usig using this questionnaire, read first Cooperation in 28 keywords

Keywords :

Web writing

Card's author : Outils-réseaux
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description :

Writing for the web : a journalistic writing potentiated by digital technologies

Contrary to a yet too popular belief, one can't write for the web just like that. Apart from an ability shared by journalists to organize and write out information, this exercise needs a good knowledge of the Internet's issues and a methodology peculiar to this tool, actually taking into account that a Netsurfer reads differently the Internet than a newspaper. Care must be taken to get his attention, to guide him, to enable him to come and go easily in the different strata of the site through links and to provide him straight away what he came for : clear, organized and updated data.

Writing Rules transposed into the Web

Generally, web writing takes up the basic rules of written press. We find there the same main writing items as in the writing techniques of traditional media. Namely :

Lede and title elements

The article is written around core elements which are:

  • The title which is divided in two categories:
    • informative : without any stylistic effect and meant to be simple and clear
    • incentive : which sets out to tempt to see the information. For example : "This infinitely small that arouses great debate " (Article on nano-technologies).

  • The lede : which sets out to force the reader to read the article until the end ( "to strike the reader ").
    • its form tempts to be lively and eccentric (content and form) to hold attention, to sharpen curiosity and interest.
    • vocabuloray is made of keywords (for the web indexing) and meaningful verbs.

  • Subheads which help to organize content, to make the text clearer and to improve visibility by search engines.

The Five Ws, Five Ws and one H rule

The Five Ws, Five Ws and one H rule is a mnemonics approach to remember essential information which have to appear in the article. It consists in answering the following questions :
  • Who : the subject of the action;
  • What : the action, the facts strictly speaking;
  • When : the period during which the action, the facts have or will occur;
  • Where: the place where they may occur;
  • Why : their reasons for being ;
  • How : their way of being.

The principle of the inverted pyramid

Pyramide inversee.png

Recurring in written press, the principle of the inverted pyramid is based on the development of facts in decreasing order. It goes from general information to specific ones. Vital information are at the beginning following the postulate that the reader tunes out progressively. This technique leads naturally to rank and structure information. Widely used in the world of web writing, it is not inescapable, as often claimed. Web allows indeed to use hypertext links to go to the most specific and have several levels of reading.

  • Source : Own work

Or the "Champagne " approach

Today the technique of the inverted pyramid is questioned by some web writers for the benefit of the "Champagne " approach. Proposed by Mario Garcia, a famous graphic designer, this approach consists in organizing information to boost the reader's attention approximately every twenty one lines. The sought after goal is to keep the netsurfer interested and concentrated.

Designing readable and attractive texts : work on style

As with paper, it is compulsory to design readable and attractive texts to bind the netsurfer's reading and to develop loyalty by :
Writing pleasant texts. In order to do that it is recommanded to :
  • Humanize the subject, making it alive : always favor descriptions, atmospheres.
  • Stage information.
  • Vary approach angles.

Acquiring and developing a style. For this purpose, it is recommanded to :
  • Read a lot. Learn to read as a specialist : what is efficient, what is pleasant.
  • Create a universe by dipping, taking inspiration, writing.
  • Train with short exercises : short portraits, atmosphere, situation, rumors, bulletins...
  • Fight your self-esteem : have your text read (even outlines), accepting criticisms, advices...
  • Unleash your sensitivity. A good writer never betrays the demand of objectivity but lets show his feelings, his enthusiasm, his indignation... He makes his article alive.

To have at your disposal more elements on the basic rules of journalistic writing : "Improve your writings by incorporating method and principles of journalistic writing ".

An optimized writing by the developments of digital technologies

If the web writing takes up the methods of traditional journalism, it can't be limited to a simple transposition of contents from paper to the Internet. This in itself has little value. The development of digital technologies has released the writing of numerous limits (time, the restricted broadcasting space, the number of readers, etc.) and allowed a direct relationship with the reader...

Turn the reader into an actor !

What characterizes web writing from journalistic writing is undoubtedly the place given to the netsurfer. Formerly simple reader, he is now with the Web 2.0 a full actor which can now generate content through comments made on articles, discussions on newsgroup, chats, blog. He can also "describe " the information received by taking it over and annotating it. Interaction is the heart of web writing! This is what will enable the content to exist, to go further and to spread on the Web.

This interaction with the netsurfer can be impulsed and fed by the implementation of different actions :

Get sure that the message received is the message you want to spread

Interaction presupposes closeness. It can't exist if the developed subjects in the writer's writings are not in adequacy with what he really means and the announced editorial line. It may be necessary to check the cohesion of comments by using for instance a "tag cloud " which allows, through a visual representation, the highlighting of the most used words on a site or a web page. Generally they appear in fonts even larger that they are used or popular. These tools are also useful to take some distance from the writings and have an overview of the most used concepts and by rectifying if necessary to match words with initial ideas.
Tagcrowd and Wordle mark themselves out among tag generators.

Enable the netsurfer to deepen his reading

The use of hypertext links (directed outside) allows to link one's writings to other pages on the same subject. This gives an opportunity to deepen the subjects with an access to complementary resources and settles a new dialogue between authors and readers. Internet has dramatically changed our relationship with information : it is no longer isolated, it gets into a large field of knowledge ! Creating hypertext links also offers numerous opportunities :
  • contextualizate the subject giving it therefore more body,
  • develop the reader's loyalty whom will appreciate the richness of the content,
  • give your writing a supplementary visibility by inscribing it in a wider network (sites quoted with their link can quote you back with your own site's link),
  • capture the netsurfer's interest by inciting him to trail around the page.

Arouse participation

Digital communication sets out less to produce a content than to share it with netsurfers who are encouraged to give their opinion, to build a relationship between readers and to relay it. It especially requires :
  • the implementation of comments appearing more and more as an extension of the article. Netsurfers will add new data, give another point of view or refer to other relevent contents on the same subject,
  • the implementation of "share icons " underneath the article which will encourage the reader to relay,
  • the launching of a discussion in a newsgroup,
  • a call for Papers, etc.

These techniques allow moreover to improve the content according to readers feedbacks and to unite a community around these writings. Furthermore, a tool as Wiki gives the netsurfer an opportunity to add his own data to the existing ones and to modify the latter. Digital technologies marks the transition from individual writing to collaborative writing !

Go beyond the bondaries of time

Instant writing...

Internet allows to have not only a direct relationship with the reader but to have it instantaneously... It is possible today, thanks to social networks, to broadcast contents and to have answers, all that live ! Twitter, Facebook, Coverit Live... All these "live-blogging " tools encourage the implementation of new writing practices in which the content is designed as a support to a broader information rather than as an end in itself. The writing is now part of a more collaborative world where the author attends live the broadcasting of his production : it is relayed on blogs, tweeted, scooped, retweeted, commented... A true editorial chain is naturally set up to make this writing alive, so far as it is of quality. This can only modify deeply the relationship between the author and his writing, the former having to "let go " more about his production, accepting to be judged, sometimes harshly... This fact requires for who wants to publish online to have a former thinking on his relationship with writing but also with what he is ready to show of himself. The transition from written to oral can be difficult...

...analysis writing

In parallel with instant writing, digital technologies allow an analysis writing/reading. In fact, the appearance of digital tablets, smartphones and other mobile communication tools led to a different reading behavior, the netsurfer being able to select and keep the sources that interests him, and to go back to them later in a more comfortable environment. The issue for the web will be to adopt new editorial strategies which will push the reader to collect the content and to read it later, deepening his reading. Dedicated tools have emerged : for example Pocket (formerly Read It Later) or Evernote which allow to put besides selected contents from the web, to archive them and to classify them with filters or tags.

Enhancing online information

Digital technologies allow to enhance articles with various contents and to mix formats for a richer route for the reader ! Loïc Haÿ, specialist in services and uses of information technologies reviews some widgets (= applications) which enable to enhance online information : creation and personalization of photo albums, integration of 3D models and of videos, etc. These video clips (in French) come from the Explorcamp organized by the Mitic (Mission for Information Technologies for Corsica) on the 26 and 27 of June 2008 and having for topic the Web 2.0.

explorcamp - enrichir contenu by mitic20

explorcamp - enrichir contenu multimedia 2 by mitic20

Write for the Web : stop preconceived ideas !

Finally in web writing ideas are legion and persistent : one should write phrases of less than 15 words, simplify at most the message, avoid the use of negation and passive form, promote a subject-verb-complement structure, write in scan mode... Actually, as on paper support, writing must get as close as possible to the audience, to the subject, to the environment in which it takes place. A text for a Humanities revue or a site dedicated to Philosophy can't follow the same rules as a document conceived to promote a firm or commercial products.

The Eyetrack survey, carried out by the Poynter Institute in 2007, shows that netsurfers read thorougly online magazines, even more than they read written press. The legal blog of Maître Eolas, ( ), one of the most visited in France, is a perfect example. It demonstrates that long notes can be written and still develop the loyalty of a large community of readers.

What tools and for what purpose? (depending on the network's evolution)

Card's author : Outils-réseaux
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description : There are many tools for networking, collaborative tools many of which are available with free software. They offer very open fields of application, but sometimes it is difficult to find one's way in this jungle of tools and functions.

A Network's Life

The creation of networks: 5 basic steps

image Etapes réseau

These steps occur simultaneously. They guide the way for new arrivals.

Tools for each of a network's life stages

**Process** **Function** **"Small arrows"** **Preferred tools**
Creation Creation of the network's identity Grouping the arrows of the same colour General discussion list and dynamic mapping of the network members
Information Exchanging information between network members Grouping the arrows pointing in the same direction Themed discussion lists, forums, news
Transformation Establishing collective projects Surfacing of the projects' "big arrows" Workshops and tools to support projects
Outreach Interaction with the surroundings The action of project arrows on other surrounding arrows Disseminating data on a website (using CMS: dynamic content integration)
Consolidation Opening and following the dynamic Permeability (dashes) to new members and conservation of internal dynamics (spiral) Onboarding, classing information, presence of a history

Creation of a network

This first stage is about giving visibility to the sense of belonging to the network. It is important that each new actor is immediately made visible, for his or her sake (existing in the network and being recognized within) and for that of others.
The essential tools for this first stage go through a round of presentations in a face-to-face meeting.

Description: tools to conduct on-line surveys. Some process replies statistically (graphs, percentages).
Google Forms

Network information

Saying “I am part of a network” is not enough to be a stakeholder; it is also necessary to say what we are passionate about, what we expect to do in the network, and with whom we would like to do this. For this, the network's members must be able to exchange information effectively, talk to one another, create groups based on shared interests and give visibility to the topics of discussion that could then lead to future projects.

Discussion and distribution lists, forum

Social networks:

Network transformation

This stage -which is actually an ongoing process- is identified at the start, when projects are created and set up. It is really a transformation at the heart of the network, since it starts creating an organisation and starts to be operational through its projects.

The necessary tools for this stage are those that allow working together on projects, and are a whole array of collaborative tools to share documents and information, co-write, exchange, synchronise and think together.

Document sharing:
D Manager


On-line office suits:
Google documents

Google Calendar
Php I calendar

Mind maps:


Social bookmarking:

Network outreach

Now the network has visibility through the projects it hosts and facilitates and interacts with its environment.
This interaction can happen at different levels: interaction with the public within the projects' frameworks, interaction with institutional partners that support and encourage projects, interaction with other networks to exchange or transfer skills and experiences…

CMS : content management system

Rss :

Network consolidation

This stage aims at ensuring that, even if the network has survived the 4 first stages with some of its members, it is open to new members.
At this stage, tools are more methodological (the network history, charter, guides for new members, manuals on how to participate...).

However, there are some tools that help visualising the activity of a network with a lot of content more easily.

Tag clouds:

Illustration credits under Creative Commons licence: by - Outils-Réseaux

Which tools and for what purposes ? (depending on the type of group)

Card's author : Outils-réseaux
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Description :

Decision grid

What type of group?

SIZE: managing the speaking SMALL GROUP: immediate exchanges MEDIUM GROUP: facilitating exchanges LARGE GROUP: managing the number of exchanges
SCOPE: reinforcing bonds LOCAL GROUP: synchronising NATIONAL GROUP: moving back to the local WORLD GROUP: moving back to the national
PURPOSE: adapting the tools to the aims CONVIVIALITY: mastering the informal PRODUCTION: mastering the critical tasks to Co-build DISSEMINATION: publish and making oneself known
MATURITY: towards autonomy CHILD: starting the first step ADOLESCENT: managing conflicts ADULT: remaining open and young

SMALL GROUP: immediate exchanges

  • E-mail
  • Synchronous communication tools
This family of tools encompasses those that make it possible to talk live and at a distance:
  • chat or instant messaging tools: communicating through written messages in almost real-time
  • VOIP tools: to talk live (voice transmission)
  • Videoconference tools: to talk and see each other live (sound and image transmission)

MEDIUM GROUP: facilitating exchanges

  • Discussion and mailing lists, forum
A discussion or mailing list is a specific use of email that allows public postings of information to users who have subscribed to them.
  • Discussion list:
A list for exchanges via email on a topic or for a group. Anyone can write to the list and everyone receives what is published on the list. (n vs. n)
  • Mailing list: a reading-only list via email to distribute a newsletter, for example. The letter is distributed to everyone but none of the recipients of this letter can modify it or communicate with other recipients of the mailing list (1 to n)
  • Web Forum: on-line discussion group: you can check and write messages and answer them using a web browser. Messages are classed by discussion threads.

LARGE GROUP: managing the number of exchanges

  • Tag cloud
A tag cloud is a visual representation of the tags used more often on a website. Generally speaking, these tags use font sizes that are larger the more popular or frequent the tag is.
Summaries : refer to the example the use of lists by Tela Botanica

LOCAL GROUP: synchronising

  • Shared calendars
Calendars that can be viewed on the Internet and be modified by several people.

NATIONAL GROUP: moving back to the local

  • Directories
There are no key tools available to make directories, but it is a tool that is often found in other systems:
  • Social network tools, for example, allow creating member directories,
  • CMS generally offer an electronic registration and also offer member directories,
  • A list of members can be created on a wiki by opening a page for each of them.
  • Mapping
Systems to install interactive mappings on a website. They can be used to map a community, a network under construction: an absolute must to get cooperation started!

WORLD GROUP: moving back to the national

CONVIVIALITY: mastering the informal

  • Trombinoscope
  • Social network and micro-blogging
Social networks: a web-based service allowing people to create a public or semi-public profile in a limited system, to build a list of users they are connected to, to view and browse through their own relationships and those established by other users.
  • Micro-blogging: (sometimes referred to as mini-blogging)
It is a brief version of a blog that allows posting short articles, much shorter than in a typical blog, which may also contain an image or even a video attachment. Aggregation feeds are lighter than in traditional blogs and can contain the full message. Distribution may also be restricted by the publisher to a circle of people.

PRODUCTION: mastering the critical tasks to Co-building

  • Wiki
  • Document sharing
In a group, it often becomes essential to share documents and resources. To do this there are either on-line systems ready to use or free software that can be installed in a host. Ideally one wants to choose the options that allow synchronicity.
  • On-line office suites
More and more, it is possible to carry one's office around on the Internet: on-line office suites are used more and more often. The advantage of this is that they allow a collective use and in real time: ideal to promote cooperation!
  • Social bookmarking
Social bookmarking is a way for internet users to save, class, search and share their favourite links.
  • Mind maps
A mind map is a way of communicating and transmitting information between people in a graphic way. The idea is to place a central topic (a word or a drawing) in the centre of a sheet of paper and, from there, developing branches that contain different ideas that link back to the topic. This concept was invented by the mathematician Tony Buzan in the 1960s.

DISSEMINATION: publish and making oneself known

  • Newsletter and mailing list
  • CMS
Content Management System. Defines a group of software programmes that facilitate the creation, updating and publishing of contents on a website. Some of the most popular tools in this category are:: SPIP, Mambo (now Joomla), ez Publish, Typo 3 ...
  • RSS threads and syndication
"RSS" ("Rich Site Summary" or "Really Simple Syndication") is the name given to a data format used to disseminate updates on websites whose content changes very often; news sites, blogs…an RSS thread generally contains the title of the information, a brief summary and a link to another page with extended information. The RSS file, also called RSS feed, RSS channel, RSS thread or information thread is updated to provide the latest information posted in real time.
RSS can be used in two ways:
  • for a personal use. Users are required to have a specific tool called an “RSS reader” or “aggregator” to subscribe and check all the latest information from several websites on one single place, without having to visit the various sites.
  • content syndication: is the automatic publishing on a website of information coming from other sites.
  • Blog
From "Web - log": initially these were like personal on-line diaries which then developed into the support for an array of different public expressions: opinions, the voice of the citizens, activists, testimonials, recitals…
There are several types of blogs: ready-to-use services (blog platforms) or free software programmes that one can install on a server. What they all share is that they allow someone without the technical knowledge to publish articles that are grouped by dates.

CHILD: starting the first step

Simple tools


ADOLESCENT: managing conflicts

Operating rules

  • Surveys and forms
Tools to carry out on-line surveys. Some process the replies statistically (graphs and percentages).

ADULT: remaining open and young

Onboarding for new members, public getting to know the content