Thursday February 4th is the First Thursday of the month. So here's my invitation to join me in the worknets chat room, and my usual thanks to Andrius Kulikauskas, director of Minciu Sodas for making it possible. All being well I will be around for an hour starting - 13.00 Nigerian time, 15,00 Kenyan time, 12.00 GMT.
An informal gathering
First Thursdays are informal gatherings of a handful of people who drop into the chatroom to catch up with each other, and chat about whatever is on their minds at the time. Newcomers are invited too, and are welcomed. To enter the chat room go to http://www.worknets.org/chat/base/. The chat may go on for longer than an hour, depending on who turns up. (Even if no-one turns up I keep checking the chat room for an hour - but I don't sit staring at the screen - so in the unlikely event you arrive and don't get an immediate welcome, please be patient.) I usually just email my Minciu Sodas contacts to remind them about First Thursday, but this month I am blogging about it too. Most people who come to First Thursday tend to come back again - but it is a "now and again" kind of thing - fitted in when people are not too busy, or when they can get to a cybercafe. It is not the same people every time.
For myself, I am hoping that there will be some chat about issues related to permaculture and sustainable communities. I will therefore email a couple of people interested in permaculture, but new to the chat room, to see if they mght like to join in (as well as reminding people who often turn up). We might also discuss the Video Bridge Workshop that Andrius and I attended last week. Andrius' feedback is on video here. Others from Minciu Sodas also attended the workshop, in person and via the Internet.
It is never possible to say who will drop by, but I know that we are hoping some people from Dadamac will start to develop the habit of joining First Thursdays soon - perhap starting this Thursday. Kazanka Comfort, the general secretary of the Fantsuam Foundation micro-credit programme, has asked me to remind her when First Thursdays happen so she can drop by if she is free. (She is the second speaker on this short video.)
Dadamac and Minciu Sodas
I am still hoping that Andrius and I will find good ways for Minciu Sodas and Dadamac to work together, although we have slightly different approaches to online organisational cultures. I believe that individuals meeting in the chat room is a good first step, and hope more Dadamac people, who are not yet overlapping with Minciu Sodas will gradually get in the habit of joining in First Thursdays. Vijay, from Dadamac in Delhi, has already attended. Other members of the Dadamac team in Nigeria are now confident users of the chat room (thanks to our use of it for Dadamac Day 2009) and they are interested to joining in when they are free to do so.
Logging in to the chat room
Here are more details about using the chatroom. We do not want anyone to be left outside the chatroom trying to get in, so if you ever have any difficulty with it please help us to put it right (for you and everyone else) by writing a comment below or by emailing me . Then we can sort out the problem ready for next time (or maybe immediately).
What to expect
If you have never joined in before and are wondering what to expect, well, this is how I think of it. It is a bit like a small informal club, or an "at home". It is a regular time slot where if you turn up you have a good chance of finding other interesting people there. Even if no-one else turns up I will be there, but usually there are enough people for a lively session. (It is typed chat, not spoken chat.) As in any club, the more often you turn up the better you get to know other people, and the more chance you will discover overlapping interests to follow up afterwards.
The "unwritten rules"
It is not a formal meeting so you can call in briefly, say hello and leave again, or hang around longer. It is okay to have several parallel conversations going on - you just read what the people "in your conversation" are writing. This means you can write whenever you feel like doing so - don't wait for a "space" in the conversation. We like to welcome people personally, but usually just one person will greet a newcomer on behalf of everyone. If everyone stops to welcome everyone then no serious conversations can take place.
An emerging theme
Sometimes a serious theme does emerge and then one of the conversations can become a bit more like a formal meeting for a while. If that happens then it helps to have a chariman for that theme to keep things focussed. Side chats can still go on.
Sometimes, in a busy chat session, a few people will decide to breakout from the main chat and go off for a more focussed conversation together on Skype or Yahoo. It is very like meeting in a physical space - sometimes everyone is chatting, sometimes only one or two have something they want to say. Some people like to join several conversations, some just want to stick to a particular topic.
Other chat room use
The chatroom is always open and is in use by many individuals and groups, so you can drop in at any time, not just for First Thursdays. It is the online realtime home of Minciu Sodas - used most remarkably during the post election turmoil in Kenya for the Pyramid of Peace initiative. All chats are in the public domain, so you can browse through everything that has gone on there.