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A swing, a miss, and a homerun – CLS day one

A whole first day and whole event full of observations, rich moments, and lots and lots and lots of value.  What else can you expect when you get together 200+ self-identified community organizer types?  People are active, engaged, energetic, enthusiastic, approachable and approaching, and fully responsible.  During the event, and now following, I did my part to take notes and report on the ideas and flows.  You can believe I had my parts to say in various sessions, I listened a lot, and I lead two sessions myself.  Which brings me to my story and baseball analogy for the day.

In baseball, the batter is trying to hit a ball hurling through the air.  The batter has three chances to swing a thin stick of wood at that ball, trying to hit it; once that hit happens, physics really shows it’s stuff, converting all that combined speed via a new arc that can travel a surprising distance.  Hitting that ball so far that it cannot be retrieved in the time you can run around the bases on the field of play is called “a home run”.  If you don’t swing but the ball was in the zone where you could have hit it, a strike is called.  Three strikes and you are out (end of turn.)  But if you swing and fail to connect the stick and ball together, that counts as a miss (strike), too.

First was my swing, ‘Architecting communities‘, in that I don’t think the session came to it’s potential.  After I hit some highlights of what we do at Red Hat in architecting communities, we wandered around a bit in the general areas that were a bit of a theme for CLS.  How to track, how to measure tactics, diversifying contributor base, defining the target audience of participants, etc.  One thing I appreciated from this was meeting (and later talking with) Paul Cooper of the Moblin project.  I hope I provided some insights for folks.

Later that day I put up a session called ‘Letting go of leadership‘.  This session was great, lots of active discussion, many people who had been through the processes before of letting go and growing leadership around them.  I was happy to put in a few bits of experience from the Red Hat and Fedora Project viewpoints.  Best thing was getting a chance to talk about parade leaders and true leaders.

You can tell true leaders because they usually don’t want the job, but recognize that organizing people around their goals is a great way to get things done, and make most folks happier.

The parade leaders are the ones who look for a group in motion and jump in front of it before the cameras go off, and everyone says, ‘Oh, there’s the leader.’

(I stole this idea from someone else who has yet to write on it anywhere I’ve seen, so I have to be the canonical source for this idea for now.)

The ironic home run was, I was jawing and having coffee over the break before that session, and I ran my mouth right in to the time of the session.  I had no idea it was off until Jeff came to me, “Hey, Karsten, there’s a room full of people ready to start in your session.”  D’oh!  I refreshed my cup of coffee and headed to the room.  When I got there, at least 25 folks sat in a big circle, and they were deep in discussion.  Someone immediately spoke up when I arrived apologetic, “Oh, we thought you did that on purpose to make a point of how to let go of leading a session.”

Zonker even mentioned that in his blog entry as if it really was a serious tactic; bless his faith in me!

Another fun discussion was the “Letting go of Leadership,” session that Karsten Wade proposed. In a stroke of genius, Karsten showed up late to the session, illustrating what happens when a group is “leaderless,” and how quickly the vacuum is filled.

Funny enough, I had joked in the opening plenary about, “What if you want to leave your own session?”  That is a basic rule of the open space way of holding meetings and unconferences that we use at FUDCons, and I was happy to accidentally invoke that.