Last night I had the pleasure of being part of the first San Francisco Social Media Club, which was produced by Chris Heuer and Kristie Wells and is part of a wave taking place in cities all over the world. Chris had asked the World Café to partner with him in creating an atmosphere of collaborative dialogue, and the result was subtly different than any other techie-oriented event I’ve ever attended.
People came from all over – there was a music blogger there from Alberta who’d flown in especially for the evening, a PR representative for Earthlink from Atlanta who just happened to be in town making a pitch to manage the new wireless SF, Andrea from Washington DC, who I believe was reporting on the group’s activities, a woman from Israel (who said she actually lived ‘online’) – but the crowd was mostly home grown, and it was very cool meeting so many vibrantly interesting new people in my field.
Jimmy Wales (co-founder of Wikipedia) was there from his new business, Wikia, (informally, but it turned out they sponsored the event at the last minute by generously throwing in some money when the numbers rose steeply and Chris needed help buying pretzels & beer for the crowd). He started the conversation off by sharing some of the core values that hold the Wikipedia community together. He said the three things that had really mattered to them as their community developed were "Assume Good Faith", practice "Intentional Vulnerability", and promote "Accountability rather than Gatekeeping". These values are remarkably in keeping with the World Café principles, so Jimmy’s words got us off to a great start.
Having the interaction center around values, in World Café parlance, "Conversations that Matter", gave a very different flavor to this gathering, and the exchange got deeper as the evening progressed. Even though no one at any of my tables had heard of Zaadz or seemed to have any kind of spiritual orientation at all, it became clear very soon that we all share the social values which are more and more visible at the core of the web 2.2 or social media movement: fairness, transparency, open-heartedness, collaboration, generosity, collectivity. I’m excited about what’s in store for us as we begin to weave the connections and develop the enterprises that will bring these values to the forefront of the larger culture.