Celebrating Positive Deviants

If there is a single constant in the world today, it is change.  The velocity of information is continuing to increase as mobile devices and cloud computing provide real-time access to more information.  There are more opportunities for greater engagement and individual creation in the internet-era than there were before.  In his new book, Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age, Clay Shirky discusses the means, motive and opportunity for creation of great value such as Wikipedia (created with the free time of .01% of 1 years worth of TV watching) and Ushahidi (see this TED video which explains how a website to track violence in Kenya expanded to many countries around the world).  This post is not a book review (I enjoyed the book greatly, it is the first one by Shirky that I read, Adam Thierer who recommended the book to me wrote a thorough write-up on his site), instead, I’m proposing taking one of his points into action.  Just because there are opportunities with new technology, there are few who will take advantage.  As Shirky says: “Any community has members who deviate from social norms in negative ways…Positive deviants are those who behave better than the norm, even when faced with similar limitations or challenges.”  I want to celebrate those who create a positive impact on the IT community through a collaborative process of sharing information and providing critical thinking on the business and technical challenges of the day.

Shirky tells a story in the book about how science took a quantum leap forward when it moved from alchemy to chemistry.  Both disciplines used the same materials, but chemists changed the way things were done – shared information rather than hoarding, created methodology and measurements for what they did, and challenged their own results (creating the scientific method).  In the IT world, there is no shortage of information coming from vendors, bloggers and independents.  This flood of information can be overwhelming and people don’t always know what sources to believe in.  Communities are part of the answer to this problem. At Wikibon, we have a wiki-based platform that allows for open sharing and discussion of technology and business problems. All content on the site is available for free use and the community (a short, free registration is required to edit or comment) helps make sure that the information is independent.

The PosDev Award

Wikibon is launching an award to recognize the positive deviants who are helping to shape the conversation in the industry.  This PosDev award is to recognize those in the industry who are providing independent critical thinking through blogs or other collaboration.  Winners of this award will be recognized in a post on the Wikibon sites, they can use the PosDev logo on their site (thanks to my wife for creating) and they will receive a book on a technical (such as a book on virtualization) or community (such as Cognitive Surplus or Switch) topic.  Any Wikibon member (free registration) can give this award; it requires the write-up and sending the winner a book.  The list of award winners is available on the wiki. I will be awarding one winner per month.

Individual blogs can be a lot of value, but the aggregation and collaboration of people and ideas through tools (like Wikibon) or events (such as the self organized VMUGs which were highlighted at VMworld), can create a cultural shift with a broader impact than from any single person.  The call to action is to help contribute to the PosDev initiative: make or edit an entry on the wiki, join us for a Peer Incite call, let us know of some of the great content that you see and most importantly, nominate people by contacting me via email or Twitter.

First award winner

My choice for the first award winner is Joe Onisick who authors Define the Cloud.  Joe launched the blog in March 2010 and he does a great job at explaining the various components of cloud computer and datacenter offerings.  I’m sure that Joe’s interaction with technology from multiple vendors gives him the expertise to clearly articulate the challenges and benefits to practitioners.  Joe’s recent post on QCN is a good example of a neutral examination of the technology and how it applies to the FCoE ecosystem; event if the vendors involved wanted to write a post like this, their independence is often challenged.  Joe chose a copy of Cognitive Surplus as his prize.  I look forward to collaborating with him more in the future, it looks like Edge Virtual Bridging will be the next topic.

Beyond Cognitive Surplus, this ideas was also inspired by:

Louis Gray used to run a “Five Blogs Under the Radar” series which highlighted new bloggers

Nick Weaver had a Twitter contest which I won and I’m “passing on” the gift card prize in the form of a book

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