Fertile Ground or Newsvine Improv -- an proposal for constructive collaboration
Yesterday on Newsvine I read the commencement address given at John Knox College by a man whom some have called America's Court Jester* -- Stephen Colbert. In his advice to the graduating students, he offered the following words...
To build a scene, you have to accept. To build anything onstage, you have to accept what the other improviser initiates on stage. They say you're doctors—you're doctors. And then, you add to that: We're doctors and we're trapped in an ice cave. That's the "-and." And then hopefully they "yes-and" you back. You have to keep your eyes open when you do this. You have to be aware of what the other performer is offering you, so that you can agree and add to it.
It is an image of openness and creativity – it allows the actor to claim a role and and expects her to accept that that role will be changed by what comes after it. The second actor accepts what the first has done without critique and moves it forward. Neither participant can predict the outcome but both can guide it. Neither can claim ownership of the outcome but both can identify their contributions.
It got me thinking about an idea I had for Newsvine a while back but never pursued. Fertile Ground.
The idea is that FertileGround would be a tag that indicates constructive collaboration. Newsvine is host to a wide variety of conversational formats. Seeds and articles are primarily for well constructed articles that are then critiqued or refuted. They have the most open participation and tend to be moderated with an eye to freedom of expression and fear of censorship. We have Tangle for debate; an essential component of healthy community where ideas stand up to intentional opposition. However, I imagine that I am not alone in having thoughts or ideas that are not quite ready for critique much less full fledged debate. The idea of FertileGround is that it would be a safe place for newsviners to seed with the intention that there thoughts will be built on and refined by the community to the benefit of the ideas expressed.
There have been times (here and elsewhere) that I have gotten really excited about an idea only to have it die before ever having a chance to take shape. Sometimes this was the appropriate end to a zany scheme but other times I walked away feeling like if someone had only helped it along, it might have had a chance. Even if my idea wasn't great it might have been the inspiration for a new way of approaching a different problem. In the rapid and wide open conversations of the commentary, ideas that aren't ready for public consumption get ignored. FertileGround provides a space for the conversation to slow down a bit and see what sprouts.
FertileGround is a place where many more seeds are planted than will ever grow but they are each planted with the assumption that they all will. A conscientious farmer will try to provide the most hospitable conditions for each seed. They are watered and fertilized and given every chance. Inevitably many of them will die but not for lack of trying. Under the tag Fertile Ground, participants will be asked to assume the best about the ideas presented. Assume that the solution or position is possible and would work the way it is described – and Grow It – build on it – respond with yes, and.
In summary – if you are inspired to write out your solution to world hunger, the AIDS crisis, global racism, capitalist corruption or immigration in United States but you don't think you are ready to expose it to the elements quite yet – tag your article with FertileGround and the single main idea. Hopefully this will keep it from cluttering the main pages with half-baked schemes and zany-propositions. (Ex: FertileGround, electoral-reform)
If you use the FertileGround tag
Make every effort to propose an idea that is generative in nature and open to further discussion.
Acknowledge potential pitfalls or missing information to the best of your knowledge.
Use respectful language.
Assume that commenters are trying to be helpful.
Accept that some ideas are just plain bad and keep trying – if you have one idea I bet you have more and they can't all be winners.
If you choose – use the following statement as a header to your post
This article has been posted as a part of the FertileGround project and I have presented the ideas to the best of my ability and knowledge. I ask that you comment in the spirit of constructive collaboration. I will delete comments that don't adhere to the principles of FertileGround. If you are interested in debating or criticizing the ideas below, please wait until it has matured.
If you are interested in participating in this constructive collaboration,
If you comment
Be respectful of the process, do not insult or otherwise malign the author or idea.
Assume that the idea has merit. If you have to suspend some belief to make this assumption, do so. If you can't do this, wait until it makes it to the vine and offer your criticism there.
Offer grace in response to poorly worded, mildly inflammatory, or clearly uninformed statements.
Let things slide if they are within reason.
Report abuse; abusive or unhelpful comments will be deleted at the author's discretion and with the input of participants.
Support and encourage the author.
Make suggestions and grow the idea.
Offer corrections of fact only. If the 'facts' are debatable, the author gets to decide.
In closing, I have attempted to present this idea in as comprehensive a fashion as possible and I have probably still missed some essential component. I welcome all comments and suggestions – it is my hope that there will be a few folks that would form a core community or guild that would support the project. If there are people that are interested in this project, we can work out an official guide to participation.