Looking for my own information agent

Walking home tonight I was imagining how different my life would be if I had my own information ("info") agent. How would I describe the job to a potential applicant for a start? I guess the easiest thing it to compare it to a diary secretary - but instead of filling in the diary before-hand my info-agent would fill it in for me afterwards.

More like Samuel Pepys diary - but with tags and suchlike

Thanks to my info-agent I'd have the kind of journal that Samuel Pepys had as his diary - but I wouldn't have to write it for myself.

My journal would tell me where I'd been, what I'd done, who I'd met, what I'd learned, any "Aha! moments I'd had," what I'd like to follow up on, all that kind of thing.

Of course, unlike Pepys' diary mine would be online, and it wouldn't be a secret personal diary, most of it would be available to anyone who wanted to dip into it. Some of it would be private - just between me and the info-agent. Probably some things would just be temporarily private - things like ideas that would just cause confusion if they were shared early on in their half- formed state.

My info agent would be someone who could listen, and understand and, then communicate - in words or diagrams or a mixture of both. Her/his task would be to harvest and express coherently all the relevant stuff from my completely unstructured accounts of what I'd been doing and thinking. It would be a bit like Nikki used to do in her weekly blogs about Fantusam Foundation after the Dadamac UK-Ngeria meetings.

Thanks to the hidden work of techie info agents, those written accounts would all be connected up in wondrous ways. (The techies would be working their hidden magic for all the Dadamac Foundation changemakers and info agents - not just for me. My information flows would provide useful "prototype content" for the techies to use in developing better and better information-flow systems for all the other changemakers and info agents to use.)

As my information/knowledge store was developed I'd be able to dip in and see what I'd been doing on a particular date, or follow a particular initiative, idea, person, whatever. tonight for instance I was talking to someone who is from HelpAge International. She told me about their work at places in Kenya and in the Philippines, and I told her about John's work with his "grandmothers".  All of that would get connected up in the part of our Dadamac Foundation Knowledge Commons devoted to the elderly.

So what would I have told my info agent this week? 

Well it's already Thursday, so a lot has happened since Monday. I'll just look back and mention main things that come to mind.

This evening

I might have spoken to my info agent (I'll say "her" for now) on the phone on the way home to talk about the event I was at this evening. It was interesting to me on various levels. I'd need an info agent to harvest it all properly, so I'll just share some brief facts. It was at Kings Cross Hub. It was about aging, and related to pslaunchpad at HubW. I met familiar faces and new ones, During an informal conversation some of us started playing with ideas for an unconference. (June seemed a good time - I need to tell some of my contacts about it.) Some other ideas were tossed around. No time to action them yet, but it would be good to jot them down .There are some emails to be written too.  Hmm - I could do with a PA kind of info-agent as well as a journal-writing one.

This afternoon

It was our First Thursday meeting this afternoon. I could have done with an info agent to be online with us to harvest the information and share it. First Thursday also split over into trying loomio, a platform for group discussion and decision-making, which some of us will be experimenting with between now and our June First Thursday meeting.

People who joined in the First Thursday meeting today were some "old-timers" - Mark (USA), Sasha (Serbia), Andrius (Lithuania) and me (UK) plus newcomer Funmi from UK. (My info-agent would recognise that Funmi is the person who came to see me at HubW yesterday to find out more about Dadamac.)

Funmi and I first met last week at an "I Am Networking" event for charities. I was there on behalf of Dadamac Foundation. I nearly didn't go because it was held on the last Wednesday of the month, which is also the date for ICT4D meetups, but for now I have to prioritise Dadamac Foundation development. I'm glad I chose as I did. I have a couple of other good contacts from last Wedneday. I need to contact them. Tomorrow morning had better be a catchup morning).

I nearly forgot to mention Fola. (Nigeria) who contacted me on Skype part way through First Thursday and stuggled to make the connection to join us in the meeting. Sadly, by the time he did manage to get a connection all the rest of us had left.

I would probably have a little rant about this connectivity problem to my info-agent. The rant would be about all the posts I keep reading about smart phones in Nigeria and how easy it is for "everyone" to get online now.

How is it then that my contacts in sub-Saharan Africa tell me how they struggle to join me at First Thursdays, and fail to use other online opportunities, because of costs and connectivity issues?

I accept that my contacts who are telling me how difficult it is are only a handful of "nay sayers". They are greatly outnumbered by the people (mosly from UK and America) who are posting information that tells  me (and the world in general) how easy it is. But my handful of nay- sayers are all keen to access the internet. They have histories of being early adopters of ICT, and yet they are struggling. My guess is that they represent a lot of other people whose voices are not yet heard, and who would follow the early adpoters if the early adopters were not still struggling so much.

Maybe my info-officer would get interested in that issue and would start to enter into online debates (withthe people who say how easy it is) and would speak on behalf of the struggling ICT early adopters in our community.

This morning

I'd have shared two main things with my info agent about this morning. One would have been about Nikki Fishman and me (Nikki who used to write Nikki's blog). We had a rare and precious meeting before she went off to her day job. The other was a long email that I wrote to Andrius Kulikauskas about the studies I'm starting to do, with him as my supervisor.

I might have sent my info-agent a copy of the emails I'd sent to Nikki outlining the tasks we needed to do and the things we needed to discuss, Maybe I'd have said some more about it in the phone call this evening.  

I'd have sent a copy of the Andrius email - incidentally that email refers to a meeting I had yesterday with Fred Garnett about my wiki-quals, after Everything Unplugged.

I'm glad I'm managing to get some time this week to go into "student mode" (with Fred and Andrius) and think about what I'm learning -  lifting my attention from what needs to be done and focusing on what I'm learning-by-doing it for a while.

One day I will have launched the new version of Dadamac Foundation. Its team of info-agents will have taken over many of the roles I'm currently filling (I'm a kind of prototype information agent for much of the time). Then I'll be able to spend more of my time thinking and writing about what I'm learning - and I'll be learning from what they're doing - and they'll be sharing the stories of many change agents.

Hmm, I just been sharing some hopes and dreams. I would do that. I'd share my hopes and dreams with my info agent (as well as my rants). With luck my info agent would find some of visionary stuff inspiring and would help me to share it so that others would be attracted to come and join us.         


While I was writing about today I highlighted three things about "yesterday". I'd have told her about those. I can't go into details now - as that would be the info agent's job.

Monday and Tuesday

Nothing remarkable in my current diary for Monday or Tuesday. Checking my inbox and posts reminds me of things I was doing - and how they were hampered by an intermittent fault with my Internet service. It's now fixed, but was causing difficulty for the weekly UK Nigeria meeting (that meeting is something else that could use an info agent).

I was using the post on Flowing together and separately - Dadamac 2014 to update various people about progress. I had to do some prep for the next GlobalNet21 Africa and Change Group, for the next Dadamac Foundation strategy meeting and for First Thursday.

I was pleased to hear that an academic book I contributed to long ago has finally been published. That would have been news to share.

I knew there was no payment, but I did assume all the contributing authors would be given a copy. Apparently not, so I can't comment on its contents. Perhaps the other authors are academics and maybe they don't care about seeing the book as long as they can say they've been published in it, becaue publications help them up the career ladder. I suppose they'll be more inclined to ask their university libraries to buy a copy for them if they haven't got one of their own, and the publishers would like that. Maybe some of them will add it to their students' reading lists, which would please the publishers even more. 

The book was to do with pattern language and course design, and the authors were offered "shepherding" regarding pattern language. I'm interested in pattern language. It was the shepherding offer that attracted me to give it a go, so I perhaps I can persuade myself that I did get something useful from contributing. I might have blurted out to my info agent what I was feeling about it, which is why I'd want someone who wouldn't go sharing everything I told her.

On a much more positive note, Francis set up a GlobalNet21 Africa and Change group on loomio, and so I was spending time exploring that, setting up new discussions, inviting people to the group etc. Mark Roest was the first to join me, which is possibly what gave me the idea to set up the group for First Thursday people to try if they wanted to. Sasha tried it out during the meeting.

I'd be telling the info-agent some background on my long term interests in the relationships between online meeting places and face to face meeting places (and their various benefits and disadvantages). It's a particularly interesting time for me to be trying out loomio as an online tool for some communities that I'm part of (GN21 and First Thursday)  because I'm also involved in trying out Yammer as the online meeting place for Hub Westminster members.

Finding and rewarding my info agent(s)

One day (if ever I'm earning money for what is currently just my "passion work" and not my "paid work') I'll be able to pay someone to be an info agent for me. Meanwhile I can dream, or maybe I can strike some other kind of bargain. Maybe I can offer non-financial rewards to info agents. Maybe there is someone who wants to practice the skills of a journalist, but has nothing to write about. Maybe there is an international development student, or ICT4D student, who'd like to pick up some genuine grass roots information. Maybe there is a retired expat who misses Africa and would like to be reconnected with it in some way. Maybe there is someone who simply wants something interesting, unusual and worthwhile as a hobby.  

If you have any ideas how I could attract an info agent, even if only to do a fraction of what I've been suggesting above, please let me know via the contact form. If you know someone who'd be interested in being an info agent, but only if it could be for one of the changemakers in Africa rather than for me, that would be perfectly fine as well. I may be disappointed but I wouldn't be offended. I did originally think of the info agent's role as helping other people rather than me. If you know anyone who might be interested please tell them.