Tuesday, December 11, 2007

In celebration of the ADR blogosphere: blogging transforms how we talk about dispute resolution

Celebrating mediation bloggersIn less than a month I'll be celebrating Online Guide to Mediation's third anniversary. Looking back, I marvel at how radically things have changed since my early days of blogging.

With all things web-related, change occurs rapidly and time accelerates. Last year is ancient history and yesterday is old news. Those three years have witnessed some radical change.

When I launched OGM, it was mighty lonely out here for anyone blogging about mediation or ADR. Although there were a handful of early adopters like Colin Rule, Bill Warters, Perry Itkin, and Tammy Lenski, blogging about mediation remained a solitary business. In comparison with the brawling and boisterous legal blogosphere, ADR blogging was awfully quiet then. There were just too few of us to make much noise.

Fast forward three years and now look at us. According to the latest head count, there are almost 120 of us, located all over the world in 22 countries, as you can see at the World Directory of ADR Blogs. And we cover the ADR spectrum -- arbitration blogs, mediation blogs, negotiation blogs, and more.

The digital world of ADR blogging pulses with light and sound. That buzz you hear is ADR bloggers using their sites to invite debate about issues important to our field -- subjects that range from ethical duties to the role of spirituality in dispute resolution to money offers at the mediation table to the laws that affect our work.

We're not only using blogs to get our message out, but we've also turned to podcasts and videoblogging, as Negotiating Tip of the Week and the Mediation vBlog Project prove.

Although our numbers remain too small to, say, merit a cover story in a major publication for a professional association as legal blogs have done, we have been fortunate to have earned the support of the world's premier online resource on dispute resolution, Mediate.com, which created a special section on its site to highlight selected posts from its Featured Blogs.

To give you a sense of the diversity of ADR blogging, in terms of subject matter and geography, consider these exemplars of the craft (and these are only the English-language ones):

Idealawg and Brains on Purpose. Published by Colorado-based attorney and mediator Stephanie West Allen, Idealawg unleashes the creative potential and artistry in the craft of law, while Brains on Purpose reflects its author's fascination with neuroscience as a tool for resolving and transforming conflict.

Mediator Blah...Blah... The creation of Wellington, New Zealand, mediator and barrister Geoffrey Sharp, this blog delivers wit, wisdom, and no-holds-barred truths straight from the mediation table, with plenty of comic relief when the going gets tough.

ICT4Peace. Published from Sri Lanka by innovative thinker Sanjana Hattotuwo, this bleeding-edge blog explores the use of information and communications technology for conflict transformation.

Florida Arbitration Law.com, a group endeavor, is a blog that focuses on law regarding the enforcement of arbitration and issues of vacating, confirming or correcting awards, primarily affecting Florida.

Indisputably.org, published by four prominent American ADR professors, provides a scholarly perspective on mediation, arbitration, dispute resolution, and negotiation.

Gini Nelson's Engaging Conflicts, based in New Mexico, discusses science, ethics, and spirit in a high conflict practice. It regularly features conversations with dispute resolution practitioners and provides thoughtful discussion of the rewards and challenges that our work produces.

CKA Mediation and Arbitration Blog is published by Georgia mediator and lawyer Chris "Tell Us What You Really Think" Annunziata. Chris pulls no punches as he tackles the issues that mediators face or that bedevil the legal profession (and don't get him started on ridiculous lawsuits). Don't be surprised to see sacred cows dispatched along the way -- with style and humor.

Settle It Now Negotiation Blog. Commercial mediator Victoria Pynchon dispenses her best advice on negotiation and dispute resolution, with insights into the psychology of negotiating, particularly cognitive errors and the risks they pose for dealmakers. Vickie's talent for writing is evident in her well-crafted posts, written with honesty and good common sense.

The Ombuds Blog, published by university ombuds Tom Kosakowski in California, is a dependable source for news and information for and about organizational ombuds.

Tammy Lenski's Mediator Tech. This Vermont-based blog offers "tips and tech for making mediation your day job". Tammy is skilled at demystifying technology and taking the fear out of marketing for mediators intimidated by both. Tammy made ADR blog history when she launched her first-of-its kind blog-to-book project, "Making Mediation Your Day Job".

And still more sites worth visiting include:

PGP Mediation Blog, published by California attorney and Mediator Phyllis Pollack, stands out for its consistently thoughtful posts on mediation practice.

Campus ADR Tech Tools, hands-down the best resource on the web for online tools, games, materials, and downloads for conflict resolution practitioners, students, and teachers.

Mediation Mensch, created by entrepreneur and ADR professional Dina Beach Lynch, is the world's first mediation marketing blog.

National Arbitration Forum Blog, which recently celebrated its third anniversary, lives up to its name and provides news across the nation on arbitration and ADR.

* * * * * *

In the ADR blogosphere today, ideas develop, mutate, and spread, transmitted virally through the medium of the web. The conversation grows, amplified as one blogger after another joins in. Limited no longer by physical geography, we can reach across the world and connect to each other.

The spirit of the community of ADR bloggers is summed up best in a quote that captures the ethos of blogging. Although it was written to evoke the spirit of a very different community of bloggers, it applies to the many bloggers I admire who write so honestly, so compellingly, about ADR:

We help each other. Many of us are stars but we like to pass the ball and create opportunities for others. Points don't matter. Assists do.
That's what it's all about. It's that simple. Creating opportunities for others. Helping each other. It's what we're doing out here, as we try ideas on for size and do our thinking out loud together -- in the best spirit of the collaborative nature of our work.

We'd love it if you joined us. In the frontier that is the web, there's plenty of room for all.

Come join the conversation.