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Guilds? Which ones?

If we had guilds, which guilds would we have?

Jerry has mentioned:

  • StoryWeavers
  • MapWhisperers

In the “Working group around builder role for data/media curation tooling?” thread, @skreutzer and I started talking about:

  • Software/Data

What other guilds might there be?

Why not let them emerge instead of second-guessing the future? :slightly_smiling_face:

I’m fine with emerging them. :slight_smile:

But sometimes it seems you have to guess something – perhaps even the wrong thing – to nudge something into emerging. :wink:

Given the bad rap the guild" metaphor received in today’s design workshop, couldn’t it be less controversial talking about Communities of Practice and Co-creation (CoPCo), epistemic communities (thank you Pete, for pointing to them!) or something like that?


  • keeping knowledge within a guild potentially “starves” others of things that might help them
  • guilds = restraint of trade
  • hindering innovation

It’s a good question, George, and certainly, I like the connection to CoP.

However, I just heard the “bad rap” discussion as historical stuff attached to the word, as many words have, and perhaps a cautionary warning as we recapitulate structures from the past.

I think “guild” still captures the correct meaning, and has enough positive connotation for people (perhaps because they don’t know all the history), that it’s worth using.

[Regarding epistemic communities, I am just the scribe; it came from the Team 3 workshop breakout, from @NeilD, I think. :slight_smile: ]

Happy to hear that. The name of the self-organizing communities in OGM is less important than their design principles, what they do, why they do it, and their relationship with each other. There are many CoPs around the world that don’t label themselves CoP, nevertheless, embodying its characteristics, act like one. For example, guilds became popular in the agile movement as a way to keep teams, business units, and task forces, from siloing.

So, if your preferred taxonomy choice is “guilds” (which I don’t object), then those OGM sub-communities can still be and act as communities of practice, as long as they embody the 7 CoP design principles.

I’m not advocating for the CoP path but IF there’s an emergent interest in exploring and, eventually, pursuing it, then you may want to know that I’ve been designing, facilitating, consulting to, and teaching about, such communities since 1990 in many business, government, and civil society organizations around the world.

If and when some of our members were interested to form CoP-like guilds, then one of the roles that I could offer to play in OGM would be the CoP Advisor.

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For me, I’m wondering what the function here would be — ideally, for me, that would be illustrated with some working prototypes and exercises — and potentially then we could refine the terminology(s) later. What are the guild-like and quest-like things meant be or do, in the OGM context? Can I see one or more examples up and running already? What are the benefits to me of engaging with one/some?


Just wondering - do the terms have to be…fanciful…like those? I take storyweavers is the same as or related to storytellers, and mapwhisperers are cartographers or something else dealing with maps…?

Which would be better:

  • broad categories in which many things fit, such as Science, Math, Language;
  • somewhat specific sub-categories of the above, like Education, Environment, Food; or
  • very specific categories, like French, Swahili, Sanskrit, English, Indonesian, German?

I tend to try to organize things from broad to narrow but not everyone likes that or thinks that way. It’s like when my wife and I would go shopping - I wanted to go up and down each aisle in order, while she wanted to wander from one part of the store to another, which I found exhausting and confusing! :smile:

I don’t suppose Discourse offers more than one way to display things to meet the different needs of people.

Another question is: are there categories we’ll probably never need (e.g. how to make ancient recipes today)?

I wonder if “Working Groups” could be a useful label, replacing the idiosyncratic “Guild” and without requiring all of the theory that goes into the term “Communities of Practice” (but possibly drawing on that background material where relevant).

The criteria of WG might be to meet once or more with 2 or more people and to produce some sharable outcome that goes beyond just a transcript/recording. Super simple.


I think that’s an excellent suggestion, Joe!

Guilds have both negative and positive historical associations, including, on the positive side, protection for members, training, power consolidation, and political influence for craftsmen/women; on the negative side, it included power theft and other forms of corruption, abusive or even murderous leadership, excessive membership fees, elevation of guild leadership to higher socio-economic status without equal contribution to the guild and its members, and so on. Additionally, guilds had the power to make it very hard, if not impossible, for non-members to ply their trade within the area of its influence. Guilds that engaged in criminal activities also existed.

“Work groups” on the other hand, carries no historical stigma, implies no exclusivity, structure or duration, and is about as neutral as possible.

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@maparent points out that guilds and WGs aren’t exactly synonyms!

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George, I can’t see wanting to be part of a CoPCo, but I can see wanting to be part of a guild, as long as it defined itself in ways that resonated for me.

I’m painfully aware of the historic baggage guilds have, but modern guilds need not be that way at all, and we’ve seen the word used successfully for various software communities.

To me, a reason to use “guilds” and give them funny names like StoryThreaders (not quite StoryWeavers :slight_smile: is for them to sound friendly, memorable, unique and a little quirky.

That’s also a reason to not call them Working Groups. Also, the positive intent of a Guild is to last a long time, attracting craftspeople to improve their craft and pass it down through generations. WGs tend to be shorter term, no? And they make me feel like I’m at the UN :slight_smile: But ymmv.

I love the ideas behind Communities of Practice (though those 7 principles aren’t self-evident, even if they are useful), but it seems to me calling yourself a CoP is not quite oblique enough.

And emergence is key. Naming something StoryThreaders and describing what that means is the first step in said emergence. Then others have to show up and want to be members, then others have to hire StoryThreaders to do serious work. If those things don’t materialize, then StoryThreaders didn’t succeed as a Guild.

Jack Park (TopicQuests) usually mentions “guilds” in the World of Warcraft sense. WoW is a “Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game” (MMORPGs is a category of games), a multiplayer/network game by Blizzard. Players walk around in a virtual fantasy world with their persona/avatar/character and form well-organized (or sometimes less so) teams to complete fights. This is by far not an isolated single example, to the contrary, it’s a very common occupation.

In WoW, a “guild” is a large group of many players who join it to have a pool of other members available/online in order to do “raids” (campaigns) together, which are in part composed of sub-quests/sub-tasks and then end-bosses/-fights (some of which can’t be beaten/completed by just one single player). Some guilds have fixed playing/online/training hours, and the better ones might have an application/probing process involved before permitted joining. Also, members can ask for and trade items within the guild, which would otherwise be more difficult or costly. Members fill + perform specific roles and take on certain responsibilities in-game (during playing) as well as for guild management. Entering raids without a guild means that one has to wait for other players, these might also not listen to commands, might do their own thing for their own benefit, and could lack the skill, experience, level, items, or might simply leave during the raid because of other physical-world/time obligations. Apart from WoW jargon, the concept is otherwise known as a “clan” in online gaming.

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Dear @Jerry, everything that you’ve just posted is convincing and feels right to me. At least, until we arrive at your last para, where I’m a bit less certain.

Jerry, I feel you have a strong conviction about emergence starting with giving a name to its form or container/vehicle, and I would not want to debate it. I simply offer an additional perspective that you use or disregard, as you see fit your drive or not.

Seen from where I sit, social emergence starts with the energy of a small group of people who care as much about each other’s well-being and development as their collective gift to the world. Having seen many promising, positive initiatives fizzling out over time, where the co-initiation team haven’t engaged the whole self in the co-creation process, I became somewhat skeptical about them.

“Guilds” seem to be exclusively secular in nature. If we were to talk about a “nirvanic quest”, would it be pursued in solitude or together with all beings? Or, in a middle way between these extremes…? :slight_smile:

Similarly I wonder whether placing the ‘practice theory’ of OGM wholly within the secular tradition of guilds neglects the personal/spiritual dimension; and, in turn, the (other, manifold) social forms of organisation that apply to that dimension.

Opening quote to “The Side View: Hadot and Sloterdijk on the Practice of Philosophy”:

If guilds are social organizations in which art is produced, the quote above is seen to apply. And to ask, at another level: where do the guilds (and the art that they make) actually come from?

In the following, if I gather correctly, the author Steven Grant Carlisle talks about the interrelationship between the language of the ordinary person (khon) and mankind (manut):

Later on:

The “side-view” again: $5/word section :money_with_wings:

This is exactly how Charlie Danoff and I originally theorised ‘paragogy’:

Paragogical principles. Each of these principles adjusts one of Knowles’s five principles to the peer-based learning context, often by turning the original by 90°. —

A ‘paragogical’ viewpoint on guilds would look at them not just through the lens of ‘praxeology’ …

“The science of human action”

but in their entelechy:

the programme of actualization, of being …

the realization of potential…


The question at the top of this thread: “Guilds? Which ones?” underscores my point. To amplify this: Where would the guilds come from? Where would they go to?

The proposals above by @Technoshaman and @Jerry about ‘emergence’ — if phrased as questions — would be asking the same thing.