Sharing Tribe, PLN, COPs – Different? Overlap?

Think of this blog post as a #ThinkingOutLoud kind of post and though it may not look perfect/finished, I wanted it out for some discussion (if I might get some).

We just finished another #PKMChat tonight on Knowledge creation, sharing, exploring. Apart from all the discussions around portfolios and those around what stage of our work should we share, one of the issues that got the chat discussions high (at least for me) were the issues around where you share.

Answers ranged from posting on a personal blog to tweeting out a screenshot of your WIP… Until someone mentions the “Sharing Tribe”. It was the first time I was going to hear that (we’re always having names for things, not sure they’re really new concepts though).

Then Michelle Ockers asks…

Then I began to be curious… Is there really a difference? Do they overlap somehow?

I’ve always heard of and known about the PLN – Personal Learning Network. This I build consciously, and they are individuals in my network that I learn from. We share our learning together and engage with each other mostly virtually.

Then I heard of COPs – Communities of Practice. The emphasis here is in a community. We all share a common goal and stay together, learn, and share for as long as our goals remain the same. I may not have any personal engagement with particular individuals here beyond our general sharing of common goals.

For me, the more I become active in COPs, the more individuals may cross into my PLN from the community. But then I now hear of ShT – Sharing Tribe. Sounds to me like a community of people I share my work with for feedback. For me, this is part of what I presently do with my PLN.

The Personal P in PLN, makes individuals want to respond to a tweet or post and engage in a deliberate way, either by making comments or by adding to the discussion or providing feedback. I for one would love to interact with and engage with a tweet or post that comes from a P in my PLN, much more than just a member of a COP or the public.

Now, why this blog post?

First, I wanted to share my understanding of these terminologies and how I view and use them. Do you quite agree with me on these?

But then, I’m hoping to steer some discussion and conversation and learn from all of you who’ve been in the Knowledge and the Learning field and have a practical understanding of all these – one essence of sharing right?

The questions will be:
1. What is your understanding of a PLN, COP and ShT? Is there a significant difference? Is there an overlap in these?
2. Where do you go for what amongst these? When you need feedback on WIP, how do you get it? When you want to share something interesting you just accomplished, where do you go?

Okay guys, what do you think about all these? Drop a comment below or let’s head over to twitter!

[P.S And just as I tidy up the blog post to hit Publish, Bruno answers . . .

[tweet 715298460640141312 hide_thread=’true’]

Join the conversation


  1. Interesting post. I’ve been a part of many debates involving just this topic and I have to admit the concept of Sharing Tribe is new to me. Honestly, it makes me do a huge eyeroll, so huge I think I saw the back of my head. The acronym SHT doesn’t help it…(if you know what I mean). That aside – here are my thoughts.

    I won’t get into the official definitions of the variety of “groups/networks/communities/” that are out there. In my mind I have two simple classifications:

    1) PLN – this is a group of people whom I depend on to peak my curiosity. I learn from these people, develop new skills, and have interesting debates. A group of people who have been cobbled together in a fairly adhoc or serendipitous manner based on my social media or real life interactions. It ebbs and flows.

    2) CoP – This is a group of people whom I have purposefully joined or put together with a singular goal. Once this goal is achieved, some may move on, others may end up being in my PLN. Some people may refer to this as a Work Out Loud Circle (WOL) and for my purposes, I see the two as being interchangable. In a CoP there is a level of expertise expected as we are working on a joined project, goal or purpose.

    So, sometimes I pull in people from my PLN and work on projects – what do I call this group? PLNCoP? In my opinion, I think it’s less important how we define our groups or networks, just that we are a part of something that helps us learn and makes us think. That you have a group of people to turn to, or develop with, and depend on when push comes to shove and you need help. They can be in real life, or virtual.

    1. Thanks for leading the way in the discussion, Shannon! Afterall, rebels do that? 🙊 Lol… I’m sorry I didn’t help with the acronymn I gave to sharing tribe. I think it may be close to what you describe as the WOL circle.

      I quite agree with your classifications. The idea of the PLN being a network of individuals and CoP being essentially a group of people stands out for me. Your last statement almost made me not to publish this in the first place, because I said to myself “What does it matter what we call it?” Yes… regardless of the names and definitions, there should be these kind of people.

      One other part of this discussion I’m interested in, is who to turn to for what kind of sharing! Many times I need feedback on a particular project or advice on a professional issue and knowing how to share that is something young professionals like me need to know and master…

      So folks who do you turn to for what? Considering the various groups/communities/networks (and various social channels) When you need feedback on a project? When you need professional advice? When you just want to share something interesting you’re working on?

      Thanks again Shannon for stopping by to drop a comment!

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