Tag Archives: chrisbrogan

more rockstars every day

NewBCamp

Photo by Financial Aid Podcast

The very first NewBCamp was held in Providence, Rhode Island yesterday, and I was there, happy to join in the excitement and fun. Founded by a current student at Johnson and Wales, and modelled on the wildly successful “unconference” series known as Podcamp (co-founded by Chris Penn and Chris Brogan), NewBCamp provided an opportunity for relative newcomers to social media (things like blogs, podcasts, social bookmarking, social networking, etc.) to get their feet wet, explore, and learn in a welcoming, encouraging environment.

There were several presentations on podcasting geared towards the beginner; on videoblogging, on mobile lifecasting, on social networking, on how artists are selling work and building community online, and some very fun live demos of Second Life.

The presenters that I watched — including Chris Penn and Deb Block-Schwenk, among others — did an excellent job of working with and fielding questions from relative beginners in this field. Most of the conference was livestreamed via ustream.tv, with media rockstars in attendance from all over, including some of the folks attending Podcamp Toronto this weekend.

Of course, in keeping with the basic rules of Podcamps everywhere, everyone is a rockstar.

That part is important: Everyone is a rockstar.

That’s what is so compelling about podcamps, barcamps, and now newbcamps: the idea is to give everyone — presenters, volunteers, attendees, beginners, geeks — the same level of reverence, authority, and importance.

It’s not surprising that the world of new media, which flips the funnel (more here), should also turn on its head the traditional hierarchy of the professional conference. At a Podcamp, you’re a presenter if you put yourself forward. You’re an expert if you say you are. You’re a rockstar just for being you, and for being a part of something that most of us find exciting beyond words.

The whole point of this “new media,” this “social media,” is that the power is in the hands of the people. No matter what the form of media, the power of production and distribution is no longer in the hands of the few, it’s in the hands of the many. It’s in the hands of YOU.

The real success of Podcamp (and NewBCamp, by extension) is that it extends this ethos into the real world, and it all but requires us to deal with each other — at these events, at least — as equal stakeholders in this thing.

It’s telling that one of the first “spin-offs” of Podcamp was not to create a more advanced version, not to rope off the elite and create some sort of VIP section, but to create a less advanced version, to welcome the newcomer and encourage the beginner. It’s in keeping with the underlying ethic of widening the gate, of lowering the barriers to entry, that is so pervasive in the world of social media.

Every single one of us who practices, lives, and works in this space of new media and technology was once a beginner. We all started somewhere, often with questions that some would snicker at today. It is a great testimony that there wasn’t a shadow of a snicker yesterday at NewBCamp — only a door, held open wide by some very friendly, very hardworking people.

target practice

The year is almost one week old.  I’ve been busy hanging art and making lists, but in the meantime I’ve been thinking about some of the year-end posts I’ve read recently about goals for 2008, resolutions, and the like.

Now that my head is above water again, I went back and reread the ones I had tagged away for future reference, including this one by Chris Brogan.

Based on this and several other posts that have been rattling around in my brain, I’m going to synthesize and work with the simple and practical approach of:

  1. Play to your strengths
  2. Make three simple goals
  3. Use one-word reminders and place them everywhere

Play to Your Strengths

A recurring theme for me lately has been the mantra Be Who You Are. In my blogging, in my work life, in my career goals, in how much of myself I reveal online and offline… this has become my guiding principle.

It doesn’t mean I share all of myself online, but that I don’t betray or censor myself when something is important to me.

It doesn’t mean I need to love everything about my work, but that I examine carefully what I am doing, making certain that it fits with who I believe myself to be.

It means I don’t have to model myself too closely on any one or several people I might respect and admire – but that I let my writing reflect my true interests and passions, do what I can to make my voice heard, and let the rest take care of itself.

This mantra has already helped me work through some otherwise confusing dilemmas and decisions.  To me, it’s another way of saying Play to your Strengths because it keeps me from my old habits of trying to “fix what’s wrong” about me.  I’m going to stick with it.

Make Three Simple Goals

I don’t usually make resolutions, despite the part of my nature that loves repeating cycles and clean, round numbers like 1/1 for starting projects.  I do like goals, though.  So I have made three very concrete, quantifiable goals for this year.  I won’t share exactly what they are here, but I will share my

Three Reminder Words

and a very little bit about each one.

Share

I’m going to present on social media in more places and formats.  I’ve already got plans underway to present a class on social media for artists in the spring.  I’ve been booked to present at my alma mater‘s reunion weekends on social media for nonprofits.  I’m going to seek out more venues that are out of my usual rounds.  I’m going to do more one-on-one work.

Introduce

I’m going to do a better job of introducing people to each other who should know each other and who might share interests and goals.  This involves listening to people more and thinking imaginatively and empathetically about them.  This is a good thing.

Ask

Ask for help, ask for information, ask about your life, ask about your work, ask for clarification, ask for dinner, ask for more.  Ask ask ask.

I’m going to write these on little cards and place them in plain sight.  I’m going to try to think about them every day.

it’s nice to be nice to the nice

Do social networks mostly promote inclusion or exclusion?

It depends, of course, on the user. Like The Force, social media can be used for good or ill.

And some will say that it depends on what your objectives are. I’m going to take a stand and say that inclusion – and openness – is good, and that it leads to good things.

Take Twitter, for instance. When asked to describe it to others, I usually say that it is a huge, freewheeling chat room. Of course, to the new user who is maybe only following the one person who talked them into signing up, it looks too huge. All they can really see is the public timeline – they haven’t yet had a chance to segment it out into a cohort of people who are likely to say interesting things to them.

This is why I advocate for a practice some deride – cruising the friend lists of those people you do know and adding those whose interests seem aligned with yours. I don’t think you should just go down the list and grab them all – if you hover your mouse over a person’s avatar, their 140-character bio will come up. I add people whose self-descriptions sound like the type of person I would like to follow (keywords are technology, social media, arts, nonprofit, geek, etc.).

Some will add you right back, some won’t. No big deal.

But the most important step is the next step: Get Engaged.

This goes for any social network: if you just go around adding people to your friends list and never engage with them (poke them, @username them, comment on the blog post they are flogging that day), then you really are little more than a bot, I’m afraid. You’ve got to contribute something to the conversation. This isn’t TV.

While I applaud neophytes for sitting back and watching the conversation, learning the etiquette, before jumping in ill-advisedly, I also feel strongly that you have to take that leap at some point – sooner rather than later – and pipe up.

Chris Brogan, Eric Rice, and Clarence Smith, Jr. have been over here talking about the evolving practices of social media users when adding friends on Facebook and Twitter.

Meanwhile, Jeremiah Owyang has been over here, wearing a largely unnecessary hairshirt that nonetheless sets an excellent example for the rest of us. More on that in a bit.

Both of these conversations, it seems to me, are about inclusion, openness, and transparency.

The conversation Chris and his buddies have set in action centers largely on issues of how users go about adding friends on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and what the ramifications of each practice is.

Chris talks about how his practice of friending people back automatically (if you add him, he will add you back, unless you are clearly a bot) stems from his central guiding principle of Niceness. Chris is a guy who gives out his phone number to the social media masses on a regular basis and just asks them to call and say hi, usually inviting them to talk about whatever they want to talk about. That’s Nice.

The others talk about their various takes on how and when to reciprocate a “friending.” It’s a fascinating, rambling conversation that offers a nifty peek into the current state of a certain slice of social media. And yet…

All this raises questions for me about how groups and individuals, when they reach a social media space, either build walls (my updates are protected, a strict no-adding-back policy, etc.) or break them down.

Guys like Chris (from what I know of him) are relentless wall-smashers. He seems to belong to that group of humans who always have their hand outstretched in welcome, who are genuinely interested in what you have to say.

Now, I’m not saying the other guys are jerks, or somehow mean, because they don’t automatically add every random stranger. I’m not saying that at all. I’m just saying that I think there is a theme poking up in all this, and it’s not a particularly new one.

There’s been a lot of talk over the last few years about how the world has gotten flat, and the crowd is the best source for knowledge and strength, and how collaboration and openness are the core strengths of smart businesses of any size, in almost any sector.

The common thread in all of these recent memes is the over-arching and through-going importance of openness and transparency.

It’s the reason why you are seeing far fewer aliases online, and more people owning their own names, and unifying their various online personae.

It’s the reason why I rarely ask someone whose updates are protected to add me on Twitter.

It’s the reason why somebody like Jeremiah Owyang – a rather highly-regarded (if new-ish) analyst at Forrester who clearly works his tail off trying to create relevant, useful content for freeasks his readers what he can do better, how he can better serve their needs.

Giving away one’s knowledge, one’s insight, one’s time and one’s kindness, it seems to me, only ups the ante. It makes me think: If this is what he GIVES away, imagine how lucky his paying clients/real friends/wife is.

In this way, it’s hugely strategic, without being cunning or calculating.

Being open, being transparent, being humble, being receptive to comments and criticism.

It just seems like a good policy to me.

What do you think?

peas across the twitterverse

Thanks to all who helped me cement my ideas for my upcoming course for artists. It’s really starting to take shape – but I don’t want to write about the specifics until I have a conversation or two with the specialists I’m trying to recruit to help me pull it all together. I am really excited about the rather nifty idea I have for branding and marketing the branding and marketing course, though! I can see it so clearly in my mind…

Soon. All will come to fruition.

In the meantime, there’s been a lot of discussion in Twitterland about how Twitter has changed people’s lives, can change people’s lives, can change how we work, and has changed how at least one woman (and her friends) help her heal.

And I just had to pipe up.

Here’s the thing. Twitter has had a huge impact on me. Part of it is because I live in a somewhat geographically remote area (on the other side of the Cape Cod Canal, which is much more than a physical barrier, my friends), and Twitter has managed to expand my horizons, connect me to like-minded people, and expose me to the greater world in ways that blogging never did. Even though those are all PRECISELY the reasons I started blogging in the first place, back in 2002. (This is not my first blog.)

Twitter made me buy an iPhone. What I mean is, once I started using Twitter, and started following a few very prolific people like Beth Kanter, Jeremiah Owyang, and Chris Brogan, I almost immediately outgrew both my cell phone plan AND my cell phone. Never before in my long career with rapidly changing technology have I outgrown a piece of technology so rapidly. One minute, my old phone suited my needs. The next, it was laughably inadequate.

So I bought an iPhone. And then the positive feedback loop really started kicking in.

I heard Beth when she called for feedback on a post that was of interest to me, and about which I thought I had something interesting to say. So I commented.

I knew when my friend Len was suddenly enthralled by the play of light on some leaves near the Charles River in Cambridge. I paused, and looked at the trees outside my own window.

I saw when Chris was caught in traffic during the snowstorm, and I called him to sympathise.

When someone I didn’t know was diagnosed with cancer, I felt it, deep in my totally uninsured, at-high-risk-for-cancer bones. And I showed my support in whatever way I could. (Peas were involved.) In so doing, I felt that maybe others would have done the same for me. And I was comforted.

Twitter has done what no other technology had done for me to date. It has really, truly, meaningfully personalized the internet for me.

Does Twitter have implications for those in the nonprofit sector like me? People who struggle every day to build community, work with people who like to take action, and personalize the political to effect meaningful change?

What do YOU think?

thirst for knowledge, appetite for change

I’ve been thinking about Jeremiah’s recent Utter, his post on paying yourself first and about how we get where we eventually go.

Jeremiah asks if we are moving too fast in the Social Media Sphere.  My answer – for me – is (1) No, and (2) Maybe.

(1)

As Chris Brogan urged us to recently, I took a moment to step back, pause, and reflect on why I use social media, what I think I am getting out of it, and what the actual effect has been on my life. 

In response to Chris’s questions, I know why I connect on social networks.  I have very clearly defined goals and reasons behind that.  These things really put the wind in my sails, and I want keep going and see where this thing will take me.

About six months ago, I committed to spending more time and effort exploring the things online that really jazz me.  This includes just about everything that comes under the term New Media, or Web 2.0.  I’m pretty passionate about my work, too, so I’m naturally interested in seeing how these new technologies can advance the mission of my organization and organizations like mine.

So, in a pretty short span of time, I have attended three conferences relevant to these interests, and presented (on web 2.0 for nonprofits) at one of them.  I’ve made an effort to meet and connect meaningfully with the people whose work I admire.  I’ve spent a considerable amount of time on building a new network, both online and in person, to support and reflect the interests that really spin my wheels.

But in the process, am I losing touch with the non-tech Real Life world that surrounds me, with the reality that MOST of the folks I see every day don’t even feel that comfortable with email?  To them, I must seem like a multi-tentacled alien from outer space.  Which brings me to

(2)

Only one month ago, I gave a presentation on web 2.0 tools for nonprofits at a regional conference for the philanthropy sector.  Out of about 125, there were two bloggers in the room.  Five who read blogs.  The blogs they cited were old media blogs – like the blog of the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, etc.  Several folks approached me after the session to say they had no idea blogs weren’t just for kids and stalkers “anymore,” and that they would certainly look into this blog business now.

As I go zipping along, lapping up as much knowledge as possible on the trends and movements of things SocNet-ish, adopting what makes sense to me or intrigues me, and dropping less intriguing things as I go, I wonder how far ahead of my Real Life world I am leaping, and how that might damage my ability to talk sensibly about new media to the decision makers in that RL world.

When I taught geology to undergrads at Syracuse (in my former life as a paleontologist and aspiring academic), I worked hard to keep the content of my presentations at an approachable, yet intriguing level.  It’s tough to hit just the right note of tension between delivering the information at the level the audience is at right now, and offering a glimpse behind the “advanced” curtain to see how amazing and interesting and COOL things get once you’ve got the basics down.

The point is, we all have to memorize the formula for apatite and feldpsar and dolomite before we could even think of making sense of an outcrop of rocks.  (I had the best mneumonic device for apatite, to the tune of the Mickey Mouse Show theme song.  Maybe I’ll utter it later…)

I’ve gotten pretty good at carving out time to feed my own interests – creating and maintaining this blog being one singular example, as my old blog just wasn’t serving my needs anymore – but I think I might need to spend some more time with the folks around me in (the internet equivalent of) Rocks for Jocks.  Help them out a little with the Moh’s Scale.  Tell a few corny jokes. Sing them a little song

Or at least remain aware of where they are now, and not confuse and disorient them by speaking in foriegn tongues.  The community that I am trying to serve at work is, by and large, tech-resistant or tech-laggards.  It’s really important to meet the people where they are now, and try to offer them something of tangible value to their lives as they are living them now. 

Why?  Because I’m purporting to be a community builder in some ways.  (I have my online community, with whom I hardly ever enjoy facetime, and my RL community, with whom I get nothing but.

My mother remains resistant to my attempts to keep in touch with her via twitter.)

However, there being only so many hours in the day… where should I spend my time and energies? 

Should I change my habits to match my surroundings (spend more time with the tech-laggards, work on bridging the digital divide in my area, etc.)?  Or change my surroundings to match my habits (travel more, go to more conferences of like-minded people, collaborate more on tech projects that interest me)?

What do you think?