E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

From the blog

How Do I Make Sense of Social Networking Tools

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Sunset

In one of my earlier blog posts from last week, I got asked the following question: “So, what we all want to know is what have you been doing and what/where can we find you in the future?” and while I will be answering the first part over the course of time with the various blog entries I’m currently drafting along, I thought for today I’d focus on trying to answer the second part: how do I make sense of social networking tools today? More than anything else because I realise that my heavy use of social tools has shifted over the course of the years, and I guess I’m not the only one having gone through pretty much the same, and even more so since I went independent nearly two years ago. So it’s probably a good time now to revisit where do I get most of my learning nowadays and what digital tools do I rely on, or not, to get my daily work done. 

Every year Jane Hart does this absolutely wonderful exercise of putting together the Top 100 Tools for Learning (here’s the list for 2015 as a highly recommended read), and while I won’t be listing my Top 100 I will definitely try to put together some thoughts as to where I usually hang out nowadays, what I stopped using and why, and what I’m currently working on, specially, a very specific experiment that’s caused quite a stir over a month and a half ago, although that would be the story of the next blog post… 

So, here are my Top Learning Tools (for now), where ‘work is learning, learning is the work’, that my good friend Harold Jarche would say and that he wrote back in the day in a beautiful article. Mind you, it’s not a full list, since, to me, context is what defines what I will use at one point or another, so that very same context is what will define a whole bunch of other digital tools I make use of, often enough, but for very specific reasons. There may well be a time where I’ll write about them, specially, in the mobility scenario when both my iPhone and iPad Air have become my not so new anymore workplace. 

  • IBM Connections: Even though I left IBM nearly 2 years ago IBM Connections still remains my #1 business tool for work with my clients, specially, when they ask me their data to remain within the European Union borders. And IBM Connections Cloud does that beautifully. You know what some folks say, you need to be able to walk the talk, so if the vast majority of my clients are on IBM Connections at the moment, I better make good use of it as well so we can co-create together some really cool stuff along the way to help out with their own Digital Transformation journey(s).
  • Slack:  For all of the work I get to do with other clients, work groups, project teams, small niche networks on a given topic where I usually hang out on a daily basis, etc. Slack does the trick. And very much so! I truly heart it. In fact, any business tool that aims to improve both the way we communicate AND collaborate AND kill email in the process will always have my full attention. Slack has it. I use it for everything, as a personal knowledge sharing hub, as my operating system, and a whole lot more than just chat. In an upcoming blog entry I will explain plenty more how I make use of it on a daily basis, but for those of you who may be new to it, check out this stunning article put together by my good friend Thomas van der Wal that pretty much explains the nuts and bolts of what it is, what it does and why you would need to pay attention to it pretty soon, if not today already.
  • Twitter: From the Social Web, Twitter still remains my #1 tool for networking, for socialising, for (personal) learning, for getting a good sense of the pulse of the planet and, eventually, my preferred method of meeting up new people (whether online or after face to face conversations) and for social selling. Mostly accessed through Tweetbot (whether on iOS or Mac), is where I spend most of my online time on social networks today, even more so nowadays after nearly 6 weeks of running a rather fascinating experiment that’s certainly helped me challenge the status quo of how we all use it. Next blog post will talk about it in more detail, but here’s the gist of it: imagine no-one follows you on Twitter; now imagine if *you* don’t follow anyone on Twitter either, would you still use it? [Hint: Yes, I surely do!]
  • Google Plus: I wasn’t really sure whether to include G+ on this blog post, or not, initially, even though it’s one of the most powerful social networking tools out there that I have been exposed to in the last few years. However, lately, I am having a bit of a hate relationship with it witnessing, first hand, how it’s started cannibalising itself removing what once were really helpful and nifty features or splitting itself up in multiple parts (Hangouts, Photos, etc.). Some people call it re-focus. I call it, not knowing what to do with it when there isn’t a company directive in place showcasing commitment to it while listening and engaging with the community of practitioners who make it what it is today. So I continue to question its purpose and my overall use of it. I wouldn’t like it, at all, if, after 4 years of regular use, it would fall apart for good. I have gone through that path far too many times with other social tools and it’s never been pretty. One gets to learn, mostly, the hard way and, in this case, I want to do a bit of damage control this time around till things clear themselves a bit more.
  • Instagram: Ok, I confess. I still make use of some Apps from the darker side of the Social Web. In this case, Instagram. I’m totally hooked up with it and while I know and I fully understand I’m playing with the evil Facebook I don’t think I can escape from it any time soon. More than anything else because of something that Jason Fried also described quite nicely on this particularly interesting and refreshing blog post of what the original Open Social Web was supposed to be: ‘The important feel is how it makes *you* feel’… Oh, yes, using IG makes me feel good! Read Jason’s article and you will understand fully what I mean. 
  • Flickr: Despite being described as Zombie Land, it still is the main repository for the vast majority of my pictures shared across online through multiple other venues, including the source of imagery for this very same blog. And the almost daily reminder of what the Social Web was all about back in the day. Openness. Earlier on this year, it marked my 10th year anniversary as a very happy Flickr user, which means it’s the longest running social networking tool I have been using on the Internet and I don’t think I will be abandoning it any time soon. Even if just for nostalgic purposes.
  • WordPress Blog: Yes, I know, it’s not the first time we hear about the death of blogging mostly due to social networking tools, and it probably won’t be the last either, but even then, 21 years on, blogging still is a thing. More alive and kicking than ever before and perhaps still one of the most delightful self-empowering tools to help you build your digital brand over the course of the years that’s available out there, as I have been blogging about for a good while now. Later on, in October, I’ll be celebrating the 10th year anniversary of this blog and towards early December my 13th year overall of blogging since I first started my corporate blog back in 2002. 13 years of self-publishing online can give you tons of opportunities to build your own voice and writing style and eventually the perfect opportunity to keep demonstrating your thought leadership, expertise and abilities day in day out, year after year. That’s the reason why I came back to blogging after this year’s long hiatus. And why I am still in love with this medium.
  • WhatsApp and Telegram (Messaging Apps): Ok, confession #2: I still make use of some Apps from the darker side of the Social Web. In this case, WhatsApp for messaging purposes. I keep using it both for work and for personal use as it helps me keep in touch with some of my clients, business partners, family and loved ones. And when folks don’t want to make use of WhatsApp, because, you know, after all, it’s still Facebook, I basically switch to Telegram, which is an extremely decent substitute doing a really good job at it! If you already have my business mobile number, and don’t want to give me a call, but still get in touch for whatever reason, using either of those Apps will guarantee you a very speedy response from yours truly.
  • Skype / Hangouts (Instant Messaging): These are, currently, the main two options I still keep using, mostly on my desktop, for real-time, online communications. Good old Instant Messaging, and although I still rely somewhat on Skype, slowly, but, steadily, I am moving, mostly, into Hangouts, specially, for audio and video conversations where both quality and performance seem to be way better than Skype’s. So, if you need to get hold of me to check something quickly, and you may not have Twitter readily available to do so, reaching out through Hangouts IM is probably the best option to get hold of me, as I am also starting to use it much more often while I’m on the road on my phone. 
  • YouTube: No, don’t worry, I’m not one of those very talented YouTubers who earns their living making YouTube videos, although you never know. I have been known to do even way crazier things than that! But I still make use of it every now and then. Mostly through Google Hangouts on Air for the #noemail vodcasting series I’m currently co-hosting with the wonderful and rather smart Claire Burge). At the time I’m writing this we already have got 16 different episodes now in the books that we host every two weeks where we are trying to change the world to transition from #toomuchemail to #lessemail to #noemail altogether. Thus if you want to learn further more how to break free from the email yoke, or learn, at the same time, how other 2.0 practitioners (guest speakers), businesses and organisations have finally broken free, go and have a watch. I bet you will enjoy it.
  • Haiku Deck: I know, I know, while most folks are perhaps making heavy use of Slideshare to share their presentations online for whatever the speaking or customer engagement, I’m a rebel at heart, an outlier, so, instead, I use Haiku Deck. And I quite like it! You know, when putting together a presentation, most of the times the words are already there, somewhere inside one’s head, but not necessarily the imagery, so having such a superb tool as Haiku Deck to put images to your words and build your story line makes it a whole lot easier. So, if you want to check out some of the recent public presentations I have done at various events, that’s where you will find them. Not in Slideshare anymore, I am afraid.
     
  • Reeder: Of course, I still use RSS feeds. Daily. Remember them? Everyone thought that when Google terminated Google Reader that RSS newsfeeds would die a slow and painful death. Not likely! Quite the opposite, most probably. Gosh, while putting together this article, I realise I’m being very nostalgic by making use of social software tools that, in most cases, are considered pretty much dead, but, then again, there they are alive and kicking. RSS newsfeeds is another one to add into that pile. Yet, they are so critically and fundamentally important to curate content stored all over the Web that not only would you want to read, but also re-share over the course of time. That’s how I use my RSS feeds at the moment: for curation purposes. The reading part is mostly done when I’m disconnected, specially, when travelling for a good number of hours on plains, trains, etc. etc. That’s where Reeder kicks in as my preferred Mac App as newsfeed reader.

    Ohhh, and when I am online Twitter becomes my living, rather dynamic, and collaboratively filtered RSS newsfeed.

  • Pocket: And talking about reading content offline, curating it accordingly, and overall enjoy a superb user experience, that’s why I use Pocket and why I’m such a huge fan of it. In an upcoming blog post I will share a productivity tip of how I make use of Twitter (Through Tweetbot) and Pocket to curate an outstanding list of links I then re-share here and there into my Twitter stream over the course of time, once I have processed them. Pocket is like your extended urge to want to read all of the really cool tidbits shared across with you but not have the time right there, right then to do it. Will read it later takes a completely new meaning: Pocket.
  • Trello / Asana: For task management purposes, and where work items don’t usually take place elsewhere there are two options out there, out of perhaps far too many!, that keep dragging me back. Both Trello and Asana are the main social tools I use when I need to get work done with multiple people who may not have chosen a particular tool to keep track of those tasks. Whenever I ask if folks are familiar with either of them, the answer I get back, time and time again, is they are familiar with one or the other, or both, which makes it really easy. Mind you, they are not the only task management tools that I use, but they are definitely the ones I keep using the most in a collaborative manner. Effective Group Task Management, if you wish to call it that way.
  • Spotify: And, finally, one of my all time favourite productivity tools, which I know is going to sound very weird, pun intended, but, hey, you will know what I mean with that after you read this bunch of rather suggestive and thought-provoking articles on the power of music for getting work done, and not just to listen to it leisurely. And, yes, from all of the online / streaming services available out there, Spotify Premium is the one that does the trick for me, whether on my Mac, my iPad Air or my phone (usually, when I’m travelling or working out). 

After having gone through that list, I am pretty certain you may have noticed how there are number of different social software tools out there, some of the bit hitters, to some extent, that I haven’t mentioned above on my list of Top Learning Tools and there is a good reason for that. In fact, multiple reasons, so I thought I would mention a few usual suspects to close off this blog entry with a single liner, or two, as to why I’m no longer using them anymore or why they haven’t had enough traction to make me want to use them in the first place. Hopefully, that will help folks understand why they can’t, and won’t, find me there any time soon… So here we go: 

  • eMail: Yes, for those of you who have known me over the years, this one still is a no brainer. I’m still the #noemail guy. The think #outsidetheinbox lad who nearly 8 years ago decided to ditch email for work once and for all and still going strong at it. I know, it’s been over 18 months since the last blog post I shared across over here on the topic with some updates, but, over time, I’ll be sharing some more details, not to worry. For now, suffice to say that ever since I left my former employer, IBM, where I was averaging 16 emails received per week, and went independent, as a freelance adviser on Social Business and Digital Transformation, I’m now down to 5, yes!, I know, FIVE emails received per week, which, to me, that’s pretty much just that: #noemail.
  • Facebook: Apparently, everyone seems to be flocking away from Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, and what not, and return back to the borg: Facebook, in this case, because, apparently, that’s where everyone is getting the most engagement at the moment. I’m sorry to disappoint those of you who are eagerly waiting for me to come back to it. It won’t happen. It’s not the kind of Social Web I want to live in and spend my time on and after having deleted my account in there over 5 years ago, it’s one of those decisions I don’t regret a single day. Even if it were the last and only social networking tool out there I still wouldn’t come back to it. Some times, you need to make a stand for what you believe in and somehow both Facebook and myself have got different beliefs at this point in time that are irreconcilable. If you are a frequent user, I’m pretty sure you know which ones at this stage. 
  • LinkedIn: Pretty much the very same thing as what I mentioned for Facebook above. Although it’s been nearly 18 months since I deleted my LinkedIn account, there isn’t a chance I will be coming back to it any time soon. Like I said, some times you need to make a stand in terms of the kind of Social Web you would want to live and thrive in and LI isn’t one of those places for me. And the same would apply to Slideshare, Pulse, and everything else that LI may contaminate over time.
  • Medium: No, thanks! I already have a lovely online publishing home where most of my articles will continue to become available over time, and that’s my personal business blog. No matter how beautiful someone else’s home may well be, your own home will always be special. It’s yours, no one else’s. Whatever happens, it will always remain your unadulterated, open window, your voice, to the world and that matters. A lot.
  • Tumblr: Same thing as for Medium. Just because you have pretty good looks and a good, decent user experience, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll grant you the pleasure of hosting my own content, just in case, after a while, you decide to shut down, like Posterous did back in the day, for instance. Remember? I think I learned my lessons here.  
  • Ello: I tried it and I failed, for the very same reasons as Medium and Tumblr. 
  • Meerkat & Periscope: Unfortunately, I live in a part of the world where free wifi is everything but pervasive and widely available and my mobile data has got a monthly cap of a ridiculous 2GB at a rather pricey tag, so as long as Europe doesn’t enter the 21st century in terms of pervasive, inexpensive connectivity across the entire region, I’ll be staying away from those two. For my own sanity and wallet. 
  • Snapchat: I am not enough hipster to have an account in there, I have been told, so I am staying away and probably for a good while, since I have never bought into the idea of content disappearing just like that into oblivion for no apparent reason.

I am pretty sure there are tons of other social software tools, apps and services out there I’m missing from including in this blog entry that you think I should have a presence in. Well, I might as well have it already, since I have a tendency to claim my brand name in them early in the game, but perhaps I don’t regularly use it, because I haven’t found a specific reason for it, which was the main purpose of writing this article in the first place: to give you all a glimpse of where I spend most of my online time nowadays when making heavy use of social / digital tools not just to get work done, but also to keep learning, with plenty of sensemaking, along the way. #PKMastery, as Harold Jarche himself blogged about a while ago, as one of the must-have 21st century digital skills.

If you feel there is a social software tool I should be aware of to start making use of it, feel free to comment below your suggestion and perhaps share with us the why as well. Somehow one thing I have learned over time is that I have stopped making use of social tools without having a clear purpose about what to get out of them. Because just using them for the sake of using them not only is it boring, but it won’t take you / us anywhere.

Finding the right purpose (for each!) is where the magic happens. For the rest, life is just too short!

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7 comments

    1. WOW! Thanks ever so much, Joachim, for those lovely suggestions around mindmapping! I am a huge fan of mindmaps myself and have been using multiple tools over the course of the years.

      Nowadays, most of my mindmapping happens through my iPad and more than anything else as a personal offline productivity app, which I suppose is the main reason why I didn’t include them in this blog post, but you are right that mindmapping can be a massive productivity tool to help organise ideas and take them into action from using tools like The Brain, Mindjet MindManager, MindNode, MindMeister (of course!), etc. etc.

      Much appreciated sharing all of those tips! I have already made some time in my agenda for later in the week to play around with a couple of options I wasn’t very familiar with and see how I may be able to use them. Thanks much, once again, for dropping by and for the superb addition into the conversation, Joachim. Way too cool !

  1. A great summary with some good leads to follow up on. Re Google+ I have to add something as a woman on the social network sphere I am totally creeped out by the number of strange men who add me to their circles without any clue as to what those cycles are and why I’m being added – and I’m sure as heck not going to reciprocate to find out. After the fantasy play with people’s pictures of their children I’m afraid ones imagination does take a turn to the worse when you keep on being added without apparent logic or learning/network benefits & unlike the other platforms there is no way of blocking them. So google+ gets a huge minus in my world

    1. Hi Nadine, thanks a lot for taking the time to drop by and for sharing those wonderful comments! Greatly appreciated. I know exactly what you mean about Google Plus and even more so when vast majority of the end-users in that social networking tool are male. The good thing about G+ is that you may have perhaps a whole lot more flexibility than with other social networking tools in terms of things you could do to help tame things a bit.

      Here are a few suggestions without trying to defend G+ per se, but to open up a window of opportunity perhaps: you could block / ignore those who add you into their circles expecting reciprocation or just simply if they are just too creepy. Some social tools don’t work well with blocking, but G+ does a superb job at it and it may well be worth a try. Also, another option, would be to build your own circles and use those vs. the stream. If you don’t include any of those unwanted people into your circles when you share to them they won’t be able to see a single thing and you can keep the conversations within the circles. It’s my favourite feature by far since it allows you to build as many as you’d want to and work with them as you would want to, not how the system would like you to work with them and the algorithms.

      Hope those couple of options may help, although, like I said, I’m not trying to defend G+, since I think there is still plenty of room for improvement to help improve the overall user experience of the use case you mentioned above and I do hope they do get their act accordingly over time. Have you noticed that kind of behaviour in other social networking tools, perhaps? I saw from your blog you hang out in multiple other ones, so wondering if it is just endemic to G+ or more general. Hope it’s not the latter and that we can do something about it. No-one should be intimidated when interacting with social tools. Not now, not ever! Grrr

      Thanks again for the feedback and let me know how I can be of further help, please, if needed be.

  2. Thank you for this huge list! IThat’s really great work done! All I would like to add is personally my favourite collaboration tool https://casual.pm/.I use it beacuse it helps to see the big picture of the project and it nice designed. I can draw my project as a flowchart and communicate about every task with people in my team. Hope you will find it useful!

    1. Hi Mary, many thanks for the kind feedback and for noticing the blog post! I really appreciate it and even more so for sharing the link to http://casual.pm/ Quite an interesting approach towards PM for sure and worth while having a look! I am currently on the road with limited connectivity, but I have already made a note to check it out when I get back to my home office later on this week. Looks really good and I’ll be looking forward to taking it for a spin! Again, thanks a bunch for dropping by and for sharing that recommendation! Way cool! 😀

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