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

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Writing Ourselves into Existence through a Choral Act

Gran Canaria - Roque Nublo's surroundings

 

Earlier on this morning I spent quite some time going through a good number of the different posts I have put together in this blog over the course of the last three months and, to my surprise, it looks like I have been posting more entires in that three month period than the entire 2014 and 2015 combined! Whoah! How did that happen? Even plenty of readers of this blog noticed that as well as they decided to unsubscribe for new updates by the hordes explaining I have been sharing just too many of them to keep up with everything else that is going on. I think I know why there is just such a disparity between those couple of years and the last few months. It’s all got to do with my own mindset and how it’s shifted back over time into something I’m very familiar with, but that, somehow, I left it behind a few years ago. It looks like over the course of time I’m shifting away from social media first into blogging first. It’s as if I am longing for, once again, ‘writing myself into existence’.

Indeed, I remember very well the time when I first started blogging (internally, behind the firewall) around end of 2002 and all I could think about, while reading or conversing with other folks on a wide range of different work related topics, was along the lines of ‘Oh, I need to blog about that idea’, or ‘I need to respond to that blog post with another one as well to add further up into the conversation’, or, just simply ‘I need to write that down somewhere to reflect on it further along, so I don’t forget to come back to it later’, to name a few. Yes, indeed, I realise now how I was writing myself into existence as my good friend Euan Semple wrote a few years back quoting David Weinberger himself on what blogging was all about: ‘Writing ourselves into existence’.

Somehow, and over the course of the last 3 to 5 years I lost track of that while my mind switched automatically from blogging first into social media first, as I was spending a whole lot more time in several of those so-called social media tools while ignoring and neglecting my good old blogging mojo. However, at one point in time, this past August, to be more precise, I got too tired with just being the data, I mean, with always being the product no matter what. Frankly, I just got too tired with the surveillance state we are, apparently, creating with the current pernicious polarisation that keeps growing faster and faster than ever as we have confirmed that transition from making use of social media tools into just media tools, where we have become that, the media.

No, I am sorry, that’s not how I would want to spend plenty of my online time anymore. As Euan mentioned on that blog entry, I just need a space where I can be a whole lot more aware of my own thoughts and feelings, and of the world around me for that matter, without having to jump into everyone else’s throats out there every time they are not politically correct agreeing with me anymore on absolutely everything I categorically state because, you know, I am always right and they are not. That’s how things seem to be rolling out there for everyone at the moment. I can, we all can, do so much better than that altogether, don’t you think?

How about blogging as a choral act?, as Bonnie Stewart wrote beautifully in a recent blog entry a couple of weeks back. A superb article, by the way, in case you may have missed it about the healing powers of digital writing. To quote her: 
 

Blogging is a choral act. Posts are commented on; ties are formed. Stories and backstories become known. As I connected with other bloggers and found community first with other parents and then with those whose writing, like my own, unpacked identities in various forms, I stumbled into something extraordinary […]

 

This is just too funny, and perhaps a tad ironic, too, because my last three months of blogging over here in this blog have helped me, once more, finally, comprehend (and come to terms with the fact of) how I no longer crave for attention, at least, as much as I used to back in the day. How I seem to have departed from me, me, me land into the we, we, we land. It’s helped me, at long last, understand as well how most of the times it’s the long-form reads with your own thoughts, opinions and emotions the ones that are the most powerful components towards building, nurturing and sustaining long term (online) communities, where you are just one of the community members, connecting, sharing, learning and collaborating together with others as equals, as a choral act.

Yes, indeed, that’s the underestimated power of blogging. It’s no longer about the self per se, but more about what you could bring forward as part of an already existing conversation that’s taking place in multiple blogs and blog comments from different people who have got a long term common goal: connect, share and learn more about a particular topic with other online partners. Now, when was the last time you had that wonderful sensation while interacting through media tools? Something tells me it may well have been a while. Is that how you see yourself continuing to make use of those media tools in the medium, long term? Think about it… Think closely. Where do you think you will be online in the next 5 or 10 years? Someone else’s home or your own? Hopefully, your own, right? 😀

I realise you may be thinking one of the several reasons why you are still making use of those different media tools (apart from just being there so you don’t appear to be the awkward one, the weirdo) is as an opportunity to showcase and promote some of your thought leadership and expertise on a particular topic by pushing messages out there about the stuff you may have shared or published elsewhere (like your blog) and therefore help others become more aware about what you do. That’s a good reason, indeed. I have used it myself a few times, but only to realise it no longer works. Over the course of the years I have noticed, I’m pretty sure you may have as well, how we hardly ever read anything else on media tools anymore other than our very own broadcasted messages. We are just too busy doing all sorts of other things to then have to stop and read what other people publish, share or would want to converse about. Well, here’s the thing, if that’s how we all feel AND behave, that attention you are craving is then long gone and pretty much dead by now. No-one will read your posts, never mind respond to some of them! And then what? 

Keep posting multiple times during the course of the day adding further along into the already existing noise, so that your audience? may, pontentially, see it and drop by skimming through it rather quick before they head back into their timelines? Yikes! No, no-one would want to have that, so why do we keep sustaining it? We shouldn’t. No-one reads our marketing messages anymore. Somehow, it feels a little bit like a waste of time, resources, energy and good effort. That is one of the many things I have learned myself, through trial and error as well, over the course of last three months where I, along with several dozens of other people, have used different media tools to share some of the blog posts I have put together over here that others may find somewhat interesting and relevant for what they do and, yet, vast majority of my blog traffic still comes through search engines like Google or Bing and not a single one of those media tools despite the thousands and thousands of people we tend to broadcast to. Quite revealing on its own, I tell you, as it reminds me of the long tail of knowledge: as long as you get to write good content, or comment on other people’s blog posts, care about what they post, or take a genuine interest in what they do, etc. etc. they will always find it, with or without making use of media tools no-one stops by anymore to read, accordingly, more in depth.

I know what you are all thinking, but ‘blogging is hard work’. It takes an awful lot of time, effort and energy to put together a blog post versus writing a tweet or sharing a short status update and you may be right. But then again we ought to realise we should never be too busy to blog. It’s just a matter of habit, really; in fact, it’s a matter of (re)building the habit of writing further along about the topics we are very interested in and are passionate about and see what comes out eventually (remember? Blogging is personal), as if no-one else is reading, just for you, perhaps even if you decide to start using rather helpful techniques like writing 750 words per day, you name it. What matters at the end of the day is whether we are willing to write ourselves into existence in a space we own AND partake in the conversations, all of us, as equals, as a choral act. As ever, it’s our individual and collective choice and ours alone. No-one, not even any media tool out there, should interfere with that decision. Ever. We are the ones who need to decide and define what our digital footprint should be like

That’s why I have now, finally, decided to spend more time blogging over here than craving the attention in media tools from an audience we no longer have, no matter what the numbers of followers may well say. They have now become redundant. Instead, I much prefer to crave the wonderful conversations I have been having over here already in multiple blog posts, because they help me learn and grow accordingly over time by caring even more about the topics that are dear to my heart (and mind!). To me, that’s what blogging has been all about all along for the last 20+ years and still going strong: an extended part of our reflective brains about what’s going on around us, and the world at large for that matter, and how do we make sense out of it all.

Why not make the most out of it then, right? Blog on!

Worth while sharing it along?
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14 comments

  1. Thanks Luis for another wonderful post. I agree entirely with its direction … but how to maintain the choir when blogs may not get comments, Twitter is uncertain and limited for conversation … and we may not wish to use FB, Linked? Build networks, I know. Are we short on some connecting, conducting tools?

    1. Hi David, many thanks for dropping by and for sharing along that wonderful reaction! I couldn’t have agreed more with you on your key point about the lack of building networks through comments given the current media tools we have at our disposal. I think there are a couple of aspects we should take into account on this one:

      1. If we all think about these media tools as being someone else’s home and not necessarily our own, I don’t think we should be investing much energy, effort and resources on sparking conversations in them. They are good for promoting and raising awareness, not necessarily to engage further along.

      It’s probably much better to invest in nurturing the conversations right on the blog itself by enticing folks to participate in that space and leave comments there as well. I have seen lots of times where folks promote different blog posts in media tools, but they kindly ask to get the conversations going through comments on the blog entry itself. And folks who want to genuinely contribute in most cases would do that.

      I remember other cases where folks have moved the conversations away and over the course of time those other services disappeared and all of that content goes away with them, so all of that discourse is now gone! We have seen far too many of those cases. That’s why I keep avoiding those tools for engagement in blog posts and instead leave comments.

      2. I am not too sure whether you know about Disqus.com, but it offers the opportunity to help bridge the conversations over multiple blogs and their comments and therefore make it rather easy to engage and keep up with the conversations over time. It’s worth while looking into it, if you are interested in bringing the conversations back to your blog(s).

      In case you are wondering, in my case, I prefer to use method #1 where I promote the blog posts in other different tools and whenever there are conversations I try to channel them through the blog entries themselves. What I do additionally as well is to take the time to respond to every single blog comment in every post, more than anything else, because it’s the least I could do to treasure and nurture such conversations. At all times, regardless 😀👍🏻

      Hope that helps … Let me know what you think and thanks again for the feedback!

  2. Great post Luis – honest as ever, plenty of energy and brought smiles to my face. You’re right – blogging does take effort, it’s hard work – but there is an appeal beyond where you think it might take you. You have to enjoy it to put the effort in in the first place!
    Made my Friday anyway 🙂

    1. Hiya, Marie-Louise, thanks ever so much for those lovely comments! Talking about bringing a smile to one’s face, that’s exactly what you have just done with that wonderful comment and while I keep saying blogging is hard work, getting blog comments like your own and David’s (amongst many others!) is what makes blogging worth while all the way and for years! Commenting in blog posts is not easy either, since, in most cases, they tend to be longer than 140 characters and need to be somewhat coherent, but the pleasure of sparking the conversations is as good as it gets! I still remember the superb conversations we both had ourselves in a blog post from Kevin Jones about #noemail … That’s something that Twitter and other media tools give you: ever lasting memories of wonderfully inspiring conversations! 😀 🙌🏻

      Thanks much for that and look forward to further interactions!

    1. Hi David, indeed, that’s what it is all about at the end of the day. To provide the conditions for people to want to come back and converse in your space (your blog) vs. having to go elsewhere, i.e. someone else’s home where you are both visitors. In most cases, those conditions will be dictated by the content you’d want to share and for engaging accordingly in the conversations. Showing you care about other PoVs is a great starting point. It’s about opening up the floor for them to come along and converse with you as if you were inviting them into your home, which is what you are doing eventually. Those conditions are the ones that establish the level of intimacy and intent you would want to develop around the blog posts you would be putting together.

      Yes, I know, it’s lots of hard work, good effort and energy invested, but then again it’s your own home, not someone else’s 😀👍🏻 heh

  3. Hi Luis – there’s then the issue of where to cooperate/collaborate. I mostly work with people across different organisations and sectors on fairly informal communities of interest and practice, with some project work. We end up on Slack, Facebook groups, Google docs etc. Difficult to keep the home fires burning too. Still figuring the best mix

    1. Hi David, well, you would need to make a distinction between two different aspects: cooperation and collaboration. Cooperation is typically what you would get when entering the world of social networks where people build, nurture and sustain those networks as they may see fit under the notion of connecting, learning, sharing and cooperating together in specific open projects. That’s typically what you would use social networking tools for, along the lines of blogs, Yammer, Jive, IBM Connections, SAP Jam, Chatter, SocialText, Confluence, etc. etc.

      And then you have got collaboration taking place in small teams, doing project work, where there are concrete deadlines, deliverables, outcomes to achieve, and somehow, because of the nature of the work you would want to keep them private, that’s the case where you’d want to make use of Slack, Workplace, GDocs, etc. etc.

      If you look into it you could define it in very simple terms as open vs. private, cooperation vs. collaboration and choose the digital tools accordingly. I know that in some cases you may be able to use them interchangeably and everything, but, usually, you wouldn’t. Context defines everything, so depending on the nature of the (project) work to be done you’d go one way or another, but, ideally, you should have a digital tools suite and not just a single tool to do it all. The latter is the last thing you would want to do. Fragmentation, with a purpose, and a defined context, is what you are after, David.

      Hope that helps…

  4. Thanks Luis – very helpful and I think chimes with Harold Jarche’s models
    https://jarche.com/2016/03/unified-models-for-work-and-learning/

    The difficulty with the fragmented approach is it requires people to work across different systems/tools, and some facilitation to connect as informal cooperative conversations surface cooperative opportunities. That’s where social reporters come in! But relatively few non-tech people in civil society work that way …. and who pays the facilitator/reporters?

    So we end up trying to use, say, Slack as a social network and CoP and project space.

    1. Hi David, thanks a lot for the wonderful follow-up, once again! Yes, indeed, Harold’s model is a really good one, because it combines both the opportunity to either cooperate or collaborate accordingly, based on the needs and wants, as well as the defined context.

      The ability to fluctuate from one aspect to another is essentially what makes networks and communities the new operating model of how work gets done nowadays, but for that to happen folks need to understand what’s in it for them when they dive in.

      It may not necessarily just be get work done more effectively, but perhaps just help nurture, cultivate, build and sustain business personal relationships, which is, at the end of the day, what every social network and community would aim for. So using Harold’s model is a natural method of implementing both capabilities around cooperation and collaboration. I am a huge fan of his work and I can guarantee you if the world would apply more of his thinking we would all be in a much better place 😀👍🏻

      RE: ‘The difficulty with the fragmented approach’, that’s not necessarily a difficulty, but more perhaps along the lines of evolution. We just can’t expect people to keep operating say, like, 20 to 25 years ago (or over 40+ years!) when email came into the corporate world. Our tools evolve and so do we. I’ll give you an example. Take the mobile phone. I bet vast majority of people had to eventually make the switch from a regular phone to a smartphone to evolve accordingly along with the times. Everyone decided to spend some time to learn about the new tricks of making use of smartphones, whether people like to admit it or not. The key here is that instead of trying to figure it out by themselves they had help from their ‘friends’ and colleagues who spend some time to help them out ease the learning curve. And boom! Now they are glued to their mobile devices.

      You could apply the very same approach and it would help you answer as well the ‘who pays the facilitator / reporters’. In every single team you are bound to have the tech savvy folks who are always keen on the latest gadgets and technology, so entice / influence them to help others adapt to the new set of digital tools spending as little as 5 minutes at a time and before you know it they will all be on board of a new way of working with all of those digital tools. It takes a little bit of time, patience and perseverance, but just like they adjusted to making effective use of smartphones they, too, would eventually adjust to digital tools.

      It’s a matter of time and perseverance. Keep it up, David! 🙌🏻

  5. Thanks Luis – I can see how your suggestions work in a corporate environment, and/or when a group of people have a powerful shared interest and are willing to learn.
    I find that in civil society settings (a mix of local government, business, nonprofits, citizens) it is more difficult. People are generally located in hierarchical organisations, following traditional communication paths. The culture is cautious. There not be any reward for innovation. Enthusiasts are discouraged.
    Meanwhile citizens – as you say – are adopting new devices and approaches, and using them in the democratic process!!
    As an example of the challenge in London, funders and other organisations are, supposedly, working on redesign of support for social action and civic infrastructure. bit.ly/2fmFgl2
    But the report is difficult to understand, people can’t engage, the solutions are old-skool, there’s no discussion.
    The proposal is co-production, but the approach and process is top-down.
    It would be great if there were scope to apply models of cooperation and collaboration in the re-design process …. and in local implementation. I’m suggesting that. And pondering some creative disruption!
    Thanks for acting as such a responsive listener

  6. You’re most welcome, David! Thanks a lot for the fantastic contributions! A few more notes, if I may …

    RE: ‘People are generally located in hierarchical organisations, following traditional communication paths. The culture is cautious. There not be any reward for innovation. Enthusiasts are discouraged’, well, I think you have pretty much nailed it on the head in terms of what problem at hand we have got over here. It’s not about the tools themselves, but about the (inherited) pernicious culture. Your challenge is not necessarily making use of different digital tools, but transform the entire organisational culture into one that’s more open, collaborative, horizontal (as in transversal), engaged and, more importantly, trustworthy.

    If I were you, I would start challenging what kind of organisation you would want to work on and for what purpose. To sustain and maintain current ways of operating where nothing ever really changes, or, instead, transform, entirely, how you operate. It’s not going to be an easy battle, so let’s start aiming high…

    In traditional top-down hierarchical structures where enthusiasm is not encouraged and where certain types of traditional communications are the only ones tolerated, you need to aim at the very top, at the person, entity, or group of people who set the tone of what that organisational culture should be like and start challenging different assumptions in there. Without their buy-in, you are going nowhere but into a loop. They are the ones who need to set the tone of what the transformation should be like and then cascade downwards. The challenge is to find out how you can answer the ‘What’s in it for me?’ for them (at the top) and in that case two options emerge: a) Do we want to modernise the way we operate in our organisation? If so, how? and b) what potential (business) pain points do we have and how can we address them?

    You can take on board either of those options and explore them further along with those folks on the top. Again, without your buy-in you will not get through as deep as you would want to, so think of ways of how you could get through to the top to start asking those somewhat uncomfortable questions and listen with intent to their answers, because, in a way, they would be telling you what they see as problems, but also how to solve them accordingly. Why? Well, because they know better than anyone else why things are happening the way they are and you are just their helping hand to try to solve them. You will need to use lots of persuasion, for sure!

    RE: ‘As an example of the challenge in London’, this is just the perfect example for you to enter the game and challenge the current status quo of how certain things have operated so far and demonstrate how inefficient and ineffective they have been. The fact that top-down, report driven outcomes are there with very little results is a huge opportunity to challenge, in a healthy manner through conversations, how perhaps it’s time to look into things in a different manner and start exploring new ways.

    Like I said, in the examples you mentioned above, and seeing how prescient top-down hierarchical structures are, aim as high as you possibly can. Once you get their buy-in, it will cascade top-down and the transformation process will follow.

    Let me know what you think. And thanks again for the conversations. Fascinating journey you’re about to embark on, for sure!

    1. LOL! I can imagine! I am pretty sure we all may have experienced such endless loops at one point in our careers! The important thing, though, is that we keep going at it, we persevere, to the point where it will eventually happen. At the moment, what we are trying to do is find a crack on the wall that we can use to shake things around and help kick off the transformation process. Finding that crack is always a fun challenge, but, believe me, all systems have it. It’s just a matter of time and perseverance to find it and push through the crack(s) itself!

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