E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez

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Trusting People in This Social Age Is a Tough Job!

Gran Canaria - Ayacata

As a result of the article I put together over here in this blog a little while ago under the title ’The Home You Never Left’, and after a bit of a conversation going on in Twitter on the same topic, Anke Holst put together this rather helpful and very insightful piece under the rather suggestive heading of ‘Building Circles of Trust’, in which she makes a pretty convincing case as to why all of these social networking tools are so powerful in helping self-empower knowledge Web workers to nurture and cultivate their own relationships (both online and offline) by building what she calls circles of trust.

I, too, used to think that very same way, and still do, to a certain degree, but recent work experiences have convinced me that, when talking about trust, words, perhaps, are no longer enough. They have never been enough. It’s actions the ones that matter the most, specially, when people can no longer stick to their word, whether online or offline, and you end up having to rely on their real behaviours and get ready for the disappointment, because, despite all of the kool-aid and all of those cool mantras about how social tools help people trust each other by getting to know them a little bit better, it’s actually their own actions the ones that’d mark the tipping point on whether you could trust that individual or not. And time and time again it’s those very same actions the ones that confirm that who you thought you could trust, initially, based on those offline / online interactions, you find out you just can’t. And you tried very hard, but, nevertheless, the disappointment settles in. I am pretty sure plenty of you know, exactly, what I am referring to as I write these words … 

Anke starts building up her blog post with a rather clear idea, which she describes on the following quote:

When I taught people how to be on social media, back before it was all marketing, it was very much about building circles of trust. It was just like building friendships as opposed to giving fake attention, just to sell or influence’

 
If she were to have written that sentence, say, 5 or 10 years ago, I would have believed in it wholeheartedly to the point where I could justify the need to use social tools in this day and age as an opportunity to do just that: building friendships. Alas, fast forward to 2016 and for the vast majority of cases and interactions, that’s no longer the case. Every single individual wanting to make use of social tools has got an agenda, a different (most of the times very well hidden away) agenda, than whatever you thought they were portraying online initially. So instead of using social tools today to build friendships, I am afraid we are inclining more towards the giving AND taking of fake attention, just to sell, market or influence one self into doing something they very well know it’s not going to be in their ultimate benefit as a whole. Just a one way road, if I may add. But, either way, they would still carry on with it. After all, it’s in their own interest, not yours. 
 
But this is about relationships. Relationships are built on human interactions, on imperfections, not PR, on care, not follow-backs.’
Yes, indeed, this is all about relationships! And relationships built on human interACTIONS, which is where we get to experience vast majority of failures in this regard from how people behave online and how they totally transform themselves when interacting, or working together, offline, turning out to be completely different people than those you thought you knew, somewhat, rather well from over the years. Sadly, those interACTIONS are the ones that confirm, once again, you have been framed into believing you were a true friendship / relationship vs. just another individual waiting to be poached upon getting away with it. Once more. It hurts. A lot!
 
I know I may be sounding a bit too radical and negative in that description of how we eventually bastardised the entire notion of what social networks are all about and how to best make smarter use of them, and instead we decided to just focus on the phoney digital marketing techniques we all knew and learned to live without in the offline world, as if we were just bringing with us our bad habits and misbehaviours from the offline world into the online one. And that’s fine. That’s us, after all. Well, that’s not my intention, by far, in fact, following the discourse from Anke in her blog post, I think she is on to something with this particular quote where I feel she is clearly indicating the way forward to what we used to have in the past, say, 10 years ago, when social tools were emerging in the corporate world and people were genuinely trying to figure out what the fuss was all about and truly engage accordingly: 
 
My understanding of building a personal social media presence for us who don’t already have an audience, and using it well, is that we all, wherever we are, build a close circle of trust.
I couldn’t have agreed more with her vision and mantra as to how we could just go back to basics in terms of challenging and questioning the validity of our current social interactions and how much do they differ from, say, 10 years ago. Remember, for instance, when you were using Twitter back then? Ok, perhaps 5 years ago would work, too! Did your use of Twitter, for instance, change much from back then (or Facebook, LinkedIn, for that matter)? I bet it has and perhaps it’s turned itself into something you may not enjoy anymore, but, you know, since you have to be there, because everyone else is and you certainly don’t want to be either left out or lag behind, you are just thinking about carrying on as is, hoping one day will click again and re-engage yourself into the über-awesomeness it once was! Best of luck with that! I suppose those days are now long gone!
 
But, fear not, there is hope, of course! Remember, I’m still an outrageous, heretic optimist, so, as such we can’t just give up like that! That’s why my favourite paragraph from Anke’s great blog entry is this other one that pretty much sums it all up on the kind of challenges AND opportunities that lie ahead, right in front of us, for us to act upon them accordingly…
 
If the real humanity of people is out there, if people truly appreciate each other, see more of each other, and as a result, care more for each other’s feelings, and don’t just use new media to do old-school exploitation, it can all be so much more useful, peaceful, harmonious for all of us.
 
Amen to those words, indeed! 5 or 10 years ago I would have signed up for that vision right away as an opportunity to showcase the true potential of emerging social technologies and, fast forward to 2016, I still do today, except for a couple of nuances, if I may add. Yes, I still strongly believe that emerging social technologies are incredibly powerful to help knowledge Web workers foster, build and nurture their own social capital skills to improve their trust levels wth their peers, their customers and business partners, and, why not?, their own competitors (Coopetition anyone?). We do business with people, because we trust them, and vice versa, we don’t do business with people, because we don’t trust them, or we no longer do. It’s that simple. It’s who are as human beings. Trust is the foundational trait that makes it all worth it, but in this case, for me, the additional nuance is that trust cannot longer be manifested via words alone, but actions as well. Gran Canaria - Artenara
 
Why am I saying all of this in this rather cryptic blog post? – you may be wondering, right? Ah-ha, you noticed it, eh? 😀 
 
Well, there is, indeed, a reason why I’m saying all of this here and it’s perhaps my biggest lesson learned as a freelancer coming close to my third year anniversary as an independent. And since I mentioned in a previous article I’d be sharing my own experiences about what freelancing was all about, I guess it’s a good starting point to share with you all what, to me, has been the hardest and toughest lesson learned as an independent and which I’m still trying to come to terms with, as it’s happening more often than not and I still haven’t been able to figure out how to address it nor fix it: you just can’t trust people through your mutual online social interactions despite years gone by! 

WOW! I know, I know, very harsh words I have just written above, but allow me to share some context in here, please, if I may. I have been involved with social technologies since early 2000 and throughout all of that time I have been able, like I’m pretty sure most of you folks out there!, to build and nurture some pretty amazing relationships / friendships over the years that have made all of these online interactions via social networks a real treat. Totally worth the effort, the energy and the time invested. However, ever since I went independent and became an independent freelancer around Social Business & Digital Transformation nearly 3 years ago, I’ve had, at least, 4 different rather nasty and disappointing work related experiences where people who I thought I could trust and rely on, based on our social interactions from over the years, both offline and online, have let me down big time to the point where I’m still in recovery mode trying to figure out whether I could trust them back again or not. Considering, even, whether that’s even worth the effort altogether. 
 
Yes, I know, we have all gone through similar experiences in our work lives, I am certain of that! (Wish I weren’t!), and I would say we’ll be seeing plenty more of that. Why people keep on behaving in such malicious ways towards others when everyone is just trying their best to make it through and succeed (whatever that may well mean for each and everyone of them), is something that I just won’t be able to comprehend in a long while, specially, when they misbehave and abuse, big time, your own good will, that good will from those who truly believe that we are living in a different world: one where are all are more open, collaborative, caring and overall more trustworthy with one another thanks to that enabling factor from emerging social technologies, as that’s exactly what we are trying to advocate for in terms of things that need to change at work, as much as in our personal lives. Yes, I know, I may well be a bit too naïve in this regard, yet, we keep getting betrayed left and right because of that good will of wanting to have a better (business) world with us not being able to do much about it other than try to learn better for next time around. The scars keep building up in one’s mind. Will they ever heal properly?
 
It’s tough. I mean, it’s really tough to trust people in this Social Age, unless you try to associate their online fancy talk with their actions, in which case you are bound to find out you couldn’t trust them in the first place. And that’s, exactly, what I’m trying really hard myself to do after these different work related experiences from people I thought I could trust, but I eventually found out I just shouldn’t have. I don’t know whether all of this happens more often with freelancers, but I can assure you that in the 17 years I worked at my former employer I never experienced such distrustful behaviours from fellow peers and it makes me wonder that perhaps the big corporate world is not the only one that’s totally broken and needs some serious fixing. Perhaps it’s us, humans, the ones who need fixing in terms of how we need to substantiate our words with our actions. The latter should speak more often for us than our very own words, alas the current Social Web focuses much more on that fancy talk I mentioned above rather than in our deeds on how we treat other people, and perhaps that is the main problem the Social Web has got nowadays… 
 
Trusting people in this social age is a tough job, indeed, perhaps the toughest of them all! We all know how many years of truly hard work, effort and energy it takes to build trust with people you want to respect, treasure and care for, but we all know as well how little time, i.e. a split second, it takes to destroy for good those trustworthy relationships when people say one thing and they do something else completely different abusing your good will of wanting to do things different, because you truly believe that social networks can, and will!, change the world as we know it! Only thing we can do then? Move on, work harder and learn that if people would want to earn your trust, their fancy talk will no longer do. Actions, now more than ever, do matter ever so much more. Now and forever!
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Why Do Social When You Can Live Social?

Gran Canaria - Ayacata

One of my favourite activities at the moment, after having resumed my blogging mojo just recently, is to currently revisit a number of different blog articles I have put together over the course of time in this blog to check whether they are still relevant or not, in this day and age, in terms of exploring how further along we may have gone into that so-called Digital Transformation journey, if at all, and so far the results haven’t been too comforting, nor reassuring, for that matter, since a good number of those articles seem to be still incredibly relevant. Yes, I know what you are all thinking right now, that it’s a good thing for you in terms of what you saw coming back in the day, but then again I think it’s just another indication of how we are all, pretty much, just on the tip of the iceberg in terms of the change and transformation we would all want to witness AND experience. Let’s start with some of the basics, for instance: where, or when, (and why?!?!) did we go from Live Social to Do Social? 

My good friend, Jane Bozarth, author of the wonderfully inspiring book ’Show Your Work’, which I can highly recommend as a splendid summer read, put together a rather thought-provoking article a couple of weeks back that reminded me about how little we have progressed, if at all, in the last decade or so, around our very own Social Business efforts. In ‘It’s Not About ‘Doing’ Social’ she exemplifies a couple of instances that relate to how most businesses try to embark themselves nowadays into that so-called Digital Transformation journey and how one of them would be more successful than the other and for obvious reasons. Mostly, the one that’s least manufactured, structured, over-engineered, institutionalised (or industrialised for that matter) and governed by command and control, top down hierarchical decisions. Yet, it seems most change efforts out there around Social keep reinventing themselves as just another IT project for which we’ve been given two years to show, prove and demonstrate results. Yikes! 

I’m not going to spoil for you the two scenarios Jane describes quite accurately in her blog post, on the contrary, I’d encourage all to go ahead and read through them to see where your own adaptation efforts around Social Business have been happening at your workplace. It’s a rather eye-opening exercise, I tell you. However, what I’d really like to point out, and perhaps quote over here as well, is the brilliantly captured conclusion as to why one of the scenarios keeps failing big time. Like I said, to quote her: 

So it’s not about “doing social.” It’s about supporting workers as they work by giving them the time and the right space to talk about it. It’s about listening. And it’s about using social tools to support conversations and performance already in progress.

While reading through it, I just couldn’t help but nodding my head in violent agreement with her reflections as to how spot on she is. It reminded about a couple of blog posts I put together over here myself over 4 years ago that pretty much touched on those very same points Jane has been highlighting as to what’s stopping us all from moving forward with our very own adaptation efforts around Social. Have a look into ‘Dear Social Business Evangelist, Where Art Thou?’ and ’The Fallacy of Social Networking’ to see what I mean. 

At one point in time, not sure when, why or how, we seem to have decided to do social (at work) vs. living social. And I suspect that’s where we got it all wrong, because you can do as much social as you probably wish, or can, and still pretty much bring forward with you plenty of the dysfunctional behaviours and mindset that keep troubling organisations to date. It’s like we have just switched masks by putting on a new one, hoping that all business problems will disappear and new markets will be created. Well, not likely. Remember? Putting more lipstick on the pig, it will still be a pig! 🐷

Yes, indeed, as you may have guessed it, Social Business & Digital Transformation efforts aren’t just another IT project with a rather reduced budget put in place hoping it will stick around for employees to fully embrace it, because, you know, they won’t have a choice anyway. Otherwise, it will be just another IT project going in the gutter. The thing is that employees *do* have a choice, they always had it, they have it now and will have in the near future. And that choice is all about the mindset and behaviours they would want to exhibit as they adapt to a new working reality with all of these social tools available at their disposal. It’s their choice as well to showcase how dysfunctional the organisations they work in really are, not necessarily to demonstrate how broken they may well be, since they all know it already, but to perhaps highlight an opportunity to want to do something about it and fix that dysfunctional corporate culture. It’s their choice.

That’s why, all along, I have always advocated about the subtle differences between doing social vs. living social. And, eventually, be more inclined towards living social as a philosophical movement that can inspire yourself, and others, for that matter, to embark on that equally exciting and exhilarating personal transformation journey where we become more open, transparent, collaborative, caring and empathic about the work we all do. Why I’ve always been such a huge fan of Open Business vs. Social Business more than anything else, because long long time ago I realised you just can’t change people, nor organisations for that matter!

Change is personal, one individual at a time, and for their reasons, not your own, so the only thing we can all do is to provide the necessary conditions for that change, hopefully, in small increments, to take place as a personal decision from each and every knowledge Web worker out there, which means that everything we’ve been doing at work around adaptation to social tools over the last few years, including change management, needs to change, pun intended!, and pronto! There are tons of really good work to be done and this past decade has just helped us understand why we need to shift gears from doing social to living social. Default to open as an opportunity to help organisations understand the new dynamics of organising, AND getting work done more effectively, via social networks and communities and not just through the traditional, hierarchical, top down archaic structures.

Time to up the game, all of us, collectively, because, remember, after all, it’s our individual choice to help define how we get to spend more than one third of our lifetime (i.e. at work), and reframe, accordingly, what work should be like for us all, not just a few, don’t you think? 

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I Will Dispense This Advice on Blogging

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Dunes

If I were to judge by the sheer number of articles published out there over the course of last few months around how you could improve your own blogging by following certain hints and tips, best practices, some other additional advice and what not, I’d venture to state that we may well be witnessing perhaps the third, or even fourth coming of blogs. I can’t remember anymore. The thing is vast majority of that advice about blogs keeps missing the whole point on what blogging is all about right from the start. So I thought for today I’ll take the liberty of dispensing this piece of advice on blogging itself: Ignore me, for your own good!

Blogging has always been a very personal online activity, your own online publishing platform where you share your thoughts and ideas about things that may potentially interest you that you would want to share across to start a conversation. Or perhaps jot down something that you would want to come back to over the course of time as you mature that idea further along. So whatever the format those blog posts may well have, as those blogging experts may well say, is eventually irrelevant. At least, to you, just as much as to me. See? Blogging is a very personal thing, an opportunity for you to develop and evolve your thoughts to wherever they would want to take you and, if anything, it’s the blog itself that, over time, will help you develop a certain blogging style and blogging voice that would make your blog and yourself unique.

That’s what makes blogging so special. Each and every single blog out there is unique on its own as it should be. The thing is that doesn’t seem to happen, because often enough you bump into multiple blogs that seem to be a copycat of one another by having the very same format, structure, trend of thought, visuals, writing style, and, most important of all, the same voice. It’s like a humongous online marketing machine regurgitating the very same kind of content, usually coming from the very same resources!, over and over again while throwing it in your face! How awful! Yikes!

Remember when, back in the day, people, most often, would come up with unique content and ideas being pushed through by their own blogging style and voices? I missed those days and very much so, because, as I am coming back to blogging more often, I’m currently in the process of re-building my blogroll by revisiting old blogs I used to follow religiously as well as bumping into new ones and they all seem to have adjusted to very similar formulas of what the ideal blog post should be like. And it makes me cringe, really. Whatever happened to the unique voice and blogging styles from people who were once passionate about a particular topic they could write on for months to no end with the true passion of wanting to learn more by starting and facilitating some really good conversations? Where did we go wrong?

I have been blogging myself since early 2002; first, in an internal blog behind my former employer’s firewall, and, secondly, since 2005, over here in this blog. With a total amount of 9,000+ blog posts I might be able to share some practical hints & tips and lots of know-how about some good practices on blogging. But I won’t. Oh, sorry to say this as well, but there aren’t any best practices on knowledge Web work, so you won’t be reading about any of them over here either, I am afraid! Yes, indeed, this may surprise you a little bit, but I’m going to spare you not writing another blog post listicle where you will just read the subheaders to skim through them quickly and move on to then, 15 minutes later, not being capable of remembering a single one-liner anymore. I’d only say this though, if I may; it’s a compliment, something I got told myself by a good friend of mine about 10 years ago when I was blogging multiple times per day and which I still treasure to bits to this day: ‘your blogging is like the real you. It is as if I am having a conversation with you right in that moment. It *is* you!

The best blogging advice I could possibly offer to anyone out there who may be reading this blog post, and, please, take it with a pinch or two of salt, is that your blog should reflect who you really are in real life. It should be the authentic you, your own voice, your own blogging style, your own ability to tell some wonderful stories to others that entice the opportunity for conversations to flourish as an opportunity to learn about something new or reflect further along on something that’s been in your mind for a good while and that you would want to share openly out there with others. Anything else is a massively dull marketing machine exercise no-one ever wants to read anymore, nor will it be remembered for posterity, so if that’s how you would want to go about it, by all means do it. If not, please do something about it. Today. Change it. Don’t leave it for tomorrow, for tomorrow will never come, there will always be something getting in your way. 

I can imagine how at this point in time you may be wondering, anyway, about what are some good practices around blogging out there that might be able to help you develop your blogging voice and style while still being you, the real you. Well, I am not too sure what those good practices may well be, more than anything else, and pretty much like best practices, because what may work really well for others out there (some of the most popular bloggers, for instance) may well not work out for you. And vice versa. So I will tell you what has worked really nicely with me all along since I started blogging back in 2002: Write! Indeed, practice, practice, practice!

Writing is an art form that’s really tough to master, specially, in a blog, but, if anything, practice, write something everyday (even if just a few words!), exercise the muscles of the written word, so that both your hands and brain adjust accordingly to write more often about some of the thoughts you have been thinking about but were perhaps a bit reluctant to share them across in the first place. Oh, and write for yourself, too! That’s when you can really focus on the thoughts and ideas you would want to write about vs. figuring out what format or shape should your blog post have that your readers might enjoy. You can adjust, accordingly, to that over time. For now, focus on just writing for yourself, while the rest of the world observes… You may not be pleased with yourself and your writing, initially, but that’s part of the game. The moment you are, the moment your blogging journey will start! And the rest will follow, whatever that may well be …

Over time, as the real you comes out through your own various blog posts, you will realise you are building an audience, even if small, it will still matter, at least, to you, as it will be very self-empowering. It would help you channel through some of the different conversations while you manage to build community over the course of time on what you are truly passionate about and that you could write about for many many years to come! In this day and age of phoney marketing messages being outpoured through mindless blogs, it’s what keeps me on my toes around some of the most amazing blogging on the topics I do care about. That is why upon deciding I’d resume my blogging mojo, once again, I’d get to build a blogroll of unique, authentic voices I could learn from day in day out that have got something to say about the subject matters I care the most for. Of course, I will be sharing that blogroll with you all over the course of next few weeks as I get to fine tune it accordingly. Thus hang in there, please.

Having a presence online, eventually, is no longer enough, it’s never been enough. It’s all about having a meaningful presence and how you work your way to make it happen, to leave a legacy behind, to share your thoughts and ideas others can learn from just like you do yourself with other people’s vs. pretending to be who you are not. Please don’t. Take that mask off. Just be yourself with your own thoughts and share them along! It is what we all care for, eventually. The rest is just noise. Don’t add into it, if you care enough.

Blog now! Blog often! Starting writing about what tickles your brain today! And give us a shout! 

Let the conversations begin! Are you ready to blog?

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The Untold Costs of Social Networking

Gran Canaria - A view of Roque Bentayga & Mount Teide

I remember, rather fondly, the early days of the Social Web, where true pioneers, social computing evangelists, die-hard advocates of everything social and, of course, every other curious mind out there wanting to figure out what the fuss was all about that (online) activity called social networking tried to explain (with a certain degree of success) how one of the many perks of nurturing, cultivating and building your online social networks was all about connecting with people who would share similar interests on a particular topic with you, so that people would have an opportunity to collaborate and learn more from one another. Little did we know that, fast forward to 2016, all of those networking activities would come with a really high price tag: your own data in unwanted hands.

We, human beings, have got an inner urge to wanting to belong to a group, a tribe, a team, a community, a network, you name it. We have got it in our DNA an irresistible yearning to wanting to connect with other people, get to know them well by learn with / from them, to then collaborate more effectively by sharing your knowledge with them more openly. It’s in our genes. It’s how we were built over thousands of years, that is, through cooperation in our eagerness to want to always help others, specially, when in need. It’s how we’ve evolved into what we are today.

However, why didn’t anyone tell us all of those wonderfully inspiring, exciting, mesmerising and truly exhilarating networking activities, through these social tools, would have a price tag that would make us rethink things twice? At least, to some of us. Allow me to explain, please.

After having been actively involved with social tools for over 16 years I think I have now understood the main reason as to why I’m no longer as active and participatory as I used to be in different social networking tools. It’s something that’s been troubling me for a good while now and I guess it eventually ought to come out as I need to come to terms with the facts. As a starting point, the overall user experience has become both rather appalling and poor, addictive on purpose, driven by algorithms that don’t have a single clue about why people would use that particular social tool in the first place, which I consider, if at all, an utterly depressing act of arrogance, because, you know, we keep getting told the algorithm knows us all better than we know ourselves. Goodness, what an utter piece of nonsense!, to put it mildly!

Here’s the thing. If you look out there in the ever so complex and perhaps already overcrowded so-called social networking space (Social Media, if you wish), vast majority of these social tools are just plain awful, rather depressing and equally horrifying user experiences with a single goal in mind: to have you glued to their screens constantly scrolling through, mindlessly thinking ‘why the heck have I ended over here in the first place?’ I must continue to scroll down till I find something that clicks. Reality is that it never does. On purpose. These social tools don’t want you to have that click, because they know they moment you do you are free to walk away and you will walk away to never return back again. 

The Social Web and its complex umbrella of social tools need to understand at this point, once and for all, that the main reason why people keep making use of these social tools is not necessarily because of the wonderful experiences they provide (I have yet to find the first major social networking tool that has got one of those!), which we all know they don’t, but because people keep having those urges of wanting to connect with others, of wanting to belong, of being recognised in the group for what they are good at, of being trusted for their genuine contributions into the overall value of their network(s) and so forth. And how do they achieve that? By sharing their knowledge, their social capital, their tidbits of who they are, what they do, what they are interested in and why they would want to reach out and connect in the first place.

But that’s where the problem lies, what I call the untold costs of social networking. People really wanting to connect, build, nurture and cultivate their social networks need to make an effort and come forward, share openly their knowledge. In return, other people would do the same (unless all they care is about take, take, take). That’s how we bond, how we build trust over time, how we get to connect, learn and collaborate together. It’s perhaps one of the most inspiring and exhilarating experiences we human beings have got in this planet. Yet, in the realm of the Social Web it’s playing against us. And pretty badly, really. To the point where we are not even aware of it at all, but please do allow me to show what I mean with this wonderfully thought-provoking cartoon I bet none of us has stopped for a minute or two to think about the potential benefit of asking that very same question over and over again. Here it is, judge for yourselves: 

There used to be a time, as a true pioneer and die-hard social computing evangelist, I’d go ahead and jump into any social networking tool out there that I could find to help me figure out how I could make smarter use of it in my pursuit of that continuous nurturing of my own social networks and I would eventually dive in and share along plenty of my own knowledge, interests, hobbies and what not to help improve that mutual social capital within my own networks. Nowadays, not anymore. Sadly. 

Whenever there is a new online social networking tool that makes the rounds here and there and continues to catch up steam within my already existing networks, the first thing I ask myself is why? what? how? 

Why? as in ‘what’s the purpose of that new social tool?’ What void is it trying to help me fill in within my own needs? Why do I need to pay attention to it when I know the overall user experience is going to be a horrifying one already, pretty much like with all the other ones from the past and present, on purpose, so it can keep me glued to it? Time is the new currency, the new oil, and it’s limited, finite, scarce and with a deadline. So why should I spend time in there in the first place? 

What? as in ‘what are you going to do with my data?’ I think I may well be one of the very very few people who still read the Terms of Service of the social tools I make use of to see whether I’d still want to sell my soul for free or maybe not. It’s the first thing I do after signing up and the moment I see something pernicious, and we all know there is going to be, since, you know, it’s a free social networking tool, therefore we are the product, that’s the moment I move on to never come back. This has happened several dozens of times in the last 2 or 3 years to the point where I know jump into the Terms of Service before even signing up to avoid the hassle. Why do we put up with that hassle time and time again? Shouldn’t we know better by now?

How? as in ‘how are you going to (ab)use my data?’ This is perhaps the trickiest of questions and the one that almost always has an easy answer to go for: you / we will never find out how they are going to use my / our data, because, if anything, that’s for their own competitive advantage, not yours, i.e. to hide it away from us, so that we don’t know what’s happening with that we put in. Pretty much like banks and how they operate with one’s own money, if you come to think about it, which is rather sickening, if you come to think about those golden principles of social networking tools and what they stood for from back in the day. Quite an oxymoron, if you ask me, which is why I essentially stopped using any other social networking tool that doesn’t have a clear policy as to what they are going to do with my data that I share across. Yes, I know, it’s pretty radical, and ironic at the same time, even more so as I know and fully realise what I go through while still using a couple of social tools from the dark Social Web. Why am I still there? Good question! Perhaps to keep me on my toes as to know what kind of Social Web I would not want to be an advocate for in the first place and remind me on a daily basis. 

That’s why I heart blogging so much! That’s why blogging is so important nowadays for knowledge Web workers. It’s our home turf. It’s the only online space left out there where we get to set the rules and facilitate the conversations, as they happen, with your various different networks and communities, but without having an intermediary that you know the moment you make use of it is going to abuse your rights (whatever those may well be), whether you like it or not, because, after all, we are the product, remember?

The thing is that we are all in the losing end here, because for as long as we are the product there is no escape, we need to keep feeding the system, that untameable beast hungrier than ever for our data, if we would want to reach out and connect with others, and the moment we do that we relinquish for good our knowledge, content, conversations, interactions and even our very own online identity. That’s not the kind of open Social Web I’d want to live in to continue to build and nurture my online social networks over the course of time, because, if anything, it will perpetuate the very same system we all know is broken and needs some serious fixing.

Alas, there is not much else we can do, because for as long as people will continue to make use of that dark Social Web there isn’t an opportunity for us all to fix things. And because not many people are willing to break that chain, since it’s just too easy to live within your own comfort zone, no matter how suffocating it may well be, it’s going to be really hard to break free ourselves from the whole thing, which is why I decided, I guess, to break my own chain initially and start making less use of most of the social tools I still rely on and instead blog more. Regain control of the conversation, on our own turf, i.e. the Internet blogosphere, remember?

Why? Because, contrary to what happens in most of the social tools out there at the moment, through blogs, you can still enjoy and facilitate some bloody good conversations, which is, essentially, the primary goal of social networking, if you ask me: build trust within your networks without having to suffer from the untold costs of social networking tools, i.e. selling off, inadvertently, your data and your soul.

The choice is ours and ours alone.

Choose wisely, please.

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The Home You Never Left

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves in the Winter

There are plenty of times when you have got that strong, unstoppable urge to spend more time in someone else’s home rather than in your own, either as an opportunity to want to learn something new, whatever that may well be, meet new people or perhaps because you may need a change of some kind, maybe even some new fresh air, who knows, to really appreciate what you may have had all along till it is then gone. It’s pretty much like when you grew up with that determination to leave your parents’ home as soon as you could possibly make it, to then realise, a few years later, how perhaps you shouldn’t have left in such a rush in the first place to understand what you have had all along: a home. Your home.

That’s pretty much how I feel at this very moment, as I get to write this blog post, upon reflecting on when was it the last time I have blogged over here, nearly 8 months ago!, thinking I may well have been away from home for far too long, spending plenty of time perhaps where I shouldn’t have, to then realise it may well be a good time now, if at all, to come back again and make an effort to stick around for a while, pretty much like when you return back home after an extended absence thinking the last thing you may want to do is leave again. At least, not yet.

I fully realise that this blog post may well be too cryptic on its own, it’s not intended to be, frankly, but in a way it’s something I needed to finally write down somewhere and what a better place than my own online home from over the last 11 years and counting: my own personal blog. That place that’s always waiting out there for you, like the good parents anxiously awaiting for the return of their prodigal son; that place that once you arrive it makes you feel like you are right at home, comfy, with no attachments, nor strings, where you don’t have to pretend to be who you are not, and you can be just you, the authentic you. No masks. No bullshit.

That’s what I have been missing all along since the last time I wrote a blog post over here. That online space where I could be me, without having to pretend to be someone else, or to play a different role, or to put on that dreaded mask I just don’t feel too comfortable with in the first place as once you have it on, before you realise it, you cannot longer take it off.

That online space, that is, your blog, where you no longer feel like you are being butchered left and right by multiple social spaces that only care about how much data and information I can keep feeding them with without asking for pretty much anything in return. As if I ever had a choice in that silly game of us being the product.

I’m tired of being targeted, of the constant surveillance state of our very moves throughout those social tools and apps, of the silly algorithms being put together by people who just don’t have a single clue of who you are, what you do or what you care for, not that they would care anyway, in the first place, but that have promised to improve our overall user experience, when in reality they keep destroying it big time to no avail, nor say from our part. I’m tired of reading on a daily basis multiple articles about how certain social tools keep improving the way they surveil and capture our data and knowledge, our relationships and our connections to a great detail and how everyone seems to be celebrating it all with much anticipation as an opportunity to be on the crest of the wave, when, in reality, they have already been swallowed by the savaging digital capitalism wave(s) themselves we once thought would change the world, and, in reality, just keep on perpetuating a dying status quo that doesn’t seem to be too keen on wanting to become extinct in the first place. Quite the opposite, It’s as alive and kicking as ever. And we only ought to blame us all for that to have happened in the short course of a bit over a decade. Just yesterday, if it were. 

I’m exhausted about the sickening polarisation, the despiteful vitriol, the useless hatred, the time-wasting and ever tiring trolling for no particular reason, nor excuse, and, above all, the bullying the Social Web has institutionalised over the course of time with those very same social spaces wanting to do very little about it themselves, because, you know, it’s morbid enough to drive huge traffic and therefore generate more revenue for the benefit of a few while rejoicing on the disgrace from everyone else who keep suffering from all of these horrendous and dysfunctional behaviours the Social Media keeps pontificating and advocating for. Well done to all of us! We truly deserve the Social Web we keep building on and on and on.

I’m utterly worn out about how we, collectively, don’t seem to want to change things, nor to put a stop to it all, to quit making heavy use of those very same social tools ensuring they die a slow, painful death for having mistreated us for years as if we were just resources to feed their hungry needs for with tons of data, to then be disposed off and find someone else to drain in the process. Somehow it feels like we haven’t learned much over the last decade or so about ‘The lost infrastructure of Social Media’ and how it’s turned itself into something completely different than what we originally envisioned in the first place. Remember Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us?

 

But then again, we are the media, indeed, and, as such, we have got a responsibility to make a smarter use of these social tools to help us connect, learn and collaborate more effectively; we have got a responsibility to *not* make use of these social tools that are only interested in the data we provide them with on a regular basis, so that they can then use it against us time and time again, if we ought to change things. We’ve all got a volume control on mob rule and, as such, we should exercise that right, instead of letting morbid, tragic and dramatic news flood our feeds while we watch and observe from the comfort of our couches, as we left the computer desks behind us. We know better. We should do better. We must do better. We should break the chain. Today. 

That’s essentially what I’ll be doing myself from here onwards as an opportunity to come back home, to come back to those special social spaces we once treasured and loved dearly for how they helped and allowed us to change the world as we knew it and make better people out of ourselves altogether. Each and every single time. Back in the day I deleted both my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, amongst several other social spaces, and it looks like that was one of the best things I could ever have done in the last few years. But that doesn’t seem to have been enough, at least, for now and there isn’t an indication that things will change any time soon. 

Time to regain control of our conversation(s) then and leave the silly, pretentious algorithms behind thinking they know better than us. They won’t. They can’t. It’s going to be us, knowledge Web workers of the 21st century, the ones who need to decide what kind of Social Web do we want to build and nurture over the years, not the social tools themselves dictating how us, the mindless sheep (according to them), will continue to behave. I know, and realise fully, how this may well be a bit too radical and everything, a bit of an outlier, if you wish, but then again it wouldn’t be the first, nor the second time for yours truly. I want a totally different Social Web user experience and I know that unless I do something about it for myself, no-one will. It’s in our hands to change it and I realise now that by resuming my blogging mojo it’s perhaps the perfect opportunity to reclaim back the conversations. So we better get started with it, don’t you think? 

That’s why, from here onwards, at least, for myself, there will be a whole lot more blogging and a whole lot less time spent in social tools, specially, those that seem to be only interested in me for the data I keep feeding them with and not for the conversations they can start and facilitate accordingly with me. Remember blogging? That’s exactly what it once did and why it feels good to, finally, be back home.

The home I never left… 

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Social Computing Guidelines and Why You Would Still Need Them

Gran Canaria - Playa del Inglés Beach

A few weeks back I wrote about the first of the 5 pillars I keep using with clients, time and time again, whenever they are embarking on the so-called Digital Transformation journey. Back in that blog entry I mentioned how having the right purpose is the main trigger to get things going. From there onwards it all starts rolling out and for today I thought I would go ahead and continue with the series of articles and write about the second pillar itself, which I know is going to cause a bit of a surprise, and perhaps a bit of a stir, too, because most people are not going to believe that here we are, nearly at the end of 2015, and we still need them and pretty badly: Social Computing Guidelines.

Yes, that is right, whenever you are embarking on the Social Business journey, right after you may have figured out what the main purpose is for that transformation initiative through social / digital tools, the next big activity to look into is to have a rather robust, representative and relevant set of social computing guidelines. I know what you are thinking, here we are, already passed through 2015, and we still need guidelines? Really? Haven’t we learned much from the last 10 years or so? Well, you are probably not going to believe it, but we certainly do need them! 

Initially, because when starting to make use of social tools, whether internally, or externally, you would *not* want to use or talk about rules to describe how people should behave at work, no matter how insistent senior leadership may well be when stating they want to control how people behave in this brave new world of digital tools. Narrative matters, nowadays more than whatever you would have thought of in the past, and that’s the very first thing senior management would tell you that you would need to take care of: ‘Yes, I want to have a bunch of rules, so that my employees would not be goofing off, nor misbehave and what not and instead continue to work really hard. I want to command and control what they do‘. As if that ever happened in the past, right? Bless them … 

Here is the thing, if you let that happen you are just opening a can of worms you don’t want to open. Rules, control, entitlement, arrogance, (a certain) position or status, micro-management, etc. etc. don’t work well in an unstructured, almost chaotic, network driven environment where democratisation of conversations by earning the merit, the attention and the conversation of your peers is the new modus operandi. We no longer talk about rules, but guidelines. We no longer talk about imposing a certain method of operating while getting work done, but, instead, work through influencing certain behaviours to flourish and thrive over the course of time. Openness, transparency, publicy, trust, engagement don’t work well with rules. Quite the opposite. Those Social Computing Guidelines are your entrance door into modelling certain new mindset(s), behaviours and overall good business practices. 

Now, let’s have a look into what it would be like not having those social guidelines in placeLet’s take, for example, Twitter. Umair Haque put together, not long ago, a superb piece of writing in which it became pretty clear, right from the start, what Twitter is all about without those social guidelines themselves. The World Wide West would not suffice to put it mildly. You haven’t seen it just yet? Take a good look into Twitter’s Trending Topics, for instance, whenever you have got a chance, and you will see the kind of vitriol that takes a whole new level of describing what both trolling and bullying is all about. It’s just as if we are using these social tools as an additional digital layer of sociopathy that de-humanises not only who we are, but also both our actions and interactions with others. No wonder senior leaders are so scared of embracing internally social / digital tools, if they think things would be pretty much the same as what happens out there in the Social Web. 

See? There are many reasons why you would want to put together some Social Computing Guidelines in place, before you would run into potential trouble, but perhaps there are two of them that keep coming up time and time again in the conversations I usually have with my clients: 

  • Organisations need to become comfortable with their employees making good, smart and responsible use of these social tools, so they can put together a green check on their corporate legal records, and move on…
  • And people in organisations (i.e. knowledge workers) need to become smarter in terms of how they can make the most out of social tools to collaborate more openly and share more of their knowledge across to, eventually, help them get work done effectively vs. using it as a corporate weapon of massive destruction (of one’s own digital reputation, that is). 

That’s why whenever I work with clients I firstly asked them: ‘What’s your purpose?’ and, right after they have shared across the why, the what’s in it for them, I usually ask them whether they have thought about putting together a certain number of social guidelines to help their employees, and the overall organisation, prepare for the journey. And, if not, why not? Having a conversation about potential social media bloopers and evaluating, initially, the potential (negative) impact they can have within an organisation helps understand why those guidelines may well be needed, after all. From there onwards, ‘how do we get started with them?‘ usually comes up and it’s time to roll up our sleeves and start working on them. 

The good thing is when trying to get things started we are never starting from scratch. There are tons of really good resources out there already, as well as dozens of examples, of other businesses and organisations that have graciously shared their own as an opportunity to contribute into the overall #SocBiz community effort. Take a look into the Social Media Governance Web site, for instance, where you will find hundreds of those same examples I just mentioned above. Even just go into Google and search for ‘Social Computing Guidelines‘ and you will find (first link on the top!) the one that has been perused over and over again over the years: IBM’s own Social Computing Guidelines.

Back in May 2005, yes, that’s not a typo, IBM decided to ask a bunch of very brave and rather prolific IBM bloggers to come together over the course of a couple of weeks, and using a wiki, put together an initial ‘Blogging Policy & Guidelines‘ that will then need to be cross-checked with both corporate communications and the legal teams to ensure things were all right and then publicise them both internally and externally. After a couple of weeks of frantic co-editing, updating, adding, removing, revising and working together the guidelines were done and presented to both of those teams. Not a single update was needed and IBM’s Blogging Policy & Guidelines were born. May 2005

That was, right there, IBM’s opportunity to, instead of blocking the use of social tools, send out a pretty loud and clear message to its employees, customers, business partners and competitors that, if anything, IBM wasn’t going to block access to them at all, but, instead, fully support and embrace them altogether. And IBM’s official journey to become a Socially Integrated Enterprise had just begun. Two years later, pretty much the same group of bloggers, as well as everyone else already using, internally and externally, those social tools, came together again to revise them and update them accordingly with guidelines about new tools, trends, and what not. And IBM’s official Social Computing Guidelines were born. During that time none of us, i.e. that group of bloggers, would know such guidelines would become an industry standard, but they, eventually, did. If anything, reaffirming the power of co-creation, through a wiki, of a bunch of enthusiasts, advocates and overall 2.0 practitioners. 

10 years later I keep thinking the main reason why those different guidelines (not rules!) were a success, both for IBM, as well as other companies that decided to adapt them to their needs and embrace them accordingly, was because of two different factors that were taken into consideration right from the start: 

  • Match those guidelines to the corporate culture of the organisation, to send out there a very clear message to everyone that these social tools are business tools, and, as such, there is a certain netiquette that needs to be respected, complied with and abide to. It’s how you do business, people to people. 

  • Put yourself in the shoes of those (back then new) 2.0 practitioners and ask them how they would want to make a smarter use of those digital tools in a business context. Then invite them to tell you what directives they would feel comfortable with and embrace those. Helping define a level of comfort for those 2.0 practitioners in a co-creative manner they would want to go ahead with is just the beginning of sending out a clear message, from there onwards, that you, as an organisation, do care as much as they do. Why? Well, you trust them to do the right thing. And they will. 

With those two underlying principles in mind, and with all of the resources already mentioned above, it’s now a good time to get things going and decide whether you would want to open up the process of creating those social computing guidelines, as IBM did back in the day, or whether you would want to have a representative team, as much as possible, to work on them. Either way, let’s start!

Here are though, some additional thoughts you may want to take into consideration as well when beginning to work in those social guidelines that may prove to be both helpful and relevant: 

  • Align them to current, existing business conduct guidelines, corporate values, code of conduct, etc. that you may be using already to set the tone and their overall purpose. In a nutshell, it’s still work.
  • Keep them simple and straight to the point. You would not want them to be longer than a single page people can go ahead and quickly print & have it ready at their desk for when in doubt. Don’t over engineer nor add too much corporate speak into them. You don’t need it, neither do they. 
  • Use plenty of common sense. If you see those guidelines don’t have much of that, start again. Till they make good business sense both to the organisation and to those 2.0 practitioners.
  • When in doubt, ask those social computing champions, ambassadors, evangelists (or whatever other naming convention you may be using) to give you advice. They live daily this brave new world of social networking for business. Use that to your advantage and let them help you accordingly, where you may need it.
  • Think about your customers, because, more than anything else, you need to remember the final frontier is not that people should use internal social tools and that’s it. It’s way bigger than that. They need to be able to use, in a smarter manner, external ones to interact, collaborate, connect and share with your customers and business partners.
  • Don’t spend too much time in them; get them out of the way as soon as you can and publish them out there for everyone to use. Observe and learn how people would behave through them and if you would need to adjust, correct, update them and iterate again, do it. Better adjusting on the way than having to wait for 6 months or a year for your legal team to come around telling you it’s ok. Keep the pace up.
  • Ensure confidential content is properly addressed in the guidelines. There is a chance everyone would already know what to do with it, but better to still have it down in writing, in case people might forget. You know, just in case.
  • Be prepared for the unexpected; there is a great chance once you get started with this process you would be entering unknown territory and that’s a good thing. Learning to act accordingly while on the move will probably dictate whether the guidelines will be a success or not. Adjust and adapt accordingly.
  • Finally, once the guidelines are done, publicise them externally, communicate about them, bring them up at every single place you can imagine. The more you communicate about them, the better. You would want to have every single employee wanting to use social tools be well aware of them even way before they dive right into it. 

From there onwards, let the fun begin!

It’d then be a good time to move into pillar #3 of the Social Business and Digital Transformation Journey, where, in an upcoming blog entry, I will be talking about Building a Solid Library of Use Cases to help your 2.0 practitioners dive right into how they can get work done more effectively by working smarter, not necessarily harder. By making good use of the social / digital tools at their disposal, focusing on the tasks and activities at hand to help, in the long run, entice a new set of behaviours and mindset and, overall, good business practices to become a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise. But that would be the topic for another blog entry coming up next! 😀

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