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

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Is Twitter Where Connections Go to Die? – The Unfollowing Experiment – The Follow-Up

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Dunes at sunset

 

Over the last few weeks I have been asked several times about how are things moving further along with my experiment in Twitter around #0Following and since it has been a bit over a year ago when I last published an article explaining what that experiment was all about and what I was learning from it at the time, I think it’s probably a good time to do a bit of a follow-up today and explain what has happened in between. Of course, over the last few months there have been tons of things I have learned from that experiment itself, on top of what I wrote about in that specific blog entry, but there is one in particular that I enjoy the most and that is the fact that it is no longer an experiment per se, but essentially how I get the most out of Twitter itself nowadays: still heavily involved with #0Following by relying on Public Lists, but this time around with an additional twist. Let’s see it…

Indeed, while re-reading through ‘Is Twitter Where Connections Go to Die? – The Unfollowing Experiment’ I realised that everything I had written in that article is still pretty much accurate and rather relevant, a year later, going from the initial reasons as to why I got things started with it in the first place, to evaluating plenty of the things I have learned throughout that experiment now becoming a new reality ever since, in terms of how I get to use Twitter on a daily basis. So in case you may have missed it and if you are keen on reading further along how it all started and what kind of impact it has had so far in yours truly, that article would still be a really good start on this particular topic. 

However, there has been a good number of new different things I have learned that I would want to include in this follow-up blog post, perhaps as an opportunity to reflect myself on how Twitter has managed to change some of my habits as well as myself, but also to share some additional insights with everyone out there who may be interested in pursuing a similar experiment and find out, beforehand, what to expect and maybe evaluate whether they should be jumping the shark, just like I did, or maybe not, just yet. 

So I thought that for this particular follow-up I will go ahead and share a number of different new items I have learned about over the course of time, with a short blurb describing them as well, of course, and see where we will end up. One thing I can share with you all is that once I have seen the light of a much smarter way of using Twitter through public lists alone it’s rather tough to go back to anything else for that matter, so I haven’t. Now, mind you, this system of #0Following works for me, and not necessarily for all of you out there. So this blog post is not intended, at all, as an opportunity for me to convince you all about how you should use Twitter from here onwards. On the contrary, it’s an opportunity for me to showcase how else can Twitter be used for, eventually, and to judge for yourselves whether it’s a system that could work for you all or not. Nothing else. I know I am benefiting from it tremendously, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it would have the same effect with you, unless, of course, you give it a try for a good few weeks and then decide to stick around with it, if at all. For now, it’s just my overall user experience of how I get to use Twitter on a daily basis, so please do take this article with a pinch of salt or two as well. So, let’s go ahead and do it! 

Here’s what else I have learned about my Twitter #0Following experiment for the last year or so:  

  1. Open Direct Messages: By far, it’s one of my favourite capabilities from Twitter, as it allows everyone out there with a Twitter ID to reach out to me, via a direct message, without having to worry whether we follow each other or not. It just works, pretty much like some other traditional tools we have been using for decades, like *cough* email *cough*. So that need to follow someone so that they can send you a direct message is no longer there. It’s a window of opportunity into starting off a conversation without having to worry too much about additional quirks. It’s even easier than using email itself, because in order for me to send you one I would need to know your email address, whereas with Twitter I just need to know your name. From there onwards I can reach out and get the conversations going, whether through the public timelines or privately, through direct messages. Just fire away!
  2. I still use my main three public lists: Collaborators, Cooperators and People I Learn From. What has changed over the course of the last few months though is that I have become more ruthless with that task known as Twitter Hygiene, so ever now and then, roughly about once a month, to be more precise, I go through each of the lists and I do a very thorough and exhaustive exercise of questioning (to myself) whether a certain contact should stay in that particular list or not, or whether I may need to move it out due to the lack of interactions over the course of time.

    Yes, those three lists, as you may have noticed already, have got a proximity rule in terms of importance to me, in the exact same order I have mentioned above. So, over time, there is always a chance I may decide to move folks from one list to another, or drop them altogether!, if I sense they don’t fit there well anymore. It comes and goes, as I am pretty sure it happens with all of you who as well may be using Twitter extensively. For me though that housekeeping activity has become a regular habit and I like it a lot as it helps me make sense of why I add people at all to those lists in the first place and I keep questioning myself time and time again to ensure those lists as worth the effort following further along for my own learning activities. 

  3. Which brings me into the next item; something that I noticed was not happening much before is that now that I’m adding people into those public lists I do get to check out every single new follower I may get as an opportunity for me to try to figure out where I can place them, whether in any of the three already existing public lists or maybe on a private one. This is something I have found really interesting as part of this initiative, because when asking people about where I should place them, whether Collaborators, Cooperators or People I Learn From, to help me better understand where our potential conversations may well take us, the usual response I get is this one: silence! 

    Ouch! Not very helpful. So I, eventually, decided to create a new private list (accessible only to me) that I call Weak Ties where I add those folks. Then I usually spend about a month observing, watching, reading, learning about what they tweet about and at that point if I don’t know exactly where I could place them in the 3 public lists I just drop them out altogether and never come back. That list has gotten pretty big over the course of months with over 200 people at the moment, but, like I said, it’s some kind of temporary home for those folks I just can’t figure out where to place them from the start. Yes, I know, it would help me tremendously if next time I ask that question again I would get an answer, but it doesn’t happen often enough, unfortunately. Yes, I can understand how some people may be a bit shy initially, but then again why follow someone on Twitter if you are not very willing to converse. Just to lurk around? Hummm … maybe we need to re-discover the power of a tweet to reach out and connect, don’t you think?

  4. People keep subscribing themselves to those public lists: This is perhaps one of the most rewarding things I have learned from this experiment the entire time, more than anything else, because, just like I mentioned back then, it gives me the perfect opportunity to expose my several timelines and allow others to benefit from those folks tweeting along, just as much as I do myself, which is pretty neat if you come to think about the effort and energy put together to curate those lists accordingly. Right at this moment, there are over 50 people subscribed to any of those three given public lists, and I am sure, as I get to tweak them further, there will be more folks coming along. Best perk of it all? It’s that it allows me to also be open to other people’s public lists and subscribe to them accordingly as another social gesture of gratitude for their time AND attention.
     
  5. The number of followers hasn’t changed much in over a year tanking in, pretty much, at 12,250 followers, confirming, once again, no-one ever reads Twitter anymore, nor checks it on a regular basis, because vast majority of people still haven’t unfollowed me accordingly after I unfollowed them. Either they may not have noticed, or they can’t be bothered, or both. What I find really really interesting from this statistical item is that those folks who I have followed before the longest time (in the years!) are the ones who are still there, while the more recent followers, as soon as they find out I don’t reciprocate, they just unfollow again and move on. Twitter has been there for over 10 years and it looks like some good old habits never die, do they? The power of knowing or the power of not knowing influenced both by our ability to be patient enough to stick around or not and see what we may have to offer each other. 

    I know some folks have suggested in the past that just like I decided to unfollow everyone, I should also make my Twitter account private, so those 12,250 people would drop out altogether as well and could start clean as well. I thought about it for a while and then I realise it wasn’t really going to work very well because the moment I make my Twitter account private, that’s the moment I am locking myself out, because in order for me to receive DMs I’d need to follow those folks back again and I would need to approve their following once more, becoming rather impractical over time. So at this point I just leave it down to people to unfollow as they may see fit. What has been really refreshing to see though is how the number of public lists I used to be part of has increased nicely month after month resulting in plenty of other folks giving it a try as well and see how it would work, although some of them haven’t jumped into the next level of unfollowing everyone, which is just fine. One step at a time, I suppose. 

  6. Conversations are ever so much more relevant and meaningful: indeed, because, in a way, I’m forcing a hard stop when I trigger conversations starters based on what people tweet that may have piqued my interest. It’s a pretty intriguing phenomenon, because, if anything, it confirms how little people use Twitter nowadays to engage in conversations vs. just broadcasting further along their own marketing messages, before they move on to the next thing, whatever that may well be. I keep getting told, as a result, they find that dialogue rather engaging, but shocking at the same time since it’s been months, if not years!, when they last exchanged a round of tweets with someone else, which I guess is just the reaffirmation I needed to justify why I got things started with this experiment in the first place.

    Conversations are our most powerful tools we have got at our disposal and when talking about nurturing and cultivating our social networks through conversations it just can’t get any better than that. Ask yourself, as a Twitter user, when was the last time you had a great conversation through Twitter longer than 5 tweets with someone else? For me, 3 days ago, and that’s because I have been offline during that time enjoying the long bank holiday weekend that just finished.

  7. One of the activities I have noticed that has increased tremendously over time with my use of Twitter using publics lists has been that one of active listening to what people tweet. I could spend entire days where I won’t share a single tweet across, and yet I would get to read every single tweet that comes through any of those publics lists. It’s fascinating being part of those global conversations, but without you speaking up, just watching and observing how people behave and say the things they say, listening with intent, learning something new, reflecting further along on what just happened, and, as a result, reuse it accordingly for additional conversations at a later time.

    Right now, it’s one of my favourite Twitter activities: resist the urge to raise my voice with just another tweet and instead listen to what people have to say and venture into figuring out why people tweet what they tweet during those times of the day. It’s a fun exercise, I tell you, if anything, because it also helps you tame your own insatiable beast always rather keen on oversharing everything with everyone specially about topics you think you know better than everyone else! I tell you, I can highly recommend it. I’d say I’m spending probably a lot more time nowadays just listening than engaging myself in some kind of Twitterrhea as much as I used to.

  8. That’s also probably part of the reason why curation has become a huge thing for yours truly. The fact I’m reading a whole lot more tweets than ever before allows me to find tons of pretty interesting articles, blog posts, reports, white papers and whatever other kind of publication from those I follow through lists that I then share across in a private Slack space I have set up specifically for that purpose: acting as my Personal Knowledge Hub of interesting links and tweets I have bumped into over time that I would want to either re-read again or reuse elsewhere at a later time.

    We are coming close to the end of the year and I have already over 19,000 items accumulated. That may explain as well why plenty of the blog posts I have written in the last few months have got such overall rich linking activity, compared to previous years. And that’s something I am enjoying quite a bit, as it allows me to explore plenty of content I wasn’t even aware of from before, even if people don’t check for pingbacks / trackbacks anymore (Oh, boy, I miss those good old days of blogging conversations back and forth, and you?). 

  9. Because I now have an opportunity to read more tweets from people I add into my lists, it allows me to connect the dots much more effectively, so over time I have become a huge fan of Group Direct Messages to introduce people I am interested in learning more from and apply what is known as ‘closing of triangles’. Essentially, when I read tweets from a couple of people who are sharing similar stuff, but who may not know each other, I’m a whole lot more proactive nowadays in wanting to make those connections, i.e. connect the dots, as I have mentioned above, and get them together. As a result of such activity we get involved in rather intense (private) conversations of really excited and passionate people who are interested in similar topics and who would want to learn plenty more about them through that dialogue! As an opportunity to use Twitter this way, that is, a learning and networking tool, it’s just brilliant! 
  10. No spam, even with open DMs: This is really refreshing, and quite a relief, frankly. If I judge by the huge amount of spam I used to get in the past from Twitter, never mind from other media tools, this is one of the things I am most grateful about. Here’s an example: when was the last time you followed someone and right away, within a matter of minutes, you get an auto-direct message from them asking you to either follow them in other media tools or perhaps check their Web sites. Hallo? Sounds familiar? Well, I bet it does! That doesn’t happen when you add people into lists heh

    And that’s just an example, amongst several others. Somehow, ever since I started using lists exclusively I seem to have gone under the spam radar to the point of not seeing anything coming through at all. Nice

  11. Resisting the urge to automation: Nowadays, you may have noticed how vast majority of folks who are using Twitter, specially, power users, have jumped the shark making use of automation to publish tweets at specific times within their own schedules, or share retweets of their own content to resurface again into everyone’s timelines, or just simply automate certain social gestures so that it helps them maintain a certain presence even though they may not be there anymore. I am pretty sure you may have experienced such automatisation of how people use Twitter, or perhaps you may be doing some of that yourself.

    The thing is that with #0Following there isn’t a single chance for me to automate my Twitter presence, and I quite enjoy that. You only get me, with all of my own perfections and imperfections, but still me, the human being. No machines involved. It’s my opportunity to keep Twitter human, social, even more so when bots seem to have taken it by storm to the point where they are even more active than we are. In a way, if you come to think about it, there is a great chance than when you tweet along you may be interacting with bots and you may not know it, nor realise it, till it’s perhaps too late.

    The thing I have learned with this particular initiative is that sometimes it is good not to be there, to show you are human and that you don’t live in Twitter 24x7x365, because there might be other much more important things to do than showing you are there, even when we all know you aren’t. For me, at least, it is down to when I tweet, I am there, it’s the real thing, no automation, just myself, and somehow I quite like that living in the moment feeling, even within Twitter. Now, wouldn’t it be great if Twitter would have an indicator of automated tweets, or an early sign you are about to engage with a bot just before that tweet goes out? 

  12. No bullying, trolling or hate speech, specially, involving a certain footballer, come through anymore. Before, when I used to follow people and had open DMs, I used to have some of the least interesting, colourful, foul tweets one can imagine, to the point where I ended up in a frenzy of blocking people like never before. It was crazy! I don’t know what happened though afterwards, but ever since I starting using just public lists all of that vitriol is now gone. For good! In fact, I can’t remember a single tweet exchange in over 14 months that involved any kind of behaviour associated with bullying, trolling, hate speech and what not. Oh, boy, judging from all the news items you keep reading on this topic, isn’t that rather comforting or what? Knowing you are heading back to Twitter and all of that foul discourse is missing entirely from the different timelines you may be interested in at that point in time. W00t!
  13. Despite 14 months since I have embarked on this no longer an experiment but initiative as to why I use Twitter the way I use it today with public lists, I still find I need to justify and explain to people myself why I still do it, as almost everyone out there is rather surprised and intrigued about why I have been doing it for so long, beyond proving the point it can be done, to how I can be such an active AND interactive twitterer when I don’t follow anyone back.

    That’s why I added in my Twitter bio a link to the blog post explaining the experiment in detail. That seems to have stopped people questioning or wondering why I’m doing this. I know now I should have included it right from the very beginning and it would have saved me tons of typing across the board here and there. All good now though, I have learned from that experience if I ever embark on a new experiment or initiative a link in my Twitter bio to explain things further along will always be helpful. Alas, you will run out of characters pretty soon! Yikes! Anyway, don’t think there will be many new changes coming along in this regard from yours truly, so it may take a while before I need to updated it again. 

  14. More self-aware of how I use Likes (❤️) not just to like stuff, but love stuff that comes through my Twitter Lists, which is terrific, because it helps me amplify certain social gestures along the flair of caring for what people have got to say and share a token of my gratitude to compensate for that tweet exchange or interesting insight or relevant links shared across. The fact that Like then gets retweeted into my timeline is just an additional perk I appreciate quite a lot, if anything, because some times people find it a bit surprising altogether the kinds of things I ❤️.
  15. I mentioned on the original blog post how my favourite Twitter client to work with lists only was Tweetbot, either on iOS or Mac. Over a year later, that’s still the case. In fact, I am now in v4 of Tweetbot for iOS and I still think it’s the most powerful Twitter client for mobile out there in the market. And on the Mac, the desktop app is just as good! Another reason why I treasure Tweetbot a great deal is that it doesn’t have all of the new distracting capabilities from Twitter that don’t add up much overall into the value add of the whole microblogging concept, which is pretty neat, because it just helps me focus on the conversations themselves and ignore everything else. 

    Ohhh, and did I tell you about its wonderful Mute button capability? That one that allows you to mute, within the app itself, not only bullying people trolling you around, but their tweets, as well as hashtags, certain keywords and other Twitter services put in place? Gosh, I love that mute button, I tell you. It’s one of my favourite features by far! Seriously, if you are looking for a client that would help you tame the noise of unwanted people and their tweets, including Twitter services and hashtags, Tweetbot is as good as it gets, for real!
     

  16. (Web) Celebrities’ nonsense: Many months have now gone by and I still get a bit ticked off when people with thousands of followers and them following many other thousands more keep following, unfollowing, following and unfollowing you (and on and on and on) hoping to trick you to become another number to count for in their vanity metrics. My goodness! What a nuisance!

    I am really sorry to write this, but I have started to develop that healthy habit of blocking those people and keeping them away from my timeline. If all you are looking for is my attention, I’m not going to give you such luxury. You will blocked the moment you engage in such ill behaviour. Besides all of that, I still find it really hard to believe they do anything else other than broadcasting their own marketing mumbo-jumbo about how cool they are for hanging out with the cool kids versus engaging with the @lonelyboy15s in different conversations. Time is precious AND is a finite resource, so I lost the ability to tolerate such behaviour of only caring about you and your numbers. No, thanks! Like I said, you will be blocked!
     

  17. That also means that, over time, I have become something I never expected that would happen in this day and age of me, me, me where vanity seems to have killed the social media star. Indeed, ever since I started up this experiment that then turned itself into how I use Twitter on a daily basis, I have found out I’m easily ignored out by everyone else, helping me go by days and days unnoticed, as if I didn’t exist and while I know plenty of people would feel uncomfortable with that feeling I’m loving it. Why? Well, a simple word really to explain it all: freedom. No attachments. No exceptions. No expectations.

    I know that this may sound a bit too cold from my side, but, believe me, it isn’t. It’s just a confirmation that the most intimate conversations / dialogue have now moved on into niche networks, typically closed. I guess that’s what happens when we continue to live in a constant state of surveillance (and approval) created by everyone else. That’s why we have a tendency to find new, comforting havens where we can hang out at ease without having to pretend or watch what we say out there. Remember groupware back in the good old days? Does it ring a bell why there is just such a massive uptake for messaging or chatting apps or apps like Snap with a rather unique proposition around sharing private, ephemeral content? Yes, I know, it’s the Web we are building today, although it’s not much different than what it was 20 years ago as far as our habits and behaviours are concerned, except, perhaps, it’s a different cycle altogether proving we may not have learned much in the last two decades, and counting … 

  18. An act of rebellion at its best! Something I didn’t think I needed back in the day when I got things started, but that over time it’s transformed itself into an opportunity for me to become, once again, an outlier, the weird one, the rebellious one (with or without a cause!) highlighting how there may well be other more effective and engaging ways of connecting, learning, collaborating and sharing our knowledge with others, but that we may not have discovered just yet. Pretty much like I did with #noemail, or when deleting my Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, or when I decided to return back to blogging at the risk of spending a lot less time in media tools and see what would happen, while everyone else is heavily involved with becoming the new media
  19. Refusing to become the media: Yes, while everyone is attempting to become the new media, as mentioned above, that is, the centre of attention with those 15 minutes of Internet fame, I keep running away from it like the plague. You know, I have been online on the Internet since early 1997 and over the course of those two decades I have learned many things, but one in particular got stuck in my head very very early on in the day and I still get to practise it every day: never ever talk online about politics, religion or sports. 

    And guess what’s happening in Twitter nowadays? Yes, I know, I once said that Twitter is the ‘Pulse of the Planet’ and, as such, it’s becoming indispensable, but then again if you look into what Twitter was, say, 5 or 10 years ago, you would notice how all of those three themes I have just mentioned above have taken over everything that made Twitter a shiny new star of what was possible to make this world a better place for everyone. And much to our collective regret, Twitter has become nowadays the shining star to showcase our many various different dysfunctions as a global society. 

    Twitter is currently mastering how dysfunctional our diverse cultures may well be, regardless of wherever you may well be in the world. And because we enjoy that morbid sense of ‘you are always wrong, while I am always right and I am going to prove it!’ Twitter itself refuses to do anything about it, because that’s where vast majority of its income comes from nowadays: our very own miserable and meandering experiences demeaning others.

    Yes, I refuse to become the new media. I refuse to think that all of these media tools are only good at overexposing our own misbehaviours, ill conducts, foul speech, hatred and what not. In the case of Twitter, for instance, it’s not the once rather tolerant, inclusive, understanding, diverse, empathic and caring Twitter I used to know, which is why you would understand now why I am ruthless nowadays in building Twitter lists that have got other purposes beyond that hate speech. It’s the connecting, the reaching out, the learning, the working together, the collaborating effectively in changing this world that still pretty much tick for me when making use of all of these social media tools and this experiment of #0Following is my attempt to do something about it.

  20. No ego: This particular item may well be the actual big shocker from the entire experiment / initiative on its own so far, because that one died, for me, back in August last year when I first got things started with relying on public lists alone versus the vanity metrics of who follows you and who do you follow, instead. And, frankly, it’s probably the best things that could have ever happened, more than anything else because,  when I use Twitter, the focus, at long last, is no longer me, me, me but the ‘we’.

    Over the course of time, I realised I was starting to care more, and become even more empathic, not only about those people who have been an integral part of the lists I use, but also about the interactions, conversations and content they were sharing across, which meant that, all of a sudden, I went slow. I paused. I reflected on how and why people have a tendency to behave the way they do online through tools like Twitter. There was no longer that frenzy of trying to keep up with stuff, instead, things slow down enough that you start reading more about what others are creating and sharing across, more than anything else as an opportunity to show your appreciation for how people in your lists use Twitter and how you would want to either amplify or augment what they are doing by contributing your two cents. That’s the power of social networks, in a nutshell, when you start caring more about them than about your self, understanding that, eventually, you become the network, the network becomes you. It is just like going back to Twitter circa 2006 – 2007. Remember those good old days? I miss them, too!

  21. And, finally, something else I have been noticing as of late that I couldn’t find an answer for, and still haven’t, just yet, to be frank, which is how this whole experiment / initiative on #0Following has now, finally, managed to burn out the potential flame of stardom I may have enjoyed from back in the day, if you know what I mean, taking me back into that wonderful place of oblivion where no-one cares anymore about you, really, either about who you are or what you do, again giving me the opportunity of enjoying a new freedom, a new clean start of deciding for myself how I would want to continue making use of social networking tools like Twitter for the next decade, as I am about to complete this one.

    It’s as if all of a sudden the pressure to conform, to try to fit in, to try to please each and everyone, to keep feeding the poachers, the leeches, the takers, the selfish who only care about them and so forth is now a thing of the past. Phew! What a relief! In a way, this whole experiment now feels pretty much like a rebirth. Of what? I don’t know yet, but somehow it’s starting to feel like I am about to embark on another exciting adventure of exploration, of playful good fun, of active learning, of apprenticeship, of self-discovery, as to what do I want to do to make sense of these social networking tools, while I keep questioning whether it’s all still worth it, or whether it’s perhaps now a good time to move on and never walk back.

    In short, if anything, this experiment has managed to, finally, make me question and challenge my own core beliefs (and my place within them) of what I once thought was going to help us all change this world to make it a better place through the use of social technologies not only just for me, or you, but for everyone else for that matter. Do I have the final answer to those questions? No, I don’t, but that’s what makes it all worth while to me, the uncertain path, the unknown journey, and what we learn about one another along the way, not necessarily the final destination, whatever that may well be…

Yes, I know, I do realise that this blog post may have come out a whole lot more intimate and rather poignant on its own than what I may have thought about at the beginning of it, but I suppose I needed it to come out, I needed to reflect about what I have been doing for the last 20 years since I first went online out there on the Internet, more than anything else as an indication of a potential new, clean start, with no baggage, no legacy, no ties, no additional explanations, no expectations, no nothing. Where to? I don’t know. 2017 will mark my 10th year anniversary using Twitter and I guess that’s what’s left for me to explore, whether it’s now a good time to move on to other things and leave everything behind, or whether it’s a good opportunity to stick around hoping things will turn out all right eventually.

They say that the Internet was born a few decades ago based on a couple of principles: trust and procrastination. Well, we might as well sit tight then and start working much harder so that none of those two break down, eventually, because, whether we realise it or not, whether we like to admit it or not, we may well be going through a time nowadays when we may need to start questioning ourselves for what do we want to do with the Open Social Web we once helped build back in the day but that, finally, got destroyed a great deal much to our regret and, most importantly, what can we do to make it happen, once again, and restore it to its fully glory. Because, you know, so far, we are failing big time, and I suspect that unless we all do something about it, no-one will. The final question that’s left out there for me to reflect upon and that keeps lingering around all over the place would be the following: are we up for the task to reclaim back the Open Social Web they once took away from us all? 

I certainly know we can, will we though?

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How Social Networking Tools Enable Heutagogy in Learning Organisations

Gran Canaria - Cruz Grande's surroundings

 

Imagine one day you read this quote: ‘The way we teach in our schools isn’t the way I think you create successful (and happy) adults, it’s the way you create the society we’ve had until now.’ Now imagine you swap the wordings ’teaching’ for ‘learning’ and ‘our schools’ for ‘our workplaces’. Read it out loud again, please. Slowly. Imagine if you then read this other quote at some point in time later on: ‘I don’t want to grow up and 30 years later find out that I’m an office worker unhappy in life and that hasn’t done anything to improve this world. Because that’s my main goal now: leave a positive mark here’ and ask yourself how many of your work colleagues you could name up out loud that would fit that description. Yes, I know!, I had the exact same problem. Not many! That’s why Workplace Learning is broken and why heutagogy may need to come to the rescue to save us all…

Heuta… what?, you say’ …Hang on for a minute, before I go into that topic a bit deeper, allow me to give you all some context as to why I have started this blog entry with those two quotes. Those absolutely mind-blowing and rather provocative sentences, as depressing and as exciting as they may sound, don’t come from a knowledge worker working in a particular corporation protesting about the poor state of workplace learning or learning in general. They, actually, come from a letter written to Roger Schank by a 15 year old girl in Central America protesting herself about the poor state of the education system in her own country and the very few choices she has got to change the situation herself on her own. Roger himself recently published it in his own blog for all of us to be wowed, and not in a positive sense, by the way, more than anything else, because, upon reading through it, one has got to shamefully admit that current state of education / learning is incredibly pervasive and available in most countries throughout the world, and, of course, in vast majority of organisations. Ouch! 

After publishing the letter in his own blog, which I strongly recommend you go ahead and read through it in its entirety, Roger comes forward to share a couple of uncomfortable reflections that, upon reading through them, reminded me as to why I heart, so much!, heutagogy, not only within the overall education system, but also with workplace learning inside organisations, in general. To quote: ‘We just let kids be miserable, or, we use school for its true intention: indoctrination’. Again, replace ‘kids’ for ‘knowledge workers’ and ‘school’ for ‘workplace’ and, once again, we would have the reaffirmation as to why workplace learning is currently broken within the business world.

But perhaps the most mind-boggling, and rather troubling!, quote from the entire post he shared is this other one: 

Our schools are, in a sense, factories, in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned into products to meet the various demands of life. The specifications for manufacturing come from the demands of twentieth-century civilisation, and it is the business of the school to build its pupils according to the specifications laid down.

That quote, you may be wondering, is from Edward Cubberly, Dean of the Stanford University School of Education, from around 1900. Yes, you are reading it right, it’s not a typo, 1900!! 116 years ago!! Whoahhh! 

My goodness! No wonder the current education system is totally broken. It’s been broken from well over a century, already! Yikes! And I’d dare extend that sentiment as well towards Workplace Learning, despite notable efforts of wanting to wake up into a new reality and see if we can still save it all. Even Roger himself already hints in that blog entry part of what the potential solution(s) may well be. To quote him: ‘Let kids learn what they want to learn in curricula design by professionals’.

This is where heutagogy kicks in beautifully, because that’s exactly what it is all about: 

Heutagogy is the study of self-determined learning … It is also an attempt to challenge some ideas about teaching and learning that still prevail in teacher centred learning and the need for, as Bill Ford (1997) eloquently puts it ‘knowledge sharing’ rather than ‘knowledge hoarding’. In this respect heutagogy looks to the future in which knowing how to learn will be a fundamental skill given the pace of innovation and the changing structure of communities and workplaces.’ [Emphasis mine]

First time I ever got exposed to Heutagogy, as a concept, was back in March 2013, when I was invited to speak at the Welcome Heutagogy conference event in Prague, where Dr. Stewart Hase (Founder of Heutagogy himself), along with the delightful Lisa Marie Blaschke, were the keynote speakers (Links to the presentations AND recordings can be found here and here, respectively). Little did I know, back then, I have been practising it actively myself for 13 years already, and still going strong today, more than anything else because, if anything, heutagogy is all about making learning a change experience, indeed. But it’s also about placing ‘the learner at the centre of the learning process not at the end of a linear process starting with the curriculum, through the teacher, to the resources and finally ending with the learner’, as Stewart himself wrote about in this wonderfully inspiring blog post a little while ago.  

Fast forward to 2016 and this specific tweet may be particularly helpful in describing some more in depth what it is: 

That is, certainly, one of the many reasons why I heart social networks and social networking tools from all along, because thanks to them, we have been given the incredible and unique opportunity of being in charge of our very own learning, a la self-determined learning, whether at work, or elsewhere, based on a specific set of needs and wants, to the point where it’s always each and everyone of us, and not the system, deciding upon what we would want to learn more about, how we would want to learn and with whom (i.e. our networks) we would want to learn with / from. In other words, thanks to all of these social networking tools, specially, in a work context, and thanks as well to applying those heutagogy principles referenced above, we may be, at long last, working really hard towards making that successful transition from being a knowledge (Web) worker into a learning (Web) worker: 

So you can imagine how happy I was when earlier on this year, while serendipity was doing its magic and I was searching for something else, I bumped into the recording of the presentation I did back in 2013 about how I was applying heutagogy myself into my day to day work routines using social networking tools (IBM Connections back then and nowadays it would have morphed a fair bit into a combination of IBM Connections, Twitter and Slack) in the context of #NoeMail to get work done more effectively WHILE I was learning away.

The mind-blowing thing is, upon watching myself deliver that very interactive presentation, I realised that pretty much what I said back then it still applies to how I learn AND work nowadays, even though I’m no longer a salaried employee and don’t work in major corporation, confirming, therefore, if anything, that a combination of both heutagogy and social networking tools have managed to convert me into a lifelong learner with a completely different mindset of work, one where you realise your knowledge, and what you learn further along with it, is no longer just yours, but from the communities and networks you spend the vast majority of your time with, which is just too funny and perhaps a tad ironic because that’s, essentially, the main reason why, even today, I am still even so keen on sharing openly my own knowledge. Indeed, to learn even more! 


PS. By the way, in case you folks may be interested in going through the recording of the presentation I did back at the Welcome Heutagogy event in Prague, I have taken the liberty of embedding the video clip over here in this blog entry, so you can watch it right away, as you may see fit. It’s about 35 minutes long, plus Q&A, and in it I describe, through my first hand user experience, what A Day in the Life of Luis Suarez using IBM Connections was like to learn AND get work done more effectively through my own social networks and online communities, still today two of the most powerful enablers for the adaptation of emerging social technologies in the workplace without having to rely too much on email per se, which, if you ask me, it’s a good thing altogether, don’t you think?

Welcome Heutagogy – Luis Suarez from HR Kavárna by LMC on Vimeo.

Hope you enjoy the presentation, just as much as I did back then, and I still do today, as a self-empowered lifelong learner through applying heutagogy’s principles and making extensive use of social networking tools 😀👍🏻

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Loyalty in Social Networks

Gran Canaria - Meloneras Beach

One of the best decisions I ever made upon becoming a freelancer, nearly three years ago, was to consciously spend plenty more time doing tons of additional reading (Whereas in the past I just couldn’t, for whatever the reason), whether it was books, white papers, reports, studies, research, articles, long-form blog posts, etc. etc. more than anything else to help me switch away from that constant flair of snacking around content on media tools and, instead, slow down a fair bit enjoying the many healthy benefits of reading (who knew?!?) or, perhaps, help augment my overall human experience, which is not such a bad thing, I suppose, if you look into it closely, don’t you think?

It’s also one other reason as to why I’m not online, on those media tools, as often I used to, but little did I know, back then, one of the additional perks of reading more was also being capable of instigating and actively participating in plenty more conversations, whether offline or online, specially, thanks to updating and revamping my own blogroll, which, in a way, is what triggered everything else. I suspect that, somehow, the Social Web slows down a fair bit when blogging kicks in and that may well be the reason why I am having plenty more conversations over here in this blog, since I resumed my blogging mojo just recently, than in the last few months on media tools. My goodness! Did we manage to kill already the conversation in the so-called traditional social media tools landscape? Please tell me that’s not the case, for our own sanity.

Ok, ok, I know, here I am, once again, excoriating the very same social tools that once gave me birth and that, 16 years later, have made me what I am today. Goodness! What’s wrong with me?!?! Yikes! Maybe. But then again, in my defence, I am only now just realising that was the main reason why I quit Facebook over 5 years ago, why I deleted my LinkedIn account over two years ago and why I started this experiment in Twitter that I blogged about over here under the thought provoking title ‘Is Twitter Where Conversations Go to Die? – The Unfollowing Experiment’. I was just simply missing the great conversations we once used to have all over the place, while everyone else was just (and still is!) busying themselves broadcasting out loud their own (somewhat expected) marketing messages and whatever their services.

Don’t take me wrong. I know that’s very much needed, specially, if you would want to change the game of how we have managed to build, nurture and cultivate personal business relationships online over the course of time, but I think we are just falling too short in terms of conversing with one another about the topics we are truly passionate about. And that’s a pity, because that still is *the* huge potential all of these (social) media tools have permeating all around through them.

Here is an example of what I mean, and let’s see how much it relates to your own user experience. Take one of the major media tools out there, I will go ahead and pick up Twitter, since that’s the one I still use the heaviest, and now, very carefully, ask yourself when was it the last time you had a conversation, longer than 5 posts / comments / tweets, etc. (that’s important!) that was not triggered by you but by someone else in your social networks. When was the last time that happened? I don’t know about you, but unless I am the one triggering the conversations, because I have the intent to provoke some additional dialogue or interaction around a particular topic that I know is of mutual interest for both of us, it just won’t happen anymore, at all. Is it just me? Am I the only weird, freakish, strange knowledge (Web) worker out there going through that experience at the moment? Please tell me if I am, because, if I am, I may well be doing something wrong and I would love you all to tell me what it is in the comments below, so I can fix it.

Somehow I suspect I may not be the only one out there currently going through this, am I? You tell me, please.

Ok, back to the topic of reading and getting inspired by the reads in the long form that I mentioned in the original paragraph shared above. Here’s an example of what I mean, so you can see it why I heart it quite a bit at the moment. Take a look into the recent blog article put together by my good friend, and KM mentor, Dave Snowden under the suggestive heading ‘back to the salt mines’ where he shares one of my favourite descriptions of what blogging is all about and that I can totally relate to. To quote him:

As is often the case with a blog post, the subject and picture come before content; one of the reasons I like the medium so much. Starting with a title, finding a picture and then starting writing without a clear goal I find curiously liberating. I suppose it harks back to the impromptu speaking and debating tradition which was so much a part of my education up to leaving university.

Oh, boy, if that paragraph, on its own, doesn’t instigate you to blog, I suppose nothing will, I tell you! It’s wonderfully weird as well that Dave pretty much described my blogging process without a single flaw, that is, pick up a recent photograph from my archives, upload it into my Flickr account I still use quite actively, and then start writing about a particular topic and see where it would take me, regardless of its length, with the title being the last thing I will write down about it. But Dave’s article gets much better, as you read along, because he gets to reflect on loving what you do, and being passionate about the stuff you love, is all about. Here’s one of my favourite quotes, which happens to be a rather lovely piece of advice that may well confirm why I’m not so keen on using some media tools anymore. To quote him (again):

Enjoyment is about anticipation and expectation and if those are two high at the start you are on a downwards slope thereafter.

Ouch! No further comment needed, I guess, right?

Well, there is more in that golden post Dave put together that really resonated with my own user experience, even more so nowadays as a freelancer. This particular quote pretty much hits the nail on the head, as far as I am concerned, and requires also very little commentary, if at all:

Seize the day: as opportunities present themselves experiment

Oh, gosh, but there is one more! Perhaps the one single sentence that pretty much describes the raison d’être as to why I got involved with Knowledge Management, Collaboration, Learning, Online Communities and Social Networking for Business over 16 years ago in the first place as an opportunity to learn and grow as a knowledge (Web) worker:

Survival (and with that enjoyment) is finding work arounds and for that you have to ….
cultivate and build informal trusted networks.
” [Emphasis mine]

Indeed, I couldn’t have said it better myself and I can certainly relate to it big time, but, at the same time, earlier on in that article he wrote the following, rather thought provoking sentence that is currently haunting my mind (in the right way!) and for which I haven’t got a proper answer just yet: ’I also realised early on that loyalty within a network is key to survival, something I still hold as a principle.

Have I lost, along the way, my own loyalty to the social networking tools that once gave me birth?

And that, my dear friends, is the main reason why I am currently having a blast diving into #longform reading. It makes you think really hard and seek out the uncomfortable answers…

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Work Stream #4 – Speaking at Client Events

Gran Canaria - Sunset Cafe at Meloneras Beach

A couple of years back I wrote about ’The Magic of That First Client Engagement’ as perhaps being one of the most self-energising thrills any freelancer can experience as we begin our own journeys of being independent and become part of the so-called Gig Economy knowing that, if anything, we might have just made the right decision, after all. We are back in business! I guess there is another kind of unexpected thrill around freelancing that I didn’t think would be possible before, and yet it’s been one of the most rewarding I can relate to from my nearly three years long journey as an independent adviser on Social Business and Digital Transformation: speaking at clients’ events.

After having written about what are some of my current work streams as a freelancer in the realm of Social Business and Digital Transformation (i.e. Client Work, Face to Face Workshops and Public Speaking), I just couldn’t finish that series of blog entries, at least, for now, without referencing what has been one of the most rewarding work related activities I have embarked on and that I totally didn’t think I’d be able to pull it off. Not necessarily because of not being capable of doing that kind of work, frankly, but mostly, because I didn’t know it even existed in the first place! You know, when people keep talking about doing public speaking at conference events, I guess they always keep missing out from the equation the opportunity to do public speaking, but at clients’ events. Yes, I know it may no longer qualify as public, really, but still it’s speaking nonetheless in front of a small, medium or large audience about a particular topic that both you AND the client are truly passionate and motivated about. And I love it!

In terms of (public) speaking at clients’ events, it’s my favourite kind of work related activity, and for multiple reasons altogether: first, the opportunity to have a more targeted audience to engage AND learn with about a particular subject matter; secondly, the huge bonus of having a more intimate setting where you can truly dig in deeper on that particular theme both parties are really interested in learning more about (you and the client); and thirdly, the wonderfully inspiring set of conversations you get to spark and learn from with your audience because there is an innate trust element, along with a certain level of openness, that has already taken place for you to be there, in the first place, which is very very different than traditional public speaking; in most cases, the latter feels as if you are delivering a massively inspiring talk on a topic that perhaps some people might not be interested in, at all, and, of course, with no time for an opportunity for questions or interactions with the audience, because, before everyone realises, you are already off to the airport, to the next potential gig, to catch your flight that you are rather late for already, while you send out a tweet thanking everyone for being there. It’s a pity, really, that, when talking about public speaking, we seem to have lost that touch with the audience, learn along the way with those who have perhaps very much anticipated your presence on stage, and eventually leave everyone (including yourself!) with that afterthought confirming whether it was truly worth it being there that day in the first place… 

Anyway, back on topic, please. That’s exactly how I feel about speaking at client events and why I treasure them to bits. Back in the day, a really good friend of mine, once told me that we are, typically, touched by the clients we work with. They help shape us to become what we are, just like we help shape them to become what they might want to become. It’s a massive learning opportunity, not only because of the unique chance of engaging with an audience on a particular theme you’d both want to talk about more in depth, but also because it gives you, as a freelancer, the unprecedented chance of constantly challenging what you know and would want to share across, so, as a result of such discussions and interactions you become better at what you do, client after client.

David Weinberger wrote up in the Cluetrain Manifesto the following quote: ’Business is a conversation because the defining work of business is conversation – literally. And ‘knowledge workers’ are simply those people whose job consists of having interesting conversations’ and along with Biz Stone’s wonderful write-up about how ‘the future operating system for humanity is conversation’ I don’t think it can get any better than that. In fact, if there would be a need to justify the business case of social networking tools behind the firewall (Yes, in 2016 we still seem to have to do plenty of that!), that would be it: nurturing and cultivating the art of hosting some really good conversations

And that’s exactly what client events are all about, specially, if you are freelancing, and why they’d be totally worth it investing your time and energy in them, in case you might be wondering; it’s about having the wonderfully inspiring and exhilarating opportunity to converse WITH your clients, AND learn along with them in a unique setting, unfiltered, trustworthy, rather open and collaborative, where you prepare yourself to roll up your sleeves and start doing the client work you agreed upon through the co-creation process I mentioned and blogged about extensively on another article. That good!

Ok, ok, I can see now how you may be wondering what kinds of themes have I been working on within those client events, right? They usually last for about 60 to 90 minutes, or from half a day to a full day or two full days (at least, so far) and they, typically, range a fair bit in terms of topics, although, all along the same subject areas I talked about more extensively over here:

  • Social Business and Digital Transformation: ‘Where do we begin and discover what may lay ahead us, as we embarked on that journey of becoming a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise?’ 

  • Connected Leadership ‘What are the new traits, capabilities and qualities of leadership in this Social Era of social networks and social networking tools? How management transforms itself into leadership through social software enablement. How do we facilitate the successful transition from hierarchies into wirearchies as a new organising principle?’
  • Social Learning:How can we utilise our existing Enterprise Social Networking platform(s) to enhance and augment the way knowledge workers learn and get work done more effectively while on the job?’ 
  • Knowledge Management strategies: ‘How Enterprise Social Networking platforms can help us retain some of that critical knowledge we exchange on a daily basis with our peers, customers and business partners through social software and knowledge networks?’ 
     
  • Social Collaboration: Cooperation vs. Collaboration, how can we differentiate between one and the other when we have got (virtual) teams, networks and communities making smarter use of social tools and still make sense out of it all?
     
  • Online Community Building: Why should we invest in designing, creating, cultivating and nurturing an online community building programme to help accelerate the adaptation rates around our Enterprise Social Networking platform? Can’t online communities manage themselves as is? Haven’t they done that for years already? Why Now?
  • Enterprise Social Networking Adoption & Adaption plans: ‘Once we purchase our very first Enterprise Social Networking platform, how do we get started to sustain our adaptation efforts, change plans and activities beyond the One Year Club milestone? How do we manage to make social networking become our new, enhanced, operating model?’ (A good number of times around IBM Connections, to name one of the most popular ones I’ve been able to host so far).
     
  • Working Smarter with Less eMail (#NoeMail): How can we work smarter, not necessarily harder, by eliminating vast majority of the email clutter we currently get exposed to on a daily basis? How can we tame the email beast and free ourselves from its yoke and into social networking tools? Is there a way to have a successful working life without email?’ (The answer, of course, is yes!).

Phew! Yes, I know, I know, that’s quite a few topics to cover! My goodness! Indeed, but remember that this is just a handful of the ones I can remember having done successfully in the last 3 years, or so, as there have been plenty more! I just wish I would have had the opportunity as well to blog about them in the moment, including the sharing across of the different presentation materials I may have used over time, but, alas, that didn’t happen. But that’s about to change, since this is, partially, also the reason why I wanted to resume my blogging mojo and stick around with it from here onwards, because in the last few months I haven’t been able to do a good job in working out loud myself, even though I’m such a huge fan of it, and I definitely want to change that. Why? Well, because a few years back I realised the moment I stop sharing what I know and what I learn along the way that’s the moment I start dying out a bit more inside.

Over the course of last few months I had enough with that long, slow, and somewhat painful process of seeing my knowledge stagnate by not sharing it across over here in my blog, where it could get constantly both challenges and improved, even if by my own writing of my own thoughts, ideas and experiences, so it’s a good time to stop with all of that nonsense about protecting and hoarding one’s knowledge and blog again at the home I never left. If anything, for my own sanity.

Knowledge was meant to be free, accessible and available to everyone, because the moment it isn’t, that’s the moment we are in trouble, as human beings. And now that we have got social software tools to help out freeing up our knowledge for everyone else to be part of that co-creation process, we no longer have got an excuse, don’t you think?


PS. Psst, you may have noticed how throughout the article I haven’t mentioned anything about the fees I usually work with for speaking at clients’ events, so if you’re wondering about what those would be like, well, it depends… on what you would need and what I could offer based on those time frames of 60 to 90 minutes, half a day, full day or two full days, amongst others, of course. 😀👍🏻

[Contact me via Twitter DM at @elsua – got open DMs-, should you have any further questions or queries you would want to discuss in private, or, alternatively, leave a comment below (with your preferred contact method, if you wish) and I’ll reach out to you as soon as I possibly can. Thanks!]

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Work Stream #3 – Public Speaking and the Exposure Economy

Gran Canaria - Ayacata in the winterNow that work streams #1 and #2 are out there, available to everyone interested who may be reading this blog, it’s a good time to talk about what has been, perhaps, one of the most profound transformations I have gone through myself when transitioning from big corporate world (while I was a salaried employee at IBM for 17 years) into the so-called gig economy of freelancing as an independent adviser on Social Business and Digital Transformation. Of all of the different work streams I have been involved with, and working on in the last three years, it’s perhaps the only one that, so far, has provided the most surprising of unexpected results I could never possibly anticipate, specially, since it’s turned out to be completely different than what I initially expected and you will see why shortly. Of course, I’m talking about public speaking, and inherently, about the exposure economy.

While I was at IBM, and over the course of the years, I was given the unique and rather exciting opportunity to speak at several hundreds of events, either as keynotes, breakout sessions, webinars, workshops, masterclasses, remote presentations, and what not, reaching to the point in 2008 where I got to travel 33 weeks out of the 52 to speak at a certain event whatever it was. I knew, back then, that was just too much, I just couldn’t scale as a human being and still have a life, so I decided to start cutting down, gradually, on my public speaking engagements in order to try to cope with it all in an easier, but equally effective manner. Nonetheless, the public speaking continued at a comfortable pace of between 40 to 50 different speaking engagements per year and I surely enjoyed that, because it gave me a huge opportunity to be able to carry out my daily job as a Social Business Lead Enabler from a completely different and unexpected perspective: the outside world. 

Little did I know though that was all going to come to a standstill, shortly afterwards, as I was making my way into becoming an independent freelancer, beginning of 2014, more than anything else, because, all of a sudden, I was subject to be confronted with an ugly truth that seems to haunt down freelancers all over the place nowadays and that is, if anything, as ugly as it can get: the exposure economy.

That’s where the real personal transformation journey began for me, because, out of the blue, pun intended, you realise, back then, you were just a tag, in my case, the IBM tag, which was always really nice to have around at any kind of Social Business or Digital Transformation event or gathering, because, you know, IBM was there as well, never mind who may have been speaking on her behalf or what ideas, insights and experiences would be coming across. That might not be important, the tag is, though. 

Once you realise you have, inadvertently, shaken off your shoulders such tag(s), that’s where the fun begins, because right then you will be part of that so-called exposure economy where, if you get the potential invite to speak at whatever the event, the first phrase that will penetrate your brain like a painful needle is this one: ‘Will you be able to speak for free? You know, it’ll be good for your exposure (as a starting freelancer)’ [never mind your 20+ years of extended work in the IT industry. Those never existed in the first place, apparently]. Or this other one: ‘We currently don’t have any budget left to pay the speakers, so we were wondering whether you could speak for free’. Does it sound familiar? I bet it does, sadly. 

Public speaking is broken. Very broken. The moment you are inviting a potential speaker to present at your event and kindly ask them whether they can speak for free, therefore making them become part of that exposure economy, that’s the moment where you know conference events are totally screwed up. Abusing the trust, the good will, the time, the effort and energy of those potential speakers you kindly invite to be present at your event is the very last thing you’d want to do to your business as an events organiser. It’s aiming for the cheap, so you can profit while they won’t! And we all know that cheap comes at a huge price, i.e. your own reputation as a business, more than anything else, because you are sending out a very loud and clear message you are enslaving those who you would want to wow and inspire your audience with their own ideas and in-depth knowledge and experiences in a particular subject matter. What kind of business message does it send out there about you? Not a really good one, I am afraid, on all grounds, specially, in this Social Age. 

All along, for the last 20 years in total, I have always been very grateful to the company (IBM) that gave me the unique and unprecedented opportunity to cultivate, nurture and develop my own expertise around the subject matters I truly love and that I am very passionate about. It’s a luxury that’s helped build who I am today, but I knew that, one day, once I’d need to shake off that brand tag, upon moving on to other adventures, things would be completely different, because it would be only me, my ideas and work experiences, that people might, remotely, be interested in learning more about, or not, should I get invited to speak at a conference event. 

And, initially, on my first year as a freelancer, those kind invites to speak at conferences kept coming through like crazy! I could hardly keep up with them to the point where, more often than not, I ended up with multiple conflicts and had to suggest people from my closest networks to fill in for me, something that, over time, has become one of my favourite work related activities in this networked, hyperconnected world. However, towards the end of the year I realised about how each and everyone of those invites was coming up with its own price tag: me / us speaking for free, you know, just to get exposure as we begin our journey as freelancer(s). 

It’s tiring. It’s very tiring and rather exhausting, indeed, to see how broken conference events are nowadays trying to enslave some public speakers, just because they think they would get away with it, aiming for the cheap, abusing people’s good will and good intentions, just so that they could profit themselves, at one’s expense, not matter what, thinking that it’s our own problem then to find some other kinds of revenue, in the mean time, that would allow us to keep on paying for our bills, while they have got you as one of their top-notch speakers for such an exclusive event, or so we are told.

I know that this blog post may well sound a bit too harsh and somewhat negative, and perhaps I’m burying myself with it being banned from all conference events that may be hosted out there from now onwards, as organisers get to read through it, but it’s far from my intention to sound negative about conferences, in general. On the contrary, it’s my outlier and rebellious nature, once again, coming out wanting to protest about something we all know is totally broken, even conference organisers themselves acknowledge how broken they are, yet very little gets done about address AND fixing the core issues, mostly around trust. It’s never been a two-way engagement where everyone benefits, yet, like I said, we just don’t seem to want to do much about it and fight. Well, I am! I need to. I have to. For my own sanity. Even if it means I’d have to sacrifice myself in the process by no longer being able to participate from one of my favourite work related activities by far: learning from different audiences about what gets you excited day in day out and become a better person as a result of it.

Late last year, I took one of my most difficult decisions ever in my 20 years of working experience in the IT industry that, at some point in time, I may regret for good, but either way, here it goes: late last year, indeed, I decided, I would no longer speak for free at any given conference event. I’ll not enslave myself to the cheap, to the free, in return of exposure, just because it’s good for my reputation. No, thanks! I want a fairer deal. I want a system that’s totally broken to heal itself with, or without, our collective help, because every time we, freelancers, agree to speak for free at events, we are perpetuating our very own slavery to the zero-sum game where we are always on the losing end. Always. No exceptions.

Oh, and that perception that we might be just too expensive for a particular conference event, as speakers, is totally false, let me all tell you, very far from reality, I can guarantee you that, based on my first hand experiences when I get asked what my fees are for public speaking and people respond back very much surprised ‘Really?’ Yes, really. That’s why we need to very much fix such a broken system of perceptions, perspectives, needs and wants, and, essentially, trustworthy good will. But we need to start somewhere. And, for me, this would be it: stop sustaining a sickening system that only benefits a few. And you are not one of them… That simple. 


 

Phew! With all of that said, and now that’s, finally, out of my chest, while our collective struggle to fix a broken system continues…, I guess those of you who may still be reading further along this blog post, might be interested in finding out, perhaps, what may well be some of the different topics and themes I do enjoy talking about at conference events. Well, just in case your curiosity kicks in, there are quite a few and all of them have got a lot to do with what I have been doing myself for nearly two decades and counting around Knowledge Management, Collaboration, Learning, Change Management, Online Communities (And Community Building) and Social Business (And Digital Transformation), without, forgetting, of course, A Life Without eMail, which has become one of my favourite topics over the last 8 years and still going strong … 

If you are still reading thus far and would want to know about some of the different conference events I have spoken at and what topics did I cover, here’s a selection of some of my favourite presentations and video recordings, so you can have a glimpse of what you might expect should you decide to reach out and inquire further whether we could work together for your conference event in equal, fair terms for both parties. I can guarantee you it will be worth it, if not judge for yourselves: 

 


PS. Psst, you may have noticed how throughout the article I haven’t mentioned anything about the fees I usually work with for public speaking at conference events, and if you’re wondering about what those would be like, well, it depends… on what you would need and what I could offer, but believe me you may be surprised to find out what it’d entail altogether, so get in touch! 😀👍🏻

[Contact me via Twitter DM at @elsua – got open DMs-, should you have any further questions or queries you would want to discuss in private, or, alternatively, leave a comment below (with your preferred contact method, if you wish) and I’ll reach out to you as soon as I possibly can. Thanks!]

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Work Stream #2 – Remote Working in Social Business Is Dead!

Gran Canaria - Pozo de las Nieves & Risco Blanco

After I quit IBM nearly three years ago, one of the first things I really wanted to do, before anything else, was to spend an entire month doing lots of thinking trying to figure out what I wanted to do next, as I was embarking on my next adventure as an independent adviser on Social Business and Digital Transformation. I knew what I wanted to do in terms of client work, but at the same time I decided to put together a number of other different work streams, just in case, to see which ones would click and focus on those from there onwards. And what happened next, over the course of last couple of years, is something that, to me, has been totally unexpected and mind-blowing altogether, to the point where I haven’t been able to figure it out just yet, nor do I comprehend it entirely, to be frank, what’s been going on all of these years, unless we may have been deceiving ourselves all along and we just didn’t know it: remote working does not exist! Get on with it! It’s dead! 

Ha! I know what some of you may well be thinking out there right now when I said all of the above, I have just jumped the shark and gone crazy altogether. Is remote working dead? Really? No way! I bet a few of you are remote knowledge Web workers, or digital nomads, or, perhaps, folks who have got the luxury of being capable of working remotely, wherever you are, every now and then, while you combine commuting to the office and you are looking at me as if I am totally insane! ‘Of course, remote working is very much alive and kicking! No doubt!’, you may be screaming out loud! And you are probably right since you might have been doing it yourselves already for over a decade, if not more, I am pretty sure!

So why have I said remote working does not exist in today’s business world then? At least, in the realm of Social Business and Digital Transformation, which, if you ask me, I find it a bit too ironic altogether, if you know what I mean. Well, because here I am, nearly three years on as an independent adviser, and I am still waiting for my first gig of remote work around the world of Social Business with a particular client, wherever they may well be. It just hasn’t happened, not even a conversation. Not even part of the client work contracts I’ve been doing so far, unless I first work co-located with the client for whatever the initially specified time frame, before we can move on to remote work. Who knew?, apparently, working face to face with people still is a thing. A huge thing. And a critical one, too, apparently, because unless you are willing to work on site the chances of working remotely alone are pretty slim. And here’s where the irony kicks in because with all of these social, emerging digital tools we keep advocating for about how work is no longer a physical space, but more of a mental state, and yet we still have got to commute to the office to show our work with our mere presence. Isn’t that a sign of how little people still are trusted n their respective workplaces based on the work AND results they provide, regardless of wherever they may well be? Hummm …Maybe. Just maybe.

Now, like I said before, I haven’t been able to figure out just yet why that happens, specially, in the field of Social Business & Digital Transformation, where advocates and digital nomads like myself have been pontificating and praising the perks of working remotely and becoming even more effective with the smarter use of the digital tools at our disposal for well over a decade, if not longer! ’Telecommuting is the future of work’, we have been saying for a good few years already, right? Yet, it hasn’t happened and there doesn’t seem to be an indication that’s going to happen any time soon. So time to shift gears, I suppose. Time to re-focus… 

I always thought how for my work stream #2 I would be focusing on remote work around Social Business & Digital Transformation, but when I started to realise that something else was coming up, on a rather regular basis, instead of remote work, I figured it would probably be much better to apply one of my favourite enhanced skills as a freelancer that I have learned to master over time: adjust and adapt accordingly to the new conditions. And those new conditions are what nowadays have become my #2 work stream: hosting face to face workshops.

Indeed, whether it’s happening at conference events (Usually, the day before or the day after the event), or at on-site client events around a particular theme, over the course of the last couple of years I have had the unique opportunity to put together a number of different rather interactive workshops to always deliver them face to face, in small groups, of between 10 to 25 people at a time, where over the course of either 90 minutes, 3 hours (half a day), 6 hours (one full day) or 12 hours (two full days) we get to cover a particular topic that ranges from some light touches to full in-depth discussions, knowledge exchanges and learning experiences. 

I can imagine how you may now be wondering what those themes may well be for that workshop portfolio I have been capable of building up over time with clients, or at different conference events, and how I may keep refining them all depending on the specific feedback from the participants themselves or the needs and wants of potential new audiences. So I thought it would probably be a good idea to link to some of the different workshops I have hosted in the last couple of years, so you get a chance to see what kinds of themes have been getting the most traction so far, in case you may be interested as well to find out more. So without much further ado, here you have got an initial list of them I’m going to keep updating over the course of time with new additions, further information details, upcoming public workshops, etc. etc. 

  • The Top 5 Pillars of Social Business Adoption / Adaptation): In this particular workshop we get to cover the Social Business Adaptation Framework I’ve built over the years and that I’m currently using with clients who are about to begin their own Social Business & Digital Transformation journeys and which is based on these 5 different blocks: a) Business imperatives; b) Governance; c) Use Cases; d) Networks and Communities of Champions / Ambassadors and, finally, e) Education & Enablement.
     
  • From Adoption to Adaptation, From Enablement into Engagement: Pretty much the very same kind of workshop in terms of covering the Social Business Adaptation Framework as the one referenced above, but in this case with IBM Connections as the Enterprise Social Networking platform to use as a practical, hands-on example of getting things started with your own Enterprise Social Networking platform. This is a workshop I have been able to provide to clients using other different ESNs as well, so you may be wondering why I am picking IBM Connections to quote this instance. Well, more than anything else because I have been a power user of Connections way before it even became a product back in 2007 (I was, for instance, a very heavy power user of its grandfather ‘Fringe’ back in early 2001) and I have got tons of extended experience with it. In fact, when I work with clients within the EU it’s my preferred method of collaborating offline with IBM Connections Cloud, as I have mentioned and blogged about a fair bit on a recent blog post.
     
  • Leadership in a Connected Enterprise – From Hierarchy to Wirearchy: I am a wirearchist. I had the true honour and immense privilege of co-authoring a book on it, and for well over a decade, when I was first exposed to the concept of Wirearchy (coined by my good friend Jon Husband nearly two decades ago) I realised we are fully immersed on that transition from the traditional command and control, top down hierarchy into a much more flexible, lenient, porous, pervasive, open, collaborative, connected way of organising and getting work done through social networks and (online) communities. Yet, I don’t feel we are truly prepared for it just yet, specially, (senior) management, judging from what we are seeing in this day and age. It’s a tough transition, you know, to go from being right at the centre of where everything happens and where everyone listens and obeys to what you have got to say and command without having a say about it to just be a node in the network who needs to earn every single day the merit of your peers, i.e. other nodes, while you keep demonstrating and showcasing your thought leadership skills, including, of course, the traits and qualities for which everyone thinks you are a leader. A connected leader.

    So with that premise, I decided to put together a workshop to help identify the number #2 business problem most organisations have got today, while I also help identify the huge opportunity and potential behind it to demonstrate with practical hints and tips and good practices, if anything, the different traits that the connected leaders of the 21st century need to exhibit if they would want to thrive in a work environment they no longer control, nor command, i.e. their own social networks, to work smarter, that is, more effectively, but not necessarily harder.  
     

  • Working Smarter with Less Email: Yes, as you can see, I’m still a huge advocate of #NoeMail. I keep practicing it every single day for the last 8 and a half years and counting. Going #NoeMail back then totally transformed the way I work AND live nowadays and while I realise I haven’t posted an update on how things are going for a really long while (Stay tuned, please, for an upcoming blog entry where I will try to summarise what’s been going on in the last few months!,) you may be pleased to know that more and more businesses are starting to question today their own addiction and overall (ab)use of their email practices at work, and for plenty of good reasons!, so I have developed a workshop that amalgamates all of those experiences and good practices for going #noemail that I have acquired over time and have packed them in either a 3 hour or 6 hour workshop with a guarantee methodology to help you reduce your email volume by 80% in just 5 weeks. Yes, you are reading it right, a guaranteed methodology, that I’ve used with a few clients already who have embarked as well on their own #noemail journey.

    Not to worry, I’ll be blogging plenty more about all of this over time, including the stories of some of those clients, so you can see how if there is a will, there is a way. Always.

And that’s pretty much it, in terms of describing a little bit what my #2 current work stream is at the moment and how, regardless of what my initial intentions were around remote work for Social Business, I had to learn, and rather quick!, that the moment you get things started, whatever those may well be, one has got to, again, learn and really fast, how to adjust and adapt accordingly before one becomes obsolete. And iterate again and again and again, till it clicks.

It’s that constant pursuit of ‘living (work) life in perpetual beta’. That’s how I roll nowadays, and you?

Mind you, I still believe it is very much possible to work remotely around Social Business and Digital Transformation (After all, I have been doing it myself since early 2003, while I was at IBM), specially, if we all start believing plenty more what we have been preaching and advocating for all along: work, in the Social / Digital Era, is no longer a physical space, but a mental state. So, perhaps, it’s a good time now, a decade on, to, finally, start putting our actions behind our fancy words around digital transformation, don’t you think?

Prove me wrong.


PS. Psst, you may have noticed how throughout the article I haven’t mentioned anything about the fees I usually work with in this kind of change and transformation work around Social Business by hosting face to face workshops with clients or at conference events, and if you’re wondering about what those would be like, well, it depends… on what you would need and what I could offer 😀👍🏻

[Contact me via Twitter DM at @elsua – got open DMs-, should you have any further questions or queries you would want to discuss in private, or, alternatively, leave a comment below (with your preferred contact method, if you wish) and I’ll reach out to you as soon as I possibly can. Thanks!]

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