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

Freelancing

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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Work Stream #1 – Learning Is the Work

Gran Canaria - Maspalomas Dunes

Ever since I went independent, nearly three years ago, there have been a few people who keep asking me, on a more or less frequent basis, why haven’t I put together a regular Web site where I could list and offer my services as an adviser on Social Business and Digital Transformation, so that everyone would have a pretty good idea as to what I am up to and see how I may be able to help other people. Time and time again my answer has always been the same, at least, so far: ‘No, thanks! I don’t need it at this point in time’. I guess the growing amount of surprised faces I keep seeing to such reply is triggering, most probably, the urge to put together this blog post explaining a little bit the main reason as to why I haven’t gotten one so far: it depends!

Indeed, it depends on what you want . Over the course of the last 20 years I have been acquiring a number of different skills and experiences in the corporate world around Customer Support, Knowledge Management, (Remote) Collaboration and Virtual Teams, Learning, Online Communities (and Community Building), Change Management and Social Networking for Business (i.e. Social Computing, Social Business, Digital Transformation, or whatever other monikers you may want to use), which means that depending on what kind of business problem(s) you would want to tackle, or depending on the business opportunities or potential new markets you would want to create, I may be able to help one way of another. Like I said, it just depends.

Perhaps I could describe that ‘it just depends with a description of the kind of work I have been doing in the last couple of years to help everyone understand a little bit more what it is that I do for work and get an idea of the kind of services I could potentially offer that people may find useful.

At this point in time there are a number of different work streams I get to execute on as part of my daily work routines, and since there may well be quite a few, based on the skills and experiences I have been accumulating over time in the different various fields I mentioned above, I have decided to split them up in multiple blog posts where I can expand on each and everyone of them further along to add some additional insights and perspectives, so I’ll start this series of blog posts with what’s perhaps, right now, my number #1 work stream at the moment: client work. 

Over the last three years I have been working with clients from both the private and public sectors, and from multiple industries as well, both nationwide as well as internationally. Some of those clients have been small, medium businesses up to 1,000 employees and some other clients from major big corporations with over 40 or 50 thousand employees (or above, up to 100k). And, typically, after an initial round of conversations, I would work with clients based on two distinctively different contexts:

  • A customer may have recently purchased a particular Enterprise Social Networking platform (i.e. an ESN, whatever that may well be) and may need some initial advice about how to get started with their own Social Business and Digital Transformation adaptation plans. So I’d get together with the client in an initial round of meetings and discuss the 5 step framework I have developed over the years around Social Business Adaptation Techniques, to get the conversations going, which covers the following areas: business imperative(s), governance model(s), use cases, networks and communities of champions / ambassadors and, finally, enablement. And begin work with them in executing such initial framework as we move further along, if the client agrees, of course.The most important aspect of those initial meetings is for me to state very clearly how I may be able to help out, based on what the client wants and needs, and over what time frame and what fees would be incurred, accordingly, but also to clearly showcase the kind of transformation work that lies ahead for them to work on together with me by insisting on using the co-creation approach towards adapting that framework I mentioned above to their own doing around adaptation. That basically means, not much talk, but tons of action, that is, real work from both of us.
  • A customer may have purchased a particular Enterprise Social Networking platform (i.e. an ESN, whatever may well be) and after a certain period of time (usually between 6 to 18 months, if not longer) of excitement with tons of exhilarating, frantic activities around their change and transformation initiatives, their adaptation rates plateau to the point where there is very little progress further along. This usually happens when second, third or fourth waves of knowledge workers don’t follow the initial rage from the so-called early adopters group. Or when a number of different barriers, obstacles, inhibitors and what not, come along and are just plain tough to overcome them successfully on your own, specially, if you haven’t been exposed to them in the past and don’t know for certain what you are up against. Typically, one of those major obstacles is direct management and senior leaders / executives (I’ll explain further in detail on an upcoming blog post what I mean in this regard).In this particular scenario I’d first spend some time trying to figure out what’s been happening all along since they purchased that specific ESN, why is there such a sudden stop to those change and transformation initiatives, what are the main obstacles and what are they trying to achieve, and, most importantly, figure out how to fix them accordingly, so that things can move on further along, once again. There is a great chance that in my 16 years of first hand working experiences around social and change initiatives in the corporate world I may have seen quite a few of those barriers and could share how we overcome them together as part of that co-creation process I mentioned above.

You see? It depends. It depends on your needs and wants based on what you, my (potential) client, may want to work on, not on what I would want. I know what I want. I have it very clear right from the start: help you become successful at whatever you would would want to achieve and that I may be able to help you out with, either by addressing your business problems or by making the most of new business opportunities creating new markets. And along the way, something else very important to me as well, learn. Learn from you, learn with you, on what it is like becoming a successful Socially Integrated Enterprise. It’s how I work, it’s who I am, it’s what you get, more than anything else because a long time ago I realised the moment I stop learning that’s the moment I stop living a little bit. ‘Learning is the work, after all.

That, in a nutshell, agglutinates the main work stream I have been involved with ever since I went independent. There are a few other related work streams (i.e. KM, Collaboration, Learning, Online Communities and Change Management) I’m currently involved with as well and I’ll definitely be blogging about them over the course of time, along with some other kinds of work I decided to embark on upon becoming a freelancer, but I’ll talk about those at a later time as well. Suffice to say that part of resuming my blogging mojo over here is to eventually blog about all of the things I have learned over the course of those three years, as a freelancer, as well as how it blends with everything else I have done in the past, hoping to share all of those experiences as to why I’m having such a fun time doing what I love doing: helping others become better at what they already do; working smarter, not necessarily harder, with social tools as key enablers.


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 with clients 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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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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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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10th Year Blogiversary – The Unfinished Journey of Blogging and Why It Matters

Gran Canaria - Playa del Inglés' Beach

Remember the good old days when people were writing about the death of blogging thanks to social media tools? When they wrote, rather prolifically, about how Google Plus, Tumblr, LinkedIn’s Pulse, Facebook’s Notes, Medium and a whole bunch of other platforms were just going to kill our own ability to have a personal Web Journal of sorts where we would be able to host our own thoughts, have conversations, learn and overall  build, over time, strong online communities about topics we were all passionate about and that we would keep on writing about for years to come? Well, 21 years later, blogging is still alive and kicking, thank you very much! And on October 10th, 2015, I just made it through my 10th year blogiversary for http://elsua.net. Who knew… The Death of Blogging? Hummm, I don’t think so!

Thing is this is not the first time I write about this very same topic, and I’m pretty sure it won’t be the last one either. It’s also not the first time I share across the many benefits as to why blogging still rules in the social / digital tools extensive landscape. But what I find the most baffling from it all is while a few people keep claiming that it’s now a dead medium for online publishing and personal journaling several other dozens more keep talking, and writing extensively, about the many perks behind having your own blog, whether it’s a corporate blog or not. The articles with dozens and dozens of tips can get quite overwhelming, but then again I keep getting dragged into reading through all of those listicles, because, you know, we are always going to be drawn upon them, whether we like it or not, so we better try to enjoy them and move on, don’t you think? Phew! That linking exercise I just did above to curated blog posts I have enjoyed in the last few months alone! has just been exhausting!  Oh, don’t worry, I don’t expect you to go through all of them. It’ was just an opportunity for me to highlight how blogging is alive and kicking if just a sample of the articles linked above contained hundreds of different blogging tips, whether you are a beginner, intermediate or an advanced blogger. Mind you, if you are starting your own blog, or think you could go and learn some new tricks, put some time aside to go through some of those. I can recommend reading through them to learn a new trick or two. I did. 

Anyway, see how silly the whole argument about the death of blogging really is? Here we are, 2015, and we are still talking about it. Yet, we keep on blogging. Regardless. And that’s a good thing, more than anything else because, if anything, blogging should be about just that: you writing along as an extension of your brain, of your thoughts and ideas you would want to share out there with the world. Just because you want to, not because of whatever other people may tell you otherwise. It’s about a unique opportunity, we all keep taking for granted, it seems, about having a voice (your voice!) and an opinion on a particular subject at your own place, that you care about and / or are really passionate about. Blogging, essentially, writing, is all about you. You are what you write. It’s a personal craft that takes years to master, if at all, and nothing, nor anyone, should be able to take that away from you. Ever. Don’t let them.

See? Writing in your blog on a more or regular basis can be both therapeutic and rather healthy, but perhaps, most importantly, cathartic and while you are all going to tell me you keep on writing on multiple different venues, i.e. social tools, with exactly that very same flair writing in the long from in your own blog where you reflect deeper on a particular topic of interest can well be a rather intimate and overall engaging activity of you yourself and your idea(s), before you allow the world to get a glimpse of them and do something about it.

David Weinberger (@dweinberger) put it brilliantly in this particular article under the thought-provoking title ‘Why Blogging Still Matters’: 

But, we thought, the most important challenge blogging posed was to the idea of the self in self-expression. Blogging was more about connecting with others than about expressing ourselves. Truth, we thought, was more likely to live in webs of ideas and responses than in the mouth of any one individual braying from soapbox, whether that soapbox was The New York Times or a blogger read by five people. By linking and commenting, we were consciously building a social space for voices in conversation.

 To then continue with this other rather relevant quote: 

We bloggers are still there, connecting, learning from one another, and speaking in our own flawed human voices’.

And that’s where I am myself, after 10 years of blogging in this blog, and although I have been blogging for nearly 13 years now in total plenty of other blogs I have had in the past have come and gone, whether on Intranets or not; and whether using various other different platforms for online publishing the thing is http://elsua.net still remains that special place I always call Home. A place, over the course of the years, I can always return to and be just my self

‘[…] a place for the sound of the individual’s own flawed voice in open conversation with others, building something bigger than itself.’

Thank you very much for sticking around throughout all of these years, faithful readers of this blog, and for allowing me to show and share with you my special place, my blog, my home. Thank you for being an integral part of quite an amazing, yet unfinished, journey!

Welcome on board! 

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