The Perks of Being an Early Riser

Gran Canaria - Charca de MaspalomasI have been a remote knowledge (Web) worker for almost 10 years now (Back in November 2003, when I was still living in The Netherlands) and over the course of time, while I shifted from European based projects into worldwide ones I have been doing plenty of adjusting of work schedules to meet the demands of work and therefore become a night owl of sorts, but at the same time ensuring that work life integration is there, right from the start. It’s been an interesting journey all along and even more so when it has given me the opportunity to live fully key concepts like flexibility and negotiation in a collaborative workplace. Well, it’s now a good time perhaps to take things into the next level and become an early bird, once again. 

Indeed, for a good number of years I used to be an early riser, and I mean, a really early one! However, and like I mentioned above, over the course of time, and as I have shifted into more global working schedules, I became more of a night owl, starting work at around noon, my local timezone, and then finish work related items late in the evening, never mind adding up after-work related activities, of course. All in all work life integration has always been a key theme for yours truly, since I have never believed in the so-called work life balance that plenty of people have been talking and writing about for a long time, more than anything else, because I have always believed, and rather strongly, that balance is just a myth. Why? Well, because work always wins. 

What I am finding truly fascinating from this journey as a remote knowledge (Web) worker is how time and time again we all get to redefine and redesign our very own work habits and mindset to meet up a new set of behaviours that would allow us reach our business goals: mainly, get work done in both an effective and productive manner through the use of social technologies. You know, the good old mantra I have been talking about over here for a while now around working smarter, not necessarily harder. But what happens when, all of a sudden, everything gets disrupted because you end up finding out it’s becoming harder and harder to keep up with both worlds: internal and external? Is that something that has happened to you all as well? 

What I mean with that is simply how ever since I moved into this new role as Lead Social Business Enabler for IBM Connections within the CIO organisation, my external participation on social networking tools has become more and more scarce, not necessarily because of a time issue, or intent, or motivation, or willingness to do it. But more than anything else because both my brain and body seem to have had enough with it all. No, don’t worry, this is not a blog post where I am going to announce I am going to give up on external social networking activities. This is more of an article to reflect how the time that I used to allocate for those external activities needs to shift accordingly to match a new reality: at the end of the day, both my body and my brain are just wonderfully fried.

Why? Well, because I am loving what I am doing. I am having a blast helping my company understand and embrace that new brave world of Social / Open Business. I am enjoying tremendously the huge amount of interactions I have daily helping fellow colleagues adjust their habits and mindset, and eventually adapt to a new set of behaviours, a new wave of interactions to do business, where they themselves become more open, collaborative and transparent on what they do. And it’s that passion that shines through that keeps me going at a rather full throttle pace that some times it’s hard to keep up with. The immediate result? At the end of my work day, I am wonderfully exhausted

Indeed, it just doesn’t feel like work, this job role is truly aligned with my core values, even if that means that I get to fully challenge each and everyone of them, on a regular basis, in terms of what I have always believed over the course of last 13 years around social networking for business, so, yes, I am very willing to suffer as a passionate method into learning how everything flows around me and those I interact with, understanding fully where the limits may well be in terms of commitment, involvement, engagement and what not. Hopefully, it does get noticed as time moves on realising how pretty much that exhaustion, that fulfilment, that readiness to come back tomorrow for more pretty much drives what I do nowadays. 

You could say that I have turned myself from a first thinker (around 2.0 matters) into a powerhouse practitioner in full mode for executing, and walking the talk, on the Social / Open Business mantras and philosophy. Am I enjoying it? Yes, you bet! I surely am! Is it having a price, a toll, on yours truly? Yes, it is! At least, on my external personal, digital brand / footprint. Am I really willing to sacrifice it for the greater good, i.e. helping everyone else get there? Yes, very much so! That was one of the main reasons why I took this new job in the first place! Will it mean that over time I will keep fading away till I pretty much disappear from the Social Web? I just don’t know. I haven’t explored that yet, or the implications of such thought, but I do sense how I am slowly going into oblivion, to the point that I am not too sure anymore I may be able to recover that external social presence anymore to what it used to be. I guess I will have to take that risk and, yes!, I am willing to take it. It’s perhaps all what I have got left, if I would want to grow further along on that learning path of becoming a fully engaged and empowered knowledge Web worker.

The trade-off is huge and rather risky, but quite an adrenaline rush all along. At the same time, I feel though how I am starting to miss those thinking times where you would pause and reflect on what’s happening around you, that is, your own thought leadership, in order to develop some ideas around it and share it across with everyone else to keep improving things for you and, hopefully, for everyone else. Yes, I am starting to miss that thinking time for reflection. Why? Mainly, because as soon as I start my working day at my home office, there is no time for a pause, or a breather. A constant influx of internal social interactions, instant messages, phone calls, videoconferences, meetings, conference calls, *cough* email *cough* , etc. etc. you name it, take over and by the time it’s all done and dealt with both my body and brain are so exhausted that I cannot longer think and reflect properly to interact in a meaningful way out there on the Social Web in conversations where I would want to share my ¢2 and still make sense out of it.

So I just go elsewhere and do other things, typically, what most people would flag as private quality time with your family, friends and relatives. Basically, enjoy the other side of life. Still my external social presence gets to suffer on this one quite a bit, because that time that I had allocated for those external social interactions is now a thing of the past, since it is used for something else now. Still, like I mentioned above, I do miss the thinking times around Social / Open Business, perhaps as an opportunity for yours truly to keep advancing and learning plenty more, since we are just at the tip of the iceberg, right at the beginning, of this fascinating business transformation journey. Thus time to take action then, I suppose: become an early riser!

Indeed, there have been a good and rather extensive, varied number of different articles, blog postsdissertations, research and what not, that talk about the various different perks of being an early riser. All packed with plenty of helpful, practical and rather relevant hints and tips on how to make it work accordingly. Well, to me, there will be a new one out there that I would be adding into the mix: my own thinking time.

Indeed, that time where you just kick things off with your day, where you just focus on what you would want to do, that may not necessarily be even work related, but that can certainly give you that opportunity to work on something you would want for yourself in terms of your own thought leadership, effectiveness at achieving something or just plainly personal productivity. In my case, an opportunity to pause and reflect on interesting and rather inspiring links I may bump into from my various different social networks or perhaps an opportunity to blog on a more regular basis, shorter pieces, maybe, as I will just be capable of focusing on that particular writing activity without constantly being pulled off in multiple directions. 

Somehow I feel rather enticed by the idea of whether I can change my own habits from being a night owl into an early bird. To see whether I can regain that productive time (not related to my internal work) to focus on my external social presence and to whatever the level. Remember, no need to be constantly over-sharing stuff all over the place without thinking the potential purpose and additional for that activity, i.e. your audience and yourself. I can see how some times I may be able to spend the odd hour here and there, perhaps two!, or may be just 30 minutes, or even less, after all, don’t forget that we are all in here for the long run, so the important thing is just to kick things off, learn from that new experience and I guess that with this blog post I have just done that! 

So, any other early risers on my external social networks … ? 

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Why Looking After Your Personal Brand in the Social Era Still Matters

Gran Canaria - Roque Bentayga's SunsetI can’t remember when was the last time that I updated my Curriculum Vitae. Actually, that’s not accurate. Of course, I do. It was around beginning of 2009 and it surely sounds like ages ago! Either way, I can’t help going through a giggle or two every time folks ask me why don’t I update my resume more often, at least, for the sake of keeping it up to date. I keep responding back that I actually do update it on a regular basis. It’s just that for me the concept of CV has got a completely different meaning than to them. I mean, to them, it’s all about having an A4 page, stored somewhere in a static location, perhaps your own computing device, telling everyone how wonderful and skilful you are for whatever the job you may be applying to. To me, my CV though is nowadays pretty much my own online presence out there on the Social Web, where you constantly need to prove your skills, talent and expertise, so that eventually people can find you and corroborate whether you are fake or not, and whether your merit and online reputation clearly represent not only who you are, but also what you do: essentially, your own digital footprint, or, … personal brand.

That is one of the many reasons why I have truly enjoyed the Forbes article Dorie Clark put together, just recently, under the rather suggestive heading of “Reputation 3.0: The Internet Is Your Resume“, where she gets to explain how more and more recruiters and employers are starting to flock to the Social Web in order to find new talent and if that expertise cannot be found there, it seems you no longer exist, quoting Debra Feldman with the following paragraph: 

If the search inquiry doesn’t find you, there’s a void like you don’t exist. Your credibility suffers. You’ll never know that you were eliminated [from consideration for a position], or what chances you’ve missed…Anonymity and mistaken identity are the biggest threats to your reputation

Very powerful words, indeed. In fact, perhaps a bit too scary that your career, from here onwards, may well depend on the fact of not only whether you have a digital footprint out there on the Internet, but also whether you may have left a mark, a legacy, on that very same Social Web. 

I guess that’s one of the reasons why all along, and over the course of the years, every now and then I keep googling my own name, which I am sure you would know by now how much of a popular name that is, at least, in the hispanic world, in order to figure out what people are talking about around my online presence, my skills, my experience and expertise and essentially my digital footprint. Yes, I know most of you folks out there would be associating that activity towards doing some social ego searches just to see what people are talking about you, but the thing is that it’s one of those rather refreshing and mind-blowing activities I keep telling people to actually do in order to find out how others perceive you out there on the Social Web. You never know what you are going to learn about yourself from how others perceive you online…

So while you “consider your Internet search results “a perpetual resume – a dynamic record of achievements, affiliations and ideas””, I am sure you may be thinking about how can you keep feeding the beast, that is, the Internet itself, in order to make it easier for you to be found out there. After all, that’s all part of looking after your brand and while I have seen plenty of people thinking about using social networking tools to help amplify that digital footprint, I keep saying the most elaborate, powerful and relevant tool to help you manage that online reputation is probably your own blog.

In the past I have mentioned how Google Search is probably your best friend out there, too, how it’s your new business card and pretty much one of the best options out there to help you understand your visibility in the context of how people find you, which social networking tools you hang out at, what blogging platform do you use, etc. with the ultimate premise, perhaps, of providing the most powerful business reason to invest in the Social Web today, as a knowledge worker: 

““No longer can you plan on internal promotions for career progress. You must manage your own path and that’s best done through connections. Virtual ties can be as influential as in person relationships […]

Indeed, in today’s more complex, disruptive and uncertain business environment than ever, it’s something you cannot afford not having anymore. You can’t even ignore it. People would keep talking about you, your product, or your brand, anyway, for a good while, resulting in that urgency of having to come up with an strategy that would work for you to help you ramp up efforts and get things going. And that you is no longer the corporate brand. That you is just the individual you, craving for that attention and exclusivity when in reality social networks work in much different ways, because, after all,  ”It’s better to have a strong network before you need their help“. 

And that’s the main reason why I keep telling folks how if they would still need to come up with a business reason as to why they would need to justify their Social / Open Business involvement and participation, let it be just this simple one: looking after your digital brand (One of my favourite online resources on the topic, by the way, put together by the one and only, Chris Brogan). Not necessarily because you may not need it now, but more specifically for when you really need it. Networks need to get ready. They need to know who you are, what you do and what you are good at, so that when you may need that help, they can highlight that sweet spot they can help out with and engage right away. 

On that Forbes article, Dorie takes the liberty of sharing across some of Debra Feldman’s tips on how to build a strong social presence, so that your own online CV looks healthier, stronger and more relevant than ever. So I thought I would also take the same liberty and quote those helpful tips as well, not only for folks out there to savour, digest and start thinking about them, but also for myself as I continue to work on that digital footprint, because, you know, it’s never good enough, right? Thus here they are: 

  • “Positioning: differentiate yourself from the competition
  • Distinguish yourself as a trustworthy expert within a niche market(s)
  • Identify the target markets or employers you’d like to focus on
  • Describe the unique contribution you can make in each target area
  • Prepare and publish examples demonstrating your expertise across all media channels
  • Direct your social and in-person networking towards attracting decision makers
  • Evaluate your current online persona and compare it to how you’d ideally like to be perceived
  • Establish social networking accounts, create profiles, and start participating
  • Prioritize your social networking activities to generate the best ROI for your career goals
  • Set up mechanisms to regularly monitor your reputation and address any negative or incorrect information”

The key message though when thinking about your online digital footprint and reputation, remember, your new CV, is not to think of personal branding as an external self-promotion campaign, but as an overall leadership trait. It’s not just that. It’s a whole lot more as well we need to start realising about, just as much. It’s essentially around that ability to recognise, and fully embrace, the fact that personal branding also happens on the inside, I mean, within the firewall, in each and every organisation, that’s where it all starts, because, after all, it does bring you one key aspect that we surely need more and more in today’s tougher than ever corporate environment: job satisfaction.

And that’s essentially why your personal brand matters, whether internally or externally, because whether you like it or not, if there isn’t job satisfaction coming along with what you do, there isn’t probably anything left out there. Yes, I know, there is always the money, but is it the only motivator that keeps you going in today’s Social / Open Business world? 

Probably not. Perhaps, what you may just need is some Arbejdsglæde

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Google Plus – Who Owns the Filter Bubble?

Gran Canaria - Degollada de las Yeguas in the SpringFor a good couple of years I have been a huge fan, and big advocate, of what I think is one of the most empowering and refreshing social networking tools out there: Google Plus. Yes, I know I may have well been one of the very few, but all along I have always felt that in terms of features, capabilities, blending of online and offline interactions and, above all, the deeper level of engagement in conversations is what made G+ special. Very special. Till a couple of days ago, where I discovered, by pure chance, which is how these things happen usually, I suppose, how it has been hiding away the best part of that social networking tool: the conversations themselves. Remember the filter bubble?

From the very beginning, I read in one of the review blog posts around Google Plus how the Home Stream (All) doesn’t really display all of the various different posts that your networks get to share. It only displays a fraction that the system itself identifies based on whatever the algorithm. Now, I can imagine how plenty of people may not feel very comfortable with the fire hose of updates coming through, so they may actually appreciate, quite a bit, having Google figuring it all out how it would work for most people. Alas, not for me. I would want to see every single post that comes my way, so I can then decide whether I would want to read it or not. I have always felt that’s the ultimate choice from social networkers in terms of defining the amount of signal / noise they would get exposed to without having that social networking tool calculating automatically what may matter to you or not.

I am sorry, but it just doesn’t work that way. So a few months back I started relying more and more on Google Plus Circles to the point where I became rather dependent on them. I created a bunch of them, that I check on a rather regular basis, but there are four of them that I consider critical food for my brain. You know, the One50, Two50,  and TheRest and a new one I created which is a combination of all three of those coming up to nearly 500 people in total, which is what I am checking out nowadays the most as my new timeline. Essentially, the one circle of those folks who I would want to receive whatever updates they share. 

Thus a little while ago I decided to try out an experiment, which was, essentially, keeping an open tab in Chrome throughout the day for Google Plus and, in particular, for that specific G+ Circle (That I called Everyone), and which would allow me to jump in every now and then and check what people may be saying, talking about or sharing across. You know, in between work tasks, coffee breaks, those spare idle moments in between meetings and so forth. The idea was to be able to catch up with everything that may have been shared across with an opportunity to do it at my own pace, and without any restrictions.

However, over the course of time, I started noticing how after a short period of time, without checking things out, the lovely blue box would show up indicating the number of new posts that I had catch up with since I last refreshed, and I started to notice how if I would have, say, 74 new posts, when clicking on refresh it would just display (I counted them!) about 36, which means that half of the content is gone. Just like that! WOW!!! 

And here I was thinking that G+ algorithm was only in place for the Home Stream (All) page. Well, apparently, not. I have actually raised this very same issue on my Plus Profile, on this post, where I talked about it more extensively, and a bunch of other folks have been very helpful sharing their insights, including reference blog entries like this one on that very same topic with the flair that it’s working as designed. Well, no, it’s not. At least, it is not my design. 

See? If I create a new Circle in Google Plus because there is a list of contacts / networks that I would want to keep up with and get exposed to everything they share in G+ that’s what I expect the circle to handle graciously, not just show to me what it thinks is better for me. Never mind how much data you have about me. No, sorry, systems should not be making that choice for people. At least, people should be given the opportunity to opt-in or opt-out of that model, which in this case it’s just not happening. And I am finding that incredibly frustrating and perhaps somewhat disturbing as well for that matter.

Why? Mainly, of course, because of that filter bubble. I would want to be the person in charge of what I get exposed to, how I would want to get exposed to, and, most importantly, how I would want to consume that content shared across. And let it be down to me to decide if I would want to mitigate, or not, the fire hose effect of content I get exposed to. It should be my decision, not the system’s. That’s actually one of the reasons why I have never been a fan of Facebook, Twitter and various other social networking tools that do pretty much the same thing: putting constraints in place by the system, within the streams, thinking it knows better than their end-users. Well, maybe not. 

Yes, I realise that I am perhaps making a big fuss out of anything. I mean, I am sure that you folks would be able to identify a whole bunch of various different areas of improvement for Google Plus in terms of missing features and capabilities, but, to me, it’s all down to this: can I use it for work? Yes, I know I can use it for personal use, which I have already for a long while, just like any other social networking tool, but, to me, Google Plus was special, because I could also use it for work. Or, at least, that’s what I thought, because, after finding out about that behaviour, I am just not sure anymore. I mean, think of this very same scenario happening with work email…

Yes, that’s exactly what I meant. There is no way that you just can’t miss work related emails, specially, from a customer, or business partner, or from an urgent request from your boss or your fellow colleagues, only to find out the system thought about dropping it out, because it was not that important. Goodness! That would never happen with email. Period. It’s out of the question, even. So why should social networking tools be different? Why can’t we have that opt-in / opt-out option where we, the end-users, the social networkers, get to decide how we would want to process, consume and digest those streams? That’s a fair request, don’t you think? 

So what’s going to happen next then, you may be wondering, right? Well, for now, and while I am awaiting for an official answer from Google Plus Help and some other folks, G+ has dropped out to the same level of attention, engagement, involvement and relevancy as plenty of other social networking tools, because no matter how hard you would try it looks like with Google Plus, just like with plenty of others, you will always  be missing stuff and, to be frank, if that’s going to happen, I rather prefer to focus my attention elsewhere. It’s not even worth the effort anymore. Does that mean I will be ditching Google Plus for good? No, not yet. Like I said, I like it quite a bit. I am not going to give up on it that easy or that soon, even though I fully realise I will never get an answer from the Help & Support team(s), which is also another one of those issues with all of these public social networking tools on the Open Web. I will continue to make use of it. It’s just that instead of spending a substantial amount of time in it every day, the level of attention has dropped quite a bit, to the point where it no longer has the priority on my external social networking activities as it used to have. That focus is now gone. 

And that’s a pity. I know and I fully realise about that. But I guess that’s what happens when you, Google Plus, in this case, make the assumption you can own the filter bubble of those who have given you the mere existence of your own being, ignoring their voices and opinions, thinking you know better than them. Perhaps you don’t, perhaps you shouldn’t have. Perhaps you need to address the issue before I will be coming back. Why? Well, because, amongst several other things, I still want to own the filter bubble. My filter bubble.

Thank you very much. 

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