(my take on Quora's new blogging feature)
Post by Stuart Miniman:
Blogging is dead, how can there be a new place to blog?
(my take on Quora's new blogging feature)
Post by Stuart Miniman:
Blogging is dead, how can there be a new place to blog?
The social media revolution came fast and furious over the last 5 years, and I believe that we’ve entered a new era over the last year. I wouldn’t call it “post-social”; while we are definitely past the heady days of early adoption, there are in my opinion still boundless opportunities in the social sphere. To use a financial analogy, with some big stocks like Microsoft, Apple and Google, if you had jumped in early, you could have become insanely rich and if you got in a few years later you’d only be very rich.
In my experience, social media is about social (connecting/community) and media (content). I’ve now been blogging for 4 years (I was on Facebook in ’07, Twitter in ’08, Tumblr in ’08, and WordPress in ’09), and it’s humbling how many connections I’ve made and how many people have read content that I’ve created. I’m a big advocate of getting people to share via blogs and Twitter (I just passed my 10,000th Tweet), so thought I’d share some thoughts on what most of us already know: there’s a big difference between just doing something and doing it well, but too often there are competing pressures or processes that get in the way of doing a great job.
First on the social side, I consider myself a people person and am active in a number of communities (lots of IT, innovation, social media). I read as much as possible, share what excites me and try and add to the conversation. Feedback through social interactions encourages me to put in the extra effort to write more or interact online (the Twitter retweet or Facebook comment provides the same dopamine ping that we used to get from email beeps in the ‘90s before email volumes became ridiculous). It always helps to understand the target audience for what you’re creating and being active in a community will give your shared items the network effect.
On the content creation side, in addition to blogging and Twitter, I enjoy giving presentations and recording videos that we do in theCUBE at conferences. Research, preparation and hard work separate a good presentation or interview from a mediocre one. A strong narrative or storyline help an audience to connect with both types of presentations. An audience can tell the difference between someone that is prepared, really knows the subject and can feed off of the passion of the presenter. As an example, readers of my blog will be familiar with my FCoE work and likely the YouTube video I did 4 years ago. The format was standard for EMC, there are 100’s of EMC whiteboard videos, yet that particular video has orders of magnitude more views. First of all, it was great timing (I was a non-Cisco person explaining a relatively “hot” technology–brought to market by Cisco–that spanned across storage, networking and virtualization). Second, it was a technology primer, not a product or company pitch. Third, I had seen lots of whiteboard videos, knew what I liked and didn’t as a viewer and worked hard to have a short, focused presentation (I try to follow Mark Twain’s advice – if I had more time, I would have made this writing shorter). Finally, once it was launched, I had the boosting of social media and the internet: I blogged about it, it was picked up and embedded by other blogs and news sites, and it was posted on FCoE.com. Good preparation, execution and follow-through are not easy, and my going “viral” isn’t something that I could ever hope to explain.
I work on many of the Infographics that Wikibon creates, and we strive to fuse strong data points, a good narrative and attractive design (we work with creative teams) so that we’re not putting out “Infocrapics”. Design is very important, as Dan Pink said in his book A Whole New Mind, those who can fuse right-brain and left-brain solutions together (Apple engineering + design is a classic example) can thrive in the economy where commoditization and globalization are disrupting so many industries.
Scott Adams (the Dilbert guy) said at a conference that we make our own luck by looking out for opportunities, trying and persevering on things that pop up that others would likely ignore. I got on Twitter because PR asked for help, did that YouTube video to help marketing, and started blogging thanks to encouragement from the social community. I try to say yes to most requests to share information; time spent with journalists looking for information or participating in podcasts or videos is always rewarding. There’s an insatiable demand for good content in the world. And while I’m a small fish in the blogger world, I know that it’s relatively easy to get connected to some very important people through engagement and sharing of ideas.
Some questions for the next phase of social:
As social adoption grows, is your network an echo chamber?
How do you keep community and fun in social so that it doesn’t become un-social and irrelevant?
When I first jumped into social media activity almost five years ago (back when we just called it Web 2.0), I was looking for tools that could help collaboration and innovation as part of my job in an enterprise environment (what Andy McAfee dubbed Enterprise 2.0). A Jive community space, Blogs, Facebook, and Twitter turned out to be great tools not only to collaborate internally, but helped to connect me to a small, but growing community of technology enthusiasts. While the general rule for Internet participation is the 90-9-1 rule where 90% lurk, 9% participate some and the 1% are heavy contributors (the Occupy movement now brings a different 1% to mind) that create over 90% of the content. Bloggers are almost always in the top 10% of participation and they made up a lot of the early Twitter community. Over the last five years, we’ve watched social media go from the early adopter crowd to more of the general population and it is also impacting traditional media.
While having discussions through social media is great, it’s even better when you can meet those people in real life (IRL) at events or when travelling. For comparison at how fast the communities are growing, compare Stephen Foskett’s list of storage people on Twitter in 2008 with the 2011 VMworld Las Vegas Twitter list. With the expansion of Twitter users (and slow decline in blogging), it seems to me that Tweetups have lost some of the excitement that they had a couple of years ago. As I wrote back in 2009, I prefer gatherings where I have already started the connections online. As traditional media and brands increase the usage of social media, more users simply consume the streams rather than engage and create new content and conversation. This week I had some fun participating chatting with the Run! podcast (follow link or click play below, total length is 33 minutes) where we discussed the interaction and differences between mass media and social media. I had fun with the discussion and there is a good mix of viewpoints between Marc Farley, Matt Brender, Roger Strukoff and me.
Like many bloggers, I’m a little concerned that as mass media and mass adoption of social media picks up, there may actually be less active and constructive conversation and more polarizing rhetoric controlled by too few people. Social media holds the promise of democratizing communication and most traditional media usage falls back to a one-way broadcast of information (as Roger pointed out on the podcast, reading questions or comments off of Twitter doesn’t count as being engaging).
Be part of the active Internet 1% and don’t let the media (controlled by the other 1%) rule the social webs.
Thanks Marc, Matt and Roger for having me on the podcast. Also, thanks to those who read and engage in the conversation on this blog, Twitter and everywhere else.
Last month I was lucky enough to make it to my local Best Buy in time to buy a new iPad 2 on launch day. After a month of using it at home and on the road, I am very happy with the purchase and thought I’d share my findings. Last year, when the original iPad came out, I already had a Mac Book Pro and iPhone 4, so as Louis Gray wrote last year, I had picked my two. I had the opportunity to play with a few iPads and was getting iPad-envy reading articles about families using the new device. I was even seeing the iPad discussion come up at work as more business applications came out for the platform; the iPad was named one of the top two infrastructure innovations of 2010 by Wikibon’s CTO. I was still struggling a bit with justifying the purchase; was it just an expensive toy and would I need to carry yet another device and charger? The clincher for me was that I have a lot of travel to conferences and analyst events this year. The light weight, small form factor and long battery life (listed at 10 hours) would allow for more productivity on planes and less back strain walking around events.
Above is a screen shot that shows my iPad with most of the apps that I have.
I am very happy traveling with the iPad. The battery life is awesome, I have yet to have a day that a full charge hasn’t lasted for my usage. On planes, it’s a fully functional iPod (good for movies too), eReader, notepad (I use Evernote), and game player. Of course WiFi helps since you can’t utilize 3G on planes. At conferences and meetings, I can take notes, use social media, or surf the web. While the OS for the iPad is the same as an iPhone (see some good tips that work on both devices here), there are a few differences worth noting. On the positive side, browsing the web and multimedia apps are generally much better. Apps like Flipbook or even websites like WordPress (including this blog) that are optimized for the iPad are immersive with the touch interface. On the negative side, I’ve found apps crashing much more on the iPad than there are not a lot of free apps that are optimized for the larger screen. For Twitter, I use TweetDeck on my desktop and phone, but it has been too unstable for the iPad, so I’m using the native Twitter app (note that I’ve put it in the home bar for easy access). The knock on the iPad has been that it is a consumption, not creation device; I have found that it’s adequate for drafting blog posts, creating emails, using Google Docs or even giving a presentation. Back at the office, my laptop is still the primary device for all creation activity. There are a few other limitations that I’ve run into: lack of Flash does limit some web activity and opening zip files requires an app and jumping through some hoops. I use email and Dropbox to get files on and off the device – creation of presentations and reports are somewhat limited by not having the usual archive of information that is typical on a desktop/laptop. While I find that the iPad is sufficient for a day of meetings/trade shows, I have still been using my laptop in the evenings.
At the office, I rarely touch the iPad, defaulting back to the laptop which I can type faster and don’t have any of the limitations mentioned above. At home, I’m still sorting out when I use the iPad instead of the laptop or phone. My kids (5 & 7) love the iPad and I feel more comfortable letting them play with it than I do the iPhone. They are both adept at playing games (and have caught my Angry Birds addiction), using some of the educational and art apps – the touch interface is so intuitive. The iPad is ideal for taking on errands, giving a parent or child something to do while waiting. I have the 3G version (I have the $15 250MB plan from AT&T and was under 200MB my first month), and just make sure that I’m not doing lots of video when not in a WiFi area. The 3G version makes a decent GPS device for a passenger to help navigate. While lack of Flash does limit video from some sites, YouTube and other apps (like TED) are great for watching video. Facetime is a nice idea on both the iPhone, iPad and even on the Mac, but I’ve used Skype video works well. In testing Facetime with Stephen Foskett, we find that it looks better on the small screen of the iPhone and angling the forward facing camera on the iPad is difficult. The quality of the cameras seem to be the same as the iPhone 4, not great, but fine for 4×6 prints or posting videos to Facebook or YouTube. I do recommend the “smart cover” (I got polyurethane), it helps save battery life by shutting off when closed and makes a good stand for typing or watching video. I also recommend a neoprene case (I got one designed for a netbook) to provide some extra protection, is easy to carry or throw in a laptop backpack. Overall, the iPad provides a much more immersive and enjoyable experience than a smartphone and is much more portable and fast to use than a laptop. While I do think that the iPad is a big step towards moving to a post-PC world, we’re still in the early days of the era of tablets, so hopefully there will be a lot of new uses and innovations that will allow us to do things that we never imagined of for the previous devices.
What cool things have you done with an iPad that you couldn’t do with a smartphone or laptop? I’m sure there are thousands of cool apps that I should be checking out, let me know what I’m missing.
I recently attended a “Conversation with Stephen Johnson” where there was a group discussion around his latest book Where Good Ideas Come From (click here for a fantastic video which illustrates some of the main points from the book). During the discussion of his studies of innovators, Stephen said that innovators maintain strong and weak ties across diverse disciplines. This then led to the question of, does the changing methods on communication including the web lead people to live in an echo chamber or allow them to become hyper-connected. The answer of course is that the web and social media networks are all tools and it is dependent upon the users as to whether they seek out and embrace diversity and serendipity or instead reinforce their own beliefs and reject new and different ideas.
The argument for diversity of ideas is summarized well in the argument for open innovation that while your organization may have smart people, there are a lot more smart people outside your organization than inside. So when you turn to what we read on the internet and who we connect with on social media, are you getting a diverse set of ideas or are you only connecting to friends and coworkers? When I first joined Twitter in 2008, I was forced to interact with new people since few people who I knew were using it. This has changed a lot in the last two years, not only have many people who I know joined Twitter, but I’ve had the opportunity to meet many that I follow at conferences and industry events. I try to go out of my way to look for new perspectives and that means that I need to be careful that interactions with my closer connections don’t block out the opportunity to learn and find new ideas from others.
One of the things that social media tools are best for is maintaining loose ties. According to the Dunbar number, people can only maintain an active social relationship with around 150 people. When people change jobs or move from an area, closer acquaintances would take more attention than those far away. With the introduction of sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn, connections can be maintained and networks can become more diverse spanning the various geographies and careers that a person travels over a lifetime. While Facebook is the most ubiquitous of social media sites, I wonder if it is also the most insular. Facebook is a great place to share photos or something funny or interesting, but from my experience it’s not a place for deep discussions or critical debate.
While the networks of Facebook, Twitter and Google dominate the space, being an early adopter of a new platform can give you the opportunity to explore. Two new recent additions to the landscape are OneTrueFan and Quora. Louis Gray has written about OneTrueFan, a tool that tracks and shares the websites that you visit. Ten years ago, “searching the web” meant more about poking around and finding new interesting places rather than simply searching with Google or Bing. Today there is not only the use of search, but also the growing usage of applications through mobile devices which tend to limit what places on the web you might go to. Quora is a site for asking and answering questions which has been attracting a lot of attention and rapidly growing an audience. My biggest complaints on sites such as LinkedIn and others that have large question sections is that it is difficult to find things or interest or meaningful answers (lots of echo chamber or marketing noise). Quora has the latest tagging and social tools to allow for following, voting and sharing. I was beginning to wonder if size of the large networking sites were going to limit small ventures. It’s a given that some of the features of these sites will be imitated by the large players and the early adopter crowd tend to move on to the next thing after a few months.
Overall there is huge population on the social sites now, so while it is easier to find those with a common interest, it is also easier to end up with a network that shares your point of view. It’s said that one of the best ways to solve a problem is to explain it to someone who has no idea how your industry works. I hope that sites such as Quora will help facilitate a place for robust debate and ideas exploration. I agree with Stephen Johnson‘s belief is that the hyper-connectivity forces of the web outweigh the echo chamber effect. May 2011 bring you fresh opportunities and your ideas to fruition.
Next month I have the pleasure of attending VMware’s VMworld conference in San Francisco. Not only is it an important conference for virtualization, but the storage, networking and compute ecosystems are all strongly represented. I expect to be pulled in many directions between sessions, analyst meetings, and video (it looks like “The Cube” will be coming to VMworld). Most of my content from the conference will go on the Wikibon site (where you can find all of my “day job” blogs and research). The theme of the conference is “Virtual Roads. Actual Clouds.” and just as the conference message is about converting messaging to reality, I look forward to taking many of my online interactions to real life discussions.
John Troyer of VMware created a wiki document of Social Media contributors for the conference. If you are attending, make sure to put in your Twitter and blog information. I took the people that have signed up and created a TweepML list (and I will update this list as people update the wiki). If you’re not familiar with the tool, it allows Twitter users to follow everyone on the list with a single click (it will authenticate your account). I’ve seen some really good TweepML lists for virtualization and cloud, and thought that one for VMworld could be useful. The easy subscription seems more useful than Twitter Lists or Listorious, what do you think?
If you will be at the conference, I hope to meet you there – send me a note on Twitter (I’m @stu). If you won’t be able to attend in person, check out this TweepML list, check out the Wikibon site and blog for content and feel free to contact me if there are any questions that you would like me to raise at the event.
If Nicholas Carr is correct in his recent book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, you will not read this entire blog post. The main idea of the book is that the internet causes our brains to be easily distracted and also makes us less able to learn deep ideas as we skim more and read deeply less. The book digs into the science of how the human brain learns. The brain has “plasticity” – meaning that it will adjust to the activities that it does often, similar to what our muscles do. Carr lays out the history of communication from the first written world, through the mass production of books, to the internet age and analyzes the impact that these technologies have on society and the human brain. As he points out in the book, for every new technology, there have been those that have said that it will doom the way that we think or take away the very things that make us human. But this time, according to Carr, there are real issues.
The Internet Distracts People with…SQUIRREL
Like the dog Dug in the movie Up! (SQUIRREL!) – internet users can find it hard to stay focused. While I agree that almost any repetitive activity can potentially become addictive, I believe that most people can take control of the tools that they use for communication rather than letting them control you. Even in pre-internet days, the draw of interrupting technologies was there – do you finish the task that you’re working on, or answer the ringing phone or watch TV (or even read a book)? The brain can get so used to a stimulus that it will make you crave it when it’s not there – this even affected Dilbert back in 1996.
The difference with the internet is that it is everywhere and people can become like a mouse pressing a lever for a pellet by constantly checking email, RSS, Facebook, or Twitter. These activities can be properly worked into the flow of the workday rather than as a distraction from getting things done. Personally I know that I have a tendency to want to stay connected and respond rapidly to messages. (Disclosure: Hi, I’m Stu and I’m an internet addict, see me on Twitter) The more we allow ourselves to be interrupt driven, the more our brains will see that as “normal” and it will become harder to stay focused for longer periods of time. Recent studies (including some in the book) show that the cost of context switching is larger than any gains for multitasking. You have the power to take control of your environment: finish conversations without interruption, check messages when you’re done with a task, not when an alarm tells you that it comes in.
Reading vs. Skimming
If you’ve read this far, congratulations! In the age of the internet, most people skim rather than read. The book describes that people read in an “F” shape, that is that they read the first line or two, then partial lines and eventually just start scanning down the page. As a blogger, I try and keep my posts short (500 words for most posts or 1000 for a deeper discussion) and also try and break up the text visually with some bolding, italics, headers and photos. Carr also says that even the basic web format with hyperlinks is very distracting. Each hyperlink that you reach makes you think about clicking it and if you do will you ever get back to where you started (for this article, I put some links at the bottom rather than throughout the text). There is fascinating research in the book which explains how memories are created and the science behind short term and long term memory.
“How do users read on the web?”…”They don’t”
While in general I feel that Carr is a bit of a pessimist about technology, I do believe that he is correctly raising an alarm on this topic. The argument in the book is that as we skim more and rely on the internet to store information rather than our brains that our brains will have less context for problem solving or deep thoughts and that we become shallower. Mass production of books brought learning to everyone, the internet increases information flow, but potentially we understand and internalize less.
There are a few ways that we can still absorb information in the internet age. Of course the first is to read deeply – I’d recommend picking up The Shallows if you’ve found this discussion interesting (I think that it should be required reading at colleges). Another way is to write; the process of organizing your thoughts and translating them into words helps your memory and critical thinking. A third way is to have deep discussions with friends and family – nothing like a lively debate to get the brain going. A final way is just to give yourself some free time to think – where new information isn’t flooding in so that you can sort and process what you’ve brought in.
I consider myself a pragmatic optimist on the new technologies. Like some of the optimists in the articles listed below, I believe that the internet age brings proliferation of information and opportunity for a globally connected community. It’s the core of the company that I work at now.
Where do you stand? Are you an internet optimist? Do you believe that there is validity in Carr’s positions? Will the internet turn people into shallow shells that can’t function without computers?
Here are some related articles that I’d recommend:
Are You An Internet Optimist or Pessimist? The Great Debate over Technology’s Impact on Society by Adam Thierer (Adam also reviews The Shallows)
I Know I’m Not the Only Internet Optimist… by Andy McAfee
Carr’s article from The Atlantic: Is Google Making Us Stupid?
A couple of posts of mine discussing similar topics after reading a book by Neil Postman
Added May 2013: The Shallows cartoon edition
Social Networking was well represented at the World Innovation Forum including discussion of Web 2.0 from former Amazon Chief Scientist Andreas Weigend, technology venture capitalist Brian Shawn Cohen and Twitter co-founder @Biz Stone. At events, I use Twitter for taking notes (I’ll quote a few in this post).
How do we innovate?
There are many ways that companies can innovate including internal development, crowdsourcing, and through acquisition. Twitter has done all of these. Twitter started as a very simple tool – broadcasting 140-character messages sent via SMS (text) or web for the world to see. One of the most innovative things that Twitter did was not limit how users used the tool. Several features created by users, such as hashtags and retweets, were eventually adopted by Twitter and built into the system.
Twitter has acquired a number of large pieces of the partner ecosystem including search (Summize) and an iPhone application (Tweetie). They have also followed/copied ideas from other companies such as Lists (as seen on TweetDeck and Seesmic) and location/geo (many tools such as FourSquare and Gowalla). I have wondered if we can really call Twitter innovative since so much of the improvements have come from outside. When you consider that Twitter is a very young company (3 years) with a small staff, I think it is innovative that they have used all means possible to grow at such a rapid pace. The community may be a little disgruntled form time-to-time, but that is even happening with Facebook and Apple.
5:38 PM Jun 8th via TweetDeck
People get all wide-eyed when you hear of the millions of people using the service who are sending over 65 millions tweets a day. Twitter allows for connection of people. Case in point of translating online to in-person: click on the tab of “Blogger Photos” at the top of my blog page. Another example – I posted this question online at the beginning of Biz’s interview.
5:32 PM Jun 8th via TweetDeck
When we reached the Q&A, I ran down and asked Biz the question about analytics in person and got the answer:
Stone: We will provide a metric dashboard for twitter soon.#WIF10
This was the second year that the World Innovation Forum had a Bloggers Hub and there was a significant difference in the Twitter experience. Last year only about half of the bloggers attending were active Twitter users, yet the conference trended worldwide twice thanks to lots of interaction from people around the world watching the stream. This year not only were all of the bloggers on Twitter, but there was a lot of other very good Twitter content from the paying audience (which had doubled to 900 people). There were over 3500 Tweets sent (you can see them all & download them from Twapperkeeper), yet the conference did not even trend locally. Did Twitter downtime affect this – it was flakier this year than last, did the overload from the new iPhone launch affect the stability for the whole week? Maybe it was just a mixture of other news and people being very busy (hopefully, with the economy picking up). Sports, entertainment and news may dominate the trending topics of Twitter, but it is without a doubt that there are a lot of innovative communication going through Twitter’s channel.
I will be attending the World Innovation Forum in NYC on June 8-9th [disclosure: I have a free pass to the conference as a blogger; I am under no obligation to write anything]. I’ve done some background checks, researching the line-up of speakers, and wanted to share what I’ve found. I like to understand a bit of their backgrounds so that I’m ready for the rapid-fire rotation that we’ll see. I find that reviewing the speaker’s most recent book summary, blog posts and Twitter are useful, so I created a spreadsheet with all of this information (click on the image below to be taken to the Google Document Spreadsheet). On the spreadsheet, you can follow links by highlighting a cell and clicking the arrow that appears to the left of the cell.
I’m excited by what I’ve learned already — the conference has a good mix of academics, executives and entrepreneurs. Twitter has grown a lot in the last year; not only is one of the founders, Biz Stone, a speaker, but seven other speakers have active Twitter accounts. I found some good multimedia content including speeches from Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler, podcasts from former Amazon Chief Scientist Andreas Weigend, and an episode of the Colbert Report with Teach for America’s Wendy Kopp. Over half of the speakers are authors, and there is a mix of how much material can be found online for free. Michael Porter’s website on Harvard Business Review is fantastic, there is also a lot of content for the environmentally conscious on Joel Makower’s website and Jeffrey Hollender’s Seventh Generation company’s site. Seth Godin is a prolific blogger and author; he also has two great TED videos (of course, it’s rare that I find a TED video that I don’t love). I’m sure that I’ll be adding to my bookshelf after attending the conference.
In addition to the free content delivered through Twitter and blogs, HSM is also offering a full live webcast [for a fee] of the conference. As for what you can expect from Twitter and blogs, see my posts from last year’s World Innovation Forum and World Business Forum. Make sure to check out all of the members of the Blogger’s Hub; I’m looking forward to catching up with friends from last year’s conferences and meeting some new bloggers. The Twitter hashtag for the conference is #wif10 and you can follow me @stu.
Please post a comment with any additional resources, suggestions or questions that you have for the speakers and consider subscribing to this blog.
Mark discusses how he began blogging in 1999 thanks to some college connections (he was already an employee at EMC in Cork). In 2006, Jeremiah Owyang (then working for Hitachi Data Systems) “unveiled” that Mark was the author of the Storagezilla blog.
The clip also gives Mark’s quick hits on Twitter, Apple’s iPad and how there really are no unbiased opinions in the blogosphere.
Tech researcher and analyst, social media and innovation enthusiast. Just @stu