Too much of a good thing

For the past few months I’ve had the notion rattling around in my head to blog on this subject. I doubt that it will add much to the overall debate or come even close to offering a solution to the problem, but at least I have declared my concern and feel all the better for it.

My grandmother, on more than one occasion that I recall as a youngster, reminded me that moderation was good in all things, even when something was good for you.

And so it is: Which brings me to my topic.

When I began my social media journey with Twitter back in mid-2009 I had a small handful of people to follow, perhaps 10 or so. I would eagerly devour the 140 character snippets that arrived periodically throughout the day with links to all manner of new and interesting topics.

In my mind I see social media, in particular Twitter, as a kind of intellectual hallway lined with doors. Behind each is a topic that someone I follow has carefully selected for me. I can open each door and go through to a whole new world.

Initially the hallway was small, the doors few, and I could leisurely step through each one and ponder the subject that had been placed there for me. However, as the number of people I follow has increased I’ve found the hallway has become substantially longer and the number of doorways grown incredibly. Yet behind each doorway is still a carefully selected snippet for my interest.

The unfortunate thing is that now I find myself with insufficient time to take in and digest all this information. Like some character in a Lewis Carroll story I find myself running down that hallway, opening and closing doors, and thinking “Yes that’s interesting, I’ll come back to that”, but never actually do.

This has led me to feel that it’s too much of a good thing and although very little of what I get via Twitter these days is valueless, there’s simply too much information to process and digest.

“Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking” – Albert Einstein

I know it’s not just me. In late November 2010, ironically via Twitter, I received a link to an article in The Boston Globe entitled “Information overload, the early years“. It was a somewhat cheering article on this very issue and even more fascinating was that this wasn’t the first time in history that people had bemoaned a deluge of information. I won’t précis the article here but it seems we’ve entered yet another era where excessive information has become an issue.

Thankfully as the article suggests, solutions eventually came that made it possible to organise, calatogue, sort, search, and file printed material. We’re starting to see the same in this era of digital information but in the meantime  we’ll have to find our own ways to manage the increasing deluge.

The first step I’ll be taking is to tell myself it’s alright not to read everything for fear of missing out. I’m a great believer in serendipity, so whatever I need I suspect I will stumble across again at some point in the future.

I also plan to avoid adding to the problem by exercising moderation in what I tweet and retweet. Martijn Linssen after a converation on his blog came up with a wonderful flowchart that I plan to follow as much as possible.

One thing I have been encouraged by is the greater opportunity to utilise my spare time through mobile technology. Since exchanging my old cellphone for an Android smartphone I have found it’s much easier to utilise previously empty moments to catch up on my reading. The jury is still out on whether this is a good thing long-term.

Armed with Instapaper, InstaFetch and plenty of spare time, I’m sure I’ll keep my head above water in the meantime.

Images: [Niagara Falls by BigDPhotographer, Hallway by iphis]
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Is fear your social media handbrake?

Shark Fin

Afraid to take the plunge?

In writing the second of my postaweek2011 blogs I was thinking back to the reasons why I had never considered seriously blogging in the last couple of years.

Besides not setting aside enough time to write, which I will now do, I’m sure there was a certain amount of fear involved in my procrastination.

I’m not talking about being afraid to try something new or even use the technology. Neither of these have been a problem in the past. No, what I’m actually thinking about is the fear of criticism or ridicule.

Over the past two years I’ve built up a small collection of influential people whose tweets and blogs have been a constant stream of inspiration, illumination, and wisdom.

When I originally started this post I included the names of some of those that I regularly follow, but after thinking about it further, I changed my mind.  Why?

Initially I decided it was because I didn’t want to appear to be dropping names, but then I stopped and thought about it. The fact is that I consider all those I follow worthy of mention and from each I have gained something of value, but to name every one would have produced a rather long list. That said, you know who you are and I thank you.

When I consider the social media company I keep, I really don’t have to think to hard about why I’ve been reluctant to put myself on the blogging map. Faced with a group of followees made up of highly regarded people it often crossed my mind that in committing my thoughts and ideas to the blogosphere or tweeting a thought, I was exposing myself to potential criticism and ridicule.

In essence, my own fear was a handbrake on my participation in social media.

This struck me as rather odd. When we began trialling Yammer internally I can distinctly recall having a conversation on exactly this issue: fear inhibiting participation in enterprise social media. One staff member told me they couldn’t join in Yammer conversations in case they said something stupid. To which I’m sure I responded, “Of course you won’t and besides nobody would be awful and criticise you“.

Now, while I believe that is probably the case, the human ego can be a fragile thing. It takes an incredibly long time to build someones confidence with encouragement and praise and yet it can be dashed in an instant with a careless or ill-considered comment.

Much talk is made of the importance of culture in the adoption of enterprise social media. An open, nuturing, fostering culture where everyone feels valued and able to participate is more likely to succeed in its adoption of social media practices. Those organisations that adhere to an archaic “command and control” styled culture will suffer from a continuing reticence in staff to participate in social media adoption simply because they are afraid to be visible.

I for one choose to overcome my fear and participate anyway and hope that I in some way I can and will add value to those that connect with me.

For organisations considering enterprise social media, culture is and will continue to be more important than the technology. Don’t let fear be the handbrake to adoption of social media by staff: Think carefully about the culture of your organisation and whether it will be supportive or destructive.

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A Year of Challenges

As the year stretches out ahead I’ve set myself a few personal challenges: One of those is to blog regularly. WordPress threw down the gauntlet and has a challenge to post a blog either daily or weekly throughout the year.

I’m taking up that challenge and will blog each week from here until December.

This will be a year of challenges for me.

Beginning in April I’m going back to being a student for a year as I follow a passion for developing applications. I sense a big shift in the way business applications will be delivered in the next few years and as the wave forms I’m waxing my board and getting ready to ride it.

2011 will also be a year of physical challenges: In 2010 I committed to rowing 1,000,000m before the end of the year. By 31 December, despite a broken collar-bone in the middle of the year, I had rowed a very long 1,500,000m.

This year, I’m raising the bar: To reach a lifetime target of 5,000,000m and to complete a 100km row in a single session.

I hope you can drop in from time to time, leave a comment or two, and just maybe glean some inspiration from my year long journey.

From New Zealand and a new year that is already two days old, my best wishes for your own challenges in the year ahead.

Posted in Passion | Tagged , | 1 Comment