Category Archives: purpose

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Connector, Maven, Salesman

The Tipping Point – excellent book! – describes three kinds of people who are critical parts of massive change: the maven, the connector, and the salesman. Connectors are “people with a special gift for bringing the world together.”(p.43) Mavens are information specialists.(p.59) Salesmen have “the skills to persuade us when we are unconvinced of what we are hearing.”

I’m _supposed_ to be a Maven. That’s what computer geeks do – they geek. They grok. They learn something inside out. Strangely, though, I have the feeling that this isn’t quite my thing, that this isn’t quite what I’m meant to do. I guess it relates to my teaching philosophy. I’m not the expert! <laugh> I don’t know everything, and I’m
much happier helping people learn than trying to teach them everything they need to know. Besides, hanging out with people far more brilliant than I am makes me feel decidedly un-Maven-ish. =)

You know what I have _tons_ of fun doing? Connecting people with other people. I really, really want to help people make things happen, and if I can connect them with other people with similar or complementary passions, that would be totally awesome! I also _really_ have a lot of fun listening to people. I sell, sell, sell – not stuff, but ideas,
passion, confidence… I sell people themselves. I sell dreams of what they can do. I _love_ doing that! (And to think I used to be an INTJ…)

So I need your help figuring out what I’m going to do with my life. =) Software developer? I can do that, but there’s just so much else I _also_ want to do. I’d love it if you could help me imagine what my future can be so that I can prepare for it better. =D It’s not exactly the kind of thing you’d find in, say, What Color is Your Parachute…

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Also not entirely hopeless in a corporate setting

Would I fit into a large company? I really, really love doing
technology evangelism. An internal technology adoption role or a
new-products development role might give me that mix of technical and
social challenges that I so enjoy. I love what I’m doing as part of my
research, and I wonder if it’s at all possible to get away with doing
that for serious…

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Aha!

Thanks to a conversation earlier about web development and careers, I
think I’ve figured out a little more about what I want to do. =)

I want to support people and communities through social tools.

I want to help people make the most of blogs, wikis, podcasts,
vidcasts, social bookmarking, social networking, community content
management systems, whatever. I want to help them figure out how to
use version control systems and request trackers and mailing lists. I
want to make it easier to use phone and e-mail and little stickies on
the fridge…

What should I learn more about? I need to figure out how to set up a
blog farm, a wiki farm, a social bookmarking site, Drupal, etc. Bryght
does hosted community sites with Drupal, so they’d be good mentors and
models. I’m also interested in the social aspects of it. My research
into innovation diffusion and technology adoption _totally_ makes
sense in that context.

Mmkay. That sounds like a plan. I’m going to need some help figuring
out how to make it happen, but that resonates with me.

I don’t mind working on mind-numbing web stuff if I’m working with fun
people. I don’t mind explaining for the nth time what a blog is and
how people can use blogs for fun and profit, because I learn something
new every time I talk about that. And of course there are so many things
that aren’t even on most people’s radars…

Right. That sounds like what I want to do. Now, how do I go about doing it?

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Random Japanese sentence: 私は犬の方が猫より好きだが、それは前者が後者より忠実だからだ。 I like a dog better than a cat, for the former is more faithful than the latter.

More thoughts about what I want to do with my life

Here’s a sketch of what I want to do:

I want to help people connect with people through social software.

That’s a very broad goal. What does it mean?

What do I want to do?

I want to help people make sense of technology. I want to help them
figure out which tools they should try out and how those tools fit
into their ways of working. I want to help them bring the tools into
their culture and adapt the tools to their needs. I want to help
people look at the big picture and see how everything fits together. I
want to help people look at the leaves on the trees and figure out how
to make the most of each piece.

I’m particularly interested in technology that helps people relate
with people. I’m interested in ways for people to discover other
people and other resources, share their insights with others, and
organize things for themselves.

Why is that a good fit for me?

I’m good at keeping track of technology news, which makes it easy for
me to recommend something that fits a situation. I also like
collecting and sharing productivity tips.

I enjoy speaking, writing, teaching, evangelizing, and all these other
ways to help people learn.

Most of all, I love listening and drawing people out. I love learning
people’s vocabularies and telling them stories about other people’s
successes and failures, helping them imagine their own success. I love
stepping into someone’s shoes and figuring out which tools might be
useful. I love coming up with ways for people to slowly make new tools
part of their lives.

What do I need to learn next?

  • I know about the tools. I need to learn about
    organizational behavior, organizational change, information
    technology diffusion, and technology adoption.
  • I know how to spread enthusiasm. I need to also learn how to
    communicate solid business benefits.
  • I know how to set a few things up. I need to become more familiar
    with the different technologies so that I can prototype them
    quickly and show how everything fits together.
  • I know a few people in different areas. I need to develop a rich,
    wide directory of consultants and companies who can implement
    particular solutions.
What’s my next step?

  • Continue with my research at IBM, which is exactly in line with this anyway.
  • Make another speech at Toastmasters, then another and another.
  • Meet other people who are working in the same or similar area. Talk
    to them, ask them for help figuring out this passion of mine, and
    see if I can do anything to help.

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Random Japanese sentence: 秘密を漏らす。 Let the cat out of the bag.

My goal in life: sales and marketing?

I spent a leisurely afternoon walking around Toronto, wandering into
the buildings featured in Doors Open. I was fascinated by the
historical displays of medals and photographs in the Royal Canadian
Military Institute, the stateliness of Osgoode Hall and the rich
library of the courthouse. Seeing all these places steeped in history
and story helped me think about how I want to change the world. =)

I cooled off in Chapters, reading books on things like T-shirt
surgery, business, and small talk strategies. The ideas blended in
with my reflections on the past few weeks, and I realized something
about myself that I hadn’t dared admit before.

The things I’m good at and want to get better at? They look
suspiciously like sales and marketing.

Now, before all the geeks start booing and hissing me for selling out,
let me explain why I think this is perfectly in line with my geeking.
;)

I love the way technology makes my life better. I love technology so
much that I want to help other people figure out how they can make the
most of technology. I can’t hack _all_ the things I want people to
know about, but if I know other people who can, or I know of products
or services that can do the job, I want people to discover them.

I want to learn more about building relationships with people and
between other people, and I want to build those relationships by
helping people discover things that might be useful for them.

It fits me, too. I love telling people about cool tools and
interesting technologies. I love writing down notes during
conversations and following up with people afterwards. I love
connecting with people and understanding where they’re coming from.
Heck, I love reading every single blog post inside IBM, getting the
overall picture, and connecting people whenever I can.

Hooray! I have more words to describe what I want to do. I can
recognize more opportunities. I have a better idea of what help I need
to get. =) I need to learn more about sales and marketing in order to
figure out how I can get started and how I can scale. I have a long
way to go…

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Random Japanese sentence: 私は犬の方が猫より好きです。何故なら前者の方が後者より忠実ですから。 I like dogs better than cats, because the former are more faithful than the latter.

More thoughts on Barcamp, no answers

Dominique helpfully offered suggestions on adapting
BarCamp to the Philippines. He said that
it was doable, but challenging. He asked me the top five people I’d
like to be there. He suggested having interdisciplinary talks by
invited speakers on entrepreneurship, physics, biology, etc. Many of
the Linux geeks who regularly speak at events would no doubt turn up,
too.

I had such a strong reaction against his ideas that I had to stop
myself from being frustrated. I recognized that I felt he didn’t
understand what unconferences were about. I also recognized that I
couldn’t yet articulate the differences between unconferences and
conferences in a way that would make the changes and benefits clear. I
was frustrated, yes, but I was frustrated with myself for being unable
to figure out how to hack unconferences into Filipino culture without
turning the event into yet another thing that divides speakers from
audience instead of creating a community of participants.

I knew Dominique wanted to help me think things through, but the
strength and irrationality of my reaction made me realize that I
needed to first think things over with people who know the
unconference culture and who may have insights into helping a new
community adapt.

I need more insight from people like Chris Messina and David Crow. How
does one hack unconferences into a society’s culture? How can I help
people go from a strongly hierarchical culture to a flatter one? Must
ask Don Marti, too…

I don’t have answers. I don’t even know where to start. One good thing
is that I can recognize when I’m hitting a wall, though. When I heard
Dominique repeat his suggestion for inviting talks from outside
disciplines and I knew I just couldn’t listen well enough to do him
credit, I thanked Dominique for sharing his thoughts and confessed my
inability to discuss things further at this time. I need to talk to
the others first. I need to figure things out.

You know, it’s just _so_ tempting to not think about how to hack
something like unconferences into Philippine society. It would be so
easy to just enjoy the fruits of other people’s labor in a tech
culture that’s starting to take off. But I want to bring these ideas
home…

And you know what? Maybe I don’t need to figure out how to get people
out of their chairs and into the conversation. Maybe I can focus on
just meeting the Web 2.0 entrepreneurs, the connectors who are
reaching out to me and to each other. I’d like to meet them in person
and get them to talk to each other. Maybe I don’t have to think about
doing that this August. Maybe I can do that this December, if I can
afford to go home.

I don’t feel bad about being asked tough questions. I feel bad about
not knowing the answers and not even being able to explain why
something doesn’t feel right. I just need to talk to more people and
try more things in order to figure out what to do.

And I seriously need hot chocolate and a hug, but that’s just because
I’m feeling all lost again… I’ll try to postpone thinking about it
until Friday, as I’m booked until then.

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Random Japanese sentence: うちの猫って甘えん坊で、どこでも私のあと着いて来るのよね。 My cat is such a baby, she follows me around wherever I go.