Category Archives: purpose

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.