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Twitter, Whuffie, and Amazing Connections

Thanks to Don Marti’s post about a possible business model for Twitter, I came across Tara Hunt’s post about Twitter, whuffie (reputation), and the amazing power of connection. In her blog post, she tells the story of how disappointed she was when she was waiting for UPS delivery (which didn’t come during the delivery window specified), how another friend of hers helped connect with someone in UPS, and how the ending wasn’t just happy, it was spectacular. What I like about her post is that she describes the background story and the timeline, showing how one thing leads to another.

Check it out. See, Twitter can be awesome. =)

Feel free to use your laptop or your phone in my talks! I love the backchannel

If you ever find yourself in any of my face-to-face presentations, please feel free to bring out your computer, your phone, or whatever else you use. It’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay. I love it.

Some people–particularly presenters–hate it when others have their laptops open and are typing away. They feel it’s disrespectful and distracting.

Me? I love it when people have their laptops or phones open. Go ahead. Liveblog. Chat on the backchannel. Look up stuff I mention. Write things down on your TODO list. Doodle if you want to.

And yes, if there’s something else on your mind that you’re worrying about–a report that’s due, an emergency that just came up–by all means go ahead and work on it, because even if I instituted a no-laptops-or-phones-open policy, you’d still be thinking about it anyway. Better that I’m there in the background for you to catch an interesting snippet and look up (thanks to the cocktail party effect), than for you to resent me for taking up valuable time and making it difficult for you to edge out of the door in a graceful manner. (Because you sat up front, right? Best seats in the house.)

And if I can’t keep you interested enough so that you don’t get distracted by mail or I Can Has Cheezburger, then that’s my own fault. ;)

I’m not afraid of the backchannel–the online conversations that go on behind the scenes, a scaled-up version of passing notes and whispering in the crowd. If you’re talking about the ideas that I’m presenting, fantastic! I’ve engaged you in a much better way than I could ever have if you just sat there passively listening. If you’re looking up examples I’ve quoted and bookmarking them for later reading, hooray! I’ve said something that’s sparked your interest, and you’ll take it from there. If you’re asking or answering questions about what I’m saying, wow! You jumpstart the discussion and save other people from being confused. If you’re liveblogging what I’m talking about, you help even more people learn from it, and you give me even more results on the time and effort I invested in preparing the presentation.

I wish all of my talks had backchannels! One of the things I love about giving virtual presentations is that I can open up a backchannel where everyone–even the non-Tweeters–can chat about what we’re talking about, and that conversation is easy to watch while I’m giving the presentation. That means that I can see what people are picking up on, what people are curious or confused about, what questions people have–without interrupting my flow or introducing too many awkward pauses for questions. I’ve seen people provide further examples and answer each other’s questions, and that helps me learn even more while I’m giving the presentation.

What I love about the backchannel is that it changes the entire dynamic. It’s not about me, presenter, speaking at you, audience. It’s about all of us learning together. My job isn’t to be a high-and-mighty expert with all the answers. My job is to spark interest, facilitate conversation, and connect the dots. The backchannel not only democratizes the actual talk, acknowledging the expertise and interest you bring, but it also extends our reach and starts bigger conversations.

Recent example: I was giving a virtual presentation on Totally Rocking Your Drupal Development Environment. The backchannel let me quickly poll people and collect their questions and tips.

Another example: I was on the Generation Y panel at the City of Toronto Web 2.0 Summit. The venue had WiFi, so I checked out the Twitter backchannel on my iPod Touch. Thanks to Twitter, I could tell that people were dissatisfied with the slow and moderated online questions process, skeptical of the event and the speakers, and interested in engaging further. I announced that I’d be watching the Twitter backchannel, and during our panel, I kept an eye on the questions and comments that flowed past. That let me shape what I said to incorporate other people’s perspectives and points of view, and that totally rocked.

And next time, I may even have Twitter breaks. ;) And I may put up a sign directing people to sit on the left side or the right side depending on whether they want to engage in the backchannel, so that others who are easily distracted by the clackety-clack of fingers on a keyboard can cluster together. I don’t think I can arrange for beanbags in the front for bloggers, though – that requires more planning than most of my talks have. ;)

Go ahead. Make my day! =) Next time you’re in one of my session, join the conversation. We’ll all learn so much more if you do.

Inspired by Olivia Mitchell’s excellent post on How to Present While People are Twittering

UPDATE: Also check out Beth Kanter’s blog post with lots of links to resources on backchannels: The art of the backchannel at conferences: tips, reflections, and resources

UPDATE: … and Olivia Mitchell’s follow-up at Is Twitter a good thing while you’re presenting? (thanks to Beth for the reminder!)

Microblogging talk

I’ve promised to give a short talk on microblogging for the knowledge and collaboration community (KCBlue) at work. Might be a good time to practice animation, too. =)

5 minutes: 750 words, 20 minutes: 3,000 words (throw pauses in there too)

Creativity loves constraints. I want to fit the core of my message into 5 minutes (approximately 750 words), with each “part” being 140 characters or less.

This will be a launching pad for discussion, which will take up most of the allotted time. I’ll switch to Q&A with a summary slide that includes Why and Beyond the Basics so that it’s easy for people to remember what they want to ask questions about. I’ll use five minutes at the end to wrap up, and I’ll post links and follow-up material in a blog post. I’ll collect e-mail addresses so that I can notify people when I’ve posted an update.

I plan to make hand-drawn slides for each of the sections, and maybe even animation if I get around to it. =)

—-

The Whys and Hows of Microblogging

Why use Twitter? Why update your status on Facebook or Lotus Connections? Let’s talk about why people microblog and how you can get more value out of these tools.

Don’t know whom to e-mail? Don’t have the time to write a blog post? Post a short, quick update that people can read if they’re there.

What can you fit in 140 or so characters? A single thought. A question. Maybe a link.

What can you get? Broad, rapid, almost real-time conversations, if you’ve got a good network.

Here’s what you can do to build that network, and why you’d want to.

  • Learning: Follow role models and learn from what they’re doing. Build the relationship by thanking them for tips and ideas.
  • Updates: Do your favourite stores post updates? Find out what’s on sale and when the cookies have come out of the oven.
  • Customer service: Good experience? Bad experience? Post an update and you might be surprised by who’s listening.
  • Events: Interested in an event? Find out who’s going and what people think. Going there in person? Meet up at tweetups and get to know more people.
  • Awareness: Miss those watercooler chats? Microblogging’s better. You can keep in touch with way more people, and you don’t even have to stand up.
  • Passing things along: Like what someone shared? Share the good stuff by re-posting with credit. Look at how people do it, and follow their example.
  • Sharing: Want to build your network? Make people happy and help them grow by sharing tips and answering questions.
  • Questions: Need a quick answer but don’t know whom to ask? Post your question and you just might get a tip. You’ll need a good network for this.

NOTE: No one expects you to read everything. Don’t get addicted. It’s okay if you miss people’s updates.

How to get started:

Twitter: Sign up on twitter.com. Look for people. Follow them. Reply when you have something to say. Share what you’re doing and learning.

Lotus Connections Profiles: Log in. Look for people. Invite them to your network. Reply when you have something to say. Share what you’re doing and learning.

There are more microblogging services out there. Explore. Find out what works for you.

Beyond the basics:

  • Apps: Use a microblogging client like Tweetdeck to make reading and posting easier. Explore and find out which tool fits you.
  • Cross-posting: Synchronize automatically, or use a tool to post on multiple services. MicroBlogCentral can handle Twitter and Lotus Connections Profiles.
  • Personas: Don’t want to mix work and life? Don’t want to overwhelm people with too many updates? Use multiple accounts to give people choices.
  • Group posting: Corporate brand? Team account? You can use tools to make it easy for many people to post to the same account.
  • Strategy: Where does microblogging fit into your strategy? Post quick updates and interact with people. Link to your main site in your profile.

Next steps:

Pick a reason why you want to microblog, and go for it. How can I help you make the most of these tools?

Questions and answers from #infoboomSC tweetchat on blogging

This entry is part 8 of 8 in the series Get More Value from Blogging

Paul Gillin invited me to do a tweetchat about blogging. I learned so much from it, and I hope others do too! Here’s what we talked about.

On making the time to write

Your output is amazing. I don’t know where you find the time to post daily. How do you do it? @infoBOOM
Writing != extra work. Making it part of the way I work helps me be more effective. http://sachachua.com/blog/p/21845. Also, I think about ROI on my time. No TV; yes writing, reading, experimenting. http://sachachua.com/blog/p/22053.

How much time do you spend per blog? What time of day do you do it? @dgriess
I’ve tried writing morning pages, but I usually just write whenever I’m learning or solving problems.
Let me ask another way, about how much time goes into each entry? @dgriess
Depends on topic. Usually 5-15 minutes extra, or 30+ if I’m braindumping tips for others / exploring something new.

What would you recommend for those who try to blog on behalf of their company? How can they carve out time? @KevinMGreen
It’s marketing, professional development, networking, and all sorts of good stuff. Great ROI. Makes sense to do it.

Finding time always seems to be the biggest challenge. @KevinMGreen
Try tweaking your workflow so that you write along the way. Check importance/efficiency of other things you do.

On perfectionism and personal branding

My question for this chat: What would help _you_ get more value from blogging? What are your challenges / goals?
kurtisgriess: Hardest thing abt blogging for me is planning and perfectionism… takes me forever!
pgillin: Hardest thing for me abt blogging is feeling I have to always be profound. Worried about wasting ppl’s time.  (Sacha: Reading is optional, skimming is easy. You don’t have to be perfect, or profound, or even interesting. ;) )
KevinMGreen: likewise Paul #infoboomsc always trying to deliver can be intimidating
Sacha: Me, I’m looking forward to writing about more things (life! work! awesomeness!), and getting better at organizing for discovery.

What are common mistakes you see/experience? @KevinMGreen
Perfectionism and the related fear of having to publicly change your mind or admit room for improvement. ;) Partly our collective fault, because we scare people re: the unforgiving memory of the Internet. I disagree with that. You are never going to be perfect. You’re also never going to get better unless you try. ;)

I wrestle with “perfecting” a thought. Probably thinking too hard on my individual entries. @dgriess
It’s easier to work with a draft or post than with a blank slate. There will always be a better way to say things.

I can imagine there would be some folks out there who may not feel comfortable about blogging their work. @elsua
Blog transparency may not be for everyone just yet, but it’s surprisingly less scary than most people think.

How can people bypass that risk aversion and dive into it slowly, but steadily? Don’t fear, just blog? @elsua
Small steps can help people get over fear, experience immediate benefits: http://sachachua.com/blog/p/7316

… Ideally that people should understand how blogging is perhaps the most powerful trait for their personal brand @elsua
I wish people worried less about “personal brands” and felt better about connecting as _people_. =)

On finding ideas

Many people have trouble coming up with ideas for their blog. Any tricks you can share? @infoBOOM
Write about everything (http://sachachua.com/blog/p/22082). Don’t worry about niche (http://sachachua.com/blog/p/7046).

Can you share any tricks for what to do when you run out of ideas? Or does that ever happen? @infoBOOM
Do you ever run out of things to learn, or things you can help other people learn? No lack of material.

What’s the one tool/resource you rely on to create such compelling content? @KevinMGreen
Best resource for blogging: Life. Best tools: the questions: “Why? Why not? How can we make this even better?”

On practices

Do you write in your blog more for yourself or for others? What’s the balance? @kurtisgriess
Mostly myself (can’t trust my memory). Often for (usually specific) others, just in case others find it helpful.

What’s your thinking on comments? Do you try to respond to them all? @infoBOOM
I reply to as many comments as I can. I’m sure some slip through cracks. Easier than e-mail. =) Also, warm contacts.

How would you describe your voice? Or does that even matter to you? @infoBOOM
My blogging voice? Me. I’m like this in real life. It makes writing much easier — and living’s easier, too. =)

You don’t use gimmicks like “top 10″ lists or “best and worst.” Is that by design? @infoBOOM
Can’t stand reading or writing generic blog posts with arbitrary rankings. I’ll use mnemonic structures, though.

You post weekly review lists. What’s the reason? @infoBOOM
On the practice of a weekly review: http://sachachua.com/blog/p/6946

In your opinion, what’s the ideal length of a blog post? Or does it depend on the topic? @elsua
I try to stick to one clear thought per blog post, saying as much or as little as I have to say about that. Lengths vary.

What do you use to manage your editorial approach? I still send myself emails which is not really effective. @KevinMGreen
I keep a big text file on laptop with rough notes and ideas, and I post snippets on a regular basis or by plan.

When someone sends you a question by e-mail, do you often post answer to blog and send them link? @infoBOOM
Shift e-mail conversations to blog posts when possible. Widens the conversation, reaches more people, saves more time.

You do write about a lot of topics. Do you ever worry that you lack expertise in these areas? @infoBOOM
When you’re learning, that’s the best time to write. Don’t wait until you’re an expert and you’ve forgotten.

Miscellaneous

When you started your blog, did you set goals on spec. milestones (traffic, subscribers)?  @kaeppler
Early: class notes, Emacs snippets, things to remember. Didn’t care about traffic or subscribers, but happy I helped. Still don’t focus on traffic or subscribers, although honoured to see them. It’s not about numbers, it’s about people.

[…] Was “living an awesome life” your first blog at all? @kaeppler
It’s actually just an alternative name for sachachua.com – livinganawesomelife.com is easier to remember/spell. ;)

You’ve written that blogging has made you a better presenter. How? @infoBOOM
Practice in figuring out what to say, how to say it. Archive of potential material. Better ROI and reach. Invitations. Also, feedback on content, delivery, and technology. Continuous improvement. Confidence. Connection.

Many bloggers are too focused on the audience and less about the personal value they receive. @KevinMGreen
Tons of immed. indiv. value.http://sachachua.com/blog/p/22119 New bloggers, take heart, even if no one reads you! #infoboomsc

Can you tell one or two stories of remarkable things that happened to you because of your blogging? @infoBOOM
Got job created for me (http://sachachua.com/blog/p/6456), found mentors (http://sachachua.com/blog/p/6928)…

Sacha, would love for you to share insights on how you use blogging to narrate your work @elsua
Blogging is a great way to understand complex issues. It also helps shape culture of knowledge-sharing – many benefits!

Is there one blog post that stands out as particularly memorable to you? And why? @infoBOOM
It’s like asking me what my favourite book is. ;) Lots of context-sensitive favourites. A recent highlight: http://sachachua.com/blog/p/22017, but that could be because I cut my finger in the process. ;)


We’re thinking of doing another tweetchat with #infoboom in three months. In the meantime, if you have any questions, thoughts, suggestions, or tips, please feel free to share them through comments, blog posts, and Twitter! Would you like to host a conversation about a topic I’m passionate about? Let’s talk about it!