It’s not about who you know…

Holiday conversations with friends have led me to consider the idea of social networking and how sites like these continue to do nothing other than help people who already know each other find ways to connect and stay in touch, rather than serving as mechanisms for likeminded people to find each other and interact in meaningful ways.

Now I know lots of people who use these sites as a way to meet folks, but I’m not among them. In part because there is a “creep” factor involved in the process. That is, you don’t want to be a creep. When you look at LinkedIn versus say Facebook, the contrast is stark. In part because of the sort of professional nature of one versus the other. You can usually add someone you meet at a party on Facebook, but unless you’ve had a conversation with them, adding them on LinkedIn probably isn’t as likely to happen.

So again, the question is, “What’s the point?” As these sites scramble to monetize and find a way to keep themselves relevant as the next biggest, baddest thing gets developed, you just have to wonder if these latent trading card profile sites are really going to outlive their value (if they haven’t already.)

I’ve had a ton of interesting, informative and pleasant conversations with folks who I’ve met via friends. But I’ve yet to meet someone on a social network who I didn’t already meet on my own either in real life or via some professional network on the web. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, maybe these sites are just around to help us keep up with our long lost friends or connections we make at different points in our lives.

But I have a hard time believing there is a business model embedded in that.

The bottom line is, when you’re meeting people you don’t know, they’re expecting that you’re either trying to sell them something they don’t want or you’re trying to proposition them in some way. I think that’s the model that most sites right now don’t seem interested in employing.

Facebook is too busy trying to turn itself into a platform, others are attempting to burnish out a model that allows them to stay afloat in a marketplace that’s competitive and isn’t waiting around for them to get their acts together.

It’s just something of a joke that it was easier to meet people online in the 1990s than it is now. I suppose it’s easier for those of us who find ourselves in professional settings, especially within a niche. But for those generalists among us, it’s a much more of a challenge.

Importing activity from other networks to facebook

Maybe you all knew this already and just forgot to share, but I don’t really spend that much time on Facebook. So it surprised me when I ran into — completely by accident — a new (?) feature that seems to allow you to import from other social networks without having to add another application.

It covers such networks as delicious, last.fm, flickr and many others.

To do it, you need to click on “Settings” just above your wall on the far end past ‘posts by others, posts by you.’ From there, click on “automatically import activity” link and you’ll see the bevy of options.
Facebook
Facebook
Should solve the problem of many of the applications (like last.fm’s profile box) not showing up on the front page of your profile, since the switch to the “new” facebook design.

What the playground taught me about relationships

A few years ago, I remember entering a business plan competition. Understand that, my falling into this whole entrepreneurship thing is borne largely out of an attempt to make life easier for other people.

Anyway, I entered this competition with an idea that might have been sound from my perspective, but really wasn’t anything game-changing. (The idea was to create an online network that aggregates content from university TV stations around the country. I know about OSTN already. You don’t need to tell me. This was a for-profit deal, tho.)

In any case, the idea was fine and needed to be worked out, but was largely rejected as too ambitious for the sort of competition we were in. Which I found strange, but given the venue, perhaps it wasn’t really all that surprising at all.

What’s the point?

No one else can dictate the parameters for how you succeed.

One of the things I’ve learned from my time working for myself creating businesses and having moderate success, is that you can’t expect other people to ever validate the good things you’re doing when you are in the midst of plying your trade. Sure, it’s possible for folks to say nice things to you. And they often do and it’s always appreciated. But people aren’t usually in the business of helping you succeed.

It’s a strange thing to realize. I mean, it’s not that folks are mean. Or aren’t interested in seeing you be happy. It’s just, what they want for themselves ends up having a lot more relevancy to their everyday life plan.

Maybe this is all very obvious stuff I’m bringing out here, but I read enough blogs about entrepreneurs effectively believing that if they just work hard enough and “put themselves out there” that someone will “notice them” and provide them with an opportunity to thrive, with all of the money, professional support and expertise needed to create a hot startup that’s on the bleeding edge of this or that.

It just doesn’t work that way.

You have to be bold and ambitious in your pursuit of excellence. But never lose sight of the fact that you are in control of your own destiny and that other people aren’t going to ever be as focused on your mission as you are.
It’s akin to playing a game of touch football when you’re a kid. I recall in elementary school that I was always wary of playing football with kids in the playground, because I was afraid our game of “two hand touch” would turn into someone plowing into me. As a result, I wouldn’t initiate or play much. At least until I start to refocus and realized that it wasn’t the game that was a problem, it was the players involved that mattered more. So I would always make a point to see who was playing and if they were people I trusted, then I’d play and usually had a great time as a result. I knew the folks I’d grown to trust weren’t in it to hurt me and were just looking for the same thing I was.

We built those relationships over time, by spending year after year in the same classes, at the same school and attending each other’s birthday parties.

The point?

Trust your gut and surround yourself with people that allow you to let down guard enough to truly thrive.

If you’re always being cautious and looking around to see what happens, you’ll never allow yourself to discover the depths of what’s inside of you. You might be successful, but you might be wound tightly and less well rounded. It also doesn’t sound like much fun. Being surrounded with people who empower your strengths and who don’t constantly remind you of what’s wrong with you — especially if you’re someone who is their own worst critic — can give you a platform to thrive in unimaginable ways.

I’m sure all of the geniuses whose blogs I read and who sell books with posts from said blogs have said all sorts of brilliant things about how convincing people to like what you do is all in the way you execute. But not all of us are wired the same way. I think it’s far more important to spend and invest the time to know yourself and to use that knowledge to inform and benefit your relationships and the experiences you have.

But you can’t expect anyone to be more passionate about what you do, than you. Even if they like you a whole lot.

Explaining what you do…when you’re a web person in higher ed

Ok, so maybe you’re one of those lucky ducks who never has to explain to anyone what you do, because even your parents are higher ed web savvy folks.

But some of us aren’t so fortunate.

How do you explain your job to the super inquisitive. I usually opt for shorthand. That doesn’t really satisfy most folks, but saying you work at a college or university and that you don’t teach, usually has them confused before you even complete the sentence. Still, explaining working at a university and then saying “I work on the web…” makes you sound like a web designer.

Which is fine if that’s what you do.

I imagine it must be akin to working in a government position in the executive branch. Your mom just tells everyone you work for the President. But he might recognize you in a party, were you to have your nametag on.

Not really that big a deal, but…I do wonder what creative ways to use this as an entrypoint to build connections with folks who don’t use the web in the ways we do.

12 Songs ~ 11.21.08

I don’t really have a good reason for giving you 12 songs this week. Maybe to keep you at bay for a week or so, because of the Thanksgiving holiday. This week’s set of songs are a random smattering of strange pop, hip-hop and new stuff speckled in. Not my best list, but…it’s together nonetheless. :)

11.21.08

1. The Roots – Episodes
2. Kanye West – Heartless
3. Mother Mother – O My Heart
4 A Smile and A Ribbon – The Boy I Wish I Never Met
5. Operator Please – Get What You Want
6. Young Love – Find A New Way To Dance
7. Ladyhawke – Love Don’t Live Here
8. New Years Day – Ready Aim Misfire
9. Buena Vista Social Club – Chan Chan
10. CSS – Jager Yoga
11. Blake Shelton – I Don’t Care
12. Paramore – I Caught Myself

Some links worth checking out (11-20-08)

Rather than read what tasty morsels of thoughts are on my mind, I’m simply going to send you elsewhere:

The work-blog connection

Aren’t our colleges and universities supposed to be hotbeds of experimentation, incubators of ideas, forums for testing and experimentation? I think there’s a lot of untapped potential in using social media in higher education, but many of us (myself included) fear losing control of the message or the medium.

Writing content to the lowest common denominator?

So, is it necessary to write to lowest reading level of the audience?


When Keeping It Real (Secure) Goes Wrong

“I’m a guest on campus for the day, so how can I access the wifi?” “You mean wireless internet?” “Yes.” “Oh, hmmmm, well, hmmmm, right. Let me check.”


Report on Youth and New Media Pokes at Educational Institutions

Peer into the networked world of teenagers and young adults and you’ll see intense, creative communities of young people who want to learn.

A college president speaks on presidential salaries

“What do college presidents do, anyway?”

Is Twitter A Good Tool for Alumni Relations

With familiarity Twitter loses its menace, but whether it becomes truly useful remains to be seen.

Passing along the note

Was there something in the web manager’s manual that indicated that when leaving somewhere you shouldn’t leave notes of what you did?

Years before leaving my first college web job, I would think nervously about when I had to leave. I had things everywhere, a track system that was largely in my head and tend to get things done faster than I can remember. So when it was finally time to move to a new job elsewhere, I dreaded having to get everything together for the new person.

But being the guy who used to write several pages of notes for future tennis director’s at the camp I spent worked at, there was no doubt I’d be leaving behind plenty of notes to make sure whoever succeeded me had more to go on than just the help of a work-study student and their own MacGyver-like talents.

Those of you with huge staffs, just skip this post…I don’t wanna hear it.

Lucky for me in that first role, that my successor was hired from within. So I had a few weeks to show her the ropes, she’d already been using the CMS we’d switched to and it wasn’t as hard to leave a trail of notes, because I could just do massive brain dumps and we had lots of time to transition.

Fast forward to what seems like several years later and I’ve transitioned into my third role of this kind over the past few years and the bumps are the same. Every person seems to keep too much of one thing and not enough of other things. I think it depends on who you succeed. I’ve often succeed people who were clearly more “writer” types than web types and so, it’s made it interesting to see the sorts of things that people who have been bathing in code for years tend to focus on, versus those who bathe in words.

For instance, I hate paper. I can’t stand it on my desk or strewn about my office. I do my best to rid myself of as much of it as possible, because it just makes my life easier. But some people seem to really love copious amounts of paper and keeping notes and files of things that are usually not that important.

So what’s the point? We need to be better about spreading the word about keeping notes. No one can remember everything they’ve done and most of us never think about leaving to go anyplace after we’ve taken a job, especially as we get older and more established. But, short of a sudden reason to go, it’s so much easier for those who have to follow you, to have some documentation as to what you’ve done, things to watch out for or anything else helpful.

Think about what you wanted to know when you started to job, if you could’ve picked the brain of the person who served before you. You might just save someone a great deal of time and make their day — or heck, month — in a new job a little better.

10 songs (11.14.08)

It seems critical to have a routine that you can follow in life. I’m massively routine-driven. The more comfortable I am, the better the routine I build and as a result, the more likely I am to accomplish everything I set out at a particular time.

The more of a routine I get into, the more likely I am to set the world ablaze, it seems.

But enough of that. I’m bringing back my 10 songs feature this week, as it’s been a while since I’ve put anything out there.

11.14.08

The Last Is First – Dilated Peoples
It’s Not Me, It’s You – Far Less
Little Waltz – Basia Bulat
All I Want – Darius Rucker
DLZ – TV On The Radio
Lettin’ Go – Janelle Monae
You Are The Best Thing – Ray LaMontagne
Holy Cow – Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s
It’s Still A Love Song – Jean Grae
Treboles – Aterciopelados