On blogging daily

I started blogging in 2001, but started in online communities dating back to 1994. I’m always a bit squeamish when I hear folks who were online in those days talked about as “pioneers” because while I guess it’s true, I tend to think of pioneers as people who explore space or do really bold innovative things that touch the lives of millions.

Oh wait.

Anyway, blogging everyday is a difficult thing to do when you feel like ideas are fleeting. I think one of the negative things about my professional life becoming more integrated with my personal one, is how it’s made me gunshy. When I started this latest blog six years ago, I wasn’t thinking very hard about who would read it. I recall once people asking me questions in a job interview about blog posts I’d written. I wasn’t prepared for it, because I was just riffing. It wasn’t even negative; but it still made me a bit wary of saying anything.

It’s been good over the past few years to be more of a consumer than a producer, because when I was more prolific, I read a lot less. Sometimes, I wonder how I had enough material to talk about since so much of what I was putting out was just reflections of my own experiences rather than something lived, understood and consumed. The more I read other people, the more I remind myself how I need to be blogging more.

So we’re gonna give this everyday blogging thing a go and see where it leads.

On Selfie Fatigue

Selfie (http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3718/9549248214_4e12daf5a1_z.jpg)

Using digital tools is really about practice. Not the kind of practice where you spend hours perfecting your backhand. Or the kind of practice where you get really good at landing a particular kickflip, but the sort of practice where you adapt your usage and habits to work with your life. Valerie Heruska’s post about her own fatigue at the endless stream of friend selfies and exhaustion at people using social media as a proxy for real professionals is well taken.

Especially if you work in this field day to day, you can’t help but log countless examples of seemingly silly questions you get asked from week to week. Whether it’s friends posting about seemingly mundane things going on in their lives or an instagram full of food pictures; I don’t really think it matters what other people do online. Where the practice comes in, is understand what I’m doing online and what my purpose is for using it. Then it’s less about passive consumption and more about interacting with folks from disparate places that I’d never have met if it weren’t for amazing tools that make it so possible for me to reach out and connect with my friends and family on a daily basis.

I don’t understand why it matters what other people think. I wake up, do my hair, get dressed and function without anyone else’s opinion. I don’t need someone on the internet to tell me what looks good or what I should or should not be doing with my physical activities.

The beautiful thing about a critical mass is having different people using the same tools in different ways. For someone relatively well-connected digitally, I know a lot of people who don’t use social tools at all. Or struggle with their usage. I can’t count the numbers of times someone has told me how “stupid” Twitter is. (Full disclosure: Five years ago, I wrote about how Twitter was too much like High school”) I usually proceed to tell the people who hate Twitter how much it’s helped me. I’ve met good friends, been offered consulting and speaking opportunities and even jobs thanks to Twitter.

If you get to a point where you’re not enjoying what you’re reading, what’s wrong with unfollowing? Are the hurt feelings worth more than your sanity? I went through Facebook recently and purged people who I hadn’t talked to in years. A lot of them were people from college who I never talk to, barely talked to then but added back when it might be plausible that I’d run into them on campus. Now? Those connections seem far less useful.

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that social media composed right, is a way to expand your network and influence beyond your local borders. My career in higher ed started in Wyoming, without good timing and people who appreciated my work, I’d still be in that same job I started with. We often want the good with the bad. We want the good information, links and “usefulness” without the out-of-context tweets or the gratification that comes from knowing exactly how many followers you have.

I think we have to take the good with the bad, if we want the positives that arise from participating. When you want a break, you take a break. If your needs aren’t being met, reach beyond your network and find ways to connect with people you don’t know. If you’ve been doing the social thing a while, you start to close to certain communities of people who used to be strangers but become something else. I like pushing myself out of that comfort zone every so often, because I remember what it’s like being new and having good ideas. (Or at least what I thought were good ideas…)

You can’t help but measure when it’s otherwise part of your life. I don’t think it makes us self-absorbed. It’s not our friends job to curate for us, we just have to find ways to filter. On Facebook, I employ a diverse array of filters just for my sanity’s sake. On Twitter, lists never worked for me really. Instead, I employ the use of hashtags when I’m really trying to follow a particular thing. Otherwise, I only engage when 1) I have something to say and 2) I see things that are of interest to me.

Our friends have always had things to say. Maybe our definition of what that means has been extended a bit. In a world where breakups are no longer breakups, we’ve got lots of ways that things can slip through the crack.s

The selfie has always existed, we just finally came up with a name for it.

Don’t be daunted to tell your story

20080822_AvenueQ

We’ve all been victim of telling a story that seemed funnier or more interesting when it happened, then when we were recalling it later online or with different friends who weren’t there. It can be awkward, but no less important to feel emboldened to recall stories that have meaning for us.

It’s hard to know where to begin, really. When I’m asked for a biography or find myself redesigning my personal sites for the 1000th time, I sometimes (always?) struggle with picking out the right information to showcase. Does anyone care about that one award you won as a sophomore in college? Or that you were office member of the year in your current role? Maybe volunteering really matters to you. Does it matter to someone reading your bio?

There are lots of blog posts out there telling the best ways to write a biography. But I’m less concerned about bios and more interested in how we construct our identities on the web. We tell our stories in myriad ways from the tweets we share, to the things we post on Facebook. For those of us with websites of our own, there’s a struggle to discover how much of yourself people need to see. Are you trying to consult? Just want folks to join you on Pinterest? It’s hard to know where the line is and so, many of us just buy a ton of domains to figure it out.

I asked a friend recently to read a sample bio I’d written for myself on LinkedIn. He looked at it and told me “this is great. Except you don’t sound like a human. I have no idea what you’re trying to say amongst all of these buzzwords. Speak human to me, Ron.” In a race to sound and be as “impressive” as possible, there’s a penchant to want to write in the third person and share as much esoteric impressiveness as one can fit into a few stanzas.

In resisting this urge, we give way to a much better way of seeing ourselves as people as opposed to characters. Our stories matter. While no one wants to read hundreds of words splayed on a page with no real end or reason, telling your story helps you stand out in a world where everyone is trying to fit into some kind of unnatural box that’s not made for them. The oddity of trying to conform to stand out, is probably a trap I’ve inhabited for too long.

While I still am not entirely sure what I’ll end up writing to replace what my friends helped me see wasn’t all that great, I realize that my best relationships online have been cultivated through the personal tidbits that people remember about me over the years. Think of your best self and project that in word and in deed. The words are likely to follow.

Shifting gears

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the whirlwind year this has been for me and how the changes keep coming. It’s been insightful and the three goals I set at the beginning of the year I’ve met. So now, it’s a process of figuring out “what’s next” and starting to get settled in some ways and get a gameplan in others.

So now that I’ve found a place to land professionally, I’ve been writing more than I had in past years and other projects are moving along I’m trying to get a foothold on something meaningful in relation to the company I started.

I hate to be all candid and stuff, but I might as well. Fact of the matter is, it hasn’t really gone the way I anticipated. Ok, that’s not true. I expected the whole thing to come tumbling down like a house of cards early on. But I started it almost solely to lineup with people who I thought had the skills to complement my strengths. I thought together we could do some pretty interesting things.

All in all, it’s been a delightful experience. But it’s not really turning out to be what I’d hoped. And that’s completely my fault.

I expected to build something robust based off my experience. One thing I’ve learned from past entrepreneurial pursuits is the right time to throw in the towel or to shift gears. The other thing I thought about is the one adage from The Dip that I came to adopt as a mantra to follow always, “If you can’t be best in the world in it, don’t waste your time.” I’m fine with a good tennis coach or an adequate golfer. But when it comes to side projects that you hope to turn into real life activities, I’m just not as comfortable with operating in fields where I just don’t have the chops or the material goods to take down the competition.

So where does that lead? I’ve got a few ideas. One of the best things about this blog (thanks, readers) has been the ability to branch out more, to read what others are talking about, to learn trends and just become generally more informed. It’s astounding to me how much I picked up this year and even with how hectic it’s been, I’ve still come to wonder how I managed to get through the first few years of my professional career without a forum like this to put my ideas out there, to solicit feedback and more.

I’m winding up a major project over the next few weeks and starting a new position that I’ll announce once the details are more clear. But on the side project front, Synonym is going to evolve with me. I think the potential to develop something that lets me work with audiences that I’ve been connecting with for years is the right direction to head in.

It’s obvious to me that I want to do more interact with people on ideas that I feel like I have some authority to speak about. Not that I feel like my web knowledge isn’t useful or pertinent or meaningful. In fact, I feel like I bring a great deal insight to the table. But it’s something I do, not really my passion and it’s often daunting to watch the antics of my colleagues in the field who ply their trade at conferences around the country. I’ll be out in the field next year joining the fray more readily now that I’ve found a place to perch that’s a good fit.

But I’m excited about the idea of pursuing the other things that I’m passionate about, too. If I’ve learned anything this year, it’s that I miss traveling the country and meeting different kinds of people. That I’ve discovered a real passion for communicating life tips, ideas and thoughts to all sorts of folks, through the interactions I’ve had over the past few years in far flung parts of the country.

It’s funny when I think about the fact that I spent far more time in front of audiences in the earlier part of my 20s than I have in recent years. You almost forget how big a part of your life it is and well, after a few forays this year, I want it back…and I know what sorts of things I want to talk about.

It’s a process, but it’s one that I’m looking for to, among other things.

Blogging. Honesty.

One of the things that I have had the hardest time with the past few years, is blogging from my heart. Writing reviews is easy. You listen, say what you think and move on. But actually blogging about life in a real way can be a tough thing to do when you haven’t done it in a long time.

For years, I maintained a blog that had decent readership and was mostly just off-the-cuff ramblings from me about life and the such. Now that everyone seems to blog, it’s not something I do anymore. I don’t know why.

It’s hard to let people inside of your head. But at the same time, it can be cathartic.

About ten years ago, I made a conscious decision to live my life in a particular way. It was a far cry from how I’d lived it previous to that and part of the reason I chose to do it, was because I’d been burned by intense need to be affirmed by other people and to have them somehow “sign off” on what I was doing. Or to delude myself into believing that I was “like them” when I wasn’t.

Now that I fast forward well beyond my 27th year — when I started this blog — to sometime more significant, I reflect and have been in the midst of more change. It’s been difficult, because it requires me to focus my energy in a way that I might not want to. Changing isn’t easy. It’s frustrating, even.

But I feel like the best way for me to get out what I’m thinking and to really speak to where my head — and my heart — are at this time in my life is to just to put it all out there.

Blog High Ed

I got a note the other night that my blog was added to Blog High Ed, the aggregate blog for the higher education web community.

I can think of no better complement than to be told by one’s peers that “hey, we think you say something intelligent every once in a while…” and while they didn’t say that, I’m going to assume the membership acceptance and their posts here over the past few months have yielded some measure of intelligent commentary from yours truly. ;)

I appreciate the invite and implore you to check out the blog, as it’s comprised of the cream of the crop. Higher education web geeks are in a zoo of their own to some degree and it’s nice that more and more of us are starting to come together to share tricks of the trade.

As a result, I hope it’ll populate the airwaves with some new thought and knowledge about what we do every day. I believe that it’ll ultimately result in some very positive changes in the future, in relation to our place in the higher education landscape.

Blog High Ed

I got a note last night that my professional blog was added to Blog High Ed, the aggregate blog for the higher education web community.

I can think of no better complement than to be told by one’s peers that “hey, we think you say something intelligent every once in a while…” and while they didn’t say that, I’m going to assume the membership acceptance and their posts here over the past few months have yielded some measure of intelligent commentary from yours truly. ;)

I appreciate the invite and implore you to check out the blog, as it’s comprised of the cream of the crop. Higher education web geeks are in a zoo of their own to some degree and it’s nice that more and more of us are starting to come together to share tricks of the trade.

As a result, I hope it’ll populate the airwaves with some new thought and knowledge about what we do every day. I believe that it’ll ultimately result in some very positive changes in the future, in relation to our place in the higher education landscape.

You aren’t really all that special

I read Penelope Trunk’s blog today, talking about a blogger and her belief that her world was unique because she felt the need to talk about the intimate details of her life.

It’s something that really rings true when you think about people who are passionate bloggers and discuss all of the things that are going on, keep their Facebook status updated regularly and feel the need to twitter each thing as it happens too.

As someone who used to be far more active blogging than I am these days — even as I maintain two distinct blogs — I just don’t feel the need to let everyone to that degree. I feel there are lots of things that a blog can help you do personally and professionally. But I also think it exposes almost too much in the way of things that you are not always able to provide context for.

The reason I began blogging seriously for my career is because I made a decision after changing jobs that I would leverage the experience I’d gained over the years, to establish myself as an expert in the field rather than just sitting on the sidelines and letting other yahoos decide without at least participating in the conversation.

That turned out to be a smart decision. But what her post does is reveal to me a paradigm shift occurring within myself in regards to the way I approach the web and ideas. I tend to think to eschew exposing the ideas that crop up in the recesses of my brain late at night, because they’re either not well formed or because I don’t know if I want to expand on them. But when I do it, it ends up pretty well received.

So I think there is a trick to it all and that’s to use the vehicle to express yourself however you want and throw caution to the wind.