Sunday, June 1, 2008

Social Media: What Do You Want To Share?

My friend Fred Wilson “shared” part of an e-mail I’d sent to him asking what his vision for Social Media was in a post on his blog. I’d written him largely because some of what I see tossed around as “social media” winds up frustrating me in some ways and so I was pretty sure I was missing out on the big picture. I was. Fred’s vision is simple enough to get on a t-shirt:

Honestly I am not envisioning anything other than this; every single human being posting their thoughts and experiences in any number of ways to the Internet. That's it in a nutshell,” Fred Wilson in an AVC blog post.

Fred goes on to say that many will think he’s crazy, but I don’t. In fact, I can get behind that fairly enthusiastically. There’s not even a single buzzword in that vision. It got me thinking about how I share and the notion that I’m going about it all wrong sometimes. There is good sharing and bad sharing.

Good Sharing

Sending Fred an e-mail and getting him to think is good sharing. Sharing thoughts, ideas or anything that people might find interesting (pictures, music, news stories, video clips, whatever) is a good thing to do. I like making people think, but haven’t always adapted that process to a style that’s productive and constructive. I think the best shining example of this that I’ve seen lately, and via FriendFeed of someone who is a really good sharer is Thomas Hawk. Thomas has a lot to share and does so in a style that works well.

There’s a quote that goes something like “Make people think they’re thinking and they’ll love you, make them really think and they’ll want to kill you.” Which leads me to:

Bad Sharing

Here’s an example of bad sharing, while I was definitely sharing my off the top of the head thinking, and it did inspire Louis Gray to think, it did not do so in a way that would probably inspire a lot of people to want to share with me. Louis thought about it so much that he wound up writing a whole post about it. While I’m happy to have inspired him to think, there are some potential downsides. Let’s say I was being considered for a job where Louis worked and they asked him for his opinion. His opinion might be, “He makes me think, but one of the things he makes me think is that I don’t want to work with him.”

Bad sharing. Bad branding. Bad.

It’s Good To Have Goals

Complacency can be a cruel bitch. The first time I ever connected to the online world, now over 25 years ago, I could see the possibilities. Computing power sucked. Bandwidth sucked (300bps!). The experience sucked with text/command line interfaces. But even through the crappy experience you could see the possibilities. Most of my expectations were met or exceeded. I’ve had good broadband for 5 years now. Computing power is much better. Things aren’t perfect but they work pretty well. I’d argue that I’m complacent for the best of all possible reasons: I’m pretty happy about how things have worked out.

Still, I don’t feel that my complacency is anything to be defended. The truth is computers still don’t work well enough, still aren’t easy enough to use, still aren’t cheap enough and broadband isn’t available or cheap enough either. Add that all up and you have a lot of obstacles to achieving Fred’s simple, but grand vision.

The progress over the last 25 years has been massive. But it’s no excuse for resting on laurels or being complacent. Fred has set goals around what he’d like to see happen. It’s a good thing to do and I need to spend some time thinking about how I’d like to see it evolve before I spend any more time critiquing how it is actually evolving.

It’s good to have goals in general as my friend Ted Leonsis has pointed out to me either directly or indirectly. One goal is to figure out what it is I want to share an how best to share it.

There Are Some Really Great People Out There

Social media may have a long way to go, but there are a lot of great people already “sharing” on the internet. My advice is to find them, enjoy them, and learn from them.

After largely “disconnecting” from the connected world from 2000-2007, I reengaged last year. Two of the people I’ve reestablished communications with are Fred and Ted.

I met Ted and Fred the same way I met Bill Gorman, a long-time friend and my partner in crime with TVbytheNumbers. I wrote a newsletter, they read it and would sometimes write to tell how wrong I was.

I’ve had the great fortune of learning from all three of them (and more). While I regularly lunch with Bill my communications with Ted and Fred have been almost exclusively online. And almost all of what I have learned from them I have learned as a result of their blogs.

Considering the lives they lead and just how busy they are, I find it both amazing and inspirational how they go about sharing their thinking. I know the online world is a huge passion for both, but they’ve made “sharing” a high priority and that is by design, not happenstance. There’s not a lick of complacency in either of them, and it makes me both very proud of them and very ashamed of myself at the same time.

One thing I’m sure of, I’m going to make it a high priority to share more and share better.


louisgray said...

Looking for a job?

Can I claim that my subjective thought quotes are out of context? :-)

The issue of separating businesses from technology I thought should be done, and your comment was a good one to use in this case. But if you say "Bad Sharing. Bad Branding. Bad.", I'll have to agree a bit. I don't have the superset data on you, including your history, where others do, so I can only go on the interactions we've had. That's a risk we all take any time we do anything that's trackable or hits a new audience.

Robert Seidman said...

I'm not looking for a job, though it does seem like it would be a good thing for me to do. Yes, you can claim my fictional quote was taken out of context. ;-)

I agree with your other points. Though I'm not sure the superset of data changes things much, especially when we're talking about sharing in public. I don't think in this case it would have changed the outcome: Bad sharing. Bad branding. Bad.

Mark Dykeman said...

The whole world is watching.

Ken Stewart said...

Robert, this is a post full of great insights, and I think your voice really lends to it.

Furthermore, complacency is one of our long-time enemies that so stealthily slips itself over our head like a black silk bag - eventually strangling us.

I for one enjoy thinking, so keep lobbing those grenades!

fred said...

i never knew about this blog

i would have linked to it instead of your FF profile yesteday

good stuff