Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Blog Rollercoaster, Starting the Conversation

There is an old saying that goes, "Some days it is in the cards, and some days it isn't". My grandfather used to say that a lot about whether or not he would be able to golf when the summer rains came, but it just as well could refer to my relationship with Blogging. Rather than looking at blogging as 'my job' which I must do every day, I go with the flow and my blog posting frequency changes dramatically as a result.

Somedays I am so excited by an idea or news item that I must put other things on hold to blog about it. Sometimes, I end up writing posts just for me that never get published - many never even saved, just written. Other times, like the past couple of weeks, I am so deep in the activities of 'work', having conversations with people and simply being in the real world, I have no time for it. Even if it is important to share or perhaps just personally meaningful, it is nearly impossible for me to get a blog post published. I suspect a lot of people out there are like me in this regards - sometimes we are just too busy with life, work or whatever to find time to blog.

The key is that I don't need to blog every day, or several times a day to make an impact, but it would certainly help in some regards. My goal is to merely communicate with people who care about the things I care about - to have my voice heard and be recognized for my ability to understand a particular topic. So I do it when I have time and do my best to share valuable insights, stories and experiences with you. Depending on your goals, or the goals of your organization though, the demands on your time could be vastly different. I know of at least 2 startup companies here in Silicon Valley who don't do plan to do any traditional PR activities. They expect their blog will be the company's official voice to the public, to their customers and to the press at large. They blog when they have something to say. not everyday for the sake of blogging.

The month ahead is going to be an interesting shift for me as I move from the free flowing Blogger mentality of writing when I feel like it for the sole purpose of serving my own passions to blogging every day as part of my work life. Today marks the beginning of a new gig I am doing with my friends over at Fleishman Hillard. I have this incredible opportunity to lead an online conversation leading up to an event they are sponsoring with DC Communicator called Beyond Blogging 2006. The premise is very dear to my heart and is something I have been talking about for quite some time.

The truth is that Blogs are a free style, free ranging form of communications that have made it possible for people and organizations to more directly communicate with the world over the Internet. It does not require an army of 'techies' to publish, it does not require some special knowledge of some cryptic computer language and it does not require any real capital expenditures. A Blog can be started in under 5 minutes, it can be free or a few dollars per month, it can be private or public, it can be used as a simple outbound communications channel or it could be used as the foundation of a community. Blogs are just another tool in the communications arsenal, so I am glad we are not doing another conversation on Blogs - it is time to go way beyond the initial idea and look at the bigger picture of how all of this fits together and can be used properly by all communication professionals.

Too many people think that the 'Blog' is some mythical panacea for communications. Too many people don't understand the idea of Blogging within the proper context of participating in the conversation. Too many people think that the Blog is just another fad. (even I have written about Blogging being a fad previously) Regardless of what we think of Blogging, it is here to stay - the power of the tools are growing tremendously along with the number of people who are using Blogs for personal and professional communications. So this event, and this Blog, represent a great opportunity to dive into the conversation with communications professionals who are on the front lines of the industry. Together we will explore the strategic and tactical aspects of Blogging in the context of the shifting media landscape, to collectively gain a better understanding of where it fits within the broader context of communications.

So your first assignment, if you choose to accept it, is to dust off your old copy of The Cluetrain Manifesto and celebrate the 7th anniversary of this landmark book with me. The majority of what we will be talking about over the next month leading up to the Beyond Blogging event on May 19th will likely be based within the key principle of Cluetrain thinking - "markets are conversations". From my perspective, the job of communications professionals, marketing pros and even sales people is to engage people in conversations - this is perhaps what has been forgotten by a few and is what real people are craving - but that discussion can wait for another day.

Over the month ahead, join us in a discussion that will go beyond the ideas and the strategies and dive into the practical applications of how it all works together. We will start off by delving into some of the basic questions like "What are tags? and How do I use them?" As we get closer to the event, we will be hearing from the panelists more directly and moving the conversation into areas that are of interest to you. So let's get this party started - post a comment and let us know what sort of things you want to discuss.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Join Us in Revitalizing New Orleans

Though I have only been to New Orleans once before, I have a deep love for this great American city and I really want to help bring it back from the tragedy that was Katrina. As a technologist, business strategist, entrepreneur and humanist, I have been been working with BrainJams over the last few months to bring people together to learn from one another in the real world. While I can't rebuild the houses that were lost or donate millions of dollars, I can work towards connecting the small businesses of New Orleans with an understanding of how they can make the most of emerging Internet technologies. More importantly, I can help facilitate real, personal connections between the people who are building these Internet tools and the local business community in New Orleans who need the best available thinking to help rebuild their local economy.

BrainJams is about people sharing what they know with one another - people helping people, treating one another with respect and working to understand each another's unique ability to contribute towards a common goal. If you are interested in working towards
revitalizing New Orleans, won't you join us for a conversation between the business community in New Orleans and people who understand emerging Web 2.0 technologies such as blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, tags, open source software such as Drupal, and other Web services?

I believe that together, we can discover innovative solutions to the business problems that are being faced today, as well as learn from one another how to make the most of what we already have. We know from firsthand experience that the traditional way of running a conference was seldom best for the attendees. The most interesting parts of the conference were often the hallway conversations we had with other attendees. Often times, the people in the audience have better insights to share than those speaking on the panel. BrainJams takes away the "power of the podium" and puts it in the hands of the people in the audience. We turn attendees into participants, and in so doing, make it easier for everyone to get what they need from the event while having a turn to step up on the soap box to share their ideas, concerns and experiences.

So rather than coming to hear me tell you how it is, we will get together on Thursday May 4th in downtown New Orleans to figure it out together. To share our insights. To learn from each other. To identify the needs of the business community. To launch new projects. To pump new life into the heart of the city of New Orleans. To Jam with each other like Jazz musicians, riffing on each other's ideas, leveraging everyone's unique contributions.

There will be many different topics discussed over the course of the day, all of which will be chosen by you and managed under the principles of "Open Space", which is a simple structure for enabling more powerful conversations for large groups of people. In the morning, participants will create an agenda that addresses the most important issues and opportunities for the New Orleans business community and how it can best use the latest technology. The rest of the day will be spent in small group sessions working on the specific issues that matter most right now. All of the proceedings will be documented and a wireless network will allow us to post all of our notes directly to the internet, where others can find them and support our work. The point of the day is to start conversations that matter while making new connections to the people who can contribute to projects that will make real impact. If you care about what New Orleans has been and where the city is heading, your participation is essential for our success.

Please join us! BrainJams New Orleans is free for all to attend - just complete the registration form and put it on your calendar.

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