Hello and welcome to this my latest Newsletter.
Corporations Don’t Tweet - People Do
Sorry it has been a while since my last letter but I wanted to wait until I was able to announce that I am finally getting around to writing a book. It is going to be called Corporations Don’t Tweet - People Do - possibly with the tag line “50 ideas to make the web work at work”. My hope is that it will be the sort of book that people can read a chunk at a time on a flight, on a train journey or even during a visit to the loo!
Each short chapter will contain an idea to make you think “Aha - so that’s what the point of that is” or “Now I get it why that would make sense for us to do” and to give you the confidence, and some reasons, to help the social web happen in your organisation. You could buy it for yourself or buy copies to put in colleagues' or managers’ pigeon holes to spread the word and hopefully prompt a shift in the corporate culture.
I have agreed with my publisher, John Wiley & Son, that I can get the book written by mid July in order to hit a target publication date of November so wish me luck! I will keep you posted about when it is available on Amazon etc.
Greplin is a new search tool that lets you search your own and others' streams on social services. I have often made arrangements to meet people on either Twitter or Facebook, not remembered which, and struggled to find out in a hurry where I had arranged to meet them. Greplin would have saved my pain. It is invite only at the moment and I have five invites to give away so let me know if you would like one.
Thanks to Thomas Vander Wal for pointing out that Google in the UK now publish Think Quarterly a newsletter on a whole range of issues about data and our use of it. Not as dry as it sounds as the definition of data is pretty broad. The first edition contains some really interesting and thoughtful articles on subjects such as Barclays Cycle Hire as a source of data and how to deal with data obesity!
Back to Work
I have been really enjoying listening to the Back To Work podcasts from Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin. In these Merlin muses on the subject of work - and not work in a limited GTD, productivity sense, but work as a major part of our lives. How we do it, why we do it, and what is does to us. He is really interesting and thoughtful about big stuff that matters and I can thoroughly recommend these podcasts to anyone interested in the world of work.
Reading about writing is a great displacement activity when you are trying to put off actually sitting down and doing it! I have been reading some really good books on the craft of writing. And I do mean the craft, writing to a particular purpose rather than what we would normally consider creative writing. We all do this. We all have to write memos or emails, essays and reports, and yet most of us do it as a chore and don’t consider that it is something we can learn about and get better at.
Two books in particular have been really useful - Accidental Genius by Mark Levy and Writing With Power by Paul Elbow. I would start with Mark’s book first. It is about free-writing, the practice of writing without stopping, as fast as you can, for a fixed time such as ten minutes. This helps get over the hump of writing and frees you up to think better. Paul in Writing With Power has lots of great tips on writing better and strategies to help achieve this but all delivered in a really accessible and readable style (it would of course be odd, if not unusual, to write a book on writing that was inaccessible and unreadable).
Best Blog Post
I posted a few weeks ago about the risk that corporations will miss the real value of social tools by turning it into the same old same old and diluting its power to really change how we work. I have reproduced the post below but you can read the original with its great comment thread here:
Thursday, February 3, 2011 At 7:29Am
Several years ago I predicted that one of the biggest threats to the use of disruptive web tools in the workplace would be assimilation. The adoption of the language and platforms of social media by those responsible for maintaining the status quo as a way of taking the power out of it and assimilating it into business as usual.
At the launch of Tibbr (a really useful looking tool and this post is not a reflection on Tibco who have developed it) I had several people in suits tell me that business is business and talk of revolution and disruption is likely to fall on deaf ears amongst the grown ups.
On the same day I get an email from a senior official in a government job saying “I’m beginning to think that the inherently democratic nature of social media tools is the very reason why they are being restricted or marginalised in some organisations. After all, the traditional notion of command and control is still very much alive in the dark heart of many business places - symptomatic of a deeply entrenched need for power….? I wonder what Nietzsche would have said about the new media?”
As I have said before this isn’t bottom up. It is not some workers revolution. It can make as much of a difference to middle and senior managers as it will to the folks on the shop floor. But it won’t make a difference to anyone if we just replicate the dysfunctional, inefficient mess we have now. If it isn’t disruptive why are you doing it?
My productivity tip continues the writing theme of this newsletter and is probably going to appeal to the more geeky amongst you. Nowadays any text we write can end up in formatted documents, email newsletters such as this, or web pages, and in the process of being written be bounced between text editors, page layout tools and web browsers. Keeping the formatting and linking consistent through that process isn’t always easy. To make things simpler John Gruber has come up with a way of marking up text as you write called Markdown. I have been training myself to use Markdown more, and in fact have written this newsletter using it. You can find out all about the subject at John’s blog.
Thanks again for reading and as ever let me know what you think of this newsletter and do recommend it to others if you consider it useful.