Monday, July 19, 2010

Looking Up

My dear friend Rita, a respected businesswoman in the marketing world, forwarded me a link to Pete Blackshaw's column today in AdAge. I was very moved by the piece and submitted a long comment back to Pete, but the topic is worth a couple hundred extra least.

Pete, a regular AdAge columnist and VP at Nielsen Online Digital Strategy, lost his sister recently. He became aware of the contrast between real, deep offline connections and community created by her passing and shared grief and support vs the surface kinds of connections we are all running after in our online world. Here's a link to his column:

I found myself buying every admonishment and silently vowing to work those offline relationships harder than my Twitter-based ones, but found the comments posted very interesting for the push back from a few readers. This is actually why online conversations can be so important and compelling. We actually have more opportunity than ever before to share and hear other opinions. This hopefully will make the world a little smaller, but it also reminds me of the need to remember the middle ground.

Here's what I wrote in response to Pete's column and others' comments:
"Pete, I too am sorry for your loss, and sadly grateful for the column it inspired.

Yes, there are those who feel the connection you made between your experience of a family member's death, offline, with the lifestyle we live now, online, was "kind of too much" or "nearly blasphemous."
And others will share the pathos completely and hang their heads in shame for a moment vs just hanging their heads down over a smartphone, thanks to the reminder that we need to emerge from our avatar-selves and raise our eyes and our consciousness more frequently, and seize the offline day too.

That said, the ship has sailed and I fear we won't easily be able to find our way back to the kind of connections we SHOULD have. I'm guilty of missing the chance to share a smile or receiving one, and have heard annoyed passersby say, "Look up!" And I've been annoyed in return to see every single person on the train completely absorbed in their own digital world.

Tim Sanders wrote his book, Love Is the Killer App: How to Win Business and Influence Friends back in 2002 on the premise that "being a lovecat" is the only way to succeed in the 21st century, and necessary to overcome our Dilbert society of isolation in cubbies.

We crave community. I think we're creating it in any way we can.

Digitally, time suck that it is, is just easier for many. Unfortunately, we end up back in the digital version of a cubbie after all.

Thank you for the excellent reminder to look up."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Learning to Swim at Broadband Speed

I was just reading "High Speed for the Sparsely Wired" in @NYTimes this week about the portion of the government stimulus program that allocates $7.2 billion for extending high-speed Internet access. I have to say, I'm pretty fascinated by both the possibilities facing rural communities about to get transported to the web 2.0 community via the economic stimulus plan...and by the perspectives of people in and out of those in dial-up-speed land.

Think about it: if you're reading this blog, chances are you didn't have to wait a half hour for the page to load. (And if you did, and think I'm THAT worth it, bless your heart.) That means you likely live in an area where broadband means PDQ* access to the world wide web.
It means traversing global villages and accessing the knowledge of the crowd on literally any topic you can imagine. It means you can, like view images of Mars or play web chess with someone in the Czech Republic...or try the impossible of keeping up with every damn article on social media marketing, staying up every night til 2AM....

The comments on this news story are inspiring, as many in rural areas talk about gaining the ability to work virtually, or post resumes, or set up online storefronts -- helping to open up new commerce opportunities. And imagine this: expanded health care options, too! For example,
"doctors in Anchorage, 400 miles to the east, can see patients via videoconference."
It's a whole new frontier for many, down to learning how to build a skyscraper ad right in their own backyard. Of course it also means closer examinations of the less illustrious and the downright icky. Or, as "Mike" commented on this topic in a NY Times story:
"How can you not look at that [article] and think, "Hi, JokrBoy. I'm HotBlonde. What r u wearing?"
Access to the vain or glorious aside, it means a whole new part of the country will be exposed to social media tools that some 500,000,000 Facebook users take for granted. We're not talking total social media virgins, as patience, or satellite and cellular services have certainly enabled access for many. But from an almost anthropological perspective, it will be interesting to observe how superfast, 24/7 entry to Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Digg impacts life as they knew it. I can already hear the cries of "and WHY do I want to 'tweet'!?" or "What a time suck!" Oh the stories I could tell...the caveats...the techniques... Don't use all CAPS! Don't "sell!" Do remember my social coaching mantra of "Look. Listen. Learn. Participate. Lead!"

Unless our rural friends stay up nights studying
Mashable and Brogan, Ochman to Owyang til all hours, they will have to learn it all the hard way. They will be jumping into the deep end that most of us had the chance to hold hands and wade into more slowly back in the day, last year or so.

*Now it will even be easy to figure out obscure references like "PDQ."