“Learnings” and More Wonderful Jargon

My friend, Joe Mathews, posted the following vicious diatribe against my people today on Facebook:

Anxious to prove my friend wrong, I sought out a definitive source. This is what I uncovered:

It looks like the inmates truly have taken over the asylum. So sad to live in such a narrow-minded, hateful world. I’ll just have to take my learnings somewhere where they’re appreciated.

(Nevertheless, that jargon site is pretty hilarious.)

What My Reading List Says About Me

I’ve written before about Terrell Russell’s notion of contextual authority tagging. Drummond Reed is playing with these ideas with his new startup, connect.me, and LinkedIn recently started doing something similar with its endorsements.

I’ve performed my own mini-experiment to see what would happen if I asked others to describe me, which was self-indulgent but also interesting. On the other hand, I’ve been a bit disappointed by my LinkedIn endorsements, because I don’t feel like they represent me well.

I’m a hard one to nail down. I have lots of different interests, and while they’re all form an integrated whole in my head, that may not be as apparent to others. It got me thinking about whether or not I pay enough attention to my online persona. The answer is probably not, but the real question is whether or not I care enough to do something about it. (Again, the answer is probably not.)

So then I thought about looking at other data about myself to see what I could learn. I decided to check my Evernote tags. I’ve been an avid Evernote user for several years now, and it is my primary tool for clipping interesting articles. I’m also an avid tagger, so I have a pretty good emergent taxonomy to use for analysis.

I decided to look at my most frequent, topical tags. (I have a set of tags that I use for internal organization, which are irrelevant for the purposes of this analysis.) I then created a tag cloud using Wordle. Here were the results:

Evernote Tag Cloud (2012-10-20)

It’s fairly representative of the things that I’m interested in. If I were more consistent about tagging, the “sports” tag would be larger. (I have several articles tagged by specific sports, such as “basketball,” as opposed to the more generic, “sports.”) Same with “entrepreneurship.” (I have a bunch of articles tagged “startup.”) A lot of the “psychology” articles are actually about behavior change.

What do you think? Would you have guessed these about me? Are there any tags that surprise you?

Openness Rocks

I took the above picture at Wikimania 2009 in Buenos Aires. It’s of Micah Alpern giving a talk entitled, “Designing a large scale community moderation system for Yahoo! Answers.” Micah, now at LinkedIn, was the design lead for Yahoo! Answers, and at the time, he was still at Yahoo!.

As you can see from my annotations, Jimmy Wales (co-founder of Wikia) and Jack Herrick (founder of wikiHow) were also in the audience. I thought nothing of this at the time. We’re all friends and are part of the same community, which is why we were all there in the first place. But afterward, I realized that folks from other industries might find this picture exceedingly strange. You could argue, for example, that wikiHow competes with Yahoo! Answers. (A bit of a stretch, but valid.) And at the time, Wikia was developing its own Q&A system.

In other words, here was Micah, freely giving away all of his lessons learned to two people who were arguably competitors, not to mention the rest of the audience and whoever else ended up watching the freely available, openly licensed video of the talk.

I was reminded of this picture and this moment by Kellan Elliott-McCrea’s short and sweet post, “Openness rocks.” He cites a few examples, and he concludes, “This is how we get better as an industry.”

That quote right there embodies the mindset that makes innovation happen, that makes certain industries a joy to be in, and that makes the world a better place. Openness indeed does rock.

Sunrise and Sunset

Yesterday morning, I stepped onto my balcony and was treated to this hazy sunrise over the San Francisco skyline.

Hazy Sunrise over San Francisco Skyline

I ended my evening in Doran Park near Bodega Bay watching the sunset:

Sunset over Doran Park

A 2004 study found that 52% of Japanese primary and secondary school students had never seen a sunrise or a sunset. I often think about that disturbing statistic and wonder how that could possibly be.

Yesterday, I realized that it had been weeks since I had seen a sunrise or a sunset, longer since I had seen both in one day.

Maybe improving our lives and our world doesn’t have to be so hard. Maybe we do it by simply pausing our hectic lives and looking outside more often, marveling at this world we live in as the sun rises and sets.

Successfully Integrating People and Technology

My work is about helping groups come alive. There is nothing inherent about this work that requires digital technology, although I often find myself leveraging it in different doses.

The reality is that many people want to work with me because I know a lot about technology. They think it gives me a leg up in leveraging technology to support people work.

They’re wrong (despite what I’ve said in the past). It helps, but it’s not the primary reason I can do this kind of work successfully. The main reason for my success is that I have an uncomplicated relationship with technology.

Your level of technology literacy has little to do with how complicated your relationship is with technology. Lots of people who know a lot about technology end up worshipping at its altar, seeing the world through a tool lens that often distracts them from the goal. They’re the type of people who will lecture you on features or inner workings without actually addressing whether or not a tool will help you do your job.

Then, of course, there are people who don’t know much about technology because they are afraid of it. A lot of these folks are smart, high-functioning people who suddenly become paralyzed at the notion of interacting with a screen or keyboard. They are the ones who are defensive about their lack of knowledge, who preface every statement with, “I’m not a techie, but….”

Basing your identity around what you don’t know is just as insidious as basing it around what you do know. It serves as an obstacle to what’s actually important, which is having a learner’s mindset regardless of what you already do or don’t know.

The best tools have wonderful, magical properties, but at the end of the day, they’re still tools, and their job is to do what I want them to do. As long as you understand that, and as long as you approach your work with a learner’s mindset, you can be successful at leveraging technology to help groups come alive.

It’s a lot easier said than done, but it’s doable, regardless of how much you already do or don’t know about technology.