My friend, Jerry Michalski, recently tweeted a question about collaboratively authoring documents using GitHub. I didn’t see his original tweet, but I saw a followup exchange between him and Howard Rheingold, and so I pointed both of them to Ward Cunningham’s Smallest Federated Wiki. I’ve seen some followup exchanges, and I’m happy that the pointer may have triggered something interesting.
I also realized that, despite admiring Ward’s project from afar for years now, I have never blogged or tweeted about it. I’ve mentioned it to folks, but not to Ward directly, and I even wanted to incorporate it into a client project last year that I didn’t end up doing. I don’t know that Ward knows how interesting or important I think his explorations have been. Hopefully, he does now.
It got me thinking about how hard it is to measure mindshare, especially in this day and age. I’ve been thinking about this a lot in regard to my own work, recently. For the past few years, I haven’t spent much time thinking about who reads this blog or any of my other writings, but every once in a while, I’d get some signal that people are paying attention. Sometimes, it would be from people I knew, who would often allude to something I wrote face-to-face. Other times, it would be from completely random people.
I’m thinking more consciously about mindshare again, partially because I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do next, and I’m being a bit more transparent about it here than I’m probably comfortable. But I’m also doing it because I wonder how much of an impact my thinking and my writing is making in the world.
My numbers tell me that a tiny corner of the universe is paying attention. It’s smaller than when I first started the blog and when I last seriously paid attention to this sort of thing, but it’s still there. Still, it’s hard to really interpret what those numbers mean and what part of the story they’re not reflecting.
With Changemaker Bootcamp, I’ve gotten many more signals, and they’ve surprised, moved, and motivated me. When I started my first pilot five months ago, I posted a call of participants here, not expecting anyone to respond. Not only did a handful of people respond, they included some I hadn’t heard from in a long time, and two people I didn’t know at all, including Anna Castro, who became my first bootcamper.
My “official” launch a few weeks ago triggered more signals. I’ve heard directly from interesting folks I didn’t know before, and I’ve discovered a bunch of new folks from my newsletter signups.
Thinking back to my reflection about Ward, I’m now wondering what kind of mindshare I have beyond the signals I’ve received. I know that much of it is latent and invisible, but knowing that it’s out there is a source of encouragement.
One of the challenges with working online is our lack of literacy around feedback mechanisms. There are actually more feedback mechanisms online than there are face-to-face, but we don’t necessarily understand or pay attention to them. Regardless, it’s important to remember that those feedback mechanisms only tell part of the story, that mindshare is immeasurable, and that it’s important to keep sharing in ways that others can benefit.
It’s also a good reminder that we all have the ability to give feedback without requiring any special tools. It’s so simple, it’s easy to think it’s not important enough to do. That’s too bad. It can be very meaningful, and the world would be a better place if we all took the time to do it more often.