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Forests and Streams

I just realized that both of my visions that I mentioned in the past, about forests and streams, both relate to one another. We are represented by the forest and our conversations are represented by the streams that flow through the forest. Our conversations sustain us and help us grow just like the streams sustain the forest and help it grow.

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Telling My Story

I was just reminded that when I was applying for jobs in the past, I always tried to speak from the heart and tell my story to let the company know who I was and what I cared about (besides the obvious stuff of what I had done and could do for them). Anyways, I’m thinking that I’m kind of missing that. Telling my story that is. I mean I’m talking about my ideas galore on this site but I’m not really talking about me (even though my name is plastered at the top of the site). I think I’ll have to change that in the near future as I’ve always been harping about the importance of emotion in writing to help connect people. Without it, you’re just writing factual information that can be as exciting as blogging about going to the corner store for some milk. "Ya, and they even had skim milk too! It was amazing!"

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Getting Connected with FilmLoop

Oh my god! FilmLoop looks fucking brilliant! It looks like it has all the necessary elements to help in setting up decentralized connected communities.

FilmLoop is free software that gives you the power to create new loops or join existing ones. Loops are strings of images that move across your desktop. They can tell stories, showcase products, communicate ideas, and link to websites. A loop can contain photos of your family’s latest vacation, images of the latest happenings around the world, or pictures that link to the latest properties in your local real estate market. And, changes to a loop automatically update on the desktops of everyone in your loop, whether it’s two, ten, or a million people.

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The Business of Blogging

Blogging isn’t so much about a change of technology, as about a change of culture. While every business may not need a blog, they most definitely need the change of culture that blogging embodies.

Chris Campbell:

You need to create a bond.

You need to be honest.

You need to listen.

Mike Rundle:

Also, a company diving right into a self-written weblog is difficult because it’s a paradigm shift away from what they’re used to. Marketing-speak, press releases, ducking questions — these might be PR tactics they’ve employed for years, but when you start a weblog it has to be honest or else your readers won’t read it and will definitely let you know.

So a company who’s not ready to be transparent and honest can still have a weblog, but we would rather not be a part of that process. We value comments and readers, and if a company weblog is just a rehash of press releases and marketing gobbledegook, then it’s not really using the weblog medium to it’s full potential.

Kudos to Chris and Mike. Thanks for making me feel not so alone anymore in my thoughts.

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Where’s the Web 2.0 Beef?

I just realized that I mentioned before that I believe Web 2.0 is an important aspect of my Connected Communities project. Yet, so far, I haven’t really talked about any Web 2.0 elements for it. Well, I just realized something that might actually be good as a Web 2.0 application. What is that? The aggregated connected community page footer area that I just spoke of.

Imagine if this footer area worked like a dynamic “window” to the connected community instead of a static one. So by default, as I mentioned before, it showed conversations that related to the main topic on the page (like how Google AdSense targets ads). But then, what if their were additional tabs that you could click just like Jake Tracey (one of the creators of Chalk) has on his site and they would instantly update with additional information. I mean other tabs could be the latest conversations in the community in date order or by popularity. Another tab could be to search the archives of the entire community and so forth. And the amazing thing is that there wouldn’t be a centralized site but instead it would be a bunch of decentralized sites all sharing information via a Web 2.0 architecture. Even more amazing would be to see these conversation streams updating in real time as you viewed them!

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Conversations Within A Connected Community

Whoa! I just had another interesting idea that relates to creating connected communities. In my last post, I said that I’d like to see the bottom of the web page on a connected community member’s site to show the latest conversations in the community like how 9rules.com does it (but not on a centralized site like they do it). Well, what if you took this a step further. What if like Google AdSense ads, you could somehow show the latest conversations within the community that actually related to what was being said on the page you were on?

This is quite hilarious because this mirrors something I discussed before when I talked about a topic aggregator that could somehow show conversations from your feeds that related to your current post. Where this idea came from was David Weinberger when he said one day that he apologized to his friends because he didn’t have the time to visit all of their sites. I wondered how he could stay connected to those in his community and be aware of the interesting conversations within it that interested him, yet not have to visit all of their sites every day. Well, voila, I think such an approach as I mentioned might actually work because if you just posted about Google, then ideally the aggregated community conversations area at the bottom of the page with the Google post on it would show all community conversations that also related to Google.

BTW another interesting side note here. Derek Powazek mentioned something the other day about the need to maximize the page footer area of websites, so as to maximize the experience for the person visiting your site. Well, just as the top header of a page is important for defining your site’s own identity, what if people started utilizing the page footer area of their site to relay the community they were within?

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Creating Connected Communities

Maarten has a post on his Grid Thinking site about starting to work on a Connected Future and by using Yahoo Groups to do this. Instead of giving my reply to him in his comments area, I’m going to place it here because I think this act itself relays what I’m trying to achieve with my Connected Communities approach. Below is my response to him.

Maarten, I would definitely love to collaborate with you on this idea but I want to be able to practice what I preach in doing so. In effect, I’m relaying ideas that talk about decentralized groups of people collaborating together on common goals. Therefore, if I want to practice what I preach and actually be an implementation of what I want to see then whoever I collaborate with needs to work this way to put their beliefs into action as well.

To give you an example of what I’m talking about, check out the 9rules Network if you’ve never been to it before. What you will see there is a collaboration of people, all on different sites, who have a similar attitude and approach with things, so much so that the 9rules Network encompasses their beliefs and approach. However, what this network doesn’t do though is keep things decentralized because you have to go to a parent site to see the latest things that people are talking about. Your approach by using Yahoo Groups does the same thing. It creates a centralized area instead of capitalizing on what is already being said on each decentralized site.

So how do you create this connectedness without a centralized site? Aggregated feeds. Feeds aren’t just useful for getting the latest news but for connecting these communities as well. If you look at the 9rules site you’ll see that their list of latest entries by community members is just an aggregated feed of the last entry item from each member. Therefore, all you need to do to start the journey towards this connected community, connected thinking, and connected future is to embed this aggregated feed inside each site somewhere. I’m thinking maybe near the bottom footer area of the site. And if you remember back to the web rings of yesterday, that idea is somewhat similar to what I would like to do but just taking it to another level (i.e. presenting information better). Even better, it allows each person to format the layout of the community conversations to match their own site style.

What this aggregation does though is link like minded people together. That way, when people visit your site, they can not only read what you are working on but also easily see what others are collectively working on as well and then jump to their site to see what they are writing about. In effect, it creates a centralized community feel with different people talking but it is done through a connected network of decentralized sites.

More importantly, this allows each individual to approach their work the way they want. For example, we may all be talking about the same thing but each of us is describing it in different ways (i.e. I call it connected communites whereas you’re calling it connected future). Instead of arguing over semantics, the decentralized approach allows each individual to take their own direction towards the common goal. And over time, as usually happens, the more people share information this way, the more that commonalities will occur. For example, I’m just using "connected communites" as my description for this idea but that still doesn’t encompass all of my ideas and beliefs. As I just wrote on my site, culture within these connected communities plays a strong part as well, yet some may disagree with including it because they may feel it doesn’t relate to the project from a technological standpoint. Instead of arguing about this and a proper name for the project within a centralized site, people just continue working on their own in their own ways. In the future, maybe we will agree on a name but that shouldn’t stop us from collaborating right now.

Actually the only problem I see with utilizing this connected approach today is finding an online feed aggregator this is reliable and will meet the needs of the community. I was going to use FeedDigest but it doesn’t seem to be working well because it’s not updating my feeds with the current posts from day to day. I mean I’d like to see this connected community aggregated feed updated at least once an hour. If the online feed aggregator can’t do that (even though FeedDigest does say it does this), then it won’t meet the needs of the community. Actually the ideal approach in my opinion is to actually have feed aggregation built into each sites web software itself, so that the connected community is not dependent upon a centralized aggregation service that if it overloads and goes down, then the whole connected community breaks apart. Until all web software (i.e. Movable Type, TypePad, Blogger, TextDrive, WordPress, Squarespace, etc) includes feed aggregation though, that kind of approach is unfortunately out of the question.

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Rivers of Conversations

Wild. I just had this wonderful vision. I saw this small village and through the middle of it ran a river. Everyday the people of the village went down to the river to gather water, wash their clothes, or to travel to other villages further down the river. Throughout the day, all of these people near or on the river all talked and had conversations with one another. And when they talked, I saw their conversations flowing from their mouths and going from village to village just like the river flowed between them. What I became aware of was that not only did the river sustain the people but so to did their flow of conversations as well.

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Promoting A Culture of Openness

Synchronicity? I’m not really sure. I wanted to talk about the importance of promoting a culture of openness and guess what I read on Dave’s Scripting News this morning. A lengthy post about how his interaction (or lack thereof) with companies who are not promoting openness (but instead the typical old business approach of control and exclusivity) left him feeling detached from those companies and not really wanting to have a relationship with them or share anything with them again. Who were these companies? One was Microsoft (which probably won’t suprise a lot of people) and the other was Google (which probably will surprise some people).

All I can say is that obviously a change of culture is occurring at Google. The small personable culture that everyone assumed they had is slowly disappearing and being replaced by that familiar old business culture that we’ve seen in other larger corporations. The following quote taken from their website is proof enough of this change (although I’m wondering how Danny Sullivan got it because Google has an Iron Curtain around their Zeitgeist Conference site and you can only get in with a password).

All speeches and discussions at Zeitgeist are off the record. To ensure that our presenters and attendees can speak openly, no press coverage or blogging is permitted.

The hilarious thing about this quote is that it sounds like they are trying to promote openness (i.e. "ensure that our presenters and attendees can speak openly") when in fact they are promoting control, closure, and exclusivity as Dave mentioned. I mean what is so open about, what sounds like, a bunch of fearful zealots huddling within a fortress speaking in secret so that no one can attack them (and question their motives in the press or in the blogosphere). Or are you trying to tell me that when these presenters speak on the record they are not speaking openly and truthfully about things because they can’t? Either way you word this, it just leaves a bad taste in your mouth and doesn’t make you want to trust these people very much or have a relationship with them.

Businesses need to start waking up and realizing that every action they do (and don’t do) defines their culture. That culture they are defining is in turn influencing and affecting others who come in contact with it. If that culture counteracts the culture that others are trying to promote with their own actions then those people will not want to interact with you because they won’t want to interact with the culture that you are promoting. In a nutshell, you can talk all you want about how great a culture your company has but those interacting with you will define that culture by your actions not words.

For example, by relaying most of my thoughts on this site (even the ones I’m not sure about) anyone can take them and build off of them. Potentially this allows groups of people to collaborate and collectively solve problems or discover solutions which may not have been possible before with just one person. By sharing my thoughts and by being open with them, I’m giving them out in the hopes that we can all become stronger through our shared knowledge.

Of course my focus is on creating a better world, not making craploads of money. Therein lies the problem I think. When people start talking money, that’s when the walls are built, fear starts to spread, and people start whispering their ideas behind closed doors. That’s when the old culture of business begins to clamp down on things. When you talk about changing the world though, borders are broken, hope is spread, and people start shouting their ideas from their rooftops to as many people as they can reach.

We need to promote this open culture because it is the culture that every good relationship is built upon. It is the culture of the world.

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Technological & Cultural Changes

I’m exhausted and ready to hit the sack but I just had another thought that I wanted to get down before I forget. The more I think about what I’d like to achieve here with this idea of connected communities the more I realize that technology alone won’t achieve this. These are my exact same thoughts I had before when I spoke of businesses trying to blog. I said that just because you are using blogging software isn’t doesn’t mean you are blogging. Spewing out a business press release on a blog isn’t going to make your business look and sound any better, no matter how you package it. For the change to occur it has to come from inside of your company. In other words, it isn’t so much a technological change as much as a cultural change that needs to take place. And as difficult as that technological change is to undertake, the cultural change will be ten times harder. That is why so many companies just don’t get it and, more importantly, don’t want to get it. They don’t want to accept the cultural change which will totally change how their business will work and operate.

So what am I talking about when I speak of a cultural change? Well, I hinted at this before in my post entitled I Work For The Web where I said that “I work for a daring, imaginative, adventurous, sharing, caring, diverse, open, trusting, honest, flexible, responsible, and connected company.” I’m talking about how the Web works and also the type of company I’d like to work for. If you break down those traits and look at them closely, they’ll show you a way for groups of people to work collectively together as equals on shared goals to achieve things that we never dreamed possible before. More than anything, this type of culture breeds passion, something that every Fortune 500 company dreams of creating in their employees because of the efficiency and productivity it creates. But that’s the problem with these companies again. They just don’t get it. You can’t force passion into a person. It has to grow from within them. Their surroundings, the culture of the company that they are immersed within, will help that passion to breed and grow. Therefore to breed this passion, you need to literally change the culture of your company and effectively alter how you work and operate.

Now the thing to realize is that I’m not just talking about businesses here, I’m talking about any organizational structure in our society, be it business, political, whatever. In effect, yes I’m talking about a new way of working and collaborating with one another. Pretty radical to some I’m sure but not as radical when you think about it. I’ve already seen hints of this change underway and groups of people in organizations and businesses already working in this general direction (and talking about it). Over time I think we’ll start seeing more and more of it. As usual, change often doesn’t happen overnight but is like a snowball rolling down a hill, building slowly up until at the last minute it comes out of nowhere and bowls you over! 🙂

And now if I tell you that my psuedo name that I use when playing online is “Gentle Nova”, maybe you’ll understand why I called myself that. You see, yes, change is constant but it may not always be evident. Yet if you stop and listen, more often than not you’ll feel the ground gently rumbling beneath your feet and see the signs of it as it approaches from across the horizon. By then you’d better brace yourself though, because once it arrives there’s no stopping it. 🙂