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These were the fastest 44:29 minutes talking with someone about a topic near and dear to my heart: building community by connecting people. Which, as Mitch Joel and I discussed, is the same as saying developing influence and engagement.
Mitch was on my list of top people to meet when I started blogging. He's been writing, and doing podcasts for a long time at Six Pixels of Separation, in addition to running his own agency, Twist Image, with locations in two major Canadian cities. When I finally found my way to Montreal, Mitch was on my top list of people to meet in person.
I was fortunate enough to watch him in action during a presentation for a private organization, which was quite a treat. Since then, our paths have crossed at several conferences and events where we both spoke, so this podcast to me is like a conversation with a like-minded friend.
It was fast for me, and I do understand if you don't have time to go through the whole conversation. So here are a couple of highlights of what we covered. In my introduction, I explained how I got into blogging when building the community and network on FastCompany.com.
Twitter attacks and value [5:21]
Mitch talked about a Twitter exchange about consistency, and how he is questioned from people thinking he counsels trading quality for volume. However, he feels you can have both. To me this is a conversation about trade-offs and having a plan.
The plan allows you to set the right expectations with the community — what content you will publish and when and the cadence of topics. I get into similar discussions where people talk about posting less frequently to get more comments. Comments are not the only sign you have an engaged community.
In fact, despite the length of many of my posts, the feedback I receive around the Web and by email is quite positive. People comment where it's easy for them. So making the links to content available in other social networks is helpful — Twitter, FriendFeed and Facebook all have different groups connecting and sharing.
How long it takes to write a post [11:15]
Mitch can write two while watching :60 minutes. For me, it depends on the moment — inspiration can strike while doing client work, and in that case it may be a few hours before I can find time to write a post. And it's also about adding value.
I tend not to write about what everyone else is writing about. If I do, I will wait a topic out, research it a bit, ask questions to an overlooked party, play journalist a little. It may take me a whole weekend to write posts.
I also like to upset my own mix and push myself to rethink formats.
Public content, does it equal who you are? [18:40]
This was a great question from Mitch. When you publish content publicly, people think that you spend all your time online, and that's who you are. In fact, Mitch runs two offices, takes care of clients, and so do I, for the greatest part of the day and week.
My challenge has been quite the opposite. There are entire days I spend in flow on client work, and I forget to check in with the community, get different perspectives on content I'm thinking about. We solve business challenges by being in conversation and thinking through information.
I like to caution us on exercising restraint and being kinder with others online. A comment or post made in haste may end up damaging someone's reputation.
Mitch feels there's a tool failure — not allowing us to have open discussions on longer comment threads — and a filter failure, so much content coming at all of us at once.
This podcast reminded me that conversation is also an exploration. While listening, I realized that more critical thinking is needed. I was reminded of why it's important to show doubt.
Exploring our thinking is good. The world is not black and white, and we are not flat. Life is in the nuances, and in the process of getting to where we're going. The ability to doubt well is a required skill in a world of complex systems.
I want you to take away ways to go back and influence your organization in the same ways that our live discussions and Twitter chats have sparked engagement and insights for many.
What's your take on blogging? Is keeping up too much for you? What do you find most challenging? Is riffing off someone else's idea part of your content plan, or a spontaneous thing?
When it comes to leaving posts open ended I'm quite challenged and tend to cover many angles. In reflecting upon what I learned about my own thinking here, more exploration is needed here.
Kneale Mann in the comments at Six Pixels thought these were great lines – When in doubt, blame the tools. Zero to Italian in no time.
What where your favorite parts?
The interview I did with Mitch Joel about his views on the agency side of business a couple of years back.