Colin Walker

on social media, tech, blogging and the internet.

More changes, welcome SquashBoxMedia.

After a while in the wilderness the Walkers have re-emerged!

Sal has been hard at work designing a new blog (I chipped in with a bit of CSS tweaking) and merged the posts from both of our existing blogs and the result is: SquashBoxMedia. Please change all your bookmarks.

This is going to be a joint effort and will cover ALL media – especially as Sal is the arty type. No longer will it be solely focused on social media but a mix of anything that takes our fancy at the time.

It’ll be good to see you all again.

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June 24, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Read and Comment” day.

Last week, Chris Brogan suggested that today, April 28th should be pronounced Read and Comment Day where we should all get out in to the blogosphere, find some good stuff and add your thoughts in order to progress the conversation. It’s a great idea and I intend to do exactly that but, in a sense, it is a shame that we need such a call to action.

So, go on, get out there and participate.

April 28, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, RSS, Uncategorized | | Leave a comment

Just because you use social media it doesn’t make you a social media user.

SharingIn his post “The danger of social media falling in on itself” Steven Hodson argues that sites like FriendFeed could potentially kill the likes of Twitter or Flickr as more people interact with their contacts via the FriendFeed interface without actually visiting the source sites.

While FriendFeed happens to allow posting of messages and comments these are secondary to its primary function of being an aggregator and, as Steven says in a subsequent comment, FriendFeed could not survive without those services it aggregates; it would be self defeating for FriendFeed to kill other services unless it changed its own model.

Using Flickr as an example, FriendFeed could only compete if it allowed you to store your pictures on its servers instead. Even if this were to happen Flickr would still remain dominant as it has become the ‘go to’ resource to upload your photos; this is something that goes way beyond ‘social media’ users.

Task oriented

Admittedly, anyone who uses something like Flickr is technically a social media user but the majority don’t see it that way – they are just looking for a way to perform a specific task such as share their images. Returning to Jim Tobin’s post “Think Before You Ning” he states:

 “Nobody wants to join a social network – and they never have”

The point he was trying to make appears to have gotten lost somewhere in the discussion but is totally correct. People do not wake up one morning and think to themselves “I know, I’ll join a social network today“. Instead, they may think “I need to find a website which will allow me to upload my photos so the rest of the family can see them“. Social Media and Web 2.0 is task oriented.

Of the millions of Flickr users – be they uploading content or searching for images to use – how many access that content via means other than the Flickr website? The answer will be an incredibly small percentage which illustrates that the average person is often not interested in the ecosystem that exists around the periphery of a service, only the core service itself. Once using a service they may become involved in the more ‘social’ aspect of it but this will be as an aside. Even Flickr itself has “Keep in touch” as the last item on its 7 point tour so little emphasis is placed on the social networking side of things.

Until the ‘concept’ of social media becomes ubiquitous, rather than those services we place under its umbrella, the services and web sites will remain predominantly isolated with only a limited subset of users making use of sites like FriendFeed.

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Image by Andy Woo.

April 28, 2008 Posted by | Social Media, Uncategorized | , | 2 Comments

The lost art of listening.

ListenBlogging is all about getting your point across and being heard isn’t it? Actually, no.

As I have said before, the real point behind blogging is getting involved with the conversation which must be a two-way affair for it to work. As bloggers we become so caught up in our own opinions and the desire to get posts finished that we often fail to notice what is going on around us. We must always look at the bigger picture as it will undoubtedly affect the way we think about any given subject.

Cycle of conversation

I’ve been many soft skills courses in my time which attempt to teach you how to have an effective conversation by recognising the different elements at work (the cycle of conversation) and how to use them correctly; when to step back or when to direct the conversation to where you want it to go. None of the courses I have attended, however, have focused on the listening part and used exercises to demonstrate the importance of this skill. They always focus on hearing the other side but not digging deep and really listening to what what is being said.

Hearing and listening are two completely different things. You can hear something but not take notice of it, you don’t get an appreciation for exactly what is going on. Once you do take notice you start to listen and this is where you achieve real benefit from the conversation.

Blogging

With all this in mind, how does listening fit in with the blogging process?

We cannot simply throw words and opinions at our readers or they will not remain so for long. Our brand, and the loyalty it commands, is only as strong as our reputation and if we develop a reputation for being arrogant, narrow minded or egotistical we may as well just give up now.

In order to blog successfully we must be open to other opinions and influences which we can obtain from sources such as our reader’s comments, other sites and blogs and our ever increasing circle of ‘friends’.

If one of our readers has taken the time to leave a meaningful comment (not just the ‘great post, here’s my link‘ type) then we must show that we appreciate that comment by listening to it and responding accordingly which is why I say that we should be using comments to further the discussion.

While it is nice to get comments of affirmation it is equally important to receive those that are contrary to our position; these comments are the ones that make us think, make us re-evaluate our ideas, and cause us to understand what we say by having to explain and justify. We should, therefore, always encourage opinion by asking open questions. A debate doesn’t work if you present your argument and then refuse to hear the reaction.

Networking

Every site that offers blogging tips will tell you to get out there, read other blogs and network with the authors. It may sound like a cliché but the importance of this act cannot be over emphasised. Other bloggers will be just as opinionated as you but their opinions will be different. By cross referencing a range of other authors you can establish a wider view, determine trends or even spark off a good healthy debate. Bloggers will always be a good sounding board for ideas and many will take those ideas and extend them into areas you had not considered – the converse is also true in that we take ideas from elsewhere and add our own take.

Just subscribing to a range of blogs doesn’t work, you have to try to understand what makes that person tick and why they say the things they do – you can then gain an appreciation for their thoughts and writing style. In short, you have to listen not just to the words but to the meaning.

By getting to know some of your favourite bloggers using social networking tools you will enhance both the relationships and discussions you have with them which can only lead to better insight and, consequently, better blog posts.

In conclusion

The hardest part of any conversation is listening but do it well and it makes you more thoughtful, considered and productive.

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Image by Simon Crowley.

April 24, 2008 Posted by | Blogging, Uncategorized | | 5 Comments