Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Networking Articles are "Uninformed and Unhelpful"

It's quite clear that most journalists don't understand the basics of networking practice. I don't blame them for that. Networking online is new, we do have access to many more people, but we don't have personal capacity to keep in memory and consciousness any more people than previously. Those of us who are deeply connected on Ryze, Linked In or Ecademy for instance, have not yet learned for ourselves how best to use this new ability to connect. It should not surprise us that people who are even less connected don't understand the process.

Journalists, particularly business journalists, assume you can determine in advance what you want to achieve by networking and can measure the cost performance of your involvement. They are wrong. Planning the precise outcome can't be done in any sensible way. Networking is a journey. You are going into unmapped territory. There are NO POSSIBLE MAPS of who you will meet and what will occur as a result.

Think about exploration in history. Tell me what explorers wanted to find in this unmapped territory that would make their exploration a success? They wanted a quick easy reward. The discovery of gold, oil, slaves, free land, virgin forests, new opportunity? In history when explorers have entered new territory, they often failed to find the "riches" they expected to find, and also completely failed to notice real wealth that existed in this unmapped territory that was beyond their original narrow vision. Settlers went to California to find gold and become wealthy. Most of them found poverty and many died. Those who became rich were not the gold miners. Nobody was thinking about grapes, wine, oranges or films. Nobody was thinking about the value of the climate and the beaches.

Joining a network is taking a journey into unmapped territory. A "friends" list is a rough sort of map that each of us makes of that territory. Joining networks is another way to make a rough map of what's there. But you can't beat living there for a couple of years to sort out which of the "friends" are people of substance, and which networks are sources of both good people and sound data. The discovery of one person who thinks well and who asks good questions is far more valuable as a long term resource than 1000 pages of public opinion. But to discover that person you will need to read a lot of "public opinion".

If you come to networking like Christopher Columbus, with "orders from the Queen of Spain", determined to establish yourself as the "Governor" and focused on becoming fabulously wealthy, you are likely to get a rather cold reception from the natives. Self engrandizement, elevator pitches, trying to make yourself out to be the "Governor" is the wrong response to the network environment.

In a network, in fact in all of life, nothing is more important that your ability to be accepted as a member. If you are a member, people listen to you. If you are a member you are given good data and help when you need it. If you are a member your rights as a member will be protected and respected by others. If you are a member you pay attention to what other "members" say and do and you respect and protect their rights as members.

So what do I mean by "membership"? There are at least two forms of membership. Let's think about Ryze membership. You join, when you subscribe to Ryze as a free member. . In one sense "you are a member of this network" but you are not a member to the "members", they don't know you yet. You become a member (in your own eyes) by subscribing to "networks" and reading the posts. But you are not a member to anyone else. You become a member to others when you occasionally respond to what someone else has written in a sensible way (so people feel that you have read the posts and in a way that "fits in".) and that shows knowledge of and respect for the "member" you responding to. When people read what you wrote, they choose, they choose either to accept you or to reject you. If they accept you, your posts will be read, and your opinion listened to. If they decide you didn't understand the group, or didn't show respect for a "member" you might get a lashing, but more likely you'll just get ignored. If they choose to ignore you, it's probably your own fault.

How do you succeed in a networking situation? Listen to what other people are saying. Respond to their needs and interests. Be supportive or other members, and you might become a "member" yourself.

In my experience the journalists who write about networking don't seem to understand the simple social rules that apply to all networks. When a network member introduces his "elevator pitch" to make sure he "stands out from the crowd" he poisons the place where he's trying to become accepted. The "members" will reject him. It's the same online as it is offline. Offline, people are less likely to make silly social mistakes. Online you see new people commit social errors all the time. In this sense, the vast numbers of people who sit silently on networks might be doing the right thing. At least if they are reading the posts, before posting themselves, that is a wise way to behave.

Sadly on Ryze 70%+ of all members join no networks at all. Even those who do spend little time reading the posts. They learn nothing, because they do nothing. On Ryze 50% of the members have fewer than 3 friends because they make no effort to find out who the other people are on the network. On Ryze lots of people create a page that ADVERTISES some product or one's skills and interests, that is connected to zero networks and one friend. That page won't be visited, and it it is, 97% of the people who go there can't leave a message. People don't understand what to do.

On LinkedIn another network I know well, a huge number of people have only one contact, or a small group of people link to each other in a small disconnected cluster. I have not done the numbers, but I expect the pattern we see on Ryze is repeated. People prepare a Homepage for others to view, but they never bother to read the homepages of other members. People usually have one connection, but very few make the effort to build their links to other people they know.

I trust this view introduces some ideas we can discuss. Like how to give newbies to social networks a better idea of what they need to do, and how we can help the silent majorities on all our networks to be more involved.

John Stephen Veitch
Open Future Limited - You may comment privately to John S Veitch using this form.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

The Virtual Handshake: (Book Review)

The Virtual Handshake: Opening Doors and Closing Deals Online.

By David Teten and Scott Allen

Until now too many people have been unsure what to do "now that I'm online". The Virtual Handshake is a solution to that problem. It's plain and clear that what you choose to do online is important, and the authors give you strong, specific and easily understood instructions about how to "do it" right.

For internet newbies The Virtual Handshake has detailed instruction on the simple things you need to do to get started. The Virtual Handshake also tells you how to create an online presence that will attract to you the people who are most likely to help you to succeed.

There is detailed help in the use of Blogs for that purpose by demonstrating your competence and knowledge in your posts. In the process you collect contacts with other people, most of those contacts being very weak connections. By controlling your use of email and lists and social networks like Ryze, you can develop from those weak connections a number of "strong virtual connections" with people who have skills and abilities that are likely to be useful to you.

There is very strong emphasis in the book on doing the right things, and in every chapter there is help and advice to make it possible for you too to succeed online. The last sections of the book focus on finding work, on making sales and building our businesses, essential tasks that are doable, with the right approach.

This book is worth every dollar of the price. As you can tell I highly recommend it.

View the Book at Amazon Here.

John Stephen Veitch
Open Future Limited - You may comment privately to John S Veitch using this form.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Networking and Learning

While it's possible to learn from books, film, or audio resources, we learn best when we are shown how to do things by people we know and admire. In fact often the key lesson is in the mode and manner of the person, as much as in the detail of anything they have to pass on. In a very real way we learn our teachers, as much as we learn a subject.

Social networks are important because they give us a chance to make many weak contacts with people who are not in our own environment. It's not obvious at first glance why that is so important.

We have strong and close ties with many people who are family members or who share business activities or who live in our own community. We will share with those people almost the same set of ideas. That is why we can have such close ties with them. But can they be effective teachers? Certainly, but they are likely only to reinforce the expected thinking of the local environment.

Online, or in a new country, beyond your normal environment, you are likely to be confronted with a set of ideas and expectations that are not your own. If there is no personal relationship between yourself and the "new idea set" then you can ignore it. But if you "know" the person in a social way, you are likely to give the idea more than a dismissive reading. The process of giving this "new idea set" serious consideration enlarges your own idea set, and gives you new things to think about. You may then choose to reject the new view, or to examine it further.

The beauty of the "weak connection" is that you don't have to agree, and you don't have make a decision now. You have many options to examine or to set aside or the leave un-examined the issue that has been raised. You can learn from the issue, but only if you choose.

Contrast that with what happens in your own community or at work. There is already a well established climate that everyone understands that enables certain modes of thinking and disables or forbids alternative modes of thinking. There is a cultural climate that is supposed to promote constructive and positive contributions to the team effort. Usually that is the result. However, it can also lead to "group think" where the group in an effort to build and sustain commitment to each other and to the task at hand, become blind to external realities.

Social Networks allow us to make lots of weak links to many people. Because the links are weak, we are free to express our own ideas more strongly than we might at home or at work. We are also able to pay attention to the sort of ideas our own close contacts are unlikely to express. In accepting or rejecting these new ideas a learning process is going on.

If you are to live in a society where knowledge is important, nothing is more important than maintaining your own ability to learn. Learning is a precondition to being able to adapt your own behavior. I call my web site Adapt to Experience. If you can successfully adapt to the environment you are likely to succeed. Those who fail to adapt are guaranteed failure.

People who are members of social groups thrive. People who neglect to maintain their membership become isolated and shut out. They die.

John Stephen Veitch
Open Future Limited - You may comment privately to John S Veitch using this form.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Joe Doe and Jane Plain - Networkers?

When I examine the personal pages of people who are active networkers I find people who have a belief that talking to others and meeting new people is useful and helpful.  But the vast majority of people who join social and business networks are unsure why they joined, and quickly drop out.

So why should Joe Doe and Jane Plain have any interest in what happens on networks like Ryze, Ecademy or Linked In?

First of all, in our lives we all invest a great deal of time and money in various activities that help to identify who we are.  I say "invest" but I mean "over invest" we have a passion for something and we give that activity an undue share of our time and money and attention.  We define ourselves by this activity.  Over time the chosen activity changes, but most of us have a passion for something that we like to express strongly. 

For me that was soccer, later studying, then my job, a journal, a house, public speaking, dancing.  Each of these was pursued with excess enthusiasm for a few years, sometimes many years.  These activities have helped define who I am, and who my friends are. 

On any large worldwide network, whatever your passion, you will find people who share your vision and your desire to succeed, or to be recognized.  On a network like Ryze you can find people like yourself.  Those people can help you to learn more about who you are and about the things you care about.  No big deal here.  Join, find some groups or networks related to the things that interest you.  Then look for a few friends in those groups.  People like you.  Keep in touch. 

Two things will happen, but over a few years, not immediately.  First you may find that you meet more friends than you expect, and that some of them introduce you to new things.  And over time your interests change and you begin to find other groups that are more interesting to be part of.  Being a member, even at low levels of participation, perhaps visiting once a week, keeps you in touch and enlarges your life options. 

Who you are depends on what you've done in the past.  Who you will become depends on what you do now, and on what you do in the future.  Investing time to be connected to other people across the world is an investment in your own future.  If you quietly pursue that idea, join the most interesting groups, get to know the best people, become involved in thinking about the ideas that concern them and concern you, over time you'll become a different person.  You'll become someone with knowledge, someone with ideas, and someone with lots of friends and useful contacts.  We all need that.

You don't need a business, you don't need to go on the internet to make sales.  Your purpose is to become a person who understands "the world" because you know as friends and talk with people in dozens of countries.  Those friends will help you think about who you are and about your own country in new ways.  Your understanding about what is interesting and what is or isn't important will change.  You'll slowly develop a larger "vision" of the world and your place in it.  Because you DID something different, you will become a different person.  You will be a person with new and better options, a person with a changed future.

We become what we do.  We tend to be like the things we think about most of the time.  Our friends are the people who share an interest in the things we care most about.  In the short term you have the life you have.  In the long term you will have the life you made for yourself.  If you have the courage to choose your interests and your friends wisely your life will be like that.  If you choose to not to choose, to just drift along, your life will drift along too, and other people will each day decide what becomes of you. 

John Stephen Veitch
Open Future Limited - You may comment privately to John S Veitch using this form.