Elastic writing is all very well, but…

Blogs and other online writing platforms allow people to write as much or as little as they want.

However, it shouldn't be about what 'they' want but about what the reader wants.

A well-known blogger recently wrote a very long piece making good, but very few, points.

I'd like to know how long the average reader persevered. I read to the end and wished I hadn't.

I was tempted to add the dismissive tl;dr (too long; didn't read) comment. But, since I had read it, that wouldn't have been fair.

I realised that genie is out of the bottle and online writers feel they can do what they like, but now that most of us are online, it means that we have to fight for the right to be read.

And one way to earn that right is to respect the reader's time.

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Time for (blog) retirement?

Hi Folks,

I'm very seriously thinking of closing this blog. This one started in 2005, following some experimentation in late 2004 after hearing Adriana Lukas speak on the subject at a conference. As a writer for Information World Review at the time, I had to try and understand this new world.

In my very first post I said I wouldn't "feed the beast" in pursuit of rankings and, rightly or wrongly, I stuck to that principle. If I don't think I can inform or entertain you, then I don't bother.

Now, the posts are few and far between and, as a precaution (against tuture regrets), I have made backups of this blog and the one I ran for Guy Kewney before he died and for tributes after he passed away.

Other places seem more appropriate for my efforts these days. I add selected useful stuff to my tebbo.com website as I discover it and I still write on interesting topics in various publications – sometimes anonymously. I occasionally speak up on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. And Alison O'Leary quizzed me on Business Writing and Media Handling in a bunch of useful YouTube videos.

The question for my (very few?) readers is therefore, "Can you think of a single good reason to keep this blog going?" No need to respond if your answer is "no".

I'll just say, "Thank you for visiting and maybe see you in another place."

Kind regards,

David Tebbutt.

 

Another giant: cocoate.com

A final thank you (not really belated, I found them after the previous post) to cocoate.com

A flaw in my HTML mark-up was causing some screen elements to misalign on a few devices. Nothing really serious, it was just that the third column on the people page dropped on some of the less popular browsers.

cocoate's explanation of the 960-grid mechanisms was wonderfully clear.

Thank you folks. Or should I say "Merci bien mes amis"?

telescope or epocselet? Which way are you looking?

How often do you glaze over when someone enthuses about a product or service because you don’t “get it”?

They blast off without the faintest idea about your circumstances, your needs or your desires. Result, a baffled story-teller and a semi-comatose listener.

In extremis, it’s the religious zealots who knock on your door. But milder forms exist – the Facebook enthusiasts who are always trying to shove some dodgy philosophy down your throat – usually through pictures or video links. (Recommendation: ‘unfollow’ them – they stay in your friends list but you’re spared the distraction.)

AquaChartImageSadly, these zealots exist in business too. Some organisations are so wrapped up in their own inventions that all their publicity and promotional activities are inward-looking. Self-obsessed, if you like. And this goes for the company spokespeople too. Anyone who says ‘we’ more than ‘you’ is likely to be guilty of this.(By the way, you can get a chart of where you stand, by doing this quick assessment – it takes just a couple of minutes.)

Once you start putting your prospect first (in the same way that all good journalists put their readers first) your story will emerge as something your prospect wants to hear or read. Something that promises to, and will, deliver a desired value. This will lead them to your physical or digital door and, if you continue to play your cards right, you’ll have a new customer.

Common sense? Yes. But, in decades of dialogue with vendors of all kinds, I’ve discovered that many actually fail to make that bridge. They pay lip-service to the principle, but their words let them down. When consulting (often with Martin Banks and, more recently, with Dr. Bill Nichols), we’ve found ourselves using the term ‘looking through the wrong end of the telescope’ to describe this inward-looking approach.

We’ve even created a website called epocselet.com (that’s ‘telescope’ backwards) as an umbrella for our disparate but aligned services. Our focus is firmly on executive management and we’d be delighted to act as guides or sounding boards in the discovery, articulation and sharing of your stories. Use us as little or as much of us as you like.

The journalist’s mantra ‘know your audience’ can be applied equally in business. Change ‘audience’ to ‘prospect’ if you want, but the principle applies to anyone trying to influence anyone else, whether a prospect or an intermediary. If you’re in business, you may have multiple audiences but, at heart, you’re trying to move the same stories through to the ultimate audience, your prospect. You may be trying to influence internal staff, analysts, bloggers, journalists and the many social media cascades. In every case you need to ask yourself, “what’s in it for them?”, in order to refine the basic story to best effect.

Written baldly like that, it seems like common sense. But sometimes it’s hard to change your perspective without independent and objective help. It’s not my place to tell you where to go for this. Anyone intelligent who understands communication skills, your marketplace and who has no axe to grind will be able to help you.

But I have to mention that Bill, Martin and I – solo or in various permutations would be more than happy to help you if you’re interested. You’ll find more about us and our services at epocselet.com

 

Social Business

Luis Suarez spent many years at IBM in knowledge management and social business. Earlier this year, he branched out on his own. He's a popular speaker at conferences and advisor to many about the practicalities of social business.

One of his recent blog posts about social business challenges in the workplace spurred me to respond – something I should do more of (like blogging) but rarely get round to.

Social business at senior management level is not always appreciated or understood. In fact some (many?) actively resist it. I tried to take the management perspective with comments like:

It would be interesting to know how many of the 'resisters' of a top-down mindset are in fear of losing their power?

Perhaps they've acquired it through inheritance, accident, shareholding — anything except merit.

Or maybe they consider that their unique perspective wouldn't be understood by the 'lower orders', even if they were to share it.

When email first came in, analysis revealed that many middle managers were just 'message passers'. People just started leaving them out of conversations and they were exposed and, presumably, moved out of the way.

It's a bit different at the higher echelons of the company. I guess the answer is to find those senior management willing to engage socially and show the non-participants the value (e.g. better understanding of what's going on — in both directions) and see if participation spreads. If it doesn't then 'engagement' should perhaps be raised as an agenda item at board meetings.

Luis' responded quite fully (and harmoniously) and my response to this included:

Agree with you. Including your point on the restrictiveness (ie non-social) aspects of email.

I think that 'effective working' should always be the goal. I worry a bit when the goal is expressed as 'social' anything. Social is the mechanism, not the destination. It's something a lot of 'evangelists' (not you, of course) seem to miss.

He responded again so, if you have any interest in the subject of social business practicalities, I really urge you to add Luis' blog to your list of thought leaders in this area. He's widely known as Elsua, if you want to search for him. (Saves you ending up with loads of footballer hits.)

From the personal computer to the web: a searchable archive

Phew! That was hard work. I've tarted up the HTML of 263 of my columns and features written in the pre-web days (1979 to 1995). They should all be readable in any browser on any device.

The archive is searchable, so if you're into nostalgia or research, you can  check out my take on just about anything personal computer (including Mac) related from those years. It's a mix of opinion, reviews and feature articles written for a mix of consumer and business publications.

I must have been doing something right because my writing was put up for eight awards, I was a finalist for all eight and won the Times/Hewlett Packard Technology Columnist of the Year three years running. (I was then banned from re-entry.)

Apologies for any remaining typos. The articles were scanned and some words got mangled. I've fixed them where I've spotted them.

Have fun (or not).

http://www.tebbo.com/archive/

Silo (or Solo) – Collaboration – Social

I've lost count of how many years I've been dipping my toe into the collaboration waters. Certainly, it goes back at least to Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) thirty years ago. By 1988 this was formalised into a time/space grid, so that you had remote/colocated on one axis and synchronous/asynchronous on the other. Not a bad way to characterise many of the collaboration and social tools that abound today.

I mention all this because Agile Elephant's David Terrar invited me to a Future of Collaboration Conference triggered, in part, by the opportunities created by the convergence of cloud, social and mobile technologies. (To my mind, this equates to a transformation in reach and convenience.) Each speaker had ten minutes or so to share their vision. This was followed by a Q&A session and networking. The audience was also made up of industry people, so I expected the bullshit factor to be low. And it was.

Given my background, I wondered what I would learn. Let me list the participants and their roles, and then I'll tell you what I ended up thinking. I'll spare you the blow-by-blow details.

David Terrar chaired the event.

Speakers:

Jon Mell, Social Leader, IBM UK
Alan Patrick, Agile Elephant
David Moore, SAP
Simon Levene, Jive
Janet Parkinson, Agile Elephant
Chris Boorman, Huddle

Questioners (apart from David Terrar and me):

Phil Wainewright, Diginomica
Lucinda Carney, AdvanceChange

Baker Tilly, chartered accountants and business advisers, provided the accommodation and refreshments. (Lovely, thank you).

The first thing I noticed was the lack of evangelism, thank goodness. Quite often you turn up at these events and they're more like a religious revival meeting than a pragmatic look at business needs and applications. Okay – one chap said work should be fun, but he got a slight ribbing for that from some of the others. Work could become pleasant, fulfilling or rewarding maybe, but not fun. God forbid. (Mind you I quite often have fun when running training workshops, so I have some sympathy with his point of view.)

While 'email' and 'social' can be good in the right context, neither is much cop as a sole collaboration strategy. In fact two people branded email 'the enemy' of collaboration and another branded social on its own as 'a waste of time'.

Previous events have banged on about the need to change a company's culture or boasted of coming 'disruption'. Utterly unhelpful. This isn't how stuff gets done. Far better to introduce collaboration tools which fit business needs and, if possible, integrate it with what exists. Do this in a few key areas (with board level support, of course) and things start to catch on as others see (or are told about) the business benefits of these new ways of working.

Social – people communicating openly and freely (with business intent, of course) – isn't going to happen without trust and that doesn't come without knowing each other (usually through at least one face-to-face meeting, but relationships can form through voice, video and even, dare I say, email).

As collaboration, then social, activity spreads vertically and horizontally through an organisation, culture change will follow. When it extends beyond the company boundaries to partners and customers, it will alter the way the organisation listens, responds and collaborates. Silos will be breached and individuals will become more aligned and harmonised with business drivers.

Everyone – the company, the workforce, partners, customers and prospects will benefit. That's the promise. And it sounds good to me.

And now I'd better go, before I'm accused of being an evangelist.