Carl’s obstacles revisited

Despair

In one of my earlier posts I talked about my friend Carl. If you recall that earlier post, Carl was full of great ideas, and had passion and enthusiasm. This passion and enthusiasm, however, was just not harnessed in the right way. End result…Carl was despondent and feeling depressed. He ended up leaving his employer, which was a pity.

Forbes have published an article that lists 10 mistakes big companies make when it comes to keeping their talented staff. Looking at these, most of them seemed to apply to Carl. Namely:

1. You Failed To Unleash Their Passions: Carl was passionate about what he was doing.  This was not recognised.

2. You Failed To Challenge Their Intellect: Carl was given a slap on the wrist for “doing the wrong thing”, and was relegated to mundane tasks that did not stimulate his intellect at all.

3. You Failed To Engage Their Creativity: Carl was looking for new ways of doing things. He was trying to be innovative. He was told to stop “thinking outside the box.”

4. You Failed To Develop Their Skills: Not getting any support from his managers, Carl was attempting to develop his skills himself. This was perceived as “wasting time”.

5. You Failed To Give Them A Voice: Carl had ideas. No-one listened to them though.

6. You Failed To Care: At one stage, Carl really enjoyed his job. He worked hard, and often (at least in his eyes) went “above and beyond”. He knew that it was about ‘give and take’. He didn’t expect to be rewarded, but was hoping to get a little bit of respect.

7. You Failed to Lead:Carl was not getting the leadership that he needed. In the end – he tried to use his initiative to find his own way.

8. You Failed To Recognize Their Contributions:

9. You Failed To Increase Their Responsibility: In Carl’s situation, his responsibilities actually decreased. This had a big impact of Carl’s morale.

10. You Failed To Keep Your Commitments:

The above-mentioned “mistakes” are the ones that really capture the frustration that Carl was experiencing. Also read the original Forbes article for an extended explanation.

Dousing the flame

 
A friend of mine gave me a call the other day.

His name is Carl. I’ve known him for a long time so he lets me call him “Carl”.

Carl’s a young guy and has been quite passionate about the computer world. He has his own blog and used to write quite some eclectic material. Recently, however, he had been rather reticent with his ponderings.

As I hadn’t spoken to Carl for awhile, I arranged to meet him for a drink. It was quite at the bar. There was a group of guys who seemed to be discussing how to run a “search” project, but we tried to steer clear of that. We headed to a quite table and ordered a drink.

After the usual small-talk I asked him, directly, what was happening. Why hadn’t he written any blog posts recently.

“They’ve killed me”, he said. “Huh?! – what do you mean?” I replied almost choking on my beer. Carl went on “I’m dead…the passion’s gone”. I grilled Carl a bit more and gradually the story came out.

As I mentioned above Carl was really enthusiastic about the computer industry. He wrote some great blog posts, and would attend industry shows, and user group sessions when he could, just to see what the latest thing happening was and also to learn from others. In fact Carl had built up a great circle of what he called “Social 2.0 friends”. (I was a “social 1.5″ friend according to him). And Carl was happy. He liked learning.

He wasn’t always like this. Once upon a time Carl was just a standard “computer guy”. He did his work well, but when he was at home he didn’t really do anything special. He watched TV, he went to the movies with some of his Social 1.0 friends, and that was pretty much it. Any  “further education” he got, any training, was always related to his job.

Then Carl had decided to improve himself. He started cautiously with his blog. (This is when I got to know him.) And he started reading more and more. Not only things that were related to his job, but articles and posts that discussed all facets of the computer industry. He even expanded this to include things that, on the surface, had nothing at all to do with computers.

I had been following Carl’s progress for awhile, and I could see that he was growing, and developing. Normally Carl was a reserved guy with not much self-esteem, but I could see a new confidence appearing. In our rare face-to-face opportunities, Carl had also mentioned the same. He was enthusiastic and didn’t want to stop.

But then, apparently, someone, where Carl worked, had taken exception to all this. Someone from high-up had come way down to talk with him. “Carl’, they had said (apparently) “You are wasting time. What has all this to do with your work. You’re clearly a ‘fuzzy thinking’. You write all this crap, but with no real value.” Carl had tried to protest, but he was too shocked. “We’ve read a lot of what you’ve written…90% of it is just cut-and-paste bullshit. You don’t write anything original.”

And this is when Carl “died”. “After hearing that,” he said to me quietly, “I just lost the passion.” “I thought I was doing so well, and was hoping that someone would recognise the potential I was showing.” “Instead, they just want me to plod through my job”

I bought Carl another beer and let him rave on a little bit more. I wanted to tell him that what he was had been doing was brilliant, and how he had really been making leaps and bounds in not only his knowledge but also in the sort of person he was. He had now “drive” and a voracious appetite for discovery. Carl was feeling so morose at this stage that it seemed that nothing I would say would make a difference.

We decided to call it a night. We sidled past the group of “search project” guys and headed out the door. I ordered Carl a taxi and got one myself.

Later that evening, back in my flat, I had a chance to think about Carl’s situation. It seemed a shame that his newly developed talents were not being recognised. In fact, it seemed the opposite. Even though Carl’s blog was a hobby, it seemed to have been used against him. I know, myself, that writing a blog often “exposes” you as a person. If you want to write something “real”, your ideas, your opinions, and your personality will get reflected in the blog posts. And it seemed that this had allowed Carl’s employer to make a judgement on who Carl was in the workplace. And this was a shame.

In an ideal world, what Carl was doing, the metamorphosis that he had achieved, would be recognised and utilised somehow. Instead, it seemed in Carl’s case, that someone had decided that this “new Carl” wasn’t fitting nicely into the hole that he was meant to be fitting into.

Carl’s flame has been doused. And that’s a real pity. I’m trying to give Carl real encouragement so that he won’t “lose himself”.

Carl – if you’re reading this, don’t be silenced. Be yourself.

Re-categorizing

As I have mentioned in earlier posts (see below for a list), I like the way that AIIM’s Certified Information Professional certification captures the broad knowledge and skills that an Information Professional needs to have.

If you look at AIIM’s page on the CIP, you’ll see that everything has been grouped into “Knowledge Domains“.

I’ve decided, (in a loose fashion), to use these “Knowledge domains” as categories for my posts. I will make them sub-categories under a “parent” category of “Information management“. (I’ve highlighted the ones that I am going to start using straight away.)

I’ll go through my posts (226 so far!) and re-categorize where appropriate.

You’ll can see the categories either in the top navigation menu (running across the page), or in the Categories drop down menu that can be viewed at the side of the page (when you click “Home”, or at the bottom of the page (when viewing each post individually.)

“Photo ops” & “post topics” – they’ve re-wired my brain

Ever since I got my new smart phone (Samsung Galaxy 2S), I’ve (re)discovered the joys of photography.

Sure – I have a “proper SLR digital camera which I’m very happy with, and can do incredible things with, but the smartphone has given me the chance to have a camera with me almost always.

Combined with the fact that I have photo editing software also installed on the smartphone means that I don’t have to “transfer” the file before I add a filter to enhance it.

And being able to then upload the photo to an online storage site is just great. (My photos upload automatically to Google+, but I use Flick’r as my “showcase”.)

So, taking photos, of what I consider to be interesting scenes, is now a new enjoyable hobby of mine. So much so that anywhere I go now I’m looking for “interesting” shots. So much so that if I’m driving and I pass something that “catches my eye”, I’ll either stop straight away or try and do a U-turn as soon as I can, and trying somewhere relatively safe (but not always) to stop the car.

This continual alertness for “photo ops” is something that happens, now, automatically. I don’t have to  consciously think about it. And the same thing is happening now when I read articles on the internet. My brain is automatically determining whether I could use what I’m reading a blog post. “Is this subject related to what I blog about?”, “Is it something that I have an opinion about, or could expand on?”

It’s as if I’ve set up my own Google Alerts in my brain (with some more complex selection criteria).

And, my good reader (yes – you know who you are), if you have read some of my other “why do I blog?” posts, you’ll know that this analysing of content, this critical thinking, is what I was aiming to achieve. So I’m happy.

On the photo side – as I mentioned I really enjoy capturing unusual, or interesting scenes. I upload them to Flick’r, but don’t do it to attract viewers. (The same with my blog posts – if people read them, I consider it a bonus, but it’s not the main reason I write them).

So – I got a really nice surprise this morning when I saw a tweet from Ben Evans in Australia, someone I’ve been following, but have never really interacted with.

Ben’s tweet was:

When are you giving up the day job to become a full time photographer? These photos are a nice diversion in my tweet stream

It was cool to know that someone enjoyed my photos.

Thanks Ben

 

Related Posts

Exciting Times ahead with AIIM

I’m honored to have been asked to be an Expert Blogger for AIIM!

That’s right – I’ve been designated an AIIM ECM Expert. I’ve even got a new purple badge that has been added to my AIIM profile. (It’s sitting on top of the AIIM Ambassador badge!)

I’m very thankful to the editor  at AIIM (Bryant Duhon) for giving me this opportunity, and it’s also fantastic to be include with such intellectual giants as Chris Walker, Joe Shepley, Laurence Hart, Cheryl McKinnon, Jesse Wilkins, Jeremy Thake, Christian Buckley, Nick Inglis and many, many more. (For a full list click here).

I’ve been given the OK to publish any post I write for AIIM, also on my own blog (i.e. this one), but with a lapse of a couple of weeks.

At the same time, I’m still very interested in other areas that don’t quite fit the scope of my AIIM designation. If I feel the urge to put fingers to keyboard and write about these, they will also be appearing here.

I’m really stoked about this, and look forward to writing some smart stuff.

A Blog Post title…5 ways to write a STUPENDOUSLY good one

Hi there reader. Welcome (back).

In this post I want to talk about the title of a blog post.

I’ve been reading a lot of stuff on the Internet that states (ad nauseum) that the blog post title has to be catchy, compelling & with a “sense of urgency“. Otherwise you might as well not write a post at all. They also state that having numbers in the title is a winner. (For example, I bet the “5 ways..” in the title of this blog was a like magnet…and, I have to apologise, I used it just for that reason.)

(Note – I updated the title to include the word “STUPENDOUSLY” as an example a ludicrous use of hyperbole in a blog post title.)

I find a lot of these techniques to be a bit “dishonest”. Oh sure, a lot of the blogs posts that have titles that have a number in them (“6 incredible ways to increase your readership”, or “15 secrets that we will never tell you”) do tend to deliver, but I hate the fact that this technique has to be used.

Personally, I don’t write my blog posts to be read. I know, that sounds weird. Certainly, if I get people actually taking the time to read it, then that is fantastic, but it is not the reason I write.

I write to get my own thoughts about technology and related subjects “on paper”. I helps me know what I know.

If you look at a thesis written for a PhD, do they ever have a number in them that is intended to draw in the reader? (For example, should a thesis titled Constraining Global Biogenic Emissions and Exploring Source Contributions to Tropospheric Ozone: Modeling Applications” be better off as “12 Ways to Show how CO2 contributes to Ozone“? Sure, it’s a simple title that tells you, more or less, what’s it’s about. You do get the feeling of “Wow – I’m going to read that to find out what these  12 ways are”, but it sort of lowers the expectation of the thesis.

Now, I’m not saying that blog posts should have such lengthy titles, (for an example of a model for creating such titles, see the comic at the end of this post), but I just want to point out that some blog posts are written to merely “capture” something – a person’s opinion, or a their understanding of something, or to provide knowledge on something. They don’t necessarily have to be read by fifty thousand people within 6 hours of being published. Instead they are available for future discovery (for example, a person may do a search using one of their favourite search engines), or are shared by a small (global) group of people with an interest in that particular subject (a “community of interest”).

Having said that, a good title does help explain what the post is about, (and I intend to go back over my previous posts to make them a little bit more helpful.)

And here’s that comic I mentioned…

Click on the image to see more great “PhD” comics 

How Apt… The desire to Write

I just finished writing my last post, clicked on Published, and waited while WordPress put a stamp on it and sent it off to the world.

Then, WordPress displayed an encouraging message on the side of the screen saying that “This was my 179th post!”, as well as showing an “inspiring quote” underneath it…

The desire to write grows with writing.
— Desiderius Erasmus

Initially I gave it a passing glance, but then I stopped and re-read it…

The desire to write grows with writing.
— Desiderius Erasmus

This was amazing. I’ve become more and more aware that when I write, I end up wanting to write more. It’s as if there are more than the standard 4 neurons firing in my brain (of course neurons don’t “fire”, then tend to “release chemicals and electrical charges”, but there is no actual “fire”). 

Whatever’s happening I find myself looking at, and reading things differently. I start to really “analyze and process” what I’m taking in, in an active way, rather than just passively letting the blah, blah, blah travel from my eyes to that grey mass in my head where it competes with more important details such as what is for dinner tonight, “did I turn off the stove this morning”, and an assorted other thoughts that I am, unfortunately, not allowed to include in this blog post.

And that was what one of my main goals was when I started writing this blog. It was also akin to something that Andrew Chapman confessed to me to me when I was just a bright-eyed, innocent, blogger (with only a few posts under my belt). Andrew said “it helps me understand what I’m thinking” (or something similar. Andrew, my apologies if this is too far off the truth).

So – the above quote, from Mr Erasmus is pretty accurate. “Writing really does beget writing” (to paraphrase).
No wonder they named a university after him! (Despite the fact that he has an extremely pointed nose and looks like the kind of person you wouldn’t invite to your party).

It also goes to show that some things have not changed over the last 600 years.

Related Links

A couple of reasons for me to travel to Switzerland – ARMA & Chris Walker

On Monday morning, I’m heading to Switzerland.

The Swiss Chapter of ARMA, is having their inaugural meeting, in Basel, and a fellow tweeter of mine, Christian Walker, will be giving the key note speech there.

Because I’m “in the neighborhood”, (sort of), he suggested I come along to it.

I’m really excited…for two reasons.

This is going to be the ever first meeting of the ARMA’s Swiss Chapter!
I’m really pleased that I have the opportunity to be present during this.

The second reason is that I really, really enjoy the chance to meet some of the really smart ECM people that I tweet with. Christian is a senior consultant at Oracle in Edmonton, as well as an “expert blogger” for AIIM. I’ve be connected to Christian for over a year now, and have been involved in many Twitter discussions with him (and others) on subjects ranging from ECM through to “toilet paper” (long story…maybe I’ll cover this in a separate blog).   Needless to say – I am looking forward to meeting him in person.

(I had an excellent opportunity recently to meet up with another fellow Tweeter, Laurence Hart, in Paris, a few months ago (I was invited as a guest blogger to Nuxeoworld, where Laurence was giving the keynote speech.)
Because of various circumstances, I couldn’t make it – something I still regret).

Needless to say – I’ll be taking notes during the sessions (especially the keynote speech), and plan to write a blog post once I get back.

Related Links

Search terms that have highlighted my site

Interesting…

WordPress keeps a log of the search terms that have been used in various Search Engines (Yahoo, Bing, Google, etc).

Every day I check which searched terms have been used, and normally find it quite interesting. It’s always fun to then try and match up the searches with the posts that were read.

As well as “per day”, it’s also possible to see the search terms used over a week, a month, a quarter, a year, or for all time.

I checked the search terms used over the last quarter…

The top search term used that resulted in my blog coming up in the search result was … “frustrated face“!

I was very happy to know that my blog, which covers such things as “document management”, “compliance”, “psychology”, “UX”, “innovation”, etc, was showing up as a hit when someone searched for “frustrated face”. And this was the top search term!

Luckily, I checked the “all time” search term statistics. The top two were “technology acceptance model” (which leads to these posts which I am very proud of), and “innovation and technology” (which leads to some of the other posts I am also very proud of).

Thank goodness for the “ten thousand foot view”.

By the way – at least a search for “frustrated face” still lists “technical posts”.

Thoughts on Blogging

When I started blogging, it was because I had been inspired to “write down” what I was doing. Just as a way of keeping a personal record. I just wanted to start…something.

At the same time, I discovered that I was actually having to “think” more about things. I found this really inspiring.

A post at the end of last year, by Bjørn Furuknap, led me to question this. In his post, Bjorn stated that if a blogger was offering no real value, then he/she would be better off doing nothing. (I wrote a post about this, that you can read here.)

To be honest, Bjorn’s post (as well as older post by Laurence Hart, aka @Piewords), make me think seriously about the posts I write.

On the one hand, I didn’t want my posts to fall into the “might as well just shut up” category, but I still wanted to use them as a way that I could record my thoughts, or offer tips, or advice.

In fact this conflict, would often prevent me from actually writing anything. I would start, but then doubt would enter my mind, as I tried to work out whether the post was indeed too much of the “just shut up” type.

Thanks to a tweet by @BizTeam lead me to a small video in which Seth Godin, and  Tom Peters, talks about blogging. Seth commented that a blog is free, and it doesn’t matter if nobody reads it. What matters is the humility that comes from writing it – the “thinking” about it.

Wow – when I heard these words, it really brought me back to my original “purpose” for writing. It’s something I mention in that earlier post – I blog so that I am forced to THINK about things.

Have a look at the video, and let me know what your thoughts are…

What the Hell Am I Doing? (or “Should I just Shut Up?”)

blogging communication information sharing

In the last week, I have been aware  of a few discussions going on about the value of blogging.

A recent post by Bjørn Furuknap, where he advises aspiring bloggers to shut up unless they have something of real value to say, has resulted in an interesting discussion. At the same time, I came across an old post by Laurence Hart where he talks about blogging.

Bjørn’s blog can be summed up as follows:

  • Don’t write rubbish – make sure that it is correct
  • Don’t write about the same thing that everyone else is writing about,
  • Give credit

Laurence’s post can be summed up with:

  • Know why you are writing a blog
  • Blog to start a conversation – to add value.

Now – when Bjørn’s post came out, I responded to it stating that he was too harsh, and that one of the purposes of the internet is to give people the freedom to post for what ever reason they want. And that the onus actually lies with the reader, who should choose what they read more carefully.

Having said that, what Bjørn had written sat in the back of my head, slowly being processed for the next couple of days.

Then I read Laurence’s post. He had, pretty much, said the same thing 2 years earlier. It seemed that Bjørn, however, was looking at things from a more technical angle, whereas Laurence more from a social/conversation angle.

At the end of Momentum 2010 I had a great opportunity to talk with another blogger  – Andrew Chapman – for three hours, and he told me  “readers are more interested in hearing your opinion”.

So now I find myself questioning the reason I am blogging. Is it to get hits? In response to Bjørn’s post, I stated that I don’t care how many people read my blog (but secretly I do). Is it to provide technical wisdom to people? Well – I certainly want to pass along useful tips where I can, but try not to fall into the trap of repeating what can be easily read elsewhere. Is it to start a discussion? Umm – not specifically.

So – why did I start blogging? I guess because I found that writing a post really forced me to think about things. So instead of saying to myself “Oh – that’s interesting.”, it would be “OK – what does this mean, can it be done differently. If so – how?” (Andrew had commented to me that he found the same benefit from blogging).

In his post Laurence states that if you don’t want people to read what you have written, “just go start a private journal”. That applied to me, but by writing a blog, I felt that the fact that it might be read also forced me to be a bit more complete.

So my initial blogs were more thought blogs. I would try and comment on a variety of things that were related to content management. And then I started wanting to pass on some of the lessons I had learned from what I considered to be technologies/situations that were little written about. I tried to do this in an interesting way. But, as Laurence, and Bjørn, both state – blogging takes time. My schedule became very busy, with work, with study, and with travel. I still wanted to write those thought blogs but found myself writing simple “did you know” posts with no real added value.

It was good to read Bjørn’s post. I thank Dave Coleman for bringing my attention to it (via twitter). If I hadn’t read it, I wouldn’t have got incensed, and then I wouldn’t have read Laurence’s post and, as a result, wouldn’t have decided that it was time to lift my game.

Gents – thank you.

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Bjørn Furuknap’s post: Attention Aspiring SharePoint Bloggers: Shut Up!

Laurence Hart’s post: So You Want to Write a Blog

Andrew Chapman’s blog: Never Talk When You Can Nod

Dave Coleman’s blog: SharePointEduTech

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See also:

The secrets of good blogging

The secrets of good blogging (Click for a larger copy)