Power of Social & an example of “Wisdom of the Crowds”

In a previous post, I discussed how you don’t always get a correct answer to a question you ask to a crowd.

One of the Spark talks given at Lotusphere 2012 was by Mitch Cohen. It was titled “Get Cancer – Get Social”. His wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

Mitch’s talk was a good, & inspiring, one. He talked about the part the internet, and social media played, and broke it down into three areas:

  • Information
  • Misinformation, and
  • Support



“Believe it or not, someone (can) be wrong on the internet”

The first thing that Mitch did when his wife was diagnosed was to tell her not to look for answers on the internet. In his talk, he tells us that no two diagnosis’ are the same, and that everyone reacts differently. There are a lot of people out there trying to be helpful, and give advice, but it was, really, misinformation. The best thing to do, said Mitch, is ask the questions to the experts – the doctors and oncologists.


“There’s a lot of support you can get”

Mitch talked about Facebook. “You can be sitting at an infusion centre, letting this poison run into you boy, and you could be thinking about that, or you could be looking at the 100 of comments coming in wishing you support.”


Mitch’s wife started blogging about what she was going through. She wrote about how she was feeling, how she was handling it, and what she thought about what was going on. Not only did it made it easier for her to tell her friends all about it, it made it really made it easier for Mitch to share it with his friends.

Living Vicariously

Mitch pointed out that going through chemo means you end up being more susceptible to infection  Which means that you can’t be around other people. Being able to see what the vacation photos of others on Facebook, and reading their stories really made a difference to his wife.

Thousands of Miles Away

“I wish we were closer, I wish there was something we could do”

Mitch told of the great support they got from their local friends was, but what he found incredibly powerful was the support he got from people thousands of miles away. How people he had never met in person came up to him (at the conference) and were genuinely concerned and interested with what had been going on.

The Spark Talks were, and are, organised by The Nerd Girls. You can see, below, a list of other excellent Spark talks that were given at Lotusphere2012.

I’m not a “late adopter” – I’m a “Late Bloomer”

I’ve never really been into FaceBook.

I didn’t start using Twitter till 2010.

And the whole iPod / iTunes thing (that is – before the iPhone came out) was totally unknown to me. Those around me would look perplexed when I responded “Huh” to any conversation on this.

“Web 2.0” was alien to me (hell – what happened to 1.0?). “Gamification” sounded like something cute, and as far as I was concerned the “Cloud” was something that got in the way of the sun.

I felt that I was an “old fuddy duddy”, a dinosaur, a relic from a simpler time (just to be melodramatic).

However, I knew that I had to come to terms with this new “fad”. If only to be able to talk with others in my field.

When I first started tweeting, I remember I was shocked when I got my first “follower” (“Who is this person? “How did they find me?”). It was also around this time that I started blogging. I wasn’t really sure why, but it was a way to “put down on paper” what my thoughts were regarding the technology I work with.

It always bothered me that I seemed to be always ‘lagging”. That new things were coming out, and I was never an “Early Adopter”. Never on the cutting edge. 

Then, last year, I read Malcom Gladwell’s book “What the Dog Saw”. Chapter 8 is titled “Late Bloomers”.

In it he talks about creativity, and describes some findings economist David Galeson had made in the world of art.  Of the famous artists, there were those who did their best work when they were young, who knew what they wanted to achieve (Picasso), and then there were those who didn’t do their best work till much later (Cezanne).

It seemed that the younger “prodigies” start with a clear idea of where they want to go, and then they execute it.

On the other hand, the older “late bloomers” have imprecise goals, and tend to “explore” in a tentative, and an incremental, way.  And, for these artists, because the goal is imprecise, they never actually get to a point where they say. “Goal achieved!” They just keep exploring, testing and discovering along the way.

This really struck me as interesting. It made me look at what I have been doing. As I mentioned above, I never started out with a goal when I started my blog. I never had an idea what I would be doing with Twitter.

But, looking back, I can see a journey of incremental discoveries. The “subject matter” of my posts were, initially, to do with “document management in a regulated environment”. But as I have done research on this, it has lead to other areas that, while not directly related, have a tenuous link with the initial concept. And these have, in turn, taken me to other, loosely connected, areas of interest.

This “way of learning”, this “exploration”, is a good example of “naturalistic vs. mechanistic” learning. It is my own passion, my own interest that is leading me on this journey. And I get the feeling that it has given me a far better (may I say “wiser”) view of things, and how they can be used, and applied in real-life situations.

I am proud to call myself a “Late Bloomer

Other interesting “Late Bloomer” posts

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

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…

Vodpod videos no longer available.