Commitment, the power of just showing up

geek dinner 023Someone needs to say they’re going to show up for it. That’s what makes stuff happen. Lots of other important things help too, but it really kicks off when someone says “I’m going to be there or do this, no really, I am, I don’t care if nobody else does, I am.”

That’s what makes it so much easier for everyone else to join in. That’s leadership in a world of organising without organisations. Someone is committed. It might not be me, but someone else is, someone can be relied on to be there so that when I finally do make up my mind to go along, I know that it will be there. But it could just as easily be me, they’re not special in any other way, they’re just another bozo on the bus, not an organiser, they have no special status, their role is to commit to being there and to say “Hi” to other people who may come along not knowing what to expect. Their role is not to “manage” anything, it’s simply to be there so that the thing happens and to help the group know it’s a group and to find ways of working things out for themselves.

When we say “I’m doing this thing and I encourage you to do it too” sometimes quite amazing things get started.

That’s why I’m working on #wewillgather – it’s not just another community organising site or an alternative to meetup.com, it’s a commitment engine.

None of us know the whole story… *ever*

But that doesn’t stop us believing that we do.

My twitter stream this morning is full of bile, shock, disgust, fear, misanthropy and argument about a young man who’s been arrested for trolling the diver Tom Daley and the loss of Twitter access by Guy Adams of the Independent for having a go at NBC about their Olympic coverage.  On the one hand the abuser of a popular sportsman is hounded by the mob, on the other, Twitter itself is seen as the bad guy for limiting freedom of speech when asked to by a business partner.

At least that’s what I saw.  You may see it differently – but I recognise that that statement itself is subject to my own biases, framing and prior decisions about how the world is and how human beings operate within it.

There was a piece yesterday from Mark Earls on the futility of trying to change people’s minds with information and argument:

“We only see what we expect to see, distrust and discount the witnesses who present what we don’t want and devalue their evidence if they turn out to be from the other side.”

There’s nothing we can do about this [imho] it’s just the way [I believe] the world works.  The other side of it is that it’s easy to say something that inadvertently presses someone’s buttons and sends them into a disturbed state.  I see it everyday in all my relationships where tension and arguments arise, with even those people I love the most and with whom I think I share most common ground.  Somebody will, in the course of an ordinary conversation, say or do something that doesn’t fit with my view of how people should be and immediately I label it “totally inappropriate” and suddenly “I can’t believe they just said/did that!”  If I don’t pause at that point and think “Oh, that’s an interesting reaction, Lloyd” then retaliation is likely to follow and we can end up spiralling into pretty yucky stuff.

But when it happens on a global network between people who don’t know each other or care particularly about each other, it can get really nasty and the law needs to get involved (either the law of the land or the Twitter Terms of Use).

I think the things to remember are these:

1. When you direct something critical to another user on a social platform like Twitter, especially if that user is a person in the public eye or a corporation, it’s possible that you’ll be ignored but you may also be mobbed.  Be aware that you’re not just dealing with another person, you’re potentially also up against their friends, colleagues, business partners, fans, pretty much anyone who has experienced grief after the death of someone close to them *and* their unconscious reactions that may turn you literally into the spawn of Satan in their eyes.  The interaction with them might draw behaviours out of you that you’d rather not have displayed in public, which may turn out to be illegal when expressed on the internet and may result in real-life physical consequences for you, your friends, colleagues… etc.

2. Twitter is a privately owned company with its own vision, priorities and agenda. Value to the company, their shareholders, and by extension those with whom they have strategic and commercial alliances, will always trump the needs of an individual non-paying user.  They are not a nationalised industry, or piece of public infrastructure, no matter how much we wish they were.  If we want a public utility like that, we’ll have to build it and pay for it ourselves.