Working out loud

I’ve always hated writing CVs. I could never convey the interest and excitement of work that I had done compressed into a sentence or two, written in the third person or the passive voice. It also seemed that it was always too much about me. When I looked at the work that I had done and wanted to do more of, I couldn’t, honestly, separate out my contribution from the contributions made by the rest of the team. And then there are the implicit assumptions in the CV system – you need it to get a job; the person reading it will likely be seeing several that are all the same – you have to stand out, but not too much; you have to be honest – not too braggy, not too humble – but still sell the idea of you hard enough as somebody they’d like to have around; and anyway since many people bend the truth in their favour, the reader will take what you’ve written with a pinch of salt.

And then you post it off and wait and wait and wait and it’s “Dear Mr Davis, I regret to inform you that this time your application was unsuccessful. Thank you for your interest in working for Ecch Corp.”

So yeah, me and CVs, we don’t get on.

Despite my loathing of the process, I did manage to get jobs. And I learned very quickly the value of gossip and chatting in the kitchen while the kettle boiled. I also learned, the hard way, that there are lots of rules about what you can say to whom, when and in what way. It’s really, really complicated and I think it’s one of the worst aspects of organisational life for me. Especially as I rose in the management hierarchy, I found that there were things me and my “peers” could talk about that couldn’t go further than this meeting room and should not be disclosed either to the higher-ups or my team.

My work had shifted from designing and managing information systems to the then newly-named field of Knowledge Management. In a nutshell this meant: how do we encourage people to share what they know, what they’ve learned in the job, that can help others learn more quickly and ensure that capabilities aren’t lost when people leave? But the best technology we had at the time involved lots of paper and moving the problem from “getting stuff out of people’s heads” to “getting stuff out of people’s file servers”.

And then I was introduced to blogging. And while I was too afraid at first to write my own, I read as many as I could find. The style then was different – there were fewer personal essays and more short paragraphs with a link attached – the sort of thing you now see as tweets (or sparks!).

It seemed to me that getting people to blog within our organisation was the obvious way to share knowledge that was really useful and timely and that archives would build up over time that would be really easy to search. David Weinberger’s “Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy” was my favourite motto. But hierarchy doesn’t like being subverted and soon my head was banging against the corporate brick walls.

So I resigned.

And I started blogging and you can read for yourself what happened since then by going back to my entries on this blog from September 2004 (the earliest entries that survived my habit of getting cold feet and deleting everything) and then clicking next post over and over again.

Almost immediately I saw the benefits of working out loud. People started to think they knew me because they’d read my blog. I’d bump into people at events and they’d say “Oh I know you, I’ve seen you on the internet”. Then they’d say “You know that thing you wrote about X, well we’ve been thinking about it and don’t know what to do with Y” and they became consulting clients. Others would say “Your website is interesting, how do you keep it up to date so regularly?” And they became my first *blog* consulting clients. And the same with podcasting and video-blogging; and running networking events; and creative collaboration; and crowd-funding; and social art; and so on and so on.

Most people now know me for Tuttle. The only promotional work that I did for that was to write what had happened and what I thought about it on my blog and the group blog we created. And I told people to “do cool stuff and talk about it on the internet”

And that was inspired by me seeing people who did the same:

One of the creative people whose blogging I’ve always admired was Dave Winer at Scripting News. Recently he’s gone back to a style that’s a mix of short essays and link-blogging. But at times he has published daily worknotes on his progress with programming projects, showing that it’s not only visually-oriented processes that benefit from this approach.

I also got a lot in the early days from following Hugh MacLeod’s work on – he was working out problems to do with making art and marketing by writing about them and getting engaged in conversation.

So I’ve been using Somewhere (dotcom) and talking to the people behind it – it’s a social network that asks you to share what you’re working on and provides provocations to elicit what you’ve done in the past, how you work, what you want to do. I think it provides an interesting view of my work, though it may take some time to build. I’m there, using it to see how it works, what it gives me that I don’t or can’t get elsewhere, observing how it’s developing. If it does work out, it could give you a better summary and intro to my work than any CV could.

I’m interested now in where it can go that isn’t just a niche micro-blogging platform. How can I really engage with the community there – the people I don’t already know but I should do because we have lots in common? And by “engage” I mean more than like and leave nice comments. How can I find new clients, suppliers and collaborators? I don’t know yet. All I know how to do is keep pushing out what I’m doing and see what happens.

Joining is still by invitation only, but I’ve got a special linky here for you if you want to get on board.

Caveat & Disclaimer: I am taking part in this site with my eyes open and you should too. There is currently no simple way of getting what you’ve put into the site out again. I don’t think that’s a good thing in general. I’ve raised it with the Somewhere Team – you can see the conversation we had here. Please bear that in mind before you pour great quantities of yourself in. I have no other connection with Somewhere, they haven’t paid me for this post (or for anything!) but I like the people involved and want to help them create something of value.

That aside, I’m interested to see what you’re working on today!

3 thoughts on “Working out loud”

  1. Thanks for sharing this Lloyd. I used your link to hop over to Somewhere. I thought it might be a useful prompt for daily reflections in relation to a project I’m working on which is experimental and developmental so we should really be noting down actions, thoughts and feelings as often as possible.
    I like the questions, and I like that people can find and follow each other. The requirement to add an image to each spark will challenge me, but I can see it make for a more visually appealing collection.
    I’ll see if I can engage colleagues with it as it could be great for team sharing and for exposure to what other people are working on.

    1. Hi Lorna, yes I think lots of people find the image bit a challenge (including me) but if you let go of it being “the right one” that can help – I haven’t had anyone ask “Why did you use *that* image??!?”… yet!

      I’d love to hear whether your colleagues take to it too

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