At the end of his Podcamp Boston presentation on distributed microblogging this Sunday, Joe Cascio declared, “that’s where I ran out of Schlitz.” The phrase caught on and was swiftly tweeted and favorited, and I wonder if it’s not a good summation of the weekend’s events and maybe even of the state of social media.
Don’t get me wrong. Podcamp was a fantastic weekend. Excellent networking, fun people, a great, open collaborative and supportive atmosphere, free parking, free wifi, quality presentations and presenters. Kudos to the organizers and sponsors and attendees. I am seriously looking forward to future podcamps. But…
The Schlitz was good. The Schlitz was cheap, sometimes even free. We drank a lot of it and caught a pretty good buzz. We made lots of cool new friends under its lubricating influence. But now what?
There’s growing evidence that we have a social media bubble. Heck, it made the cover of the MIT Tech review. When your cool online New Way To Be gets called bubbly by the Tech Review – in print, no less – it’s time to ask yourself the tough questions. People are building businesses around Twitter, but Twitter doesn’t have its own revenue model yet.
I’m no retrograder here, I don’t question that most examples of most forms of marketing have been sucking the fumes from their empty Schlitz cans for ages. Even the cuddly darlings of search marketing are overbid to absurdity. So my point is not to hide and hate and fear the social media revolution and try to return to simpler times, but to ask, is there really any there there? And if not, how can we make some?
If I could answer that, I wouldn’t be blogging from a Starbucks, I’ll tell you that. So instead of answers, here are five more questions and issues prodded by podcamp and the discussions I had there.
1. Personal branding, privacy and publicity
During CC Chapman‘s packed session, “building your brand through passion and community,” the discussion quickly turned to online privacy, widely described as illusory. A wise audience member piped up, “Most of us are here to get known, not to get unknown.” Amen, brother. As long as you have some idea of what you’re getting into, you can make smart choices. For most folks, being stalked is not that likely because they’re just not that famous.
Another podcamper was a little too quick to confide in me that the #1 google result for her name was about her “boobies.” I don’t think she helped her case by removing the photo, which was apparently not nearly as scandalous as the text left behind suggested. If you clicked that link, you deserve to be Rickrolled, but that’s the best I could do. If you want to work in online PR, you’ve got to be able to use the online chatter about your bits to your advantage. Don’t apologize if you haven’t actually done anything wrong, it makes you look twice as guilty.
The conference was packed with digital recording devices and people wearing nametags. Not a recipe for stealth if you told your spouse that you were somewhere else that weekend. Some photographers asked permission and some didn’t. Lots of good questions there about who owns those images and sounds. If you took my picture – probably because you thought my shirt was the coolest or dumbest one you saw all day – please tag it “limeduck” that’s all my personal brand asks.
2. Pecha Kucha vs Battledecks
These two items were on the agenda a couple of times, but I never managed to catch up with them. I’m not even really sure they happened at all. But they make an instructive pair.
Pecha Kucha is a poetry-slam style event where you bring a 20-slide presentation which is advanced every 20 seconds automatically. You present to it and get rated by the crowd.
Battledecks is PPT-backed improv. You go on stage and present a set of slides you’ve never seen before.
Hyper-prepared presentation, or surrealist improvisation – which would you rather do, and which should be a required part of business education?
3. What’s up with Moo cards?
Heck, what’s up with business cards of any kind in this digital age? I’ll rant later about what I think of Moo minicards. More broadly, what goes on a business card and what doesn’t? Website, blog, facebook, myspace, email address, twitter handle, skype name, phone number, latitude and longitude, t-shirt size, maybe even something about what you do? I just wrote @limeduck on some nice cardstock or Japanese paper.
4. Two takes on TangySlice
Speaking of social media overload, I told some people about my friend TangySlice and his “quest for social media greatness” wherein he intends to sign up for 100 social sites in 30 days. He’s almost there, and I think he will achieve his goal, but check out this gamut of reactions:
- [blink] [blink] Why?
- Well, if he wants to waste his time, better him than me.
- A hundred sites? Bah, I have at least 150 already!
Which type are you? Which type was more common at podcamp? Discuss. Then donate to TangySlice’s fundraising page. You can donate a dollar per site in your social media portfolio. It’s for a good cause.
5. Fuck the skeptics
There’s a real risk of groupthink at these events. Where were the doubters and curmudgeons? The people who showed a slide titled “what the f**k is social media” didn’t go too far enough, and when I asked them about the doubters, they said “fuck the skeptics!” To be fair, they were kidding, but I still want more and better dissent. It keeps us thinking. It keeps us honest.
Quack you later.
I’ve yet to encounter social media criticism that was as good as the best.. arguments for social media.
I’ve been running around, I guess for the past month or so, asking some of the social media kids what they think of certain trends in social media.. it’s been a bit of a thing for me.. and as near as I can tell.. nearly all the social media folks I know are, on one level or another, skeptics..
Of course there’s group think, and of course there’s.. social media that isn’t so red hot.. and then there’s the stuff that really really rocks.. and there’s the questions of where it’s all leading.. the good and the bad and.. the what have yours..
I’ve been hearing people talking about social media going main stream, and people telling me its over hyped, and now I hear of the MIT cover.. but I don’t know.. For one thing, most folks still don’t actually know what social media is… and of those who do, sophistication varies… which has many implications.. in any event.. I still think we are in very early days.. days that are too early to call bubble days.,, even if there is something that resembles a bubble that we are in.
Basically.. there’s a principle of social cohesion.. that when a group of folks of similar ilk get together.. the similarities sorta.. become more so.. and this is a primary component to group think.. which is something we surely have as a part of the social media fish bowl. For this reason, now more then ever, I feel as if what social media really needs is divergent thinking.
The trouble is.. that it still seems like the social economic’s of the situation is.. well the homeless aren’t the early adopters, put it that way…. and still.. having a certain amount of geek super powers is a very important thing to functioning effectively inside of a social media context.. so there’s certainly systemic factors that lead to the fish bowl bubble like quality of things..
I had a conversation with someone somewhere.. I think about twitter.. and the life cycle of web apps, and what have you.. how much it costs to go from nothing to early adopters.. and then how the really expensive part is how to reach the main stream.. which points to this huge gap between early adopters and the main stream.. social media dwellers and the main stream.. I’m not sure that I totally buy into what they were saying but…
Out side of all this, I do sorta feel like if you look at many of the fundamentals of social media.. on any number of levels.. I feel that there is more there there then even the.. well the really drunk on social media punch are seeing. I actually think the group think gets in the way of seeing it.. I think that the reality of the true potential.. and the reality of what people are talking about.. are two very different things..
Most of us, since we were very little children.. were sorta taught to.. kinda sorta.. follow the leader.. the thought leader.. whatever authority said we were supposed to do.. its not a real comfortable thing for us to leave the well trotted paths.. and yet.. its really only in the risks of other paths.. where the real magic is to be found..
So I guess where I come down on all this is to say.. yes there is a bubble.. but it is the bubble of the consciousness of a certain group inside of social media.. and that bubble will likely pop.. or.. have some growing pains.. or whatever.. but that there is something real and substantial.. and perhaps awe inspiring.. beneath our feet.. which is no bubble at all.