Reflections on SMBOttawa 5

Tell me and I’ll forget
Show me and I may remember
Involve me and I’ll understand

Rather than recap the most recent Social Media Breakfast Ottawa from memory, I will just point you to Mel Gallant’s great post and stick instead with my take-away thoughts based on what was discussed.

I think the key theme of the day, the one that will be the most interesting to watch in 2009, is the breaking down of walls between the social media realm and the loosely-defined rest of the world.

I forget who it was who first cracked it on Twitter but someone echoed the notion that the public discovered comments on CBC news articles after the whole proroguing / coalition debate. I think this ties nicely with Joe Thornley and Ira Basen’s debate arising from the Canadian Institute Conference on Social Media.

For the longest time we would talk about new converts to the social media realm as though they’d crossed to our side – as though we were a closed society wherein the elders wore silken robes and each tweetup was started with a secret handshake and Stonecutters-esque drinking shanty.

This isn’t the case anymore. Social media is getting more mainstream. And I think we are quickly reaching a tipping point related to credibility.

Read past the rhetoric and bluster in Ira Basen’s email to Joe and you find many of the perfectly legitimate concerns of people who just aren’t that familiar with, well, Twitter in this case, but the same can be said for many of the media we love so much.

The instinct for a lot of us is to get a bit smug about their ignorance. As though we are somehow smarter and more evolved because we know how to livetweet. Self righteousness is a real problem in our communities but it’s more of a collective self righteousness so we’re rarely called on it.

I saw one comment on Twitter today that referred to this morning’s gathering as a lovefest and that’s absolutely true. Get a whack of us in one room, fill us with coffee and we can solve all the world’s problems with 20 characters to spare.

But if we continue to close ranks, to see ourselves as above the skeptics and late adopters, we’re going to shoot ourselves in the foot.

Had Joe ended things with his twitstream, or fired off an email reply full of the same sort of bravado that too often dominates internal discussions about ‘us vs. them,’ he would have reinforced Ira’s preconceived notions.

Instead he opened the discussion. He reached out, in a way, to a skeptic and tried to show Ira how the discussion can be improved with social tools, rather than just tell. Did it work? Hard to say. But huzzah for the attempt.

This isn’t to say I fully agree with Joe; that’s not the issue. I could write another post taking umbrage with what he had to say but the point is he didn’t close ranks. He invited Ira into the debate in an open forum and a good conversation was the result.

This is going to sound patronizing, I realize, but we have to be patient with those who aren’t as familiar with the tools we use every day. We all know people who are instantly skeptical of any new web tool (I blame MySpace, the bad backgrounds and shitty midi music can turn anyone off all things social); many of them have eventually come to be bigger advocates than we are.

As social media advocates it is incumbent upon us to, well, advocate. Show the benefits. Follow Joe’s example and reach out to people who don’t necessarily see the value of the tools we love. Will it work every time? Of course not. Not everyone will want to use Twitter and, frankly, not everyone should.

But, at the very least, maybe we can spread some understanding rather than gyrate to the soothing sounds of the echo chamber.


  1. Cool recap Joe. I put most of my thoughts on Mel’s blog but… After seeing your wiki instance to Homer I guessed the vid involved the stone cutter song. Truly a great episode imo.

    See you at the next one,

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