On blogging, silence and finding my place

I'm thinking of... I sometimes ask myself why I’m not blogging more. The answers are many, of course. I have a 15 month old daughter at home that saps my attention and energy. I’m also deeply engaged in a project at work (and have been since January) that is exciting, daunting, inspiring and monotonous all at the same time. I’m adjusting to a new routine of daycare drop offs and dinner duty. The list goes on and on.

But on a larger level, I think I’m tired of blogging about online communications. Moreover, I’m tired of reading about online communications. I feel like we’re at a point where the actors outnumber the audience (to borrow from my friend Ryan‘s trusted metaphor) and I’m wary of contributing to the intellectual onslaught.

Signal < Noise

In a lot of ways it’s a bigger example of the driving force behind our decision to put Case Study Jam on hiatus. There’s so much noise right now that I fear we’re unwittingly feeding into the apprehensions and misgivings people have about the tools and channels that it seems a growing number are eager to champion.

As more and more people have adopted these things as mainstream, the chasm between “us” and “them” seems only to have gotten larger. And by constantly talking and writing and blogging and tweeting about them – by analyzing and quantifying the banal and mundane – the social media community is creating an illusion of sophistication and complexity that doesn’t really exist.

No market? No problem! Create one!

We make things sound more complex than they are and in so doing we’ve created a cottage industry of gurus and experts that feed on the insecurities of people who, if they would just step back for a second and apply some common sense, would realize that their years of experience being a fucking human being is all they need to draw upon.

We trumpet best practices and lists of 10 things you must know as though there are hard and fast rules about what we do. There aren’t. Ulimately, what works for you as an individual or as a corporation or as a brand will look a lot like what has worked for you before. There are new media but the messages are largely the same.

There are truly exciting things happening. Technology is evolving and changing the way people communicate. And yes, it’s happening faster than it’s ever happened before. But all of this change doesn’t make the experience of thousands of years of human civilization suddenly obsolete. Augmented reality doesn’t remove the need for empathy. Gamification hasn’t inverted the hierarchy of needs.

So what comes next?

I don’t know. This blog (which was never really supposed to be a social media blog but has come to be one, more or less) will continue to exist but I can’t say how often I’ll post or what it’ll be about. Hell, from time to time I’ll probably write about something related to social media, hypocritical as it may seem. I will continue to be the advocate in a room full of social media skeptics and the skeptic in a room full of advocates. And I will continue to challenge what I feel are misguided assumptions no matter where they stem from.

But I won’t be part of the problem. If you’re a social media person I hope you’ll take a step back once in awhile too. The world won’t end if you don’t write the umpteenth post this week on the importance of measuring influence.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Davide Restivo


  1. Great post Joe and great comments on what is happening in the world of marketing and communications these days.

    From where I sit, the average piece of content I read in this space isn’t helpful to me at all. More and more, I walk away from events with, at best, one thing that will help me do what I do better. And it’s a shame because as everyone talks return on investment for their efforts, they are completely ignoring return on attention.

    But I always felt Case Study Jam was actually one of the best events in the city because it gave people who were actually out there doing things in social media a platform to talk about what they were doing and share knowledge with people who were also out there doing things. Seriously, where else could you stand up and say “here’s what I did… and I have to admit, I didn’t work!”

    And more and more, I see a gap there in Ottawa and in lots of other places where you can get speak like that. I think that is why we are starting to see more and more paid content like SpinSucks Pro, KitchenTable Companies and the like that give you access to forums to do this.

    Most content tries to bring in big audience numbers by speaking to the middle or speaking to the people who are just now waking up to a world that is drastically different than it was 5 years or even 3 years ago. Most blog posts talk about X mistakes not to make but forget about those of us who have probably made those mistakes or were sitting there in the front row taking notes when they were made. My RSS feeds are clogged with X tips and I keep asking myself -WTF is a tip anyway? If a tip is a piece of useless information that is too general to apply to any specific situation, then I guess tips are all the rage these days.

    So while I do hope that something amazing rises out of the ashes of Case Study Jam, I am perfectly content doing what marketers, communicators and everyone else has always been doing: meeting with contacts in a small group or in a 1-1 setting to share experience, stories and laughs.

  2. Thanks Joe for putting into words what I have been feeling but couldn’t put my finger on it – that the “actors outnumber the audience.”

    I’m fairly new to Social Media research, but have found that there are a lot of “gurus” out there and they all say the same thing. Recently, I came to understand that “it isn’t that hard or scary” to participate in Social Media. The gurus have unwittingly created the fear of participation.

    Businesses that are holding back in participating in the Social Media scene just need someone to boil it down and tell them straight out that it isn’t rocket science.

    PS: I found your blog after listening to you, Bob, and Susan on The Contrarians podcasts and wanted to check all of you out a bit more. I’m sceptically awaiting the next episode.

  3. Danny – Thanks for the kind words, especially about the Jam. We’ll find some way to bring it back in some form.

    JoAnn – Nice to meet you, such as it is. Glad you enjoy the podcast. The long layoff was sadly unavoidable for personal reasons but we’ll be back soon, I promise. And I’m glad that you’ve come to the realization that it’s not rocket science.

  4. Can very much relate. I’ve found new energy in a new blog – I maintain my original blog (like yours it deals primarily with social media), mostly for professional purposes, but this new blog, on a totally personal subject, has reinvigorated me and reminds me what I loved about blogging when I first picked it up years ago.

    Of course I don’t have a 15 month old at home 😉

    All the best – I look forward to reading more from you when inspiration hits.

  5. Thanks Joe for your straight up, no BS summary of the Blogosphere…
    I have debated SO many times about starting a blog on marketing (largely because so many people keep asking me why I HAVEN’T started a blog on marketing…) but like you, am simply exhausted from the amount of people puking up content on both social media and marketing.

    I think its admirable that you have said what you said and hope people will understand why you have chosen this refreshing approach.

    As for “valuable” experiences I have had IRL on social media, the one that had me most engaged was during Social Media Week in TO..not discussing social media and how to’s but rather a philosophical discussion on the Internet entitled The Internet is all Grown up and now has to get a real job..@Richardpietro presented…questioning what the next tipping point will be on the internet scale.

    To Michelle’s point, I too have a blog that is a reflection of a personal subject matter and feel comfortable talking in that arena..but as far as SM and Mktg…its like an overdose of Lindsey Lohan…I’ve had enough..

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *