that's random

Sprightly thoughts: Blogging the Montaigne way

There is no pleasure to me without communication: there is not so much as a sprightly thought comes into my mind that it does not grieve me to have produced alone, and that I have no one to tell it to. – Michel de Montaigne

Ed Techie Martin Weller lists these Montaignesque practices as the foundation of blogging:

  • Honesty
  • Openness
  • Relaxed style
  • An element of the personal
  • Reflective and questioning
  • Playfulness

What a great checklist for how to blog. I’m going to refer back to it whenever I worry about what I’m doing here (“am I doing this right? am I sticking to my niche? am I presenting myself appropriately? am I careful not to reveal too much?”)

Andrew Sullivan on the personal element in blogging:

You end up writing about yourself, since you are a relatively fixed point in this constant interaction with the ideas and facts of the exterior world. And in this sense, the historic form closest to blogs is the diary.

I thought initially when I returned to blogging after an almost two-year hiatus that I’d eliminate my too-human self from the writing, that I’d create a sort of online column about statistics and psychometrics rather than a desultory diary that happens to include a lot of mathematical formulas and data graphs.

Turns out it’s no fun for me to blog if the personal is eliminated. I suppose that’s one reason tech blogging for Web Worker Daily and GigaOM was, in the end, dissatisfying. Another problem with it was how public — sometimes painfully public — those settings often were. I much prefer online obscurity to Internet micro-fame.

On the other hand, a blog shouldn’t be totally personal or it’s just dull. Might as well make it a private diary, in that case. The point (at least for me) is to communicate. I always write thinking someone might read it. To me, a thought is never so sprightly as when it might be shared.

that's random

Remembering to connect

I almost forgot! The key to success in today’s webinated world lies in connections, in reaching beyond yourself or your organization or your academic discipline to find new ideas or, more often, new ways to combine old ideas. This is the premise behind Richard Ogle’s Smart World and my book Connect!*

Business strategist John Hagel calls this the “The Big Shift”:

We are shifting from a world where the key source of strategic advantage was in protecting and extracting value from a given set of knowledge stocks — the sum total of what we know at any point in time, which is now depreciating at an accelerating pace — into a world in which the focus of value creation is effective participation in knowledge flows, which are constantly being renewed.

“Finding ways to connect with people and institutions possessing new knowledge becomes increasingly important,” says Hagel. “Since there are far more smart people outside any one organization than inside.” And in today’s flat world, you can now access them all. Therefore, the more your company or country can connect with relevant and diverse sources to create new knowledge, the more it will thrive. And if you don’t, others will. [Quoted by Thomas Friedman in the New York Times, via Stowe Boyd]

Here’s Stowe on Hagel:

By creating more relationships — even those based on weak ties — the social business increases its IQ.

The people you are connected to help you by thinking about your problems, responding with advice and other connections, and amplifying what you do or think. And you are doing the same for them.

This is what I mean when I say ‘I am made greater by the sum of my connections, and so are my connections.’

I personally spent most of 2008 and 2009 disconnected — ironic, give that Connect! was published in January 2008. I was working in a setting that didn’t encourage outside connectedness.

Cheers to a connected 2010.

**I had a co-author (the wonderfully brilliant and productive Judi Sohn) and a corporate branding on the book so calling it my book is not quite accurate.