The Technology that Keeps Us Connected

originally posted in Concept Hub

Last year I had the opportunity to be a “career mom” at my son’s school and to speak to 2nd graders about my career.

I struggle explaining what it is I do to adults, how could I explain it to children, and what key point did I want to leave them with?

I brought with me a single envelop. I explained to the children that when I was their age I was taught that if I wanted to express myself to a person within an organization I had to write a letter, put it in an envelop and mail it to them. I would not know if that person received the letter or what resulted from my communication.

When I became an adult the world had moved to email as a prominent form of communication. As I explained email I asked the children to pass the envelope around. Once the envelop had gone half way through the room I told them to stop passing it around.

Next I wrote a message on the whiteboard. I asked the children to raise their hands if they touched the envelop, and half the class raised their hands. Then I asked them to raise their hands if they were still holding the envelop, only one child raised their hand. Then I asked who saw me write the message on the whiteboard. Every child raised their hand. Then I asked who still saw the message on the whiteboard. Again, every child raised their hand. I explained that was the power of communications today. Email can be distributed to many but is contained within a siloed channel and is often deleted.  Today communications can be broadcasted to the world and lives on the web. The key point I left them with that the careers they were learning about today may not exist when they are grown up and the careers they end up choosing most likely do not even exist yet. What kids need to learn in school is how to continuously learn.

When email was introduced it was a powerful communications channel that was also considered a disruptive technology. How disruptive was email and the Internet? Consider that ClueTrain Manifesto was written long before we reached the power of social media, and it states:

A powerful global conversation has begun. Through the Internet, people are discovering and inventing new ways to share relevant knowledge with blinding speed. As a direct result, markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies.

Each day new technologies are being introduced to the market that are changing the landscape of the conversation. With the rapid introduction of these new technologies that are supposed to make us all more connected we are actually finding that we are still facing the same challenges that we faced when we mailed letters or even when we sent emails. Siloed channels.

If I choose to participate on Twitter I am ignoring the community on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIN. Our communication channels seem to be more siloed because we simply can not be everywhere all the time and our friends, family, peers and co-workers may be in a different community than where we are.

However, as I mentioned, everyday we are being introduced to new technologies by Entrepreneurs who like to solve problems.

Lately I having been using Ping.fm “a simple service that makes updating your social networks a snap.”

When I update my “status” my latest update is sent to my Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Twitter community with one click. When/If someone responds I am alerted. This is leverage the power of syndication and aggregation to organize the web.

Each community has it’s own purpose and it’s own culture. However sometimes our own minds and assumptions are the culprit of creating siloed communities more than the technology. Last week I submitted an update that I had just made the best Cappuccino, a meaningless update I agree, but I was proud of that cappuccino and felt I wanted to express that pride. Such an expression is common on Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace, however I received 5 times more responses to that update from LinkedIN than any other community. Communities change, cultures adapt, and we need to keep our finger on the pulse to stay relevant and interesting.

In my lifetime (which is still fairly young) I have seen a shift from one way and one  to many, to two-way and many to many, to what we are already starting to see which is communicating to multiple communities and community to community communications.