If you're in Calgary or Edmonton, let's talk social media

mriaWhen I return to Canada from Australia next week, I’m heading to Alberta to make two presentations on social media at the University of Calgary on March 4 and then at the University of Alberta in Edmonton on March 5.

The sessions are being hosted by the Alberta Chapter of the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association. It’s their first foray onto university campuses. So, I’m really keen to do a good job for them.

The MRIA Website describes the session this way:

Social media has become an important fact of life for a growing number of Canadians. As its use increases, it has far reaching impact on our choice of media and how we spend our time. People no longer serve as mute audiences, but now engage in the act of creation, sharing and curating content. In the process, new communities of interest are forming that transcend geographical boundaries.

Social media is different from the early Web. It’s about relationships. It’s about community. It’s about the things that happen offsite – the linkbacks, the retweets, the references to our content, and the online (and offline) communities that are formed. How can organizations know what they want to achieve in social media and what are the emerging tools they can use to measure success against those criteria.

Join us for our next Lunch and Learn event on what social media is, how its read/write nature fulfills the potential of the Web, and how different people use it in different ways (for example; lurkers, critics, joiners, creators, etc.)

If you’re in Alberta and you’re interested in social media, you can register online to attend either the Calgary or the Edmonton sessions. And if you read this blog and attend the session, please do say hello to me. I always welcome a smile and a human connection.

Help! I'm drowning in a sea of email!

I’m snowed under. I’m awash. I’m overwhelmed. By email. Lots and lots of email.

istock_000002649953xsmallHow bad is it? I’m on a trip to Australia. Away from the office. And today, I logged over 5 and 1/2 hours reading and responding to the emails I received since yesterday. That leaves precious little time to actually do the work that’s important to me.

I’ve put practices in place to try to deal with my emails more efficiently and keep the important ahead of the urgent. I try to touch each email only once, deciding on first reading if I need to respond or if I can delegate any necessary action. I quickly delete emails that have been sent simply to me to “keep me in the loop.”

But what remains takes too much time.

And as I ask myself why, I think I’ve seen a pattern. The emails that take most of the time are those that ask my opinion. In many respects, it’s the emails that are asking “what should we do?” or “what is your opinion?”

Now, if this were a face to face encounter, I would respond by asking the questioner what he or she thinks we should do. The smart, competent people will always supply an answer that I can quickly agree with or that we can refine together.

But I find it tougher to respond to an email in this way. It seems rude. Worse, it also delays a decision and can turn into the dreaded email ping pong exchange. So, I invest my time to think through the question – and then I write a considered response. And that can take a lot of time. Over five hours today alone.

But I simply can’t keep going this way. I have to get my head up above this email tsunami.

But how?

What do you do to keep email at a manageable level? Can you do this and still do your job if as a manager? How can you do it without offending people? Is there no other way than to step back into another century and hire an assistant to divert most of the flow?

Can you throw a guy a lifeline? What can I do to get my head above the email flood?

Blogging brought the world together. Twitter is pushing us apart.

istock_000004986387xsmallWhen I first started blogging, I was struck by how quickly and easily I discovered bloggers around the world who shared my interests and from who I could learn. My community of interest spanned the globe, including people like Neville Hobson (in Amsterdam and later the U.K.), Darren Barefoot (at that time on a one year sojourn in Malta, now in Victoria B.C.), Allan Jenkins (Copenhagen), Katie Paine (New England), Josh Hallett (Florida), Shel Israel (California), the other Shel, Shel Holtz (California), Jeremiah Owyang, Lorelle VanFossen (Pacific northwest) and even and Lee Hopkins (Australia). Blogging had enabled me to form a community with others who shared my interests – a community that transcended time zones and geography.

Over the past two years, Twitter has taken up an increasing amount of my intention. Its 140 character micro bursts of ideas, links, emotions and idle musings bring me into instant contact with the people in my community. I drop in and out of the flow several times a day.

But at the same time that Twitter has given me the ability to connect constantly and quickly wiht the people in my community, it also has led to a shrinking of that community. Yes, it transcends geography. I regularly tweet to people in other countries and in Europe. But at the same time, it has restricted my community to people within a band of time when we are all on the network live. In other words, I’ve lost sight of that part of the world in which our business days don’t overlap.

In effect, my world through the lense of Twitter has shrunk to encompass only those people who are online at the same time as me. So, I’ve lost sight of those people whose workdays and online times don’t overlap with mine. They are invisible to me and I too am invisible to them.

So, Twitter is a good news / bad news story for social networking and its ability to expose us to different points of view and draw us closer together. In a way, Twitter has narrowed my horizons while making my experience with the smaller community richer.

Have you experienced this “invisibility effect”, losing track of people you previously experienced regularly? if so, what are you doing about it?

Things that keep me awake … at Third Tuesday Calgary

Third Tuesday social media meetupI’m getting a chance to visit old friends in Calgary early in March. And they’ve been nice enough to ask me to be the speaker at Third Tuesday Calgary.

I’ll be arriving the previous afternoon from Sydney, Australia  and also will have spoken to another group at lunch. So, I’ve kept the promise and, hopefully, the expectations of my performance modest with a session description that I hope will spark some good discussion among participants once I’ve kicked it off. Here’s the description from the Third Tuesday Calgary meetup site:

Things that keep Joseph Thornley awake at night…

Joseph Thornley will lead a different type of Third Tuesday Calgary discussion. What are the issues relating to social media that you keep coming back to? What are the ones that just haven’t been put to bed yet?

He’ll prime the discussion by sharing with us the things that keep him awake at night:

Twitterquette: How much honesty is too much? Can you make a critical point in 140 bursts? Or is better not to?

Social Media’s relationship with Mainstream Media: (Yes, that again.) MSM takes pride in the editorial function. But is that still a factor when both the CBC and the Globe and Mail use CoverItLive to provide real time coverage of events like the Federal Budget and President Obama’s visit to Ottawa?

Measurement: Are we what we measure? If that’s the case, what is social media?

Fragmentation: It’s not about blogging anymore. Social media tools have proliferated. And as they have, our presence has fragmented into shards spread around the social media scape. How do I stay in control of my own social media presence in this fragmented environment?

The social media creation gap: Canadians lag behind Americans in creation of social media content. According to Forrester’s Social Technographic profiles, the number of online Canadians who are creators, critics or collectors is only half that of Americans who do the same things. Will we continue to be able to see ourselves in social media if this trend persists?

If you’re in Calgary on March 4, I hope you’ll come out to Third Tuesday Calgary and participate in the discussion. You can register online to attend.

Thank you to @andrewmcintyre for organizing this event. And as always, thanks to all the good people at CNW Group, who continue to support Third Tuesday as our national sponsor.

Deciding who to follow on Twitter

TwitterI’ve been using Twitter more and more over the past year. Especially at conferences like those run by the Advanced Learning Institute, Canadian Institute, and OpenDialogue, as well as Third Tuesday Toronto and Third Tuesday Ottawa.

I’ve replaced live blogging with live tweeting. It’s very satisfying – connecting me directly with other attendees and people who care about the same subject.

The more I’ve put into Twitter, the more I’ve received back. At the same time, the number of people following me has increased. And the pace at which new followers are added has increased.

This presents a problem.

I set up my Twitter profile to notify me via Gmail of each new follower. When someone follows me, I visit their Twitter profile to see if they share my interests. I follow people who write about things that interest me or who have blogs in their profiles or stand out in some other way. As I’ve done this review, I’ve found myself following about 1 in 4 of the people who follow me.

Why don’t I follow more people?

Well I don’t use Twitter as a publishing platform.  Instead, I use it as a “town square” – a way to connect with my “community of interest.” And to really connect, I need to keep the number of people I follow in the hundreds, not the thousands. (That’s not a criticism. I admire anyone who can attract more than 60,000 twitter followers. But that’s an audience, not a community.)

Recently, the pace at which my new Twitter followers has been increasing has been greater than my ability to check out everyone’s profile. (I realized this when the number of my pending Gmail emails exceeded 900!) So, I’ve settled on a new way to decide who to follow.

Instead of visiting every follower’s profile (which at the rate of 20 -30 new followers a day takes over an hour), I’ve decided to watch for new people who either retweet one of my tweets or respond to me with an @thornley.

I’m doing this in the belief that these people who actively engage with my content are more interested in me. And these are the people who I should be checking out and probably following.

What do you think? Is this a reasonable strategy for identifying people to follow in Twitter? What approach do you use?

UPDATE: Jay Goldman offered some great advice on how he decides who to follow in Twitter. I missed this in my Google Search. Sorry Jay.

Kelly Rusk also had a post about what she looks for when deciding who to follow on Twitter.

Follow the ALI Conference on Social Media for Government on Twitter


I’m chairing the Social Media for Government Conference in Ottawa today and tomorrow. (Hashtag: #ALI)

The conference is organized by the Advanced Learning Institute (ALI). They’ve lined up a strong lineup of presenters. Today’s speakers include: the Government of Canada’s Deputy Chief  Technology Officer, Jeff Braybrook and Thomas Kearney, Treasury Board’s Director of Enterprise Architecture, Mark Faul and Chris Wightman from the City of Ottawa, Jennifer Bell from VisibleGovernment.ca, Colin McKay from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and Jack Holt from the U.S. Department of Defence.

I’ll be urging the conference participants to post their impressions and thoughts on Twitter using the hashtag #ALI. If you’re interested in what’s being said about social media and government in Ottawa, please feel free to follow along. And if you have thoughts about what is being said, we’d welcome you to contribute your ideas to the Twitter stream.

And if you want more info on the conference, Mark Faul from the City of Ottawa set up an event blog for the Social Media for Government Conference. Hopefully, there’ll be more good content posted there during and after the conference.

So, you don’t have to be in the room to participate in the conference. I hope that you’ll join us through social media.

Hasta la Vista. It's Windows 7 or Nothing


Windows Vista can do that? Well it can’t give me a consistently reliable operating system.

That’s it. I’m fed up. I will buy no more PCs for Thornley Fallis or 76design until Windows 7 is introduced. (Listen closely and you’ll hear the roar of approval from all my fed up with Vista computer users.)

Since Microsoft introduced Vista, I swam against the current and purchased Vista Ultimate for all of the desktops in our company. But that’s it. Finis. Over. Done.

I’m prepared to call a dud a dud. And Windows Vista is the dud to end all duds!

I will not buy another new PC until Microsoft spits out Windows 7.

So, Friends at Dell, please tell MSFT to hurry it up.

No Windows 7. No new PC orders from Thornley Fallis or 76design.