Thursday, April 14, 2016

Differentiation and Networking: The Amplification of being Loosely Joined

When an individual or single group voices its concerns, it's often speaking to its own choir, and the message, while valued, is contained within its own circle.

Imagine many such individuals and groups, all speaking in isolated fashion:

The overall effect is random. No one is hearing, or acknowledging, anyone else, even though all are using a shared, vast network of unprecedented suppleness and power.

Now consider what happens when some of those "dots" form even loosely joined* groups:

In science and history, consilience (also convergence of evidence or concordance of evidence) refers to the principle that evidence from independent, unrelated sources can "converge" to strong conclusions. Wikipedia.

Below is a note from Euan Semple, one of the early leaders of social media at the BBC. His point about difference is well taken - and can be applied outside of a single corporate realm:

When we got going with blogs inside the BBC we had seemingly endless conversations about whether bloggers should be able to use their own designs and add their own plugins etc. I was all for it, believing that differentiation makes it easier to navigate not harder. Others felt that it was important to make them all look the same in the name of some ideal of consistency. 
Reminds me of the analogy I used to use. Networks of blogs linking to each other become like old villages. No one enforces an overall architectural style or signage, but we find them easy to navigate because there are well worn paths between the church and the pub for instance. We feel comfortable with the human scale and quickly learn our way around. Over controlled shiny corporate blogs, and most intranets, are like Milton Keynes. Efficient on the face of it, but bewildering if you don't understand the system. I get lost in Milton Keynes every time I go there even with a sat nav! 
I occasionally hear of marketing or internal comms teams trying to assert control over individual bloggers who have "found their voices" and in some cases attracted significant audiences. In doing so they risk compromising the very qualities that made the bloggers trusted, successful and, most importantly, discoverable in the first place. 
What are they so afraid of? That we won't be able to work out that the blogger works for them? That we will think that they have lost control and staff are running amok? 
We love differentiation. Why not embrace it and try to get good at it?

Anyone who has a blog or other Internet presence (Twitter, tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.) can amplify a network of others by linking to those that are consistent with their purpose and values.

When one person writes something, it's a single light source. When a network relays it, it becomes a constellation.

Consider how we can amplify our distinct voices and the reach of our shared ideas through the range, variety and consilience of a responsive network.

*See David Weinberger, Small Pieces Loosely Joined.

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