Cluetrain: Human speech, human concerns

Earlier this year, my friend and former Globe colleague Keith McArthur came up with the idea of celebrating the 10th anniversary of The Cluetrain Manifesto by having 95 people blog about the 95 theses that formed the core of the book. So he set up the Cluetrainplus10 wiki and asked people to sign up, and after looking at the available choices, I settled on number 38: Human communities are based on discourse — on human speech about human concerns. Why? I guess in part because I’ve been thinking a lot about those kinds of issues in my still relatively new role as Communities Editor at the Globe and Mail, where my job consists of trying to find new and better ways to connect readers with our writers and our content.

In many ways, the Globe isn’t really all that different from any other company. We have a product — namely, our content — and we have customers, except that we call them readers. Of course, unlike many companies, we also play a kind of public-service role, but that’s a service to readers and to the community as a whole as well. And just like other companies, we are trying to find our place in this new, more connected world, where our customers are not just looking to interact and engage with us, but are also interacting with each other, carrying on conversations that we theoretically helped to start. How can we become a part of those conversations? I think the Cluetrain message is a simple one: by being human, and by speaking the way that human beings do.

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Is charity the new greed?

Anyone looking for a test case in how Twitter can be used to pull a community together — apart from little things like the Obama campaign, of course 🙂 — might want to consider a recent Toronto phenomenon called HoHoTo. A holiday party for Hogtown geeks and friends started as the germ of an idea about 10 days ago, after Twitterers in Montreal mentioned that they were having one. Not to be outdone, my friend (and fellow mesh organizer) Rob Hyndman started talking up the idea of a Toronto holiday party, and soon a group of make-it-happen types like Ryan Taylor as well as Michael O’Connor Clarke, organizational genius Sheri Moore from MCC Planners (another member of the mesh team), Modernmod and Ryan Coleman and others joined the conversation.

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Nerd fight: Google vs. Facebook

It’s like a war, except with programmers and social networks instead of soldiers and anti-aircraft artillery. First Google opened up its distributed social net, Google Friend Connect — which I have installed in my sidebar and also embedded below — and then Facebook threw open the doors on its version, imaginatively called (what else) Facebook Connect. The aim of both ventures is the same: to allow you to use your login credentials from the network on various sites around the Web, bringing your social profile with you wherever you go. In the process, both companies no doubt hope to entice more people to build a social network based on their tools and services (for some reason I’m reminded of the Catholic Church and the Anglican Church at this point, but that might just be me).

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Russell Davies: How to be interesting

I don’t know Russell Davies, but you would think that he ought to have some good advice about being interesting, seeing as how he organized an entire conference called Interesting2007 — and from what I’ve read here and there, it was a smashing success (and a great name that I wish I had thought of). And sure enough, he does have some good advice in a post entitled How To Be Interesting, and the first point is: Be interested. In other words, in order to be interesting to others, you have to be interested in things, curious about things:

“You’ve got to find what’s interesting in everything, you’ve got to be good at noticing things, you’ve got to be good at listening. If you find people (and things) interesting, they’ll find you interesting.”

The second point is related to the first: Be ready to share. Someone who doesn’t want to share their passion or knowledge with others is inherently uninteresting — except perhaps as some kind of icon or idol who is worshipped from afar. In order to be interesting on a genuinely personal level, you have to be willing to share some of your knowledge and interests with others. But as Russell notes, this doesn’t mean talking about yourself endlessly:

“Being good at sharing is not the same as talking and talking and talking. It means you share your ideas, you let people play with them and you’re good at talking about them without having to talk about yourself.”

That’s it, really. Two steps. Lather, rinse and repeat. Russell has some handy tips on how to help stay interested in people and things — blogging regularly, keeping a journal, getting a hobby, and so on. But it really comes down to variations on those two steps.

Does Robert Scoble “own” his comments?

Last night sometime, a blogosphere/social-media furore erupted (or maybe squabble is a better word) about who “owns” the comments that are made on blogs or on aggregators such as FriendFeed. At the center of the storm, not surprisingly, was Robert Scoble — who is either the John the Baptist or Typhoid Mary of social media, depending on your viewpoint. The unwitting trigger for the backlash was Rob La Gesse, a consultant who also writes a blog. And what did La Gesse do? He decided that he didn’t like the fact that comments about his blog posts were occurring on FriendFeed, so he deleted his account (see Rob’s comment below for clarification).

In doing so, however, La Gesse also removed all of the comments that had been posted — including some from Scoble (La Gesse says he didn’t know that would happen). The uber-blogger didn’t like that much: “@kr8tr you just deleted all MY comments. That was really nasty dude,” the Scobleizer said on Twitter. A heated discussion ensued both on Twitter, as well as on La Gesse’s blog and on FriendFeed. That in itself makes a statement about the fragmentation of comments that many people (including me) have written about in the past.

The big issue for Scoble, however, seemed to be that he felt he owned his comments — even if they appeared on a third-party service attached to a blog post from someone else. Does that make any sense? I’m not sure. It doesn’t feel right to me. I think if you comment on someone’s blog, or on a newspaper site like ours at the Globe and Mail, or on Slashdot or Craigslist or anywhere else for that matter, your comments effectively become public property. Not that the site owns them, but they are to some extent out of your control (although Disqus lets you edit them until someone else responds to them).

Robert says that he’s not mad any more, but the issue he has raised is an interesting one, I think. Who owns your comments on public sites like FriendFeed? Do you? Or are they public property?

Update:

I sent an email to FriendFeed co-founder Paul Buchheit to see if he had any comment, and he said that this is the first time the subject has really come up. “In general, we want people to have control over their own feeds,” he said. “That said, it is unfortunate to have lost comments in cases such as this, rare as they may be. We’d like to make these comments available — it’s just a matter of finding the right ui.” Buchheit said that the comments haven’t been deleted, they just aren’t visible because they are no longer attached to anything, but that FriendFeed was working on a way to make them visible again.