Two worlds and in between

I recently attended and spoke at the most excellent Social Now conference in Lisbon. Enterprise social networking (ESN) and knowledge management (KM) are invariably a mystery to most workplace and property folk still nutting their heads against the rusty twin locked doors of HR and IT, the discipline bewitched by its own insularity. I used to attend CoreNet’s ‘Discovery Forums’ many years ago where the contended Prentice Knight would repeatedly draw the equilateral Bermuda Triangle of Property, HR and IT into which all idea of what to do next invariably disappeared. Needless to say we never discovered anything but we did have a very personable dinner with old friends at the end.

Yet the twin souls of ESN and KM effectively constitute the digital workplace as we know it. The struggle lies in the fact that they are neither HR nor IT (unless we confuse the app with its application), and certainly not property, nor in fact do they reside anywhere else within the typical organisational structure. They rely instead on those committed to meshing physical and virtual space, and they could be anywhere.

It’s not about finding functions who should be talking to each other. The silos remain, but they’re not important anymore. They can talk to each other all they like, it won’t make a lot of difference. They bumble on, equally misunderstood by one another, awaiting the day they will have been superseded by those who didn’t bother waiting for the inevitable and just got on with it. More on this soon. But meanwhile…..

A masterclass at the event with the renowned guru of all things ESN and a super bloke to boot, Luis Suarez (@elsua) drew my attention to some fascinating differences between the digital and physical workplace. Apologies Luis for the time it’s taken me to write it up.

Firstly, we talk about online communities and physical neighbourhoods, yet with the latter then talk about a sense of community. The former are free of physical boundaries, the latter defined by them. Yet essentially we are looking for them to achieve the same thing – connection, sharing, collective development, and being excellent to each other (the Bill & Ted approach). My workplace change approach is based on the idea of being a good neighbour and acting in a neighbourly manner. No-one needs a slide deck to explain what that means, we instinctively know. That approach should be equally applicable to digital space. Luis made a pennydropper of a point for thinking about change – communities share, while teams solve problems. For workplace therefore we’ll still construct neighbourhoods to create recognisable physical locations for individuals and teams, but we need a community mindset from the digital workplace along with neighbourly behaviour in our physical space.

Secondly, the difference between adoption and adaptation. Both Luis and I had, in separate spaces, come to the conclusion that ‘adoption’ is the wrong way to look at how we change behaviour. It comes with a shoehorn. Workplace types are always talking about people adopting new behaviours in new space (see my post on the Leesman report). I’ve come to see it as the most unhelpful idea possible in enabling change. Luis had it as adaptation, and hence we have early adapters. Adaptation respects the individual experiential journey, while adoption implies a forced change. A torment has been resolved.

Thirdly, the contrast between those we engage as change agents. *This is not (repeat, to fade) a generational comment. The digital world seeks out more junior participants, those less likely to make do who have both have time to help, and a more natural questioning attitude. It relies on intuition and experimentation rather than training. It’s about enabling change through the delight of discovery, and respects the individual journey. In workplace change programmes we naturally look to more senior individuals to lead change, with access to resources, shoehorns and the ability to unblock. They are focussed on addressing the resistors rather than the digital workplace’s intent to harness the enlightened. There is a lot more of the ‘Trojan mice’ idea about the digital workplace that the physical workplace must learn from. Along, of course, with a little patience.

Fourth, the difference between education (push) and enablement (pull). The online world looks to model and demonstrate behaviour, as a means to enable a change of behaviour in others. It’s an application of the idea of Tummeling (plenty in this blog about the subject). In the world of workplace there is a deeply unfortunate tendency to instruct and inform, the dreaded ‘etiquette training’ that is woven into so many change programmes, in a bid to drive adoption. Everyone does it so everyone continues to do it. The digital world seems much more comfortable with people changing at varying speeds, adapting, given that generally the tools come first and the usage thereafter, allowing existing behaviour to be phased out. Both old and new worlds invariably exist alongside one another. In the physical world, there is the limitation that when the new space is ready, the old space is entirely left behind and we invariably drop everyone in at once, expecting that they will apply what they have been told beforehand. We must still respect individual journeys – and once people know that we will, their perspective will change too. Those we often see as resistors will just be those on a different journey – we lose the classification entirely.

Fifth is the difference in the use of progress measurement. In the digital workplace we measure progress but don’t publish it, to avoid focussing on the metric and not the transformation process. It can take a year to eighteen months for behaviours to bed in, to be able to tell positive stories. The digital workplace seems much more comfortable with being able to describe the negative ROI not doing anything at all. In the physical world there is a far greater expectation of immediate results that we broadcast to all, driven by the pressure to report ROI. Everyone is desperate to know its ‘worked’. This approach stifles the individual journey, and underpins the obsession with adoption. Again, so much more patience would be beneficial.

Lastly, there is a contrast in making things happen between the plan/deliver approach to physical workplace and the do-something-today approach in the digital. In a flip of the application of patience, so often needed in the physical domain, the digital workplace is this time the fidgety one where even the smallest signs of progress can be important. It underpins Agile. Poor quality environments don’t need to aw await the wholesale mobilisation of the project, small changes can always benefit. Every physical workplace is in permanent beta, even those coming to the end of their useful lives.

A restless spirit and a willingness to get things done, a belief that things can be done rather than a list of reasons why they can’t – that’s got to be a worthwhile adaptation.

Carnage Visors

Better not go outside, it’s like Henry Spencer’s back yard out there.

eraserhead

Yet another article last week – in a property and workplace publication drier than a Saharan cream cracker – added a further smattering of flies, dust, bird-dung and suspended atmospheric gloop to the already-caked visor through which we are being increasingly convinced we need to see the world: volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous. VUCA for short. Its carnage.

Its just sloppy, lazy thinking. We are terrifying ourselves into submission, giving ourselves a blanket excuse for doing nothing, conveniently placing every problem or difficulty out of reach. From the other side of the visor, we’ve never had…..

As much immediately accessible information and the tools with which to filter it to make our working and personal lives easier, to get ourselves to a position of understanding from a standing start.

Broader and deeper relationships able to offer support, motivation and encouragement – and the means to create and maintain them.

As much space and opportunity for the shy, introverted, nervous and uncertain to develop and maintain relationships where it would otherwise have been terrifying.

More help, freely given without expectation of return from the known and the anonymous within the gift economy that is the online world.

More perspectives on the issues we face, viewed from angles we haven’t even calculated, to help us work it out.

Less pressure from dogma and collective ignorance, with a correspondingly healthier suspicion and desire to discover for ourselves.

A greater ability to cope with and understand change, through access to the experience of others.

More choice, in so many respects – readily alternatives if something isn’t working.

More information, encouragement, motivation and the physical means to wellbeing – if, of course, we choose to get off our arse and make use of it… and correspondingly, less excuses for not getting off our arse.

A deeper collective respect for the myriad of differences – obvious and subtle – between us.

A greater ability to travel and experience difference first hand. And still be home in time for (a healthy) tea.

The world may not quite be stable, certain, understandable and lucid (SCUL) because its being run by Nature and Humans Limited, but it’s far from the elliotesque wasteland we’ve convinced ourselves envelopes us.

If you’re looking through crap, the world looks crap. Visors up.

 

 

 

A conversation with Thomas De Quincey about the end of social

There was ritual in my morning cafe visit, in which the need for coffee was rarely tested. Equally ritualistic was checking my phone while waiting, frivolous and oblivious.

While the randomly-gathered levered manhole covers to a deeper world, gazing into the light, flicking through a catalogue of expressions – surprise, concern, disarmed adoration, desire, mostly bemused indifference – the buttoned-down, intense figure at the corner table quietly nursed a china cup, turning it gently in determined hands. Lost with only himself in a distance beyond my suffocated imagination, he didn’t notice me take the seat opposite. I was sure it was him.

“Thomas de Quincey?” He affirmed with a deliberate close of his eyes, and continued on his kaleidoscopic journey. “Is that tea?” I asked, slightly unnerved by his reputation, not quite expecting what answer I may receive. If any.

“Tea will always be the favourite beverage of the intellectual” he offered. He glanced at the phone I had placed on the table, from habit raher than purpose. “Are you going to stare into the inconsequential abyss, too?”

“Its social media – social, something you seem a little unsure about?” I replied with the naive confidence scooped from skipping a stranger across two centuries of social and technological development.

“I’ve seen your social media, compressing your life through the throttle of a profile, the tyranny of the human face. As I can see you have pre-judged me, how does your addiction differ from my own?”

Was he really asking me this? “Addiction? From the stupefication of laudnum? When everyone has access to social, and your habit is a rare and expensive find, notwithstanding a social evil?”

“But imagine, if you are able. Here was the secret of happiness, about which philosophers had disputed for so many ages, at once discovered; happiness might now be bought for a penny, and carried in the waistcoat-pocket; portable ecstasies might be had corked up in a pint-bottle; and peace of mind could be sent down by the mail.”

“But” I protested “most are usually clear-headed, sober when using social media. We interact in clean light, our minds roll our thoughts before we speak, we decide its the right thing to say before we say it. We discover and culture beneficial relationships….”

“It is most absurdly said” he interrupted, seeming a little uncomfortable “in popular language, of any man, that he is disguised in liquor; for, on the contrary, most men are disguised by sobriety. For this reason, your social media is already aranging its life in order, for its imminent passing. Rest assured it will be expected, but unexpected nevertheless.”

I was confused. “Social is just coming into maturity, inclusive, all encompassing, integrated with our lives. How can you think this?”

“Allow me to offer my congratulations on the truly admirable skill you have shown in keeping clear of the mark” he smirked. “Not to have hit once in so many trials, argues the most splendid talents for missing.”

I didn’t understand where my aim was awry. Noticing my hesitation, he continued. “Your social media has reached its limit by the very nature of its sociality. Every creativity and insight is diluted, every shard of light lost in the daybreak of conversation. What you believe you have discovered, you have in fact already lost.”

I was agitated now. “So we’re better off drinking laudnum unaccompanied in a darkened room, speaking with and knowing no-one, alone with our own weakness and indecision?”

“I don’t say that my dissolution in opium is the answer, no dear boy. But your social media has no response, no outlet. It relies on conscious, waking experience, which is inherently limited. If in this world there is one misery having no relief, it is the pressure on the heart from the incommunicable. The limits of communication will hasten its demise, as our search for more ecstatic pathways continues.”

“So I’ve been – and am – wasting my time? If social media is extinguihsing itself, what follows, surely it is something more intensely social, more genuine still? I need to have some idea, if you’re so sure.”

His gaze wandered, he seemed finished with me, or at least the idea of me. “You are next, just and simply you….your thoughts….your imagination…that only you will know. Social will never be enough. The only pathways worth treading are open to you alone.”

“And what would you have me do?” I asked in frustration. But he had already locked me out, absorbed in his contemplation once more, detached from the physical form in front of me.

“Forget your anger before you lie down to sleep.”

My phone buzzed several times. Having been distracted by the alert, I was alone at the table. There was a little tea left, dark, cold.

 

If

Thanks to Thomas Aquinas, it was once fashionable amongst philosophers to make assumptions about a “state of nature”, a time of innocence in which humanity was naked at first base. Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Montesquieu and Hume all deployed it.

I considered a while ago on the blog that the features of Stone Age society – the state of nature – were common to the aspirations of the more radical social business thinkers.

Of course basing ideas of present condition and future development on a framework that could not possibly be known was like building towerblocks on quicksand.

But perhaps the approach has some validity in considering work and workplace issues we face today. In reverse. Suppose we offer the craved ideal of any given situation as a state of nature, and consider whether it would hold, or would morph over time into the reality of today.

For example, we decry silos, and claim that only when we tear them down will we be truly productive.

If all professions were therefore solidified into one mass, were all hewn from the same base rock, would they in time fracture, find their own corners? Faced with increasing complexity, would each start to consider that their knowledge and weltanschauung was unique, that only they understood one another, that their collective interests differed from the rest of the collective? Would they start to erect barriers to entry, to establish tests of validity?

We scorn the waste and damage inherent in the daily commute and claim that more people should be working from home or remotely, and are bombarded by statistics showing happier more productive employees when allowed to do so.

If everyone worked in their own homes, connected by an always-on hyperbandwidth hyperlinked hyperhighway with virtual presence, would the isolation and lack of satisfaction of our senses and blurring of our humanity create a radical suggestion of physically meeting? And experiencing the benefits of this contact, would those early adopters start to consider it a little random, and that they would be better meeting with those with whom they had something in common, like either their profession or their employer?

We lambast developers, architects and designers for creating self-serving workplace structures that fail to consider the physiology and psychology of occupants.

If all workplaces were once entirely designed and created around serving the needs of their occupants (“all about people”), would those tasked with envisioning them consider, in their frustration, physical and technological challenges to this brief? Would they find deeper expressions of the aesthetic that served no purpose at all other than beauty, and would they create barriers to functionality in an attempt to disrupt, provoke, rebel?

We scorn leaders who refuse to listen, who interfere, who fail to motivate and develop their charges.

If all leaders were once innately generous, free spirited souls who got out of the way and stayed out of the way, who communicated with honesty and openness, would some start to consider shortcuts to their goals? Would ideas of control and direction begin to permeate that curtailed freedom, withheld information, no longer tolerated failure from experimentation?

It is a perspective worth considering as a means of testing what we desire. We are always looking for the alternative, and more than ever celebrating the cult of disruption. Yet at reaching the ideal, will the disruption whither? Or does it remain a force for the opposite?

If we started with what we wanted, would we get what we’ve got?

 

Vanishing point

In further mulling on last week’s calling of “beyond the workplace” (#btw) – which officially ends today – I replied to a comment on the previous post that a new metaphor was required to bring about a transformation (to what, has yet to be articulated). It nudged me to finish this half-written post, as the underlying idea has some relevance to those involved.

I am indebted to Stowe Boyd for enlightening me in the ways of the science-fiction writer and (original?) cyberpunk Bruce Sterling’s Futurist Principles and Viridian Design, an avant-garde “bright green” design movement focused on addressing climate change, that ran 1998-2008. One of his Principles that stands out for me is that of Planned Evanescence.

I had to look up evanescence, it was a word that sparkled. It means the process of turning to vapour, of disappearing altogether.

[My chemistry teacher at school told me that making something vanish was impossible, and if we ever achieved it in class we would be going into business to make a fortune. That sounded like quite a challenge, and one that I haven’t given up on entirely].

Sterling’s interpretation is that:

“a product will be driven off the market, within a known time-frame, by some purported improvement. The Viridian principle of “Planned Evanescence” extends this practice by demanding that the product and all its physical traces should gracefully disintegrate and vanish entirely”

That we build in evanescence, fully expecting even demanding that complete disappearance is a composite part of our creation – that this is the only viable and sustainable proposition.

Supposing we extend this to our ideas. None of our ideas have planned evanescence, we inherently expect them to last forever. We introduce ever more, the landscape overcrowds, and as a result we get progressively more unsighted. Our greed for the new – innovation, creativity, fresh understanding and insight – blinds us.

Therein lies the struggle – many new paradigms are the repackaging of existing, what I have previously called “knew” ideas. We find that hundreds – sometimes thousands – of years have passed and that what we consider a new perspective was once a common understanding to those in togas.

Perhaps if our ideas contained a planned evanescence instead of our pretending that we are gifting them for eternity, we might be better able to think clearly, and more ably know that a new idea is in fact new. That also demands a collective courage to admit that an idea is finished forever, and to let it vanish – not bury it under a heap of reinterpretations, just in case.

Sterling’s most famous statement is “the frontier of the future is the ruins of the unsustainable”.

When our ideas, too, are unsustainable, we need to let them go. Evanescence is a word that still sparkles. I haven’t finished with it yet. But when I do, it’s over.

The revolution just got institutionalised

“I don’t want harmony. From love for humanity I don’t want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it’s beyond our means to pay so much to enter on it. And so I hasten to give back my entrance ticket, and if I am an honest man I am bound to give it back as soon as possible.”
Ivan Karamazov, in “The Brothers Karamazov” (Dostoevsky)

Tired of institutional guff and the king’s ransom charged to support creaking bureaucracy and self-serving interests, over four years ago I handed back my ticket of admission. I decided to take all the time I gave to speaking with people from the same discipline who (albeit unconsciously) reinforced my prejudices, and instead to meet those from other pursuits who I hoped would open my mind instead. Experimentally, I kind of went “open source”, to use social tools to build networks outside those expected without needing a membership badge.

It was probably the best thing I ever did professionally. Whether through the Tuttle Club, Centre for Creative Collaboration, ConnectingHR or events like those in Social Media Week I met and made friends with some of the most inspiring and razor-sharp people imaginable.

Having got off my arse and explored, I even implored workplace/property and HR to get closer, as with this post in October 2011. So I have been trying to understand why – when the CIPD and BIFM this week announced that they were dating, and the people danced – I felt a little uneasy. Wasn’t this what I wanted?

Of course, it has considerable promise, and I fully respect the intentions, energy and vision of those involved. It would be a rare type who would suggest that a greater dialogue would be a “bad thing”, and who would not wish to be in the tent (as Simon Heath puts it). There were however, while supporting the move in principle, two causes of my discomfort.

The first is the (unintended, I am sure) emerging collective pressure to be seen to be supportive, positive, constructive. The great thing about the previous years’ adventure has been finding the confidence to express a dissenting or contrary view where I have felt strongly, or felt that it needs to be said and no-one else is saying it. I retain my resolve not to be bandwagoned by all of this. If it starts blowing guff, I won’t be shy in saying so. Otherwise I may as well give up the blog and go and “drive the taxi”.

The second takes a little more explanation, and is a deeper matter. Mark Catchlove and Doug Shaw addressed it in their recent posts, linked here. Perhaps I am just expressing it slightly differently.

It’s uncanny – and scary – how institutions (which are in themselves simply composites of people) seem able only to take institutional steps, and are able to instantly enshrine a well-intentioned proposition only in familiar elitist constructs. It’s the same thread as how people change when they walk through the revolving door – talking in a different language, behaving in different ways towards one another. The fledgling relationship has promised joint research projects, and roundtable discussions with “leading thinkers” (whoever determines who they are?) from both sides. Consultants will be engaged and paid. I can sense the good folk of groups like Unwired loading a new typrewriter ribbon for the proposal. There will be a bunfight for a seat at the table, and egos will be at once pumped and deflated. The first session will even be under Chatham House Rules, which flies in the face of the openness that conceived it.

There is a corporate pattern.

The immediate and individual relationships that had begun to form a web – without labels and self-imposed silos, being sown at a human level and that had no need of the heavy footsteps of the behemoths – have suddenly by this dialogue been collectivised. Why do we always seem to feel the need to “take it to the next level”, formalise it, structure it, proclaim it a movement, name it (Beyond the Workplace #btw), before we have let it play out to see where it might have led on its own, ungoverned, free? It may not yet have had an agenda, but that may just be because it hasn’t needed one.

So – that’s my discomfort: the loss of innocence that this represents.

By proclaiming a need to break down silos we actually create a risk of awakening or reinforcing a consciousness of those silos that our low-level activity had started to erode. By announcing the engagement, we risk placing all pre-existing relationships, initiatives and interactions within an institutional frame of reference against which our actions and collaborations will be judged.

I am a great believer that genuine learning happens at the fringes, the places that institutions cannot tread – not in round table discussions or research reports. The CIPD and BIFM have stumbled across a campfire. The embers are smouldering – something fascinating has been happening, those involved must have been here recently – but they’re gone. So the giants are readying to set up camp, clear the area, mark out the territory and wheel up the industrial kitchens. I’ll probably stay for lunch. Foraging is a challenge, after all. But I doubt I will discover the really fascinating stuff with all this commotion…. and the tour bus will never get across the ford.

We need to ask Ivan’s question: is the price of harmony too high? We should think it through.

 

The evolution will not be dignified

Back in February 2012 I wrote a post about stuff that was over and done with in the workplace. I thought it may be worth updating with another batch of Darwin’s also-rans. While not suggesting that any should be bred in captivity for the sake of our children, as I know some people love these beasts, there is a positive message in the chaotic demise of them all:

The “seat at the table” – you’re not going to get it, and even if you did would you have any idea what to do with it? You’ll have absolutely nothing in common with all of the other people in the seats around the table because they have been there forever. It’s no longer an excuse for doing nothing. We have more potential than ever to make a huge difference without being at the table at all, thanks to social technologies and our increasing sophistication in their use. Who needs all those extra meetings and prep anyway?

Cafe working – well, after all the hype and hope, other than for a break between other more functional places, its crap isn’t it? Co-working centres have blossomed for good reason. Café working is lonely, sticky, and at some point you’re going to have to go for a pee. Forget that café working is anything other than transitory, and focus on creating – and working in – great workplaces.

The CV – if it has anything more on it than is on your LinkedIn profile, it’s too long, and if it has about the same, then there really was no point in re-typing what you already typed into LinkedIn. LinkedIn also bears a curious resemblance to a CV. How very strange. LinkedIn may not be your favourite “social” application – but for summarising your career and skills in real time, it works.

*cracy for running an organisation – replacing one systemic idea with another systemic idea is the revolution that was – well, systemised. The search for the next *cracy as an organisational model nearly received its own paragraph for being as unashamedly pointless, but that would have been according it too much credence. If a *cracy needs replacing (not the argument here), it’s with something with an entirely different DNA. Not with an interbred deviant offspring. Thinking in a different conceptual space altogether is required.

Human capital – the anthrax term that will one day have its own quarantined island, inhabited by a diminishing band of zealots, slowly consuming one another. Pop will eat itself. Conceived in a bio-warfare lab, it somehow managed to escape in the folds of a rejected consultancy proposal. It’s all about people. We are people. Simple, true.

The future of work – because if we don’t do something positive about the present then the future will be just like the present, the good bits (for there are many) and the not-so-good. But then daydreaming about the future is easier, and everything is right when you can’t judge the accuracy of your premonitions from the sanctuary of today. Go on, let’s have another conference about it, to avoid doing anything constructive. Alternatively let’s create a better future with small steps today. Its about people too – not technology. And we know enough about ourselves to start.

“New” ways of working and smartworking – they are just ways of working, a complex blend of the established, the analogue, the social, connected and technologically-enabled. Some parts new-ish, some parts borrowed from the Ancient Greeks or further back still. There probably never really was a “new” way of working – but if there was, it isn’t new anymore. It just is. And “smart” is so entirely subjective in this context as to be meaningless. It’s about what works for you – and if it works, keep doing more of it.

Alternatives to PowerPoint – you may have spent most of your working life loathing PowerPoint and joining in its vilification, but that’s the rub – it has been the ultimate survivor. We all use it because it works, and will go on doing so. Even pecha kucha and ignite and reliant on it. Its benign – it doesn’t encourage bad presenting, doesn’t prevent great storytelling, and takes no account of our shortcomings as presenters – but we still blame the tool when it’s the content and/or delivery that’s pants. We need to tell better stories better, be more engaging – and work with the tool, not against it.

Maybe we should bury some of this stuff in a tin beneath a big tree.

Or just let it slip quietly away. Much more dignified.
 

Limited supply

I can’t imagine being a teenager without fanzines. I have tried, but the emptiness is palpable.

They were the purest and most innocent Xeroxed rebellion. People writing themselves into history long before Cluetrains passed through the dank suburban stations we feverishly read them on. Publishing that summarily two-fingered stiffarsed seventies sensibilities, and happened through guile and balls. Who the hell owned a photocopier, or ever even paid for paper come to that? “Oh, would you like to borrow my long-arm stapler?”

Fanzines simply took up the slack of the age – under-used machines that could always manage a few thousand extra grunts, sheaves that would otherwise be destined to memo, marker pens that would inevitably dry before they had lived a little.

Distribution (because no-one “syndicated” then) was legwork, and front. Simple economics were at play, too, cheap enough to shift them yet had to be a few cans of McEwans in it when the shoe boxes were emptied. Viral meant word of mouth, because there was nothing else. No choice of channels or traffic-boosting apps. The only stats were how many were left, if you could remember how many you had actually made before you heard someone coming down the corridor.

The rawness of the ink made them smell distinctive too, lasting long after the first greedy read. The smell almost created a taste in the back of the mouth. The paper was bone dry, toothy.

I can’t imagine being a teenager without fanzines. I have tried, but I have no proof. Nothing remains from anything I read or created. No back ups, USB’s or cloud storage. Few ever thought they were important enough to keep, they were of the time. But strong is the memory of the first kindling of a belief that I could say what I wanted, in a way I wanted. Whether anyone read it or not.

The shoeboxes were always empty, at least.

#SM4Biz liveblog 4: the Last Chance

Sartre only wrote the first two chapters of the last book in the Roads to Freedom tetralogy, and so it seems fitting that with the EY case study presented by Charlie Elise Duff (@charlie_elise) the story of the day seems incomplete.

The transition of social media from a once-exciting, edgy, dangerous, rebellious open-source wonder to a another limb of the corporate leviathan. When huge organisations send reps to #SXSW and blog overhipstered nonsense, when careers are forged and job titles straight out of Alice in Wonderland become mainstream, and when we reduce all of this creative energy to analytics and pie charts, it is hard to decide whether something has gone horribly wrong, or whether this was always likely to be the natural evolution. A corporate case study at a social media conference might just be the beginning of the end.

But Charlie Elise is one of the early adopters, and a star – so EY have the right person, doing the right stuff with what’s available and what’s possible.

I attended this same event two years ago, and even in this time the shift to the mainstream is marked. I am going to join the panel at the end of this event, and may get a chance to offer this overly-romantic perspective. I haven’t got any pie charts and haven’t got an SEO tips. I can’t offer a corporate study, and can’t tell you how to market your stuff. I don’t get millions of hits and I haven’t got Twitter followers expressed in “k” or “m”.

But I have loved being able to say what I feel I have to say, and having the channels to say it. That will just keep me going as I get misty-eyed over how it used to be – because something else will probably be along soon. Hello somewhere.com……

#SM4Biz liveblog 2: the Reprieve

Massive expectation around Pritesh Patel (@priteshpatel9) speaking, given he has been quoted several times this morning. He does SEO, and we all want more, don’t we? It was with great regret that when I googled him I actually found him. That robbed me of my livelihood, but proves he’s good.

He does have pies, and lots of them, to explain our “page experience” – and why nobody shares mediocre content. I find myself resolving to try harder. Be aware of the “links effect”, and especially those that are earned from the creation of great content. But….be wary of self-over-indulgence – engage, converse, be social. Its not all about you. Pritesh also had “ten things you can do right now” – which sounds like one of those listy blog posts you ritually ignore, but was full of great tips. Especially the underliner – “you are what you publish”.

Management summary: do great shit, or crash.

Two-donuts Doug (@DougShaw1) asks “what’s in it for me?”. This is the man with 666 blog posts to his credit, part-fuelled by a period of over-investment at the expense of more productive (and revenue-gnerating) activity, possibly part-fuelled by the food additives found in pink donut toppings. For a man whose stuff is in the top 5% on Slideshare he doesn’t have any slides. Nothing to share here, move along.

The thorny subject of ROI surfaces, like a dorsal fin just off Bondi – but talk of this is out-sharpened by the razorlike collective wit of twitterfolk with the post-Budget #torybingo viral banner, and the “respected banker” careers advise Q&A: two of the myriad social media gaffes that a little thought may have easily averted. Back to ROI and its about value, not cost – like everything where the ROI question is not easy to answer. Not sure I really know what’s in it for me, but great fun listening to Doug, all the same. “My brain is no different to anyone else’s”. Oh but it is, Doug.

Management summary: don’t be an idiot, like Grant

We are reprieved.