Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Choose Your Path

Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Yesterday, I wrote about the changes that are occurring through social media and the web. I thought I would write a little bit more of what I learned from the speakers Chris Brogan (twitter @chrisbrogan) and Erik Qualman (@equalman) at the BEA conference in NYC. You may wonder why I care about this so much, mostly because I am a social entrepreneur who is looking at the ways that new technology and paradigms will affect us socially and environmentally, not just financially. As we develop OneGiving to connect people globally in giving and resource exchange, we must fully understand the technology, where it is going AND how people are thinking and responding to it so that we may serve people, and humanity better, and deliver a more comprehensive, successful, fun and interactive platform to enhance the user’s experience.

Every day we continue to hear, we are entering a new era, a new paradigm in which the choices we make every day are beginning to impact us more as a planet and humanity. According to Erik Qualman, the use of social media, the social web, social networks and the social graph is about you and bragging AND it is about listening.

Sounds somewhat contradictory perhaps, but Chris Brogan further expanded upon this saying, it isn’t about you, it is about the user of the product. However, what he said was that it is about being more authentically you, playing by your own rules, being consistent and transparent in who you are and letting everyone know who you really are first. Then the key is to connect back with others on the things they care about, communicating and relating to those things on a human, 1:1 personal level. It is about building relationships and influencing others. For more on Chris’s presentation you can go to http://bit.ly/KJxlk.

For me, this is an exciting time. We are seeing younger generations (and ourselves) preferring to communicate via text and social networks, rather than email. Email is beginning to get outdated and as Chris Brogan predicts so will Google’s current platform become outdated (though as any smart business, they are adapting with the changes). Why, he explained, is that currently when anyone types something into Google, everybody gets the same top 10 things on that search. So if they are looking for a hotel in Paris, the same hotels will come up first. Whereas with the way the social graph is taking us and connecting us through common data points, data will become more personalized and specified and with that the search will too. Data about types of hotels in Paris will become more tailored and tied to me personally and my personal needs, based on my other purchases, interests, etc. that are being tracked. My purchases may also be more personalized and tied to not just generic recommendations as on Amazon, but to recommendations of the people in my social network and their recommendations – to the people I care about and trust.

Such dramatic open information and connectivity of information has implications for privacy. Yet, many people remain optimistic that because information is becoming more open and based on personal relationships and trust, it will provide more accountability and will self correct for any abuse of the system very quickly. It all remains to be seen.

As I have stressed before, you can spend your time worrying about it or naysaying it, but it is what it is. That is, it is happening and it is the direction in which things are moving NOW. So it is your choice to become a part of the wave and help shape the direction in which it moves or you can resist and either get left behind or be left to react to what it is later on, when there is less ability to shape it. As with everything you and only you have a choice. That is the beauty of being a human being.

We human beings do have some genuine freedom of choice and therefore some effective control over our own destinies. ~ Arnold Toynbee

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