Oregon on my mind (a bad twist on a well known song – I live 4750 miles away) – but my head’s full of information from there

(see more about this answer)
I’ve had a normal working week, 5 days of (working from home/teleworking/virtual working) – whatever term you feel fits best.  At no time during this working week, have I had any direct contact (phone/email) with anyone there (Oregon).  I’ve not visited Oregon, or feel that it’s at all likely to happen at any time in my future.
But I have been thinking about the connectedness I use/or am served by to replace the co-location & presence that is the norm for most people (presuming they’re office based too*) in their working week.  What information that I seek out or flows towards me and how that gets utilized (turned into value) for my benefit or those I feel connected with.
Of course, I talking about social tools and interactions.   But why, do I need them, doesn’t my enterprise provide all the tools and services I need? After all I have:

  • phone
  • email/IM
  • calendar
  • contact list/address book
  • portals and intranets

Well frankly these are almost useless for “keeping in touch”.  Hang on, it doesn’t mean these aren’t used, no they are heavily used, but in driving business processes forward, pushing business content/context around, discussing objectives and goals. Not “keeping in touch” – the exchange of light weight, social context, interpersonal information, relevant to location, relationship type, personality, and sharing things in common between the individuals/groups.  Of course, these are relationship-centric, but business only moves forward on the basis of trust and relationship!
In fact, even with ‘more’ regular|frequent contact with colleagues via the ordinary  tools (email/IM/calendar and phone calls), I had a struggle making smooth arrangements, anticipating needs/requirements and trying to make best use of my time and theirs.  This sometimes leads me to having a sense of frustration and annoyance, feeling of being short changed, disenfranchised, or feeling a lack of transparency.  But then I realize, at the moment I’m different, I have been spoilt or altered by a change of culture – and they’re just doing what they do as well and as best they can.  What I feel would be considerate and normal courteous behaviour, are not deliberately denied me, these behaviours are not shared because – they don’t see the value, the opportunity (it can’t be necessary – as it doesn’t happen) and they don’t have the tools to do the job (the effort required to make the ordinary tools do so is too tedious).
Should they change their habits? – I hope so
Do they wish to? – perhaps
Are they convinced it will work? – probably not
If they were will it take time and effort? – undoubtedly, by us (those convinced) and them.
So why Portland, Oregon, why this week?   Answer : Coincidence, events and connections.
Coincidence: Simultaneous occurrence of events that may or may not be linked directly – but have relevance to the observer.
Events: Meeting, gathering, conference.  Specifically #oscon and#Jive #midYear #salesKickoff (I’m not directly connected to either – but I was (well enough) informed to know what was going on at both.
Connections: relationships, links, loosely coupled ties, – people I know, people I know of, people I don’t know.
So a subset of these (connections) participating in the social tools I also engage with, served me with enough information to assemble more useful picture of the happenings, engagements and points of interest in Portland, Oregon this week.  And that was much much better than what I could perceive or deduce about the events, happenings and engagements with some of my colleagues.
Actually some of the focus on Portland, was seeded by conversations last week, but the same could have (but didn’t) with conversations with colleagues too!
So what connections and information did I feel affinity with Portland, Oregon this week:
Relationships: 2 people from CSC I know/have met were at #oscon this week (I follow 2 of them on Twitter – and Tripit(1) played it’s part too)
Links: 1 CSC, 4 Jivers (I’ve had phone calls with all of them, almost met 1,  I follow 3 on Twitter)
Loosely coupled ties & Ambiance: (other colleagues/contacts) : Several other colleagues and contacts also engaged like me (at a distance) with the same events. Several significant others (respected industry noteables – 1 – I’ve met, and several I’ve heard of) were also directly or indirectly engaged.

Social significance:

Portland Oregon = (2xR+5xL+((number of Reply tweets I saw relating to people I follow/know)xLCT) = Social Rank Quotient
Work Event = (2xR) = Social Rank Quotient

Portland Oregon = 38 = (2×5+5×2+60×0.3)
Work Event = 10 = (2×5)

So where was this value I mentioned?
Ok, so work didn’t collapse and things didn’t break, just because I didn’t know more in advance about the “work event”.  But, I wasn’t directly connected/involved with that “work event”, just like I wasn’t directly connected to the events in Portland.
However, I now know a great deal more about events in Portland, Oregon that will benefit how I interact or work those individuals going forward.  I also played my part a little better in removing disruptions from those I knew who were engaged in events in Oregon, by not adding to their inbox, leaving voice mails on the phone etc.  Which didn’t happen with my colleagues – there were several exchanges of information that  So the social sharing, informs me both as an educational tool, but as relational service to prevent inconsiderate, inconvenient & unnecessary communications increasing the disruption factor of already busy lives.
I now realise that Twitter serves a few specifics purposes for me.
1) A back channel and social interaction mechanism for that absent ‘office banter’ that takes place in office.  The most important group or list I respond to is my colleagues list, though those I mark as “close” (consider strong tie) are given an almost equal attention.
2) Education and news flow – current affairs, opinions and happening are broadcast and pushed to me via Twitter. I learn on the go.  I still use news sites and a feed reader, but the “bite-size” chunks in Twitter keep me informed and current.
3) These social tools aren’t simply a nice to have, play thing – it’s more of way of life and a way of work.  A significant behaviour that I share with others and benefit from a collective effort of participation.  See Luis’ blog post for more on social philosophy.
If you’ve got to the end of the post – thanks for sticking with it.

  • How do engage you in social tools?
  • How do they bring benefit to you?
  • Do you perceive a social rank to the degree that events and occurrences are shared with you?

For more on Portland, Oregon see http://www.travelportland.com/
*For reference – if I did visit my local office every day of the week, my closest organizational colleague (by geography) whom I regularly work with is based in the south a 180 miles away.  I consider the “closest” colleagues those I connect with on Twitter.

1 Comment

  1. I good post Charlie. As you know I do a lot of work from home as it it suits me and I seem to get more work done. However I agree with you that the use of Social Media has changed the way in which information flows. Twitter at the moment seems to (as you pout it), provide the “office banter”, but additionally for me it has allowed me to make contacts with people that I would never have done otherwise.

    BTW, which list do I appear on? 😉

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