This Writer’s 2012 New Years Blogging Resolutions

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I’ve begun to feel a convergence lately—of tools and motivation, of desire and actual potentials toward reality, of wherewithal and professional and personal need, of hubris and humility. I ain’t all that good at this social media thing—and I need to be. And so I’ve determined to more directly invoke my editorial calendar and focus on the task at hand: writing productivity.

Two quotes that say a lot have crossed my radar screen in recent days:

”Honesty begets clarity.”

Attributed to Kendra Copper, you’ll find this little nugget all over Twitter. And more often than not you’ll find it posted by a Buffer user, as it’s one of the better cheat tweets that tool will provide you when you want to top off your queue (Inspire me!) and are hurting for something original to say. It happens.

This quote has oozed its way into me since I first encountered it. At a glance, sure it makes sense as creator’s advice. Burden your work with the warts of your true thinking and feeling, and you will unburden it of convoluted and misdirected fog.

And so it is that I’ve determined to shift the focus of this blog from a knee-jerk collection of resources and reflections, to a more focused exploration of my varied professional and personal passions. By inserting myself more honestly and directly into the text, I expect greater clarity of message to naturally emerge.

”Thought leaders are thought leaders because they write.”

This one originated with Tac Anderson, pitted against its converse “Thought leaders don’t write because they’re thought leaders.” Now whether this is universally true is less important than the fact that it needs to be true for me. To beget my own clarity, my brain has been fashioned over the years less for creatively entertaining original thought—I have them, just not for pay—and more on better presenting the thoughts of others. Any original concepts of merit that I’ve come up with on my own were iterated from scraps of transcription meticulously kneaded, hammered, and sculpted. Handling them as if they were the thoughts of another has been my route to productivity. It will be again.

I’m simply not the kind of blogger that can rattle off a thousand words and hit the Post button. I’m more measured by training, for better or worse. So it is with great deliberation that I present these four new years resolutions…

New Years Resolution #1: Post Regularly

Speaking of great quotations, da Vinci said “art is never finished, only abandoned.” That’s another of my favorites. In it is two lessons. First, any project overworked sacrifices its focus and value at the altar of scope creep. So one should communicate one’s core message, then stop. Second, only through frequent “abandonment” of your projects to the scrutiny of your imagined audience, can you hope to build a body of work that holds together, that speaks to who you are, and ultimately turns that audience from imagined to quite real. (Pretty highfalutin for a guy simply trying to suss out enterprise software, right?)

So I’ve built a simple editorial calendar for this blog that blocks out writing time in my schedule and provides guidance enough to develop and publish one post per week. Life may be what happens, but a weekly post makes for a serviceable aspirational blogging goal.

As a tools guy, I’ve also done an audit of my social media management and production applications—particularly with the arrival of the iPad to my workflow—and have come to a streamlined quiver of helpers to keep the juices flowing. Remember the Milk, Feeddler, ifttt, Evernote, Scrivener, WordPress: these tools are so helpful I’m tempted to write an entire post about them (and someday I may just do that).

Important today, though, is my commitment to commit more.

New Years Resolution #2: Clean up Old Posts

I’ve migrated from blogging platform to blogging platform—starting with Movable Type back in the day—and while each handled formatting, categorization, and tagging a little differently, I’ve not always been diligent about updating old posts to maintain or improve usability.

After exploring Blogger, Posterous, and Tumblr—and perhaps some others over the years—I’ve settled on WordPress, as it’s completely web-based, includes the management features that are important to me, and offers a wealth of ready-made and stable blogging templates (like the attractive and very usable template I’m using now).

So updating the back catalog would seem a suitable resolution as well: not busywork, mind you, but a sincere effort to drive more value out of my own archive. Audit the metadata and the older posts get new life. Standardize the formatting and they develop a consistent sense of belonging. Thus, with a cohesive body of work, I can more clearly see my blogging trends and the evolution of ideas.

For you experienced bloggers out there, this may seem like a no-brainer. For someone of my particular chemistry, however, it is the product of much deliberation and a bridge I had to find and cross on my own. I’ve read enough teaching about writing to know that it can’t be taught, and enough about project management to know the list of best practice is exactly as long as the list of successful projects.

True dedication to this medium has demanded of me a particular honesty of approach that’s taken years to come by. With that honesty barrier broken it’s far easier to divine the tasks necessary to move forward. Knowing where I’ve come from, what I’ve moved through, what ideas I’ve explored, abandoned, and built from—these are all drivers of a personal platform that can only become healthier and more vibrant moving forward.

I look forward to revisiting this past, rediscovering its merits and warts, and growing right along with the product.

New Years Resolution #3: Update Social Profiles and re-engage

Staying with the growth theme, it’s been some time since I conducted a holistic examination of my personal brand. I’ve got profiles on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, and more that may for all I know include inconsistent or contradictory messaging.

If this blog is to be my digital home base, then it makes sense to draft an “About Me” page that speaks to who I am both professionally and personally. On the blog, there’s no space or formatting limitations; I can craft a statement that reflects where I am now and link outward where appropriate to other places and platforms.

From there, it’s simply a matter of updating my social network profiles to match, respecting the spirit and limitations of each, and linking back here for the full story. Blog first is the mantra.

The second half of this resolution is packing up this updated, more focused identity and traveling back into those same networks, reintroducing myself, re-engaging.

I have my favorite tools here as well, and will surely discover more. So I won’t take the space diving too deeply into my engagement process. Process will and must constantly evolve anyway. For now it’s far more important to have something to say and to say it in a voice that’s genuine. Process will take care of itself.

New Years Resolution #4: My Topic

Finally we arrive at the meat and potatoes of this post, that peculiar and vague light toward which I walk: the purpose for this blog.

In 2009, Christian Crumlish and Erin Malone, two established designers and experts in the field of social computing, leveraged their experiences at Yahoo! and elsewhere and compiled an excellent book called Designing Social Interfaces. In it, they recall the past 15 years of evolution that led to Web 2.0 and social media, and the specific design trends that have both contributed to and emerged from that growth:

These electronic connections and social tools are changing the way we interact with one another. We believe that these tools can be designed and simplified to help normal people expand their online experiences with others. These social patterns of behavior and the interfaces to support them have emerged and continue to evolve as we find better ways to bring people together.

Social patterns are the components and pieces of interactivity that are the building blocks of social experiences. They are the best practices and principles we have seen emerge from hundreds of sites and applications with social features or focus. They are the emergent interaction patterns that have become the standard way for users to interact with their content and with the people who matter most to them.

No one would argue that humans have always been social creatures. Social media is the web’s natural and inevitable response to the twin exigencies of increased global access and Moore’s Law. Aside from our inherent and inherently human natures, social patterns, as outlined by Crumlish and Malone, are the underlying reasons why half of Internet users worldwide interact with social media on a daily basis, why half a billion dollars were spent on social media marketing globally in 2011, why 1 in 5 Americans have a Twitter account, and why the nation called Facebook can claim to be the world’s third largest by population.

So impressed was I with Designing Social Interfaces—with its reduction of that chaotic and ever-mutating world of social design into a framework of simple structures—that, naturally, I began to ask myself how this mode of thinking could be brought to the world of work.

After a couple of false starts and preliminary sketches, I cooked up a pattern framework of my own. Starting with the bits of Crumlish and Malone that most speak to me, I stirred in the traditional patterns I’ve witnessed in my career as designer and communicator, seasoned with the hallmark capabilities of enterprise tools such as SharePoint and with which I have experience, and paired with refreshing takes on the classics of management wisdom passed down through generations of successful corporations.

So it’s a work in progress.

I call it the “Enterprise Social Patterns Framework” for lack of a better title. Right now it exists as a couple of diagrams and a sprawling resource outline in Evernote. Today I make it my task to detail it here in this forum. In so doing, I hope to crystallize my thinking on the subject, re-grow some healthy writing habits, and learn from those practitioners and others willing to engage in this conversation on the evolving nature of work as a verb.

Bringing the energy, efficiency, and empowerment of the consumer web into the enterprise is an important job. That’s why there are many great thinkers, writers, and organizations diligently working on that task today. My work—beginning here, today—is to curate my journey through the subject and reflect on those developments that most speak to me. To beget my clarity.

And while I do this work for that critical audience of one (a little too critical sometimes), I invite your participation as reader, perhaps as foil, and as partner in the journey.

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