I spent a very educational evening tonight at the Talk Is Cheap “unconference” on Social Media, held at Centennial College‘s slightly inaccessible Carlaw campus, the Centre for Creative Communications. It was a free event that brought together around 200 people, mostly public relations and corporate communications practitioners. As such, it wasn’t directly related to my job, but for someone who’s desperately trying to advocate “social media” and “Web 2.0” stuff at PricewaterhouseCoopers, it was food for my soul. Not so much in terms of content, though, as I’d have to say I probably know more about these issues than most of the people in attendance. My problem is that I’ve never held a career position that allowed me to actually apply all this knowledge. And so my passion for blogs and the like has largely gone unrequited throughout the course of my professional career(s).
This became apparent as I listened to several very good speakers, like Joe Thornley and Michael O’Connor Clarke, both of Thornley Fallis (whose employees actually communicate with me regularly in their capacity as PR agents for ThinkFilm, whose films I review for Toronto Screen Shots. Small world sometimes.) Thornley Fallis is a small Canadian public relations firm who have made great use of social media and established a reputation as leaders in helping their clients apply that knowledge. I found myself envious of working in an environment like that, and thought, perhaps foolishly, that maybe I should be working in public relations instead. But I can clearly see that my apparent zigs and zags, career-wise, are attempts to find that ideal environment where I can apply my skills and passions to the fullest while still making a decent amount of money. While I’m not going to be hasty, maybe I should examine whether my skills and experience as a web-savvy writer might be better applied in a field that is embracing social media.
While I can foresee that PwC might call upon my experience in a limited way, it’s a large firm. So large that even after several months, I still feel like I’m learning what they do. It also feels very decentralized and finding the right person to talk to takes a fair amount of work. I haven’t been there long enough to have a truly informed opinion, but my initial impression is that they’re using cumbersome and limiting technology to publish their web site. As well, they’ve separated my job function from the actual coding of web pages, so that I’m working only in Microsoft Word, writing content that someone else will mark up. So it may be too soon to tell if PwC will be a long-term home for me, or if I just have a perennially roving eye. I’m trying to get some insight into myself, anyway, and tonight was useful.
This is interesting in light of some of the issues we discussed at our panel at SXSW Interactive this past spring. You can listen to the podcast here. I wonder if there’s a way to measure if more people are actually “attending” church online than offline. They certainly seem to be indulging their curiosity at this new site.
Of course, my fear is always that online “community’ is often just an invitation to flame others with views different than your own. The internet makes it much easier to express views you wouldn’t feel comfortable expressing to a stranger IRL, but it also makes it easier to trash someone else’s views without getting to know them first.
Must keep an eye on this GodTube thingâ€¦
Something very odd happened in July. My site traffic slowed to a trickle. Admittedly, most of my “visitors” are people who arrive at some ancient entry through the magic of Google search. But my unique visitor count went from 4,430 in June to a measly 642 in July. August continues the trend. Does anyone out there know what happened? Has Google tightened up its algorithms? They have been criticized for ranking blogs too highly, but wow, that hurts! Of course, I’m asking a question that nobody out there will even read, based on recent traffic. Oh, the indignity…
During the excavations that took place this past week while Brooke and I moved, I found this ancient relic from the past. My “cyberspace companion” featured some helpful articles. My favourite was “Six Myths: Unmasking Cyber Lore”:
- Myth 1: The Internet is a single network controlled by one organization.
- Fact: The Internet is actually a patchwork of commercial, educational, government and public and private networks, all cooperating to achieve an open, interconnected communications system.
- Myth 2: The Internet is free
- Fact: Don’t believe it for a moment. All of the Internet’s conduits, computers, and information resources are paid for by someone. Often an organization provides free Internet access to its members as part of an affiliation. But, for people lacking Internet access through an organization, getting on the Internet carries a price tag.
- Myth 3: The Internet will usher in a new age of democracy, a socio-political nirvana.
- Fact: People created the Internet, people run the Internet, people drive what happens on the Internet â€” and people are human. No inherent technological properties of the Internet will bring democracy or a new age of global community.
- Myth 4: Internet users are cyberpunks and content they create is cyberporn.
- Fact: While some consider portions of the material on the Internet to be immoral, obscene, or useless, much of it is no more controversial than what’s found at a public library or in a bookstore.
- Myth 5: The Internet is chaotic. There’s simply no way to find anything.
- Fact: While no Internet information-collection or resource-searching tool is flawless, there are landmark collections and tools on the Internet that you can use to find what you want.
- Myth 6: The Internet is hostile to newcomers â€” the hapless newbies.
- Fact: While a newbie can get mercilessly flamed for ignoring or flouting the Internet’s social customs, there are plenty of ways a new user can get up to speed in a hurry.
In this pre-Google world, Myth 5 was especially amusing to read. Yahoo still resided at its Stanford URL (http://akebono.stanford.edu/yahoo). And I love how many times they use the prefix “cyber”! Can you remember your first experiences with the “Internet”?