Insipidipity Is Lurking... Or Is It? That Is the Question
CAN THE WORDS OF A SPIRITUAL TEACHER PROVIDE GUIDANCE FOR SOCIAL MEDIA ENGAGEMENT? ...
Preface: This is the 17th installment of this series by Jim Murray and me. When we first started the series on LinkedIn, we intended among other things to show that it was possible to have lively discussion and disagreement, without lasting acrimony. And we the effort as part of our contribution to the well-being of the digital publishing community there. Well, all things change; and we've changed venues to beBee — where we again hope to make a contribution to the development of robust intellectual engagement, and to the mitigation of what I call Insipidipity.
Both Jim and I publish on different days parallel versions of each installment, and I continue to do the same on LinkedIn, for those many followers who remain there. Be warned that our exchanges on He Said He Said are for intellectual adults, and therefore neither Jim, nor I mince words or pussy-foot around delicate topics. However, if you find what you read here worthwhile, let us know. And if you disagree with what one or both of us says, be sure to comment. For whether you agree or disagree, intellectual engagement is our primary objective here.
Hey, I’m serious. Stop rolling your eyes… I can see you in my mind’s eye!
Mooji — who sounds like a cross between Bob Marley and Mahatma Ghandi —says something that strikes so directly on target in our “He Said He Said” discussions on social media, that I need to quote it verbatim.
“Often you are saying thank you to the wrong guy. To what makes you feel sweet in the moment, you say, ‘Thank you for your chocolate flavored moments.’ But some things rub and squeeze and grind you that you don’t say thank you for, but they alter your being in such a way that it brings wisdom into your experiences. And rarely we are thankful for that.” (https://youtu.be/g9Q14FbHw4A).
Now, you know that I am not prone to fuzzy and warm Kumbaya aphorisms, but this statement is so eloquent and so profound in the context of social media, that it grabbed me by the… well, you-know-whats. To me it seems to me so apt in respect of positions both you and I have taken concerning the nature of engagement on LinkedIn and now on beBee. So here’s my question:
To date, I’ve been impressed by the wide range of topics, quality of writing and seriousness of opinions on beBee. But, with the cadre of writers and commenters growing daily, I have a nagging concern that what is now a refreshingly strong sense of mutual support and camaraderie will eventually evolve into a Petrie dish of Insipidipity.
Do you share my concern, and if so, what do you think we can all do to help keep the publishing platform vibrant and edgy … and unlike LinkedIn.
JIM: I can see where the Mooji quote about rubbing and squeezing and grinding could have tweaked a nerve in you. It did in me also.
On the one hand, I agree with you that we ought to be concerned about the risk of an eventual slide into ‘insipidity’. But at the same time, I’m pretty sure there’s not a hell of a lot we can do about it.
People are who they are. People write about the stuff that’s important to them and if they have any skill at writing they do it in a tone and manner that supports their overall social media brand character.
You can’t make people write edgy stuff it that’s not the way they are built. File trying to do that under “Who Died And Left You Boss?”
Right now there is a lot of positive feeling about beBee, because the people who run the site are very responsive, and work hard to promote good writing.
But, and here comes the old 80/20 differential again, which clearly states that in any mob of bloggers 80% of the content produced will fall into the ‘Insipidity” category in someone’s opinion. And the remaining 20% will genuinely represent the site, its character and the overall nature of its publishing entity.
Do I wish there were more balls-to-the-wall writers like you and I. Sure. Cause I like to read that kind of stuff. The more the merrier for me, and frankly I am finding a few here and there and will probably find more as we all go forward. Like Randy Keho and Brian MacKenzie. And our pal Don Kerr has his moments. I really like these guys. They’re good writers and they tend not to sugar coat.
But at the end of the day, there’s always gonna only be a relative few of us. And maybe that’s as it should be, IMHO.
But I also know that because you brought it up it’s gotta be a concern to you. So why don’t you tell me what you think we can do about it? Especially since my answer was actually kind of insipid.
PHIL: See, that’s what I mean. You just couldn’t resist waving that “IMHO” millennial bull chip in front of me. Just to provoke me. Well, I am not going to bite —well... not more than a little.
Seriously, I understand what you’re saying about there already being some edgy writers here on beBee. I’d add Kevin Pashuk to the list, as I predict he’ll soon hit his stride and develop a major following. Also Gerry Hecht, who has come out of the intellectual closet with some of the wildest, wackiest stuff, but whom I perceive to have some seriously deep, albeit obscure underpinnings.
But don’t misunderstand. When I talk about “edgy”, I am not talking about writers whose main form of expression is a rant. I’m talking about writers who display at least a modest measure of gravitas, for example, Wayne Yoshida, who I predict will, as well, emerge as a very strong voice.
I guess that’s what I’m talking about, namely, strong voice. Of which there are a number we haven’t mentioned here, because there just isn’t time or room to do so.
Admittedly, it may be just personal, but I don’t want to read one, let alone five more tips on nailing a job interview (by someone who’s failed over the past year or more to land a job). I don’t want to read posts about developing leadership skills (written by people who haven’t led even a Boy Scout or Brownie troop, not to mention a company with more than one or two employees). And God, please forgive me... I don’t want to read one more inspirational piece about Great Grandpa’s struggle and triumph with learning to put on his Dependz.
I do want to read the critical (meaning thoughtful) opinions of people with genuine experience in topic areas they write on. Also, from time to time, I like to get a bit of insider information or advice on something, pretty much anything. Just information that I don’t normally run across because it about something outside my normal circle of friends and colleagues.
For me, topics can range from the mundane to the sublime. And I don’t restrict my reading to only earth-shattering, life-changing discussions. I simply want substance, not fluff, about pretty much anything, written by people who know WTF they’re talking about, and aren’t just parroting what others have written (surfing the trend) or just making it all up.
What I don’t want is for the growing stream of Insipidipity on beBee to drown out the good stuff, or make it as difficult and time consuming to find, as it became on LinkedIn. And if you think I am alone in my concern, see Bradley Gilbert’s post, “Quality Over Quantity”.
Theoretically the problem should be significantly ameliorated, if not entirely eliminated by the “hives” concept on beBee. You know — affinity networking.
But truth be told, the hive system is not yet working. At
least, not the way it is supposed to.
Posts on all topics are being shared indiscriminately across all manner of supposedly interest-specific hives. The result is that when you sign up for a specifically-themed hive, because you wanted the type of content it promised, and nothing other than that, you still often get all manner of flotsam in your feed from that hive. Which completely undermines the affinity networking concept.A prime example is “Tradesmen and Skilled Workers”. I bet that less than 5% of the members there and certainly less than 2% of the posts have anything to do with the “blue collar” sector. Yet, the mission statement for that hive very clearly expresses its intended primary subject matter.
Now, I have to admit that to date I am as guilty as anyone else of contributing to the undermining the system. I have not been paying close enough attention to the traffic in the hives I own and manage. As a result, even the hives I manage are full of off-topic posts. What to do?
I believe the first and most important corrective step to be taken is to establish beBee-endorsed hives. These would be the only hives officially allowed to use the beBee logo. And such endorsement should be conditioned on evidence of active management, and maintenance of the standards for content type and quality delineated in the hive’s mission statement.
So, that's my story... and I'm stickin' to it. What’s does your Pareto Principle tell you about that, Mr. 80-20?
JIM: We’ve been doing this schtick for a while now, and I honestly have to say, and the segment I just read from you is, not IMHO, LOL or WTF, some of the most inspirational shit you have ever written. Don’t let it go to your head though.
My 80/20 Differential prognostication has not really altered since moving the blogging tent over here into the Land of The Uber Friendly Bees. But a lot of the 80% has to do with the fact that I am simply unable to read a lot of the content here because it’s in Spanish or Portuguese or whatever. I’m sure that will change as time goes by, but I don’t think it will alter the reality.
This social media business is strange. The last post I put up here was partially about how digital marketing has more or less forced everyone to become a writer. But the simple fact is that because a lot of people do not naturally have the same passion for writing as professional writers, their work will be harder to read.
That’s not a knock on people. Everybody is trapped in this bullshit game to some extent. I consider myself lucky that my professional work comes from sources outside the Internet. Like reputation, connections, referrals and the telephone (remember that?).
But I can tell you that there are a lot of people out there who are just plain uncomfortable writing. And if that’s the case then there are going to be an equal, if not greater number of people who are uncomfortable reading their stuff.
I’ve written a lot of posts that talk about the mechanics of blogging and so have you. But what you really can’t teach is the inspiration. For example, why the hell do you and I do this? We do it because we’re both professionals and can do it and make it work. It’s never occurred to us at any time that we could not make something readable out of this exchange.
What we do every day for our clients and for our own edification, and what the writers you mentioned, and probably hundreds more do here is really try and set a standard and keep the content humming at a high level.
But you know and I know that out of all the people hammering out blog posts, I’m being kind when I say that only 20% of that is going to be worth reading.
I know that might sound a little, or maybe even a lot, arrogant. But it’s not. There are writers and there are people who really want to be but either aren’t yet or won’t really ever be. Same as it ever was.
So what happens on BeBee or in the soon to be defunct Lumpy Kingdom or any other blogging site you can name is the same old, same old. You log on and you scroll until something hits you, then you take a chance and start to read it.
And if you’re lucky or if you know and respect the writer, you’ll find what you’re looking for. If not, you just trudge on.
The only difference here on beBee is that there are way fewer pompous asses to deal with, and a much better overall responsiveness on the part of management.
But let’s not kid ourselves. For every John Grisham or Ken Follett or Wilbur Smith or Frederick Forsythe, there are literally thousands of other writers trying like hell to be that good. It’s the nature of the beast.
My advice to those people is to keep writing until you either master the craft or realize that it’s not your bag. Either way, you will have at least given it your best shot, and these days that’s really all you can do. Oh yeah, and figure out how to use apostrophes.
PHIL: I sincerely appreciate the kind words ─ which are in marked contrast to what you wrote to me when our paths first crossed on LinkedIn. But that was then, and... this is now. So, let's take this one on home.
I have two points I’d make about what you’ve just said. (Yea, your thinking, “Man, only two?") They are:
1) I agree with you about most people trying, but rarely becoming polished writers, with their own distinctive style and voice. However, that’s not, I think, what makes or breaks a digital publishing platform. I personally prefer meaty ideas expressed roughly or poorly, to insipid nothingness, however eloquently written.
So, for me at least, it’s not about form, but rather all about the content. Whether the content has substance or not. And whether it is imbued with knowledge, understanding, and insight. Or even just strong opinion. For however soothing Muzak may be when playing in the background, it is still shallow and bland ─ with a strong mid-range only, and all the highs and lows muted to virtual non-existence. (Milos Djukic, who a couple of years ago on LinkedIn named me “Mr. No-Muzak”, will love that line, don’t you think?) Anyway…
2) You say, “… log on and … scroll until something hits you, then … take a chance and start to read it.” But as the platform grows and volume of posts increases, that becomes harder and harder ─ or at least much more time-consuming ─ to do. If you remain at all discerning. For the continually ongoing flood of material into the general feed starts to push stuff that you might have been interested in down so fast and so far out of easy reach, that 80% of the time you’ll miss the 20% that you might have an interest in seeing.
I reiterate that on beBee, the hives system and affinity networking is supposed to solve that problem. But because the mission statements of various hives are not being implemented, the appropriate filtering is not taking place.
As I understand the concept, affinity networking has two sides to its coin. Heads, it’s supposed to enable you to see and read what you want to see and read from the people you choose to follow, and with whom you choose to network. But don’t forget tails, for it’s also supposed to enable you to not see what you don’t want cluttering your feed and preventing you from finding easily in that feed what you do want to see and read.
Right now, I can pretty much assure seeing some of the
content I want to see, by following the author involved, and by joining a hive
or a number of hives that feature content on topics of interest to me. And I
can block or "silence" content from people who habitually post stuff I don’t want to see or
read. What I cannot do is filter out content that I don’t want to
see, but which comes to me via a hive that I belong to because it also features content I do want to
This results from a failure of owners and managers of the various hives to actively manage those hives in accord with their respective mission statements.
Just as important, until this situation is corrected by assuring appropriate, serious and active management for hives, or at least a beBee badge of endorsement for those hives which are properly managed, affinity networking will remain an unfulfilled promise. And after more than five years on LinkedIn, I’ve frankly had my fill of unfulfilled promises
─ Phil Friedman
Afterword: JimMurray can, and always will speak for himself. And I would greatly appreciate your directing any hate mail to him.
For the record, and before you start writing comments accusing me of pissing on the beBee parade, I
understand completely that beBee is a work in progress, and that it takes time
to find and work out all the conceptual and system bugs in anything as complex
as a social media platform.
However, while I have from early on supported and continue to support Javier Rica, Juan Imaz, and now Matt Sweetwood and John White, and the rest of the beBee crew in their efforts to build beBee, I would not be a true friend to them or to beBee, if I did not speak out about what I consider to be the single most important problem to solve, earlier rather than later, in the platform’s development. ─ PLF
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About me, Phil Friedman: With 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation. In a previous life, I taught logic and philosophy at university.
The (optional-to-read) pitch: As a professional writer, editor, university educator, and speaker, with more than 1,000 print and digital publications, I've recently launched an online program for enhancing your expository writing: learn2engage — With Confidence. My mission is to help writers and would-be writers improve the clarity of their thought, master the logic of discussion, and strengthen their ability to deal with disagreement.
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