If you do anything in public, you likely get a lot of exposure to arguments. I’m not necessarily talking about actual, empirically provable points here; social animals love tests of prowess, and people place a lot of weight on debating skill. People grumble over parking spots, evangelise for coffee spots and hotels, There are many varieties of tiff, but one of my favourites to stumble on is people who are arguing for the exact same point, from different positions.
This week, Robert Scoble picked on Chris Brogan, about the king of You’re Doing It Wrong’s Twitter habits.It was a running gag from the Web 2.0 Expo, but if the helpful advice in the comments is any indication, not a lot of people got the joke. Scoble being usually so inscrutable, it’s not surprising.
The crux of the argument (I’m picking, here, because this rift is everywhere) is that both of these guys, very smart dudes that they are, picked up the same instrument and proclaimed it was useful for two different songs. And we’re not talking about any froittoires here, we’re talking a ninety-voice electronic keyboard. From the original:
Because I can’t find his good blogs and videos. Why? Because he does so many conversations. Look at his Twitter home page. All you see is @replies. This is what makes Brogan Brogan, because he’s going to answer you no matter how popular he gets. But, that means I can’t find the good stuff he publishes.
Big deal, right? If you’re having a conversation, it’s a conversation. Obviously this appeals to me, look at my Twitter home page and you see a lot of the same thing. As Chris says in the speech Scoble had embedded;
There’s this great opportunity for serendipity. It’s the one thing that I use to describe Twitter that’s different than what we were doing before. […] Twitter does add new people all the time. […] There’s so much value in not what your friends are saying, but in what people are saying topically about a location. […] What should you be doing on these platforms? Number one, you should be listening far more than you should be worrying about what to say. Spend twelve times as much time talking about other people as you do talking about yourself.
Ah, there we are. Chris just told us what to do. Now, what he’s suggesting is what anyone who knows anything about being a compelling conversationalist has been saying for ever: be the one asking the questions, and you’ll be the one people are interested in. How often does Brogan answer questions? All the time, when asked. How often is he asking questions of others? All the damn time. Forget the @replies here, every link I’ve seen is a retweet – but everything good always ends up being a directed, short, worthy of thought question. It’s a very potent approach to beginning and maintaining conversations.
But why does this particularly bother other people? Well,
It’s this approach that finishes the entire argument for me, and really tells me it’s all about the same thing. Scoble has a massively tech-based background. He works at Rackspace after all. It’s no surprise that he sees Twitter as a massive opportunity to aggregate wisdom and distill information into indexable, findable glory. You know what? He’s totally right.
But what about Brogan? Well, he’s a media dude. He’s all about human business. Published a book about the things companies – from the people up – can better themselves by being trustworthy agents of change. Does anyone question why he’s doing what he does, connecting with people every chance he gets, communicating with people, being a person before a businessman? Here’s the kicker. He’s totally right, too.
So where does this leave us? Simple: “To someone with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.” This is how everyone seems to approach social media as a whole, not just Twitter. Truth is, web applications are more like Swiss Army knives, every one of them. And then they connect, as Facebook and Twitter do, to other applications. That’s where the real fun begins. But that’s another post.