My friend Leisa wrote a post about participation culture recently. This is a subject she and I talk about quite often, mostly because she is a serious blogger and I am a little reserved about the whole thing. She is not the only one who talks about it and in her post Leisa references a Jakob Nielsen alertbox which talks about encouraging participation. I am with her when she says that:
These are all great tips, but they donâ€™t touch on that issue of intimidation that is apparent in the list above (afraid, inadequate, donâ€™t understand).
This has a lot to do with my reluctance. I have been involved with a couple of projects that look at online participation as well as having worked for a company (5-6 years ago now) that relied heavily on discussion forum type media to communicate.
I know that I am more comfortable in a face-to-face situation and I am slightly less comfortable when communicating in writing and much less comfortable when communicating in writing in such an open forum. However, there are a lot of people who are far more comfortable and less inhibited when communicating in this sort of forum than when they are in a face-to-face situation. I have observed very timid and quiet participants in a offline discussion suddenly become extremely eloquent and people who are very aggressive online suddenly change and become very reasonable when they have to face the person they are talking to.
How many dinner parties have you been to where all the visitors were entertainer types? Not everyone needs to bring the story, only some need to comment and embellish but a good few can just smile or laugh or cry or whatever the appropriate response is. We don’t all have to participate. It would get very noisy!
What’s my point? Well there is a lot that one cannot control if willing to write something and put it up for people to read and comment on. At a dinner party you tell the story people might laugh, they might not, they have a couple more glasses of wine, you do too and then it doesn’t really matter either way.
If you stick the story on your blog it is there. And they can go and check it again in the morning. And then they can send it to their friends. But then you can delete it. What if you comment on someone else’s blog? They can take your story or your response to their story and keep it alive forever. What if you missed the point? What if it actually created one of those tumbleweed moments? Who is going to top up the wine glasses? Gloss over your gaff and make it all good again? In the blog scenario the tumbleweed stays in the middle of the table. Like some sort of ghastly table decoration that gets rolled out every Christmas so all future guests can enjoy it!
And then your new work mates stick your name in google and there you are. Hurrah!