Wednesday, May 02, 2012


Whether or not we participate in the online world, social media is in the process of revolutionizing the way we communicate. People now can follow up-to-the-second tweets of the debates in Queens Park or the
House of Commons, from their Unions, from companies, and marketing campaigns or can input their ideas about marketing or history to those most interested to read them. We now get news before the news agencies, and media before it is released.

One of the successes of the online world is that it is easy to participate in forums. Barriers everywhere are being broken down. This gives us all have a great responsibility as moderators of these forums. The task can sometimes seem gargantuan for institutions just bringing themselves online, just as it is difficult for individuals taking their first steps on the Internet. Where once government, policing, and medicine seemed removed, and people's voices small, now we are being invited to input our experiences, ideas, and beliefs.

Just by creating a forum in which we have so many opinions and ideas being expressed, we are inviting conflict. I think one of the great successes of the Internet, which could very well end up being its great failing, is the way in which we deal with the conflict we inevitably run into. 'Trolling' is as important online as bullying is in our schools, and sometimes the two are intertwined.

How do we, as a society, ensure that the lessons we learn from conflict lead to success? As I learned in customer service many years ago, behind every yelling customer is an opportunity to improve. I learned to be willing to listen to difficult people, and that attitude has served me ever since. If, in any industry, we are to open communication with the public who use our services, then we must understand that the information we glean is worthless unless we can change the way we think about our systems. If it means listening to, or reading a rant about why we have failed someone, then we should do so with an eye for their motivation. If we can muse about the reasons that suggestions and comments are made, we all benefit, while fostering an entire culture of fanatical self-improvement, no matter how trollish it may be voiced.

It goes both ways. As users of the system, any system whether it be Government, Union, or corporate, we have to know that institutions cannot embrace every change. It's not about pointing out fault, but about finding better ways to do what is right. We have to be understanding of the challenges of those who receive our input.

In soliciting from the public, whether we work in a hospital, in  government, for a Union, or in a business, we all have to be willing to accept that social media may, and well should, change our system in ways that we do not anticipate. We are not relinquishing control, but instead empowering a type of 'cloud thinking', in which, instead of waiting for that big break idea that solves every problem in one fell swoop, we rely on the accumulated brain power of many minds and many different sets of eyes approaching any problem as a whole, each one doing as much as they can so we can all benefit.

For this to work, as end users we have to know that our ideas may not be implemented for any number of logistical reasons. That rejection, should it happen, cannot be the root of hard feelings, which I believe are the roots of trolling. The communication model should instead be a stepping stone to a better understanding of the challenges that Governments, Institutions, and Professionals face every day, so that we can be more involved with giving them a helping hand, or mind, in very difficult situations.

My wife, Jennifer's, blog can be found here:
Cleverly Disguised as Cake

And my first novel, squeakyclean, here:
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