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Storyville: on blogging, serendipity and good conversations

I just realised I've only posted a paltry four posts here this month, mainly because I've been busy elsewhere: writing for print magazines, a bit for the NONA blog and with real life meetings.

I'll blog a bit more about those meetings eventually, but in the meantime I thought I'd share a story that's been sitting on my desktop for, oh, more than a year now (I have plenty of these more or less finished blog posts I keep meaning to finish but somehow never get around to):

Just the other week (well, February 2008 actually) I was sitting on a God-forsakenly early flight to London, thinking hard about work, as I often do, and the passenger sitting next to me kept trying to get a conversation going.

In certain moods, had I been too stressed,  I might have felt he was interfering with my train of thought, but for some reason, I think it was him mentioning that he was going to Northampton where my ex-partner worked for a long while, I started listening and talking back. He was soon telling me that he'd given up on stress after a heart-attack when he was 29 (at which point he decided it was simply not worth the price:-) ), and that one of his sons has died of hospital maltreatment (I know too much about how arbitrary public health care can be) - but also that in the end he'd forced the mayor of the town where it all happened to at least hoist the flags all over town on the day of his son's funeral (good one: made me feel happy for him and grateful for how there are people who stand up and fight, even win small victories, in the face of such devastating tragedies).

Now this might have been a typical Scandinavian conversation, not all national cultures have it in them to bond over such depressing issues, but there you are. And no, this was not a nutter in any way as a Brit might think, quite the contrary, it was simply a brilliant conversation bestowed on me for God knows which reason.

But I felt grateful for the trust, it reminded me of a few things I needed to be reminded of: I took a deep breath when I got off that plane; made sure to afford myself the luxury of sitting down for that pint of coffee and breakfast; savour the moment rather than having it on the go - and pick up the newspapers before I got on the train into town. It also remind myself to get in back in touch with a woman it turned out we both knew (yeah, Norway IS a small country).

My point? Sometimes you miss out on vital things and opportunities by being too obsessed about where you're going.

It might even be that our detours become more valuable than our planned visits or career moves. I met one of my greatest mentors while working in a pub, and one of my most precious memories is sitting with another mentor I'd met by chance in Athens the year before on the top of a hillside at midnight in the Santa Cruz mountains (and yes, there were mountain lions and snakes around, crazy, she thought us protected by a goddess)....This, incidentally, is why blogging this story got held up for so long, I kept thinking of all the wonderful examples and how to fit them all in, but they're hardly why I started writing this in the first place - so let's just get on with it... 

Now, I'm not driving at divine providence or something like that, just that it pays to be open for the opportunity that good things are where you least expected to find them ... and certainly blogging has been one grand serendipitous venture from the very beginning... Which reminds me of this blogging story by Zena el-Kahlilh, pictured below (by me):


What motivates the social media crowd

Could you sum up your motivation for life, work, blogging in 140 characters?

On a whim, Richard Sambrook asked his Twitter followers what motivates them and pulled together a selection of the answers. It makes for fascinating reading, also in terms of whether this is a good snaphot of a rather narrow selection of the journalist-media blogger crowd or applies more widely. He sees a group of altruistic, public spirit motivated folks, for me it's really the creative, curious, wanting to effect change sentiments that stand out - but guess I'm wearing my "me-glasses"...

How about you?

What moves the world, what makes people tick? I've always had an urge to find out (it is perhaps my most fundamental motivation). Here's what I believe would have been a top contender to the title Norway's richest man, Kaare Ness, had he not stuck to his American citizenship after emigrating to the US in the 1950s (photographed by me in Kvinesdal last year). For Ness, one of the founders of Trident Seafoods, it was a near death experience that spurred him on and compelled him to put in the ungodly hours that made his success. While working as a firsherman he fell  over board and, seeing his ship disappear out of sight, he feared he would be left to die a lonely death in the icy waters, but was saved in the very the last minute. Of course, there are those who would have stayed way clear of ships after such an experience. What makes or breaks us, makes some and breaks others, now that's another fascinating topic...


"Modernisation" Minister launches book on sharing culture

I just learned that an anthology on sharing culture, edited by Heidi Grande Röys, the Norwegian minister of Government and Administration Reform, is out today (via Sermo Consulting). It's called "Shared opinions - about the web's social side" (my adhoc translation, more about the book + excerpts for download in Pdh here in Norwegian)

I must admit my gut feeling is scepticism because, well, she's hardly at the forefront of the social media (r)evolution, but I see that many clever people, such as Eirik Solheim, Gisle Hannemyr and others, have contributed to the book, so I'll try to get hold of a copy as soon as I'm back from London. If it really is a sign the country's Government has caught on to what's happening it is very encouraging. I have seen various attempts at Government blogging which hasn't really impressed me, and I know some Norwegian politicians are getting pretty good at twittering, even blogging, so maybe... I'd like to be convinced....   

Heidi Grande Röys, Norway's minister of Government Administration and reform, photographed by me at the 25 year anniversary for the Norwegian edition of Computerworld last year.

The Law of Negotiated Misery Revisited

This piece over at on rookie freelance mistakes reminded me of my friend Brian's brilliant Law of Negotiated Misery, which asserts that the "self-managed classes" have a way of negotiating themselves into lives of permanent misery.

It's conclusion: if you are a bad negotiator, unable to repress your natural desire to do what you love and to avoid what you hate, you get paid bad money to do work you love, and good money to do work you hate (read the full argument here). Interestingly, I recently talked to someone who said he always charged too much for talking gigs he was contacted for because when they'd paid that much people never dared to call it a bad talk. Funny how that thought never occurred to me.

Top social media strategists put their time up for auction on eBay

Here's a golden chance to get two hours of consulting services from social media veterans Adriana Lukas and Chris Heuer for a bargain.

Adriana emails to say they are currently auctioning two hours of their time on eBay. I'm a bit late to this story as I've been on the road for a few days: the slot is for tomorrow, in London, but at the time of writing the only bid submitted is on $50 - so still possible to get an amazing deal.

"This is a low cost way for a smart company to take our minds for a test drive, to see if what we know, and to improve what you are doing with social media, marketing and web strategies to make your organization more succesfull in these effort," writes Adriana. Read more on why the two have decided to put their time up for auction, in what is a one time opportunity so far, on eBay here.

Now, at this point I should tell you that Adriana is the woman who kicked me into the blogosphere in the first place. After listening to her musings on social media, and reading the books she recommended, with fascination for years, but always blaming my deadlines for why it was never the right time to have a go at blogging myself, in the end she just set up this blog for me in 2005 and told me to get going.

It was a big white canvas for me, and I was quite surprised by how, after a few months, I revealed myself to be a media junkie... ;-) Of course, blogging changed my world, my focus and opened up new previously unthought of opportunities for me. Still, even after immersing myself in social media for years, had I been in London tomorrow and had I the time, this would have been an opportunity too good to miss....  

Update 14:25 CET: Message from Chris Heuer on Twitter just now, saying "unfortunately I glitched & UK folks werent able to bid, so am taking it down :( #lessonlearned". Still, seems some lucky person might have secured those two hours with Adriana and Chris after notifying Chris about the glitch - see more in his comment on my post here.