Sunday, 25 November 2012

(Why) Should the Genie be put back into the Bottle?

We have in interesting dynamic going on at work.  Yammer's been released into the wild! "Hoorah!", you might think; and that's certainly been the reaction from a proportion of my #PLN (Personal Learning Network) on Twitter when I mentioned it last week - something for which I cannot take any direct responsibility, however.  

It appears that it's sneaked in via a back-door approach that Microsoft exploits, whereby it invites a user or users into the Yammer network via their publicly-available work e-mail address, and then those people invite others into the network, who then join up in the mistaken belief that it's been officially sanctioned.  Indeed, I was invited to join the Yammer community by my Boss!  It now seems that our colleagues in IT have been caught on the hop and that this cloud-based Yammer instance is unsecured and outwith our corporate firewall.

What's really interesting tho' is the speed and enthusiasm with which my colleagues - across the whole business - are jumping onto the bandwagon.  There's an obvious thirst and enthusiasm for the tool and the conversations that are opening up.  So we have a dilemma...

Do we (HR and IT) get all 'command and control' and close it down arbitrarily (we're going to get an internal collaboration tool in our new 'Employee Portal' intranet next year anyway), or do we take a leap of faith, sit back and see how it plays out?  

I reckon that, with some lead-by-example input (this blog being one of them) and some light touch 'don't be a d**k' guidance, this could be a real opportunity to show trust, encourage engagement and - bottom line - see some authentic dialogue, conversations and collaborative activity start to happen.

I think there are going to be some very interesting discussions during the next couple of weeks.

What would you do in the circumstances? What would your corporate/IT/HR view be in the circumstances? I'd love to hear and share your thoughts and opinions with our new, growing internal network - and maybe create some new channels and relationships amongst us all.  At least until we shut it down...

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Not So Well-Connected

Did you vote for your new local Police and Crime Commissioner in the UK elections on Thursday evening last week?  Did you know anything about the change in policing accountability or who the candidates standing in your area actually were?  Did you know anything about them, their background, political allegiances, knowledge and skills to take on this responsible role?  

Do you care a) that you do or don't know, b) that only a few people actually seemed to be aware, and c) that those new PCCs who were elected into post only had the mandate of about 7% (average) of the entire population of your area because of the low numbers who turned out to vote?

I ask these questions because I was dismayed by the whole thing!  I had a vague memory of the Government announcing that this change was coming (but can't remember when that announcement was made).  The first I became aware that the election was forthcoming was the arrival of our Polling Cards in the post several weeks ago. We received no election leafleting at home, apart from one candidate two days before the election.  

So I chose to find out for myself - I 'googled' 'Police and Crime Commissioner', found the local authority and government websites, followed the links to the 'Choose My PCC' website, where I was able to find out who the candidates were, their political (or not) affiliations and their election manifestos.  As a result, I had already selected my first - and second - choices before I voted. 

However, it appears that I was one of the few who had enough interest and/or capability to do this!  Regular readers will know that I worked for Sussex Police for 8.5 years, so also know that I have an interest in the subject, but the point of this blog is that the whole event has called into question my - and I suspect a lot of other people's - view that we live in an all-connected, online world, wherein everyone knows everything or can find out the information that they need/want at the drop of mouse-click.

Just because I chose to search out the information and used my online skills and connections to find out the information, it never actually occurred to me that others might not want - nor have the interest and/or skills - to do the same.  

In the world of learning and development, much of the current thrust of the discussion is about how we underestimate our learners' capacity and capability to seek out new information and learning, and how we must create more opportunities for them to assume the ownership of and responsibility for that learning.  It appears that the government and the organisers of the PCC elections made the same assumption and took the same approach with the British public.  However, whilst in L&D, there is a good likelihood that our learners have an interest in either the subject at hand or in their own career/educational development, the Government's miscalculation appears to be in the fact that the public wasn't that interested in the first place, didn't want to invest any time or energy in finding out about the subject and were waiting to be spoon-fed the information in more traditional ways.  

So what was needed here, folks, was a blended approach to the PCC elections - no presumptions of interest or engagement in the topic; no reliance on one source of the information, nor assumptions that one size fitted everyone!  There should have been a push and pull, multi-media approach to the change communication, with relevant, contextual detail available and refreshed regularly.  Kinda like what we're trying to do in L&D nowadays.  They should have come and spoken to us first.

See my latest #storify on how the #pcc elections played out in my #twitter and #facebook communities, at  And please add your thoughts in a comment.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

It's not you, it's me!

Er, Hi facebook...? 

Hello?  Ok, it's Niall here, hi.  Look, this is kind of difficult for me, so please bear with me, OK? You know we've had this thing going on for a while, but I haven't been able to devote much time to you or show you much affection?  See, the truth of it is, you've kinda been my bit on the side. I've been seeing others - mostly Twitter and LinkedIn... Oh, and Instagram; and Blogger; and Flickr... 

Look, it's not you, it's me! I've just not felt that either of us were getting much out of the relationship.  You never call: but then, I haven't been visiting much.  So it's kind of a two-way street thing, but with the traffic lights on red at either end. (I like that analogy, I'm having it for later, if that's OK...  No, I'm not trying to be glib or make a joke out of this.)

So, you see, the thing is, I'd like us to try again.  I've been talking to some mutual friends and they think we've still got some kind of future.  I think we've got something to offer each other.  I've been watching you - not in a creepy, peeping-tom kinda way tho' - and I still feel something for you.  You might have noticed me hanging around a bit more, being a bit more attentive than usual?

You seem to be really popular, and that intrigues me.  Oh, and you're looking good... seriously.

So, if it's OK with you, I'm gonna continue organising that 40-Year College reunion in Edinburgh next year, and that meeting up with the guys in London in November, and those conversations that I've started with friends and family.
It's all a bit scary and new for me, so be gentle with me, OK?

So what do you think?  Call me.

Oh, yeah, it's Niall, did I say that...? Ok, bye... bye...

Addendum: This post is a follow-up to last month's "Socially Challenged".

Monday, 17 September 2012

Socially Challenged

As an enthusiastic and relatively prolific Social Media user - Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Blogger in particular - I have been harbouring a shameful little secret.  I never really got facebook, don't really like it and, despite having had an account for years, seldom, if ever, actively engage with my supposed 'friends'.

We hear much in the L&D world these days about how the world has changed, how the drive is to connect people to knowledge in a quick and engaging manner, via as many and as appropriate channels as possible.  And many of us have heard the message and are doing just that - via 'social' tools such as Twitter and LinkedIn.

I've had a #fb account for years, would guiltily sneak in for a quick look, lurk for a bit, then log out again.  But I did link my facebook account to my Twitter and my Instagram accounts, and would occasionally post to all three in one go.  But on reflection, this was me broadcasting, not engaging.  And funnily enough, my #fb 'friends' weren't so inclined to comment back or indeed, to initiate discussions with me.  This, of course, just confirmed my suspicion that #fb was c**p and not for me.  And who were these people anyway?

Because, in contrast, my professional social networking was going very well, very nicely, thank you very much.  Lots of interaction, discussion, linking to learning.  Also, as highlighted at last week's #LearningLive Conference, it's been a real ice-breaker when it came to attending any event which involved meeting people face to face.

But here's the clincher; many of these same people have become friends! The boundaries have become blurred. Professional respect and dialogue has matured and turned into something more personal, a deeper level of communication and interaction.  It's almost like what it felt like when I was an actor - a professional community of like-minded, interesting, clever, witty and committed people (with the occasional numpty as well, of course).  And, at the same time, others friends and family - like my children - are now embracing and using Twitter.

So this has got me thinking. If social media in the form of Twitter and LinkedIn could enable the transition from the professional into the personal, why have I ignored the potential for deeper personal and family relationships via facebook?  Time for a long hard look at facebook - and myself.

So, preconceptions and prejudices: Kids use facebook; it's full of inappropriate pictures of drunken parties; people just play Farmville incessantly on it; there's a lot of 'display' going on; no-one I know that really matters uses it; I'm too busy  being professional on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Blogger to be bothered with such a trivial pursuit (to coin a phrase).

Well, some of the above is undoubtedly true, but when I looked more closely at my 'friends' list and their activities, I actually wanted to know more, wanted to get to know (some of) them better and, in several cases, felt a desire to re-connect (some of them go back to my college days in the late 70's!).  I also realised that there were other people I really did want to reconnect with, but who were not on my 'friends' list and didn't show up in my other social media lists - so I took the plunge and added them from my Contacts Lists and, where they already existed in facebook, invited them to become my friends.

So now, I have actually reconnected with some old pals who I genuinely missed.  I have started commenting on other people's updates and have been pleased and surprised at how (forgiving and) willing to engage so many people are being. There's even a boys' night out looming with a couple of my old acting pals.  In fact, as I write this post, one of them has just messaged me on facebook to confirm that we're on! 
Small steps, but I'm feeling a little better connected.  And for that I have to thank people, not social media, for teaching me to value both my professional and my personal network equally.

So where do I go from here? Do I blur the edges even more and mix the personal with the professional on facebook? Do I try to 'friend' my Twitter buddies?  For the moment, I think not.  I still think there's a clear distinction between the two.  I don't think my facebook friends are interested in my professional interactions - and I certainly don't want my professional friends judging my performance on Farmville or my behaviour down Brighton seafront on a Saturday night (as if!).
So, am I right? How do you manage your personal and your professional social interactions? Do they overlap? Should they? What issues have you come across? Feel free to comment here, or via any of my other social channels (including facebook) - see the links to them all on my '' page

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Closely Examined v2.0

This is an updated version of a blog I published on our internal HR site at work earlier this week.  I tweeted that I had published it and this stimulated a discussion with @elearningguy @MikeCollins007 @ChangeContinuum @DaveBrown2001 about what the differences are between internally and externally delivered blogs, and whether there should be any.

There were good reasons, I thought, for not publishing this blog externally.  It features my son and his educational challenges this year, culminating in him getting his AS exam results this week.  He has his own twitter presence and, as twitter is my main social media collaboration and communication medium, I didn't wish to embarrass him by 'cross-contamination'. However, no-one at work knows him, and the blog would have a much smaller audience (work to do here with regard to internal engagement with SoMe).

David Goddin (@ChangeContinuum) asked if Sam had read it himself.  He hadn't - and still hasn't. So he hasn't had the chance to say whether he was bothered about it or not. My bad.  If I publish this blog today, it will be because Sam has read it this morning and OK'd it.

So, here's the original blog, with an update at the end on how things turned out. Enjoy and please comment on anything you've read, be it internal v. external blogging, privacy, education systems, ICT, change, L&D... Enjoy.

Like many other young adults in England and Wales, my son will get his AS exam results on Thursday this week.
Sam seems remarkably sanguine about this, despite what has been quite a rocky road for him in his first year at 6th Form College.  As well as taking three AS levels, he also had to re-sit his Maths GCSE following a D pass in the previous year at school.

The 'rocky road' to which I referred really touches on a couple of areas of concern that I have had as both of my children have worked their way through our state education system.  Let me say here however that I am a passionate believer in state education, but I am saddened at how it has become a political football over the last several years and as a result, has become muddled, target-driven and seemingly unsighted on the real needs of our children.

Natasha seemed to find a direction and a focus for her efforts.  She had an aim in mind - to study Interior Design at University - and directed her energies to the subjects and grades that she required.  She is now going into her second year at Nottingham Trent University, studying Interior Architecture & Design.

Sam, on the other hand, didn't have a plan.  Neither his Mum nor I, nor his tutors, seemed to be able to offer the guidance and support he needed to help him find a path through Year 1.  In the subjects that he enjoyed, he did well all year - Music Technology and Film Studies.  However, in ICT and Maths, he floundered - he skipped classes, missed submission deadlines, was unenthusiastic whenhe did attend and generally got himself into a position where his behaviour and performance was jeopardising his continuing at college.  I'm pleased to say that he did eventually get back on track, began to see a potential plan for Yr2 (and maybe Yr 3 as well), and got his head down.  We await his AS and GCSE results 'with interest'...

Two things here: I remain unconvinced that 16-17 year old young people are ready for the 6th Form College environment.  I think it's too early.  I think they still need the more formally structured day of school.  Maybe, just maybe, girls are slightly more mature and can adapt to the new, personal responsibility environment more readily, but boys? I'm not so sure.

Secondly, Sam hated his ICT classes.  He found them boring and irrelevant.  OK, he is in the fortunate position of having two parents who work extensively with IT, and has access to his own kit.  But the ICT curriculum takes no account of how his generation are already using IT in the real world.  To them, it's not 'ICT', it's 'Life' - communication, connection and entertainment - via smartphone, PC, tablet, iPod etc.  It's facebook,Twitter, Spotify, YouTube etc.

But as I say, he got his head down eventually and worked to catch up and do as well as he could in his exams.  But he's dropping ICT now, to take up Media Studies and Drama in Year 2.  Not exactly an endgame plan, but some definite themes emerging.

But here's the ironic bit: It turns out Sam's got his own YouTube channel where he posts his own film review video blogs (vlogs?)!  He's been doing this for two years, has posted tens of reviews, has hundreds of subscribers, over 45,000 views and he's done it all by himself.  He's used his passion for movies, his desire to have a say and a discussion with his peers; he's learned by watching and listening to others' video blogs, by trial and error, by feedback from his audience and, as a result, he's found his voice and his confidence has increased dramatically.  And co-incidentaly, he's just got his first part-time job, after a year of trudging round Brighton and Hove with his CV.  His first two-part interview and he aced it.

I think there's a message here for us about what the future of learning looks like and what UK schools, further and continuing education/learning providers need to consider and act on.  Front-loading alone does not work.  We don't know best, but we can certainly help our learners to develop their curiosity, questioning and analysis skills.  And we need to provide relevance, context, curation, facilitation, empowerment, access and the media and technology channels to enable them to be applied.  It's beginning to happen and I'm excited by the opportunities.

If you have AS, A2 and/or GCSE results coming this week and next, what's been your experience?  I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.  Good luck to you and yours too!

Post Script: Sam got his AS results on Thursday.  Sufficient passes in Music Tech and Film Studies to allow him to carry them forward to A2, starting in September.  He's dropped ICT, so we can gloss over that result. Just Maths GCSE to come now on 23rd August.  We are quietly confident.

Post Post Script (23/08): Sam got his GCSE Maths result today - Foundation level 'C' Pass, highest achievable on that grade!  We are all dead chuffed! Thanks for your interest.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

What I FELT on my Holidays

We've just come back from a week's break in North Yorkshire and are now on the second week of our staycation at home. I'm reflecting on the whole experience here, not from a learning blog perspective, but from a FEELING perspective and have focussed on five moments, each different, but all significant in their own way...

Family: We spent an evening at my Brother's home in Sleaford on our way up North, with my Brother Malcolm, my Sister-in-Law Diane and my Nephew, Daniel.  Always good to meet up with them, but there was added significance in the turn of conversation.  I blogged back in December about passing the age my Father was when he died, and the realisation for me that I had been gifted the time that he never had.  At one point in the evening, over coffee, Malcolm said, "Not sure whether to raise this or not, but sitting here looking at you, Niall, is like sitting here looking at Dad. You look exactly now as I remember him before he died."  My Sister-in-Law chipped in, "I only knew him for a short time, but he was the age you are now when I did, and it's spooky how much you look like I remember him".  I was profoundly moved by this, as it resonated with my feelings when I wrote my blog on that topic in December Age - Appropriate.  It's nearly 30 years since we lost our Father, and Malcolm and I haven't really talked about him since then.  This evening, we all spoke of our memories of him and our regrets at what he missed in our family growth.  For me, this was also a healing experience, as things were difficult between my Brother and his then fiance and our Mum and Dad at the time he took ill and died.  I felt that we had finally put that time and those feelings to bed and had collectively honoured my Father during our visit.

I FEEL closer and better connected to my family.

Theatre: When Mandy and I were in Scarborough, we went to the theatre to see Alan Ayckbourn's new play "Surprises".  Scarborough is the home of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, the cradle of his play writing and directing for many years now. I was totally caught up in the drama and humour of the piece, totally engaged with the characters and thoroughly enjoyed the faultless performances of the ensemble cast. The three acts flew past.  At the end of the piece, as the cast took their bows, I found myself applauding enthusiastically, but with tears streaming down my cheeks. I was moved and sad at the same time.  Why?  Because - if you didn't know this already - I used to be a professional actor.  I went to Drama College and graduated with the intention of becoming a Drama Teacher.  However, I elected to follow the theatrical path and became an actor, a career I pursued for some 12 years, until other priorities (like earning a decent wage, being able to pay the rent, save for a house, start a family - you know, that stuff), became more important and I stepped away and moved into training.  But I remember the feeling of performing, being part of an ensemble, interacting emotionally, exercising and developing my first choice craft, and, yes, soaking up the applause at the end.  I still miss it.  I need to find that passion and inspiration again in my work life.

I FELT torn - enthralled and energised by the play, but sad that my first choice career never worked out.

Trains: We spent a day on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, travelling from Goathland to Grosmont, then all the way to Pickering and back. This is without a doubt the best working 'heritage' railway I have ever visited.  Mainline steam trains travelling through stunning scenery for up to an hour-long journey.  The trainspotter geek, the inner free child and the nostalgia fan in me were all fully immersed and satisfied in the joy of a day with steam trains.  Mandy said that half of her enjoyment of the day was the pleasure of seeing me enjoying myself so much, and in fact, she tweeted a photo of me expressing my excitement, which I reproduce here, for your enjoyment/amusement.  You can see the pictures of the day, as well as the rest of our holiday, on my new Flickr site at

I FELT unalloyed 'free child' joy and happiness.

Marriage: Throughout our holiday, Mandy and I are spending quality time together, without considering the day-to-day issues of work/life imbalance, financial worries, managing the household, etc.  We walk, we talk, we laugh, we dine out, we drink, we read, we argue, we smooch... 

I FEEL a deeper love for and connection with my wife.

Olympics:  During the home-based week of our UK staycation, I am watching a lot of the London 2012 Olympics, and am genuinely and pleasantly surprised at how much I am enjoying the experience.  I have watched so many different sports, and really got caught up in the excitement and the emotion of each and every one of them.  I am so impressed and inspired by the passion, commitment, strength and athleticism of these young people - and, having been a bit of an Olympics sceptic beforehand (impact on London commuters, G4S, ticket lottery and empty seats), have been completely won round by the logistics and the organisation of the whole event.  It's a pleasure to see the athletes and the public united in enjoying this unique event in London.

I FEEL proud to be British. 

(On further reflection, that Olympics paragraph ties in with the concluding contrary remarks of my last, rather downbeat, blog, "We're only little - and our time is short"- "I actually think that there is much to love about us humans; that we can do remarkable things and show astonishing creativity, compassion, generosity, mindfulness and tenacity.  That's why I'm in Learning and Development.")

So, why are all these experiences resonating?  Because in each case, I was/am caught up in the emotional, sensed moment - not intellectualising, not over-analysing, just being.  And that's a damn good reason for making sure that  we have a lot more holidays and tune-out time, in the gift I have been given of the time that my Dad never got to enjoy.  So, to conclude...


Friday, 20 July 2012

We're only little - and our time is short!

This is one of those blogs where the title's been looking for the story.  I think I might just have cracked it...

I came up with the title as a tweet when I finished a book of apocalyptic, end-of-the-world short science fiction stories on my #kindle.  @dougshaw picked it up and tweeted favourably on my turn of phrase - and that got me thinking more deeply.  Why had I enjoyed this apparently depressing set of stories so much?  And what had triggered my apparently eloquent phraseology?

For someone who's always worked in and thrived on communication and people related activities, I've always held  fairly negative views about the human race and its long-term future.  We seem to have a built-in self-destruct driver, which historically has lead us into war, famine and ecological melt-down and I think our time is nearly up - maybe not immediately, but it's coming.  So reading that collection of short stories satisfied my sense of righteous schadenfreude - we're gonna get what we deserve!

'Cos, here's the thing; on a cosmological/interplanetary timescale, we ain't been around that long.  This big, old, world of ours has been orbiting our sun for billions of years, and the evolution of life hereon has taken millions and millions of those years (sorry, Creationists)!  We've emerged fairly quickly and, ecologically, we seem to be doing an excellent job of ensuring that we're not going to be around for much longer.  I guess the main message in these stories was, it's not the end of the world - it's the end of humanity!  The world will go on, in whatever state we leave it, and will change again and again and again...

So, you  see, we're not so big and we're not that clever.  We're only little - and our time is short!

Sorry about that.

PS: I actually think that there is much to love about us humans; that we can do remarkable things and show astonishing creativity, compassion, generosity, mindfulness and tenacity.  That's why I'm in Learning and Development. It's gotta be worth trying to delay the inevitable as long as possible.

Friday, 29 June 2012

TLA Tales

Quick ranty blog.  This one has been bubbling in my Evernote 'Blog Ideas' file for a while now, just waiting for the motivation to develop and publish it. And this morning, I finally lost patience and have written this piece.  What kicked it off?  Another bloody Three Letter Acronym in my twitter stream, the meaning of which I do not know.  Do I know what the miscreant is talking about? No, I don't. Can I be arsed looking it up? No, I can't.  Do I feel excluded? Yes, I do.
I find the unthinking use of acronyms in meetings, discussions, Project Plans, Twitter, Blogs and the like disempowering, smug and elitist.

Yes, they have a place - in a closed, all-informed forum, where everyone in the loop knows the jargon.  Outside of that, how dare you assume that I know what you're talking about, or that I will take time out of my busy day to look it up.  IPOs, APIs, SEOs, SEN, TED, REM, RAB - it doesn't matter how many times I look at these and other three letter acronyms (or shall we just call them TLAs and have done with it?), I can never remember what they mean.  And why should I?  Just 'cos you're too lazy to write it out in full doesn't mean I should have to fill my head up with even more jargon, which I may or may not need for weeks or months later, if ever again.  If your communication needs a Jargon/Acronym Buster appendix, it's safe to assume that I'm not necessarily the right audience for your message.

Look, I've been guilty of it myself. It's easy to slip into within any given culture. For instance, when I became the IT Training Manager for Sussex Police, I was immediately exposed to 'Acronym City' - IT and Police Jargon in one big melting pot!  But I was in the club, and I soon picked it up, and dammit, I soon started using these self same acronyms myself.  In FirstGroup, a UK  public transport operator, we have all sorts of Bus and Rail-related acronyms, some of which still elude me even after seven years...! But these are internal discussions, where it behoves us to get to know the language of the business.
However, if we're communicating with an uninitiated or general audience, that's a different matter.  Show some respect and consideration. Keep your TLAs to yourself and your buddies.  Don't assume that the rest of us know what you're talking about.  Because I/we probably don't; I/we might be too embarassed to ask, but more importantly, I/we resent the fact that you're too lazy/smug/insecure (delete as appropriate) to speak with clarity and include me/us in a meaningful conversation.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

It's Not a Numbers Game

A funny thing happens when I start to get stressy about writing my next blog.  Once I get the germ of an idea in my head, seemingly unrelated events and interactions start to come together and miraculously align themselves within the emerging theme or themes of the story.  And it's happened again.  Once the idea of 'Numbers' emerged from the fog in my brain, my online life obligingly started lining things up for me.

Numbers and counting have been on my mind for a while now, and I could see a theme emerging which might be worth exploring in more detail.  I've realised that I place a great deal of importance on numerical criteria - dates, deadlines, milestones, anniversaries, (occasionally ROI), totals, bank balances, days to pay day, etc.  I blogged about the personal significance of outliving my Father on my last birthday in December - Age - Appropriate - and I recently posted my 21st blog about my first year of blogging - A Year in the Blogosphere . Shortly thereafter, I also posted my 5,000th tweet.

I recently engaged in a light-hearted exchange with someone in my Twitter network, Holly MacDonald (@sparkandco), which revolved around the number of followers I had in Canada (Holly's Canadian).  Out of a previous discussion, when I ruefully disclosed that my blog stats indicated that I apparently only had one reader in Canada, Holly immediately offered her services as an advocate to launch a campaign to increase the number of my Canadian followers.  We kicked the topic around for a few tweets, recognised that we were 'having a laugh' but when she suggested starting a #followniallgavinuk meme, we agreed that we'd probably gone as far as we needed to in that discussion.

And here's the thing; I had actually started to get really uncomfortable about discussing follower numbers, because I didn't - and don't - want people thinking that that's why I tweet and blog.  If I attract followers to my Twitter stream or blog, I hope it's for the same reasons that I follow other people - that there is something of interest and value in our dialogue and exchange for all of us.

Examples: #1 - Matthew Pearson (@mattpearson) recently posted an excellent blog on the subject of Twitter as a Professional Development Tool .  I commented on that blog, recalling an exchange that he and I had last year and the learning points that we both got from that around immediacy and opinions, and some of the pitfalls of 'shooting from the hip' in such a public arena.  We continue to follow each other with interest.

#2 - Last week, I tweeted that I was going to be in Bracknell for a two day workshop. Immediately John Bartlett (@Projectlibero) tweeted back that it would be good to meet up. We'd never met before, but have followed each other for a couple of months. So I was delighted to get the opportunity to meet up.  We juggled our diaries and arranged to meet in the evening. A short walk to a local hostelry with good beer, a bit of get-to-know-you-better chat and a really useful exchange of ideas and opinions.  As ever, I came away the better for our chat, if not the beer, and have already followed up on a couple of social media tools and contacts recommended by John.

I hope the above gives a flavour of why I think social and informal learning is not a numbers game.  Yes, it's interesting to track things, to note and celebrate milestones - as part of a reflective process - but what I really value are the connections and the community that I find myself a part of, and the learning I get from those interactions.

So, to my 965 Twitter followers, my now 13 blog readers in Canada, my 34 Instagram followers and my 25 Storify subscribers - I hope we continue to share amongst and learn from each other. And if we don't, who's counting anyway?