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?