The Pros and Cons of "Going Dark"

When I tell people that I am actually an introvert, it usually surprises people. As someone who is in the public eye, and maintains some kind of brand that is recognizable, most people see me as an outgoing guy who is always trying to be a part of the latest social scene and while that is true, it’s important to note that it is only a portion of who I really am.

This goes for anyone on the internet. With the social web, it is easy for people to feel like they actually know us. They see us as marketers, branders, celebrities. They see us as subject matter experts and they want our time. Clearly, this was on display at SXSW this past weekend where a simple jaunt to lunch that normally take about 5 mins, would take 20-30 mins because of casual conversation assaults in the hallways.

3367053664_4b1c0da51dPHoto by: Jim Storer

Is this a problem? Directly, no. We go to these events to meet people and people are our lifeblood. Without people, we are no one and we have no credibility. Our credibility is wrapped up in our communities, readers, viewers, listeners and those who are influenced by our work. However, the cult of personality as a whole, is a larger problem.

When Mike Arrington was in Europe earlier this year, someone who felt like they knew him (in a negative way) assaulted him with spit to the face. When Kathy Sierra had vicious threats directed at her, she disappeared out of the public eye for some time. Jeremiah Owyang also recently disappeared for different reasons.

We are not wired to be the center of attention. In some sick and twisted way, we love every second of it. Our egos are stroked when adoring fans adore, but we are doused with harsh reality when that attention turns a different direction.

In the past few days, I’ve given a lot of thought to “going dark” – that is, disappearing from public view for a period of time. I still may do that, simply because, my own “celebrity” is beginning to hinder me. As those of us who enjoy immense attention grow into those roles, inevitably we begin to resent it. We hate it. We want to be “normal” whatever “normal” means. We want our lives back.

But at what cost?

In some ways, going dark can be therapeutic. It allows us time to re-examine our priorities, understand our motives and, in general, do soul searching. If done right, we come out the other side with a fresh perspective on life and our livelihoods.

In a negative sense, going dark can have tremendous effect on our social equity. In a “what have you done for me lately” industry, disappearing for some time can completely remove a person and their ability to influence. In some cases, our businesses and careers depend on our presence in the social space.

I don’t have the answers, as I have not “gone dark” at any point. If I do, I’m sure I’ll find my experience will teach me something about the process. It strikes me that a successful sabbatical requires some kind of balance so as not to lose social equity, yet still take enough time to recharge and re-energize.

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Jeremiah Owyang Inserts Foot In Mouth (Again) Over IZEA Sponsored Posts

Rarely do I go after individual people on this blog. There have been a few occasions, but I prefer to talk about issues and not people. However, when the errors of a person are so egregiously over the top, I have a need to say something. This was the case over the weekend with Forrester research analyst, Jeremiah Owyang, who decided that he would depart from the typical role of an analyst, where neutrality and objectivity are key in providing unbiased advice, and instead insert himself into a conversation as a subject matter expert on a topic he really knows nothing about.

The topic is paid posting. As you are aware, I am going to be participating in a sponsored post campaign for Sears with Izea shortly. Izea recently did a similar campaign with K-Mart and a number of bloggers, including Chris Brogan participated in that effort. For longevity, here is Chris’ post, posted on his “Daddyblogger” blog.

Jeremiah picked up on this development and decided it needed to be a big issue, asking questions (in his typical braindead question asking style) about the campaign, and insinuating that Chris is not authentic in his post. This is not his role as a research analyst.

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This caused a massive stir on Twitter. My instinctive response, and judging by the response I’d say most people agree, is that Chris is one of the most transparent people on the web today. He exudes leadership qualities, and is highly respected among fans and peers alike. He has a tremendous reputation.

Jeremiah apparently has since had phone conversations with Izea CEO Ted Murphy and Chris Brogan, who serves on the Board of Advisors to “get the facts” about Izea and the campaign and this evening, he has written his own response to the response (lost yet?).

With all the background in place, let me offer my own opinion – less about Izea, and more about Jeremiah. Jeremiah is, as a representative of Forrester Research and in his function as a research analyst, expected to be a thought follower, not a thought leader. That is, his role is not to editorialize, or offer public opinion in such a way that exerts his influence outside of his Forrester client base. His role, in fact, is to analyze data, trends and the consensus of thought leaders in industry (online and offline, but largely online) and distill the data to a bottom line that is relevant to his clients.

Therefore, as someone who is not a part of the paid placements campaigns that Izea is running, his research should be more globally around paid placement/sponsored posts in general and not specifically about Izea. If he found flaws in the business, his advice to his clients might be to not consider using such vehicles. It should never have been about Chris Brogan.

Perhaps I’m being too harsh with Jeremiah. I am sure he’ll tell me if I am, and that’s fine. However, I have no patience for the riot incitement when it comes to one of the most ethical and upstanding men on the internet, and a friend. In this case, Jeremiah had no place asserting himself in a conversation that he had no information on. If you’re not part of the problem, and you’re not part of the solution, then you stay out.

If it’s a question of market research, as it should be for a Forrester Research Analyst, then the proper approach would have been private conversations with both Ted Murphy and Chris Brogan before stirring things up publicly.

If it’s a question of Izea reputation, then as a market analyst, the conversations and advice to Forrester clients should have been held within the confidentiality that I presume is expected between a client and a service provider with the above suggested advisement from those involved (Ted and Chris).

What should never have happened was the allowance of character assassination of Chris based on misunderstood premises and recycled arguments from two years ago.

I also don’t appreciate the condescension toward me when I challenged him on the matter.

@technosailor im listening, but you should call @chrisbrogan and @tedmurphy just as i did on the phone to get full story. Check your facts

For the record, I have spoken to both of them in great detail about this and other topics over the past year. Thanks, Jeremiah.

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Doers and Talkers

An impromptu conversation happened last night over on Twitter. The topic began as a discussion over a hypothetical show (video, podcast, whatever) that would reflect the community and not just have the same people. The conversation began because of a discussion over perceived sexism in the social media community where men could do anything, but women could only be “consumed” (hey, it’s a legitimate use and context for the word!) if they were “sexy”.

To pop this proverbial bubble, the idea was presented that a community-driven show should be created where “panel members” would include an equal cross-section of the community, regardless of sex or race.At one point, a panel was suggested that I noted were all “talkers” and not “doers”.

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Photo Credit foolfillment. Used under Creative Commons

Naturally, some took offense to this characterization, but my question is why? There is an equal need for both and is non-hierachal. In fact, it may be too simplistic of a thought considering the diversity that exists across sectors, bloggers and industries.

I think it’s important to establish a premise for talkers and doers. What are they, why do they exist and what do they contribute to the ecosystem?

Talkers

Talkers are visionaries, by and large. Not always. Sometimes they are just pundits. They are the idea people, often challenging the status quo and causing people to think based on data, research and innovative thinking. They share their ideas readily and often bring a different level of communication to the fray.

Talkers are often CEOs, PR, Marketing, or members of management teams and they frequent the conference speaking circuit.

Doers

Doers are often mistaken for developers. Though developers generally fall into the category of “doer”, the definition is far wider than just physical “doers”. Doers are usually the ones that have ideas and instead of talking about them, they gather the resources (financial and human) and set about putting plans into actions.

Entrepreneurs are often doers. They are the ones with the ideas that have the guts or experience to run with them. Though they may sometimes be talkers too (small business CEOs for instance), their bread and butter is in the action. Smart doers listen to talkers ideas and filter them for actionable items that make sense for the ecosystem.

These are my definitions. They may be simplistic, but I think they provide a great framework for this conversation.

I think there is a symbiotic relationship between doers and talkers. One cannot exist without the other and gets its lifeblood from the other.

For instance, Jeremiah Owyang of Forrester is largely a talker. Though he comes from Hitachi where he was largely a doer, by his own admission he’s more of a talker now.

I think there’s a negative connotation to talkers. That they are just windbags excelling in the art of punditry. But talkers bring ideas to the table that often shape the course of what is going on in the ecosystem. Talkers need doers who will take their ideas and run with them.

Doers, of whom I would classify Dave Troy of Twittervision have ideas but instead chooses to innovate on ideas and create new things. In this case, David (whom in disclosure, I realized a few weeks ago I interviewed with back in the 2002-2003 timeframe when he was the CEO of Toad) has taken ideas surrounding Twitter and made a visualization for them. He also recognized that there was a need for something like SocialDevCamp East and created it (with help).

Others like Jason Calacanis straddle the line between talkers and doers by challenging the status quo of spammy search engines and proposing a concept of human-powered search and running with it. People who can straddle the gap, place themselves in the most valuable position of seeing the cloud, recognizing it’s potential and doing something about it (pardon the reference).

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