Friday, 31 July 2015

Beta Startup, ISTE & EdChats: Opportunities and Challenges

I had planned on writing a few posts where I reflected on various aspects of being online, but this will have to wait. This is because of some interesting developments that have been going on as a result of some news about a technology company co-collaborating and co-creating with their users.

Since ISTE I have spent a lot of time pottering about on Declara, which is a startup I heard about prior to the launch of their beta version of thei site which promised to "Spark Social Learning." 

The founders outreach and description prior to launch saw me do something that I've never done before, I became an early users... complete with glitches and bugs. These issues have created some challenges and new opportunities.    

I've written a few posts about my experiences as an early user of Declara now and would like to stress that I am not affiliated with, nor have been compensated by Declara in any way.

My motivation here is based on the potential that I can see with this in education and re-visiting some older projects.

What's My Motivation
Through exploring the roll out of effective technology, I realise how difficult it can be to engage educators, and I have been exploring a few ideas around what the issues are and the reasons for this.
Part of my enthusiasm with this particular startup is because there are some older projects that I started, but had to shelf for various reasons. I feel this new platform could help with this, here are two examples;
1) I mentioned in yesterday's post how I have had patience with cuarting ISTE data, and my attempts at curating all the great links that get shared during periods of information overload like ISTE and during EdChats.

2) I had to completely abandon my 2014 New Year's Resolution... To work on a project that gets 100% roll out in UK Further Education Colleges, I think Declara could help with this project.

I am so confident that Declara can help with these goals that I'm putting a significant amount of time into testing some ideas to explore the possibilities. 

These things may be a long way off, will need a lot more time to develop... and may not pan out as expected. But one thing is for sure, if these projects have any chance at all they will require input from educators and other education stakeholders. Declara being in their beta phase would be a good time to provide some input, here's why...

Beta Tests
Some things that will eventually be automated are manual at the moment and take a bit of time.

For example, with the idea of curating conference and EdChat data, I curated 7,000 unique links from ISTE2015 (many of these will be duplicates due to the various link shorteners). I have manually imported over 800 articles into this collection.

When you click on the link it may only show 2 posts in this ISTE2015 Collection... but I can assure you there are 800+ articles on this link! It's just that the page is very slow to load.

This is the beta version so there will be minor glitches that need to be ironed out, as well as finding out how subscribers will be using the site. Then there is the question of what value is there for me, other users or for Declara to encourage a collection with anywhere from 2,000-7,000 articles? Honestly, I don't know.

However, I do get value from exploring these ideas. There were 200,000 Tweets from 20,000 delegates and lots of other people following from #NotAtISTE. 

I did not curate all ISTE related posts across all social media channels, but one thing that this has brought into sharp focus is that I can most definitely see how social media is an echo chamber. This has it's advantages when it comes to sharing best practice, but this also has it's flaws and limitations too. 

Having seen enough from manually importing lots of links, I hit the feedback button on Declara to ask if they will be able to upload the rest of the links en masse at their end. I assumed they would be able to do this.

I was informed that they can't at the moment, and that I'd need to continue to upload the links manually. I wanted to have a completed collection to get input from people to discuss how we might use the collection. 

As this ISTE2015 collection (And data from 2013) will now take longer than expected to upload the links, I started to do the same with EdCampLDR in the hope of seeing what people think of the idea and if new methods of collaborating can be found, or will it be duplication with existing tools? There are still 300 posts to sort through with this collection but it can be found on this link EdCampLdr Collection

A RSSponsive Startup!
When Declara replied to my feedback request I was told they were not able to automatically import these links, but the developers had added an RSS function which may help to automate collections like this in the future. They shared what they were doing with space and science topics so they have a STEM library. Check out some of the collections from

Declara Space Bot
Declara Physics Bot
Declara Nano Bot
Declara Biology Bot

As can be the case, startups is a messy business! For example, any challenges open up new opportunities... and then new challenges again. Lol. The joys of startupland!

Opportunity: Perhaps we can explore ways that links which are shared in EdChats could be curated into collections? Using tools like Queyfeed could be used to turn links from the chat into RSS feeds and import the links into Declara. The value of doing this this? It would only include any link that was used once AND could act as a back up for some resources with archives (More on the importance of this in a future post).

Challenge: The collections that have been curated via RSS feed have grown rapidly and may need some crowd sourcing to sort out which posts are suitable for certain subjects and age groups, as well as to highlight relevant insights.

All of my exploration as an early user has been in the hope that I will find ways of demonstrating enough value to potential to educators so they will join Declara and explore what is possible with this platform in the classroom.

For example, a real time news feed on science topics where an educator add their insights with other educators, students and scientists where they can message one another sure looks promising to me.

Effective EdTech
I have developed various ideas over the last few years because of my exploration of how effective EdTech gets developed like the importance of network effects, positive feedback loops, the life cycle of community and other community management issues. More than anything else

I know how important it is to co-create with potential users so projects achieve "Product Market Fit" 

This means that the product will be fit for purpose will get rolled out via word of mouth referrals... and I know
 how quickly educators can roll services out if they like it.

However, I also know how difficult it is to engage educators with early ideas. So I'll continue curating these collections and discuss my experiences as a user of this beta startup.

More to follow soon... I can't wait to tell you about some of the new connections I've made there, I think that educators will be especially interested to hear about Max.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Patience with Curating ISTE Data

There's been something of a trend since ISTE2013. It is that directly after ISTE each year I review the issue of curating all the great links that are shared during events that create so much information, that keeping up with all the great links is like trying to drink from a fire hose.

This post looks at the importance of being mission focused and sticking to a task, and the way that perceptions appear to change depending on the context... despite the task remaining the same. 

If I had to name my favorite post then Thomas Friedman's Collaborate Vs Collaborate would be up there. I'm curating links from ISTE2015 at the moment and if I had to name my second favorite post ever, it just might be Sherri Spelic's "There is No App for Patience

Sherri's advice is spot on! I have seen people jump right in with various education projects and policies: entrepreneurship education, academies and with various technology idea. The lack of due diligence and/or scaling too early has led to significant problems and/or adoption slowing to a crawl (All of which are things that I discussed in April 2013 via "Startup Education").

Finding posts like Sherri's is the reason I have spent so much time exploring all these links, and why I think curating the data is a useful exercise.

As well as this project, I find that I keep circling back to a number of ideas from a few years ago... and the context and reception from educators can be quite different each time I mention them. Obviously it's great when others see the value in your ideas, but I've continued to scratch my own itch even when others don't.

Social Tipping and Crowdfunding Educators at Conferences...
Wasn't well received when mentioned for ISTE2014. 
Scratch Your Own Itch
In his book ReWork, the creators of the popular Basecamp offers this advice:

"The easiest, most straightforward way to create a great product or service is to make something you want to use. That let's you design what you know - and you'll figure out immediately whether or not what you're making is any good."

"At 37 Signals, we build products that we need to run our own business... If you're solving someone else's problem, you're constantly stabbing in the dark. When you solve you're own problem, the lights come on. You know exactly what the right answer is" 

I had an itch in 2013 regarding all the great content that was going past the Twitter stream faster than anyone can read at ISTE and in EdChats. I favorited these tweets as a way of bookmarking for later, only to find that "later" didn't arrive until the link no longer worked.

Same Task Different Context 
I curated some data from ISTE13 and 150 EdChats over a 6 week period, I shared this data with people and was praised for taking the time to do this. The article I wrote that contains this data remains one of the top 10 most viewed posts I've written.

I was unable to develop some of my ideas for this because I could not find a platform that could store the data in any meaningful way, and excel wasn't ideal... so I shelved it until I found the right technology.

In 2014 I explored this again and explored a couple of platforms but, again, they were not ideal for what I was looking for. Post-ISTE2015 I'm trying again with these same ideas....I am looking to scratch my own itch with this data. 

This time I'm exploring my ideas using Declara. I am aware that I have been raving about this new platform a great deal recently, and wanted to remind people the reason for using Declara for this project is because I've had a bit of patience. Patience to;

1) Curate the data
2) Wait for the right platform.
3) Upload the links into a Declara Collection

Why mention all this? I am extremely interested in educator/supplier relationships. When I was curating some of the 2015 data I noticed the kind of negativity about "vendors" on social media that I have become accustomed to seeing.

While individual suppliers get a lot of love, if you do a search for #ISTE2015 and vendors on Twitter during the conference, many of the comments can be less than positive or flattering.

There are a number of reasons for me mentioning Declara quite a bit. For example, I know that educators can be challenging to reach and engage with, I know the best products are created in collaboration with users and I know that the way that suppliers engage educators need to change. I've spent a bit of time on the site and I like what I see, there are a lot of ideas educators could explore with this.

Anyway, as a result of noticing this vendor negative press,  I thought it might be an idea to remind people that I've been looking for ways to curate this data for two years now. I've explored a few ways of achieving this using free tools and "vendor" platforms. This is my 2015 attempt, and it's looking promising.

Will it work out? And if it does... what will happen once all the links from ISTE2013 and 2015 have been imported into Declara? Will I be able to find the time to import all the links? Will people want to view a collection with thousands of posts? The answer to all these questions is: I HAVE NO IDEA!

But what I do know is that doing things just because it is of interest to me and seems like a good idea leads to meeting some interesting people and can be the catalyst for new ideas to explore.

Curating these links into spreadsheets in 2013 seemed like a good idea at the time, so did waiting for the right platform before developing the ideas. By importing them into Declara I'm finding new people and new ways to achieve some old ideas that I had shelved a few years ago. So I'll continue to explore. Feel free to join me and a community of other knowledge seekers: 

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Blogging, Sharing New Ideas... Or Selling?

In my previous post I questioned whether constantly sharing links to my blog were signs of me becoming a bad digital citizen through constant self promotion of my blog. 

I thought I would take a moment to detail my blogging experiences today and compare them with when I first opened my blog... and how any self promotion two years ago led to others getting a shout out at #ISTE2015.

Isn't it all Self Promotion?
The first question I would ask is: if you're on social media isn't it all self promotion?  If you're here then you want the world to hear what you have to say. 

Am I writing this because I don't want anyone to read it, or to share it? Of course not! That would just be a waste of my time. 

Am I Tweeting because I only want one person to see my random thoughts? If that were the case I'd send a text or pick up the phone! 

Why Are you Promoting. Then...
Something that I think might be a more pertinent question is why am I here? 

The answer to this question has changed since I opened my blog.The answer in 2011 was: I don't want to be here! 

And despite all the great connections I've made, there are occasions when I still don't! 

In 2011 I had no digital footprint at all, but was told by a senior executive at one of the "big 3" tech companies

"If you want to be involved in #EdTech then you need to be on social media, it comes with the job now" 

I explored the various channels and, reluctantly, got plugged in. So here I am! I got plugged in because I was told I had to... Ironically, I got connected so my skills would be relevant for a role that won't be here much longer. Doh! 

...And Now
Today it would appear that I'm blogging to sell people on the merits of some crazy ideas. Crazy ideas that are, in the main, inspired by EdTechChat (Many of which are from two years ago).

Some people are calling me a "blogger," elsewhere social media analytics data spew out feedback that suggest I'm "an influencer." Not only do I think there is a danger of these labels pandering to egotists... In my case they are ridiculous assessments!

I find this amusing as nothing has changed! The ideas have been in my blog from day one... Many of the projects that I've been involved with that have been a success, are part of some on-going exploration to see if some extremely ambitious plans from an early posts might be possible.

Any change in status is only in the eyes of others. The ideas remain the same. The only difference is because the ideas go by unnoticed I have started to sell them a bit more.

When I opened my blog I was a sales rep unhappy with the culture and products I was working with. Today I am an unemployed sales person because I refuse to make pointless sales calls or send spam to educators.

As for any "blogger" label I write very badly... It just so happens that in amongst some bad writing, there are some ideas that are worth exploring. 

But boy! Is it hard work getting educators attention with these ideas!! 

The only thing that has changed is that I am now using my bad writing with some good ideas and have added some sales into the mix. I use my blog to explore the kind of collaboration and co-creation that I believe to be the future of sales "What do you think of XYZ" and look for early adopters to test the concept and/or look for people to work with to develop the idea.

This is where I feel the nature and source of any comments about "promoting my own stuff" comes from...There's more self promotion on my blog is because I'm selling the ideas more than I had done in the past.

Blogging has allowed me to explore the ideas generated from the early days of EdTechchat and ISTE13. Blogging also appears to have made me better at the role I've been trying to escape too... Oh the irony!

I'll leave you with the argument below to determine the extent of the blatant self promotion Vs my argument that educators are hard to engage with regarding new ideas.

Unsubscribe! Then...
Hitting that "Publish" button on my first real post (erm more like mini-novel) was so scary! Did I have anything to say? Would anyone want to hear it? 

I'm a random sales person with no expertise and nothing to say! I was taking the advice I was given, as well as trying to make some sense of the escalation of hostility in my sales role;

"Stop calling me" would be the reply to a group who 3-4 years ago were quite receptive to these calls, and "Unsubscribe" messages in reply to my emails.

Not long after I started to Tweet and blog I received a curious email along the lines of;

"William, stop sending me emails during 9-5 because I don't like the corporate crap you send me... but please keep me subscribed to your reports and blog"

What happens when you take this kind of information to bosses who are incapable of listening? "Get on the phone and sell" is the reply you'll find that you get.

...And Now?
I won't make any of those stupid cold calls for anyone... not even for products that I like. It's just a drain on educators time. I do send the odd update but hope that the information is targeted and relevant.

I sent an update to ISTE exhibitors when Kharima Richards asked me to when she was looking for support for her #Get2ISTE cause. I didn't get much of a response, but one memorable message that accompanied the "Unsubscribe" message was;

"Your content is boring and of no interest to us" 

Today I realise that you don't need to be making phone calls or email blasts in order to sell good ideas... But the ideas sure do need to be sold before they become good ones! 

This is why I feel the role of the sales person needs to change, and part of the reason for this post. Based on Google's research I might have re-skilled just in time "Google Research shows Word of Mouth Fuels EdTech Decisions"

Strategic Leadership. Then...
I completed a Belbin report in 2010 when I was one of those unfortunate sales reps trampling the exhibition hall hoping to attract educators attention. The profile report said;

"Your operating style is closest to that of strategic leadership, which is usually available only at senior positions. However, before such an opportunity could present itself, you are likely to need credibility at the operational level… The good news is that the longer you survive, the more likely you are to become a valued contribution and to gain the greatest sense of personal fulfilment"

Boy! How I laughed when I first read about these "strategic leadership" qualities... What nonsense! Although the rest of the report was extremely accurate. 

The report went on to recommend I should work in some sort of "Think Tank," quite ironic when you're sitting making pointless sales calls...the "longer you can survive" comment was the most relevant one at the time.

...And Now?
There are a number random ideas from my blog that have been implemented and the feedback from this Belbin report is making more sense to me now.

I will highlight more ideas that have gone from random idea to implementation in the next post, but today I want to focus two examples as they were mentioned at ISTE: Nurph and #Get2ISTE.

Since I started blogging I have posted ideas that I felt were worth exploring... Most of these ideas go by unnoticed the first time they are presented. The are also projects that will all link up in the hope of bringing ideas from an early posts to life 

If there are any ideas that demonstrate any kind of "strategic leadership" or creative ideas... There are two reasons for this 1) Listening to Educators and 2) EdTechChat

For anyone who feels this is "look at me, look at me" promoting my own stuff you may find this useful;

1) I am detailing my experiences in the hope that it helps others to figure the complexities that exist with selling in education.

2) I've been in traditional sales, and I've been through redundancy because of my employers refusal to listen. Both are horrible!

The actions I have taken were not easy choices to make. Neither have they been the easiest to live with. But they are starting to prove to be of value. I hope this helps other sales people to discuss the companies strategy with their employers, or maybe even for educators to share these examples with sales people when they call.

3) Not a single thing below was my idea, they come from listening to educators... Many of which come from EdTechChat.I've simply taken the time to explore them.

EdTechChat Sales. Then...
Through following EdTechChat in the first 6 weeks of it being established I got a number of key insights, including confirmation of the fact that sales would be dead soon.

Many of the points and topics in this post are a repetition of those that followed ISTE13 and ISTE14, but with evidence that the concept is workable.

...And Now
Today I feel the only way to develop good products is to stay as small as possible for as long as possible and co-creating with educators.

You shouldn't hire sales people until you know your product has value in education, even then the goal is to find the early adopters like Steve Isaacs and Nikki Robertson, as they did with Nurph and Get2ISTE.

It is my view that sales people should see themselves as fired within a few months of starting... because they have sold themselves out of a job. Sales will become a part time temporary gig. (See Where Do You see Yourself in a Year).

Once these early customers are found, a good community manager will take care of customers needs, which will be the engine for scaling the business and growth.

EdTechChat Data. Then...
As I've mentioned a number of times in this blog, in the first 6 weeks of EdTechChat 40 companies were mentioned 400 times.

I wanted to know if this was typical and see which companies were consistently being talked about, so attempted to curate 6 weeks worth of data from the 200+ EdChats that I was aware of in April/June 2013. During ISTE13 I tried to curate this data too.

The data was all in spreadsheats over 200,000 rows and was too big for me to do anything with. In April 2014 I heard about Nurph

EdTechChat Data... And Now
At ISTE 2014 I tried again, after contacting Nurph I put a great deal of time into developing this EdChat Resource Plan and putting almost 400 chats into their Chat Salad platform.(See ISTE2013 Record, Rewind and Replay)
Curious that Nurph didn't mention my contribution during #ISTE2015

Fast forward to ISTE 2015 and through the evangelising of Nikki Robertson and Steve Isaacs, Nurph is being mentioned by a number of Connected Educators, and not a single sales call has been made.

Get2 ISTE Then...
The concept of educators expenses being covered was not well recieved in 2014 (See EdChat Moderator: ISTE or Bust). The idea was re-presented in March, but still had some challenges to overcome. It was through discussing the idea with critical friends and blogging about it that removed the various objections to the idea.

Get2 ISTE ...Now
Kharima Richards was on the big screen with her Get2ISTE T-shirt and I have two fantastic blog posts to treasure... Not mine, but Nikki's and Kharima's

Tech Stories ...Then
Plenty of sales effort has gone into these ideas. Plenty of self promotion with my blog. I'm exploring ideas that I have been advocating for over the same 2 year period... Ideas that first appeared in my "Death of an EdTech Salesman" post after ISTE2013.

I hardly mention Nurph in my blog or Tweets anymore and will be doing so even less after this post. The same goes for Get2ISTE. The selling, as I see it in the future, has been done... So it's time to move on.

Although Get2ISTE being any kind of big success is most certainly not a foregone conclusion (See Get2ISTE2016 for more info) and I'd be happy to help any educators out in any way I can. Just ask.

... And Now
If an idea has merit, it will roll out with the early adopters through word of mouth. Sales is still vital! But the hustle is done through doing enough to convince people to give a new product or idea a go and then selling educators being pioneers and investing their time with you Vs the thousands of other companies.

So going forward the nature of my self promotion will be talking about 3D Hubs and Declara. I'm by no means saying that these are definitive solutions to data curation or educators crowd funding... but there's enough promise and synergy to warrant a bit of exploration.

If educators gravitate towards these services because of my blatant self promotion, and they find it saves them time looking for great resources and assists with the procurement of 3D Printers... I can live with any title anyone chooses to give me.

And Finally. Blogging Or Selling New Ideas
I have gone out of my way to explore the sales process and to find out what works and what doesn't. What's successful and what isn't. What is needed at the start of a new idea is to get a bit of momentum going and to find the early adopters. This takes a bit of hustle.

Once a connected educator gets hold of an idea there is nothing I can do that will rival this. Nikki Robertson, Steve Isaacs and Adam Bellow talking about Nurph will have way more impact than anything I could ever do.

However... exploring the merit in a product before others are either aware of it and/or building a case to demonstrate value is vital!

Sometimes this is a quick Tweet, sometimes its a few months of research that is required... Regardless the message needs to be put out there.

A lot of synergy with 3D Hubs and Edu Crowdfunding for 3D Printers

So I'll continue to Tweet out to people like @ISTEConnects as I did in 2014 with Nurph and before ISTE 2015 to try and get some momentum going for #Get2ISTE and after the conference with the Declara collection that I'm curating. Or to ask have you heard of Voxer? Who Sells Voxer in Edu?

I have no doubt that these messages will go largely ignored until the right amount of research has been done, and a compelling enough case has been put forward. This might take 6 weeks as it did with EdShelf, or two years and counting as it has done with curating big data.

Self Promotion and Previous Projects
I can and do mention my involvement with some of these projects from time to time. Again is this blatent self promotion? I would like to think that I use them in the hope of

1) Generating interest in the latest crazy idea, or

2) To let others know that the practices of the vendor hall are so outdated...

Search "#ISTE2015" and "vendors" on twitter and ask yourself how much longer is this model going to be sustainable for? I've already blogged about what I would do if I was the organisers.

Nurph and Get2ISTE both getting shout outs at #ISTE2015... and not a sales call made and no sales people in education (as far as I am aware).

And as for those greedy EdTech companies and sales people who are only in it for the money... I have not made a penny from any of this work. The reason for all this? Here's my motivation Sales People in Edu - The Fox of EdTech

Maybe this post will generate interest from two years ago about traditional sales dying... Ideas that again are the result of EdTechChat.

One final point on "promoting my own stuff" is that if and when any of these ideas do work out and/or I mention the role I played... I would like to think that I give credit where it's due. As almost every idea has it's source in this fantastic EdTechChat I hope that one day I might be in the position to prove how serious I am about my second Tweet below!!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Telling Tech Stories: Self Promotion, Self Doubt or Selling?

I've recently reviewed my activity on social media, and there sure is a heck of a lot of self promotion! I don't half bang on about ideas that I have come up with and/or products that I am a fan of!

If I was an educator I don't think this would pose a huge problem. I would be sharing work that I am proud of and giving a shout out to the providers of great EdTech with my PLN... and this would be called collaboration and sharing best practice.

Confused? You Will Be...
However, as a former sales person, I am painfully aware of the connotations and negative perceptions that come with sales experience in EdTech. I realise the need for caution with the type of content and frequency it's shared on social media.

One the other hand, I am extremely aware of the complexities with educator/supplier relations. I know the importance of momentum if new ideas are to have a chance... I also know the value that sales and organisational culture have in the EdTech ecosystem. Both matter. A lot!

If you need evidence of the complexities we need look no further than ISTE, how educators can sit in the bloggers cafe and give a shout out to any tech that they like... but hell mend you if your a dreaded "Vendor" in this space!

That is of course unless you are XYZ company, then you're not a "vendor," so this for profit company who is exhibiting at the conference, gets invited into the bloggers cafe for a chat (Probably an EdTech incubator company)... but then there are complaints when others do the same. Confused, you will be!

I can see the nature of the Sales Director/CEO order to the poor sales rep "Look at XYZ exhibitor they are in the bloggers cafe and have lots of people talking to them... GET OVER THERE AND DO THE SAME THING... This event is costing me a fortune, we need the sales to cover this event" Cue confusion with suppliers and educators alike.

With my blog being the catalyst for a few ideas that have ended up being fledgling projects... I thought I would write a few posts reflecting on my experiences with blogging, sales and "promoting my own stuff"

Self Reflection 
If you look at my activity, it's not an altogether pretty picture! It doesn't half come across as blatant self promotion!

Two projects that I have been involved with - Nurph and #Get2ISTE - were mentioned at ISTE this year... and I was no where near the bloggers cafe...whether as an unwelcome invader or invited guest!

No calls were made, no commission was paid and no exhibition stands were paid for.

I thought I'd write about some of these complexities as I review things myself, as I though people might find my perspective of this particular brand of self promotion helpful.

I hope that in the next few posts that I would put my argument forward to, hopefully, demonstrate that this is not all about me, but about my understanding of the way new ideas get adopted.

I feel that this is necessary because, as Marshall Goldsmith observes

Sometimes people have no idea how their behaviour is coming across to people who matter – their bosses, customers and clients. 

They think they have all the answers, but others see it as arrogance. 
They think they’re contributing to a situation with helpful comments, but others see it as butting in. They think they are delegating effectively, but others see it as shirking responsibilities. 
They think they are holding their tongue, but others see it as unresponsiveness. 
They think they’re letting people think for themselves, but others see it as ignoring them. 

Over time these “minor” workplace foibles begin to chip away at the goodwill we’ve all accumulated in life and that other people normally extend to colleagues and friends. That’s when the minor irritation blows up into a minor crisis. Why does this happen? More often than not, it’s because people’s inner compass of correct behaviour has gone out of whack – and they become clueless about their position among their co-workers"

This has happened recently where I was criticised for poor social media ettiqutte with the #EdChat hashtag, when looking for support for a project that first appeared in my blog last July, which would eventually become #Get2ISTE.

Regarding Goldsmiths' comment above, what I see as "Exploring the merit for a new idea and looking for feedback from educators and critical friends" ...others see as "promoting my own stuff" 

My own review and reflection of my blogging supports this criticsm, so thought it might be worth exploring.


Blog Review
I have been reviewing my blog and social media activity recently. I received some feeback from a critical friend a while back who complemented me on how my writing had improved, but that all the links were distracting.

He said that he trusted me enough that I didn't need to provide all the supplementary evidence. What?! Stop the press! An educator trusting a sales guy? Now that's what I call progress!!

I took his advice on board and included less external links in my posts.

Since finding out about Declara I curated all the external links that I have used in my blog to support any points or arguments that I was making.

The reason for this was because 
I also wanted to prevent "Repetitive Link Disorder" so I would get more out of the EdChats that I join.

I found there were over 500 links in just under 200 posts. I found that I had indeed listened to my principal friend's feedback as less external links appear in my more recent posts. However, there was also a marked increase in the use of links to some of my other posts. Is this more evidence of self promotion? You might think so.

The same thing happens if I do a search for my blog on Twitter to see who is sharing the links, The majority of them are from me. Talk about being unpopular and self promoting... Ouch!

Self Promotion and Self Doubt
This raises the question... Have I become one of those self promoting bores that the unconnected believe dominate the Twittersphere?

Has the impact of a couple of successful projects turned me into someone who's effectively saying "Look at me. Look at me" at every turn? 

Honestly? I'm not sure... I am sharing a lot of my own stuff. But I am also seeing ideas from posts that were written 2 years ago turn into something. They were not at the time because they went unnoticed.

Pushing the ideas forward has seen a few ideas be adopted without a single sales call being made.

What Do You Think...
In line with Goldsmith's observation is Richard Millington, the author of a fantastic book called Buzzing Communities, he suggests a six step escalation process:

"If an antagonistic member [of a community] is clearly a problem, you react in one of three ways. First, its likely they don't realise they're antagonizing members (this is surprisingly common, usually a personality issue), explain they need to tone their behaviour down because members have been complaining"

This was the case with me, I was not aware that my Tweets were any different to educators or other "vendors" and have apologised to the moderator, deleted a lot of Tweets which included the #EdChat hashtag and try to remember not to use this particular hashtag.

Social media ignorance? Poor EdChat Ettiquette? Self Promotion? I'm not too sure of the self promotion issue... But there is plenty of self doubt! I welcome the feedback from my critical friends... But to the critics, feel free to just block me or don't click on the links.

Because something I am in absolutely no doubt about though is that the sales process with EdTech is so broken! It is also rapidly changing and I am exploring new ways of doing things.

So as unpleasant as this criticism and self reflection is... It sure beats the cold calls, angry emails and the vendor hall any day! Vendors spending $2 million dollars collectively to get the kind of negativity they get during ISTE on social media is a concern. It would make me think twice about paying for a stand.

But then again, I've tried to reach out to both ISTE and suppliers to tell them this. The result? Either these ideas were not heard or I was told "Unsubscribe... Your content is boring and of no interest" 

(Here's some self promotion from two years ago "Death of an EdTech Salesman" and "The Trouble with Conferences")

So I'll continue to explore these issues and reflect on all of this. If you end up agreeing with my findings, you'll see that the real issue is that educators can be hard to engage with new ideas... so makes the constantly "promoting my own stuff" a bit of a conundrum.

More on this in the next post Blogging, Sharing New Ideas... Or Selling?