Cafe-shaped conversations – for the rest of us

Tom and I meet a lot of people asking:

“OK, so what’s this social web all about?”
“Is it all a bunch of hype?”
“What about software tool or gadget abc or xyz…?”
“I don’t need to know about it! Isn’t it just for nerds and tech whiz kids?”

This blog post for Pop!Tech by Chris Brogan is an instant classic. Mass communication through TV and the like is a fairly new idea in the history of humanity but we can’t let it constrain us in how we converse with people. He gives some potted examples from the nascent social web across business, charity… and the unseen world of virtual graffiti.

Here’s the key paragraph for me.

Business at the speed of the web is now a human game. I’m not Googling these relationships. I’m finding them online in social spaces. Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter aren’t just marketing channels. They aren’t places to swap resumes. Instead, these new tools empower rapid connection, and allow people to feel heard.

I recommend reading the whole thing. His analogy with a French cafe holds well.

Additionally, I find it interesting how a lot of the technological innovation that supports these shifts is coming from USA, specifically California. (The history and culture of California and how it relates to these issues is a whole different blog post – which I’ll leave to someone else.) Although of course it’s not uniformly the case that USA is driving these shifts. Nevertheless this is insightful:

In America, everything is big, everything is repeatable, everything works on the “it looks like the one in my town, so I know how it will operate” perspective. We know how to order at any McDonalds. We understand how the Wall Street Journal will look from day to day, no matter where we pick it up or on what day. In other countries, small and personalized businesses are more obvious.

As much as I’m a fan of American culture in all its forms, having earlier had my lunch in a local independent cafe instead of a chain, I love this.

If you live in Wales like me, you will instinctively understand this and grasp hold of it.

Substitute UK, Europe or “outside the USA” into that last sentence if you want. Although I’ve lived in Wales a long time. It’s March and we’ve just recently had our national day, St. David’s Day. He was the one who popularised the slogan Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd (Do the little things in life). That’s another hypothetical blog post, where in among the hard observations I might risk indulging in some blatant sentimentality!

The focus on “doing the little things” is not to say we don’t try to build our projects to make big successes. It just means that we’re tuned into to the subtleties, nuances, eccentricities and character traits that make up individuals. That is increasingly the future of how we will approach working as well.