The folks in my local network are amazing. They are the ones who will babysit for my children, or hang out after work with my family. They are the ones who seem to share a lot of the same values with me. After all, they moved close to where we live for a reason, right? They are really the ones that I should be turning to with my problems and with my questions.
But, they aren’t. In fact, there are so few local people that I turn to on a daily basis, that I am almost scared by it. Other than a few key people (my wife included), my local network is a wasteland of e-mail threads and empty projects. Whenever I have a new idea, I don’t put it out to the people that I work with on a daily basis. I send the idea out to anyone who cares to take a stab. And more often than not, the only people with that inclination are anything but local.
It is counterintuitive to think that people who do not share the same space and time with me (or even have a previous personal relationship with me) would be more likely to join in on a project than their local counterparts. In fact, it is almost unfathomable that my local network would be so silent on some of the issues that I seem to face all of the time.
My local network does not see the value in commenting back and forth. They do not see the value in Twitter or Buzz. They are not plugged into the conversation. They are not ready to avail themselves of crowdsourcing activities. And, I guess that is the difference.
The local is striving to stay local.
The crowd is striving to be a part of the crowd (or, at least, and individual in the crowd).
The only way to stay local is to be unplugged and uninformed. If you are engaging in conversations that are universal, you will become international, even cosmopolitan. If you are striving to connect, there is no choice but to connect with those outside of your local network.
While I would like to bring the local to meet the crowdsourced, the only way for that to happen would be for the people near me to adopt the methodology of the crowd. they must be more public with their work. They must strive to answer passionate questions. They must stop placing so much value on people that they can “have a beer with.”
Being a source for someone’s crowd is valuable because it means that they will be a source for you as well. There is a certain level of reciprocation that we can expect from the crowd, even if it is only a feeling about such things. Again, this is counterintuitive. It should be that the locality will produce more reciprocation because of proximity, but instead it breeds a lot more competition. If you are doing something of value, it will be noticed among the crowd and leveraged to everyone’s benefit.
If we are able to bring more people along from the local to the crowd, we may be able to change the very nature of what it means to be local. We may be able to change the expectations for how much participation is possible and what level of investment is guaranteed. We could change local to mean all kinds of connection, not just face to face.
While, I see a lot of drawbacks to crowdsourcing, when it comes to asking my own questions. I am directing them more toward people I don’t know than people I do. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that the most interesting opportunities and people have always come from outside the local, and not from within. Is that a function of the web, or is that just the way that it always has been?
I'm going to talk about the cloud vs. the crowd. My networks, local and global, exist as clouds. At the nucleus of both I find a solid core of those individuals to whom I turn with my big questions or who will forever know I'm there to help with whatever big questions they're wrestling with. As you point out, my global network has far more members than my local. Both clouds, though, have an outer layer I'm comfortable referring to as my crowd. In between, as I've said before, are the people with whom I have a largely professional or friendly acquaintance. Again, my global cloud holds more of these for the simple fact of the immediacy (or sense of immediacy) electronic tools afford my connections. In a vary real sense, I can connect with more people spending a night in my room on my computer than I could spending that time out in Philadelphia.
In the end, the nuclei of both of these clouds – the people who truly know me – are incredibly small and tight-knit. At the middle and outer layers, though, I find myself in the same boat as you. My global cloud is much bigger.
My question for you is how you qualify these relationships. What determines the level of reciprocity you feel in your connections to these people? What changes that?
Hmmm…. this is something I have been struggling with of late. It seems to me that there should be more overlap between my local and global networks. Or at least it would be desirable. Why can't my locals be a part of my global crowd? Wouldn't that create more authenticity in my own work? Wouldn't that mean I could have more meaningful conversations F2F pertaining to crowdsourced ideas? Wouldn't it be cool if many of us were learning/growing/reflecting on the same things, and then were able to talk about how to apply those things in our own local situations? I left #colearning with a desire to share what an amazing thing my PLN has been for me (mostly Twitter) with my co-workers. The result of those emails & conversations so far? Not much…. 2 previous account holders connected, but don't tweet, and still don't quite understand the point. You can bring the locals to the water, but you can't make them drink! As for me, I know I'll keep seeking out the crowd to challenge me, introduce me to new ideas, and encourage me…. things my local network doesn't do.
As for your question, I keep thinking of the visuals in the movie “Pleasantville”…. it's easier to live in a complacent black & white world, than be rocked by new ideas. It seems to be timeless. What is different with the web? Well, there's a place for all the technicolor innovators to connect rather than go it alone. Which draws them together and further separates them from the locals at the same time. Double-edged sword.
I like your allusion to Pleasantville, if for no other reason than it makes
me think about that movie. I find that it is highly underrated because of
the level of cheese and cliche that it resorted to at certain points, but I
think that overall, the message that everyone has the capacity to change is
beautiful. When pushed to the breaking point, everyone has to live in a
“color world”. I think that we must push people to that point (maybe not
their breaking point, but the point at which they are so emotionally tied up
in the conversation that they have to reach out and collaborate with a wider
Do not give up on the conversations you started. Continue to comment.
Continue to post your own thoughts. While you might not be able to get the
locals to respect the conversations immediately, the crowd does have a way
of being quite persuasive.
When I tell my local folks that something they are doing has a much larger
audience, they listen. When I show them just how effective my answers can be
with the help of a robust network (twitter or otherwise), they can't help
but feel drawn to it. And, if we can provide multiple entrances (not just a
lower bar for entry) to the conversations, some people are bound to pick
them up and run with them. Right?