The Leaky Social Media Question

There is supposedly an old Chinese curse that states, “May You Live in Interesting Times.”  I would think that this last week – the first week of President Trump’s administration – qualifies as interesting times.

As someone who teaches about social media in both leadership and education classes, it was fascinating to watch unfolding events around social media in the federal government…which has lessons for those of us anywhere in leadership.

On Tuesday, the new administration attempted to control any communication with the public, ordering employees at multiple agencies to cease communicating with the public through news releases, official social media accounts and correspondence.  This raised a firestorm of reaction, with the Department of Agriculture amending its policy:

“Yesterday, we sent an email message about Agency informational products like news releases and social media contact,” another email to employees said. “This internal email was released prior to receiving official Departmental guidance and is hereby rescinded.”

Not all agencies quietly complied. A series of tweets that went viral appeared to come from one of the National Park Services, quickly generating the hashtag #badasslands:

Officially, the Park Service reported that the tweets came from a former employee who still had access to their account.  The Park pulled down the tweets…but by then, many copies were circulating (as I am doing here).  A number of “rogue” Twitter accounts surfaced to continue pushing back against the perceived attack on science by this administration.

So one of the lessons is, in a digital age with multiple channels of communication – and the ability of anyone to communicate – “controlling” the message, whether from a federal department, a business, or an educational institution, is problematic.

Eighteen years ago, Jon Husband coined the term “wirearchy” – “a dynamic flow of power and authority, based on information, trust, credibility, and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected technology and people”.

Unlike a hierarchy, a wirearchy assumes openness and transparency.  In a digitally connected world, information is going to flow…control is no longer possible.  A 2014 Gartner report suggested:

“…Digital business is not just about expanding the use of technology. Digital business leaders must think about technology in a fundamentally different way than in the past…”

Westerman, Bonnett, and McAfee, in their 2014 book Leading Digital, noted that in the past, standardizing limited empowerment.  Controlling impacted innovation.  The desire to orchestrate action suggested “leashing” rather than unleashing employees. The wirearchial world in which we lead today requires the opposite – empowerment, innovation, and the unleashing of employees (or students).

My students in ILD 831 next week will be grappling with the implications of leadership in a hyperlinked world.   I look forward to seeing their thoughts on our class Netvibes site.

{Graphic: Hugh McLeod}


Leading in a Wired World

Next week, I will once again be teaching a section of ILD 831 – Technology and Leadership – in Creighton University’s Interdisciplinary Doctorate in Leadership.  I have taught this course for five years and over those years, evolved the course, shifting the textbook from Tom Friedman’s (2007) The World is Flat to Clay Shirky’s (2008) Here Comes Everybody to currently Dave Weinberger’s (2011) Too Big To Know.  The course flow looks like this.

This is a fascinating time to consider leadership in a wired world.  As the past few weeks have illustrated, we have a government in transition in America in which policy implications are unfolding on the President-Elect’s Twitter stream.  What does this suggest for those studying leadership in courses such as mine?  At a minimum, old rules no longer apply!

We will have two sections of ILD 831 exploring topics around leading in a networked and wired world, and I look forward to the blog commentary that will start up later next week.  I will be aggregating posts in Netvibes, so feel free to join in and comment as you see opportunities.

An Updated Social Networking Map

A few years back, the online comic XKCD put out a Map Of Online Communities.  I used it as an icebreaker in more than one presentation or online class.

Now, Ethan Bloch has updated this view of the social media landscape with a new map:



I love the fact that even the lolcats got their own island!  Looking forward to sharing this with my Fall students!

{Graphic from Ethan Blochfull size here}

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Email is For Old People

Yesterday, Jeff Nugent and I had the opportunity to present at the 2008 Virginia School Board Association annual convention.  We had around 40 people attend our session entitled “Email Is For Old People.”  Two were school administrators and the rest were all school board members from around the state.

These were our presentations slides:

The final slide had embedded this video:

As one can see from the presentation, we asked a series of questions around communication:

1.  Who had sent a hand written letter recently?

Around 20% had done so in the past week – two-thirds had in the last year.

2.  Emails?

Everyone used email.

3.  Instant messages?

About 60% did not IM – we did have a couple of power users.

4.  Text messages on cellphones?

Again, about 60% did not text, a couple of heavy text users.  (…and some misunderstanding of the differences between IM and SMS)

5.  Updates to Facebook or MySpace?

Around 80% did not have social network accounts.

We then had them all stand up and slowly revealed a slide with 18 different web application logos on it.  We asked them to remain standing if they recognized and used at least 3 – and all remained standing.  We then asked about five, and half the room sat down.  As we progressed through 7, 9, and 12, we still had two people standing.  Jeff then revealed the dates at which each of these applications went live, and noted that – given the short lifespan of these applications – the notion that K-12 students are digital natives and we are immigrants is a bit of a leap.  We are all trying to figure out the uses at the same time.  What is different is that the kids are less fearful of attempting apps – and they tend to look to them for socialization and entertainment, not learning.  Jeff suggested that it is the role of skilled teachers to lead them through this web world, just as skilled teachers have always led.

I then gave a quick tour through six families of applications – emphasizing not the tool but the practices associated with the tools (communication, connections, shared knowledge creation, etc.).  Our handout wiki has more details on each:

–  Blogs


Social Bookmarking


– Social Networks like MySpace, Facebook and Ning

Picture and Video Sharing websites

The attendees were interested in our message and acknowledged their lack of background in this area.  One went so far as to basically say – Tell me how I should vote when questions about the use of the internet come up in school board meetings! It was evident to me that K-12 student use of the internet remains an area of fear, and I am not sure we successfully demystified it for them.  They recognized that Jeff and I were advocates and they wanted more info on the downsides.  One member noted a case at his school where a student had emailed in a Columbine warning hoax which shut the school down.  I countered that kids had been doing that for generations – in my day it was notes in the bathrooms instead of electronic notes.  We tried to suggest that the tool (the web) was not the issue – the issue was the practice…as it has always been.

We closed our presentation with the above video A Vision of K-12 Student Today by B. J. Nesbitt, IT Coordinator for Pickens County, South Carolina.  His younger take of the Michael Wesch video certainly sent a powerful message to these school board members.

Now one wonders, will the seeds we planted yesterday have any impact?  Time will tell.

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A Delicious Interview

Power of Three

Over in the Bamboo Project this morning, Michele Martin has posted her interview with my colleagues, Jeff Nugent, Bud Deihl, and me. Michele did a nice job capturing the highlights of the 24-minute talk, but I thought I would add some reflections of a participant.

I “met” Michele through earlier this year. I no longer remember who, but someone in my network had tagged a blog post she had made about the social helix – a post that really resonated with me. A follow-on post about the turtle-level versus turbo-level of use was a tipping point for me to quit talking about blogging and start doing it. Through initial comments to Michele’s blog and subsequent emails, we found that we had many interests in common. I of course passed her blog on to my colleagues, and they soon became fans as well. Since all three of us are interactive, Michele soon found that she was interacting with each of us, and found our supportive learning journey interesting and compelling – so much so that last week she requested the podcast interview.

The learning environment in our Center is wonderful, and illustrative of the co-mingling now occurring between face-to-face and online learning environments. Under Jeff Nugent’s leadership, we three have some amazing productivity. As the primary technology consultants for some three-thousand faculty, we provide workshops, lead faculty learning communities, act as consultants, develop multimedia training videos, and basically have fun exploring together the wired world. Stephen Downes has talked about the continuum between the VLE’s – Virtual Learning Environment anchored by various LMS’s, and PLE’s – personal learning environments. Our threesome I think illustrates a third level – the Social Learning Environment, where VLEs and PLEs mix and are supported by rich personal exchanges.

Michele recognized that we three have something special. Sometimes we feel a bit isolated exploring the vast ranges of learning possibilities, but I know I am never alone in my quest. Thanks to the social medium, I have my close friends (physically) in this office and my close friends (virtually) in Pennsylvania…and Romania…and Uruguay..and…

[Photo Credits: Hale Popoki; Peasap – Flickr]