Conversation Agent - Valeria Maltoni - The Mass Participation Economy and Your Brand

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Interesting post. I especially liked this: "One such resurrection is the idea of the “commons” a feature of village life for centuries: a common resource, like a wood or grazing land, held in loose, self-regulated shared ownership for villagers to graze their flocks on."

As you may or may not know, the 25th anniversary edition of my book, "A Whack on the Side of the Head," will be coming out next spring. Over the past six months, there were a few places in my updating and revision where I was able to turn a concept-under-construction into a post and get comments from readers. This was quite worthwhile (and a little similar to what you describe).

Carolyn Ann:

You make many very interesting points. Let me see if I can join the conversation from a place of personal experience (not to be confused with experience of your third comment).

In middle school all our academic work was done in groups. The teacher would write up the names of students in groups and the assignments were to be completed as such. We learned to work together and we learned something else, very important -- some did not do the work and shared in the credit. In other words, it was very difficult to test individual contribution -- the teacher couldn't tell, we couldn't measure it ourselves. That was a drawback.

The other thought about group work is that it may lead to group think. I agree that any project worth its salt needs a sponsor and visionary who will drive it to completion.

I see the Village Square as a place to broadcast projects and skills as well as receive and give support. In the past, guilds of practice existed. In Italy, city life still revolves and pulses around the main Piazza.

As for the brand, I intended to speak about essence, which is our story, the sum total of impressions from experience (like this blog, meeting me, talking with me, etc.), my values, and the human qualities. How we weave appearance, personality, competencies and differentiation (thanks to Dan Schawbel for his contribution) into the fabric of our existence and how we communicate the value we bring to the conversation.

When we give up the individual to "disappear" in the group, that's when the confusion begins, in my view. What we have seen with collaborative projects like The Age of Conversation, is that each voice is even stronger and differentiated within the context of a sea of voices. In fact, the other voices contribute to its shining and standing out.

On a side note: so mother is a writer. It would be interesting to find out if this is true of most writers. My mother is also a writer... and that is why I love writing so much. A conversation for another day, perhaps.

Sorry. I'm harping on something awful. I promise to stop!

I realized that my concern was centered around the vision of the idea, product, whatever. The Ducati Monster was created, essentially, by one guy. The Spitfire fighter, by one guy. The Chevrolet Corvette, by one guy. The classic Ferrari's: one guy. Despite the endless input and influences from others, the end product was primarily the vision of a single person.

An example from Formula 1 might help: The Lotus 72 was an example of an exemplary machine; it had a number of engineers working on it, but it was all Colin Chapman's vision: even the branding (JPS cigarettes).

The creative impulse, genius, that creates such works of art is beyond the collaborative. My concern is that the individual moments of sheer brilliance might get diluted, washed or discarded because of collaboration. Leadbeater's (I will get the spelling of name right!) exercise in collaborative authoring just struck a chord with me: the "wrong" chord, to be sure.

Is his vision that of a collaborative future? To be honest, I can't tell. He undoubtedly has something to say about the contemporary economy, but I'm not entirely convinced the answer lies in collaborative effort; particularly as learning new skills is involved!

Insofar as your point about the "experience" we present; I really do have a problem with that. Maybe I was mixing the two points up? I have never thought of myself as an experience. To be frank, I am more than that: you are more than that. Your blog is not an "experience", but an insight into a keen, intelligent and perceptive mind. As well as a look at a person who strikes me as keen, intelligent and perceptive. ( :-) )

I don't intend any of this as criticism; my apologies for when I was so callous in my wording. I am a little unfair: I used your comments sheet as a bit of a sounding board; and I chatted (at some length) with my Dear Spouse. You make some pertinent and relevant points. In many ways I'm quite old-fashioned; I really do prefer it if my vendors find out what I want, and then actively sell it to me.

A dichotomy, that's for sure. I'm authoring a couple of open-source projects and I'm wondering about the value of collaborative development? (Oh: one's a photo album, the other is a neural network.) But I do perceive a difference between Linux, for example, and Mac OS X. My DS, for instance, wouldn't even look at a machine with a Linux: too hard to learn. To much "stuff" to bother with. I simply can't see my Mom using an Open-Source word-processor to write her next novel. Heck, she's only recently taken to using a computer and not a manual typewriter. Both are equally brilliant in their intelligence, but neither is particularly interested in the tool: as long as it does the job they want.

Collaborative development seems to preclude that level of disinterest. (Me? I really don't care how a bandsaw works, as long as it cuts wood the way I want it to! But I'm more than happy to make a tool when one is not available, or I can't afford it.)

I think my hemming and hawing has highlighted my (obvious) confusion over the concept that Leadbeater advances. I'm making it a point not to download and read his book. I just can't wrap my mind the idea of a collaborative effort of that sort. I find it, frankly, a bit disturbing. A book is a container of ideas; if they aren't his: who's are they? Who owns them? Who is responsible for those ideas? The creator of them? A novel, in particular, is a work of ideas: the novel tells of a world we get to peek into. Collaborative novel-writing seems like a nightmare. Collaborative non-fiction simply seems like a "lets see what we can piece together" project, not a genuine effort to shine a light on a point. And maybe, after all that: that's the single thing that I find annoying, disturbing, whatever.

Is it a conversation, or a cop-out? I can't tell from Leadbeater's website, and only he can say for sure.

I sincerely hope you take these comments in the spirit (of confusion) they are offered in. I'm not one, as you might know, to simply "rah-rah" an idea, but I don't seek fault-lines for the sake of pointing out the state of dress of leading governmental figures. Again, my apologies for any callously worded points.

Carolyn Ann

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