Open Thinkering


Hey, I’m back! (with some thoughts on Twitter and an update on my newsletter)

This is just a quick update to say that, having taken August off, I’ve returned from #BelshawBlackOps15 Part 1.

I’ll ease myself back into social networks over the next few days and weeks, but I just wanted to share some of my reflections on my changing attitude to Twitter in particular. I’m now over eight and a half years into using this particular social network; I can remember when people used to liken it to a café where you could overhear (and drop into) conversations with like-minded people. I think that’s still the case to some degree. However, to extend the metaphor, it’s now less like your favourite hipster coffee hangout and more like a gaudy tourist trap. The signal to noise ratio is all wrong.

This reminds me of what Warren Ellis, someone I’ve only recently started following, posted recently:

My internet generation has a ton of (aching, bruised) muscle memory for communicating and reading in several windows and apps across a couple of devices simultaneously.  The new silence has my muscles twitching, yelling that we’re being lazy, but it’s just because nothing’s happening and nobody is talking.  I read a thing the other day saying that the drop-off in new Twitter users is down to the fact that it’s now so loud that it’s lonely.

Waiting for my muscles to learn peace.  My Twitter is DM-only now — I took my mentions/replies pane off, and only read my information lists.  Think of it like rubbing painkillers into the internet.

Using Twitter solely for direct messaging is extremely tempting, especially now they’ve removed the 140-character limit. But, for now, I’ll simply fire up Tweetdeck on my Mac while resisting the urge to re-install the Twitter app on my smartphone. After all, during the past few weeks I’ve managed to learn again, as I always do during these self-imposed strictures, how to be alone in public without looking at a screen.

I have to say that I prefer the #BelshawBlackOps version of me. I think others do, too. I’m slightly more conservative when removed from the (admittedly self-created) vortex of left-leaning sentiment. I’m also more certain during these times of what I do and don’t like, and I’m more likely to show an interest in people rather than trying to show off to them.

During August I endeavored to meet for coffee with a good number of people while I was down in London. One blogger and author shared their concern that what we’re doing these days is simply an advanced version of content marketing. Brands are attempting to become more like people, and people more like brands. It’s hard to argue with that logic.

Now’s not the time to make any big promises or for grandstanding. But what I am going to commit to is providing more value to those following me. What I mean by that is to focus on the upper level of Bloom’s (revised) taxonomy — connecting together people and ideas to create something new. I think that’s much more useful than being the 15th person in your Twitter feed today to share the same link.

As part of this, I’m doubling-down on longer-form, more curated work. Along with my e-book, The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies, it’s my weekly newsletter that people seem to enjoy the most. That’s why I’ve decided to rebrand my newsletter as Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel. Subscribers have already received a heads-up about this and seen the rather stellar logo that my good friend Bryan Mathers kindly created for me.

Doug Belshaw's Thought Shrapnel

If you’re already a subscriber, then you don’t need to do anything. If you’re not, I hope you’ll take this as an invitation to sign up.

Finally, my sincere thanks go to you for reading this blog, or indeed any of my work. I think sometimes we forget (or at least I do) just how much of a privilege it is to be able to publish immediately, without censorship, to a worldwide audience of people.

Update: further to the Warren Ellis quotation above, I hadn’t caught up with one of his most recent post, in which he’s even more eloquent on the changing nature of social networking

2 thoughts on “Hey, I’m back! (with some thoughts on Twitter and an update on my newsletter)

  1. Doug,

    You are leading us online even when you are offline. I am glad you feel rejuvenated and got to spend some time on what really matters.

    I have never gone totally #blackops, hard to do when you teach online, but I have been looking for little ways to be more present.

    – If waiting in a line keep the smartphone in your pocket.
    – I am debating keeping the phone out of the bedroom. I immediately check email when I wake up. Why?

    I also don’t use the phone at the table, but this one is hard. I miss waking up having a cup of coffee and reading the paper. I use my phone is wrong but that puts up a barrier bigger than print for some reason.

    I also encourage you to diversify your feed so you don’t get all fired up by your echochamber. For example my #edreform (and my politics) feed includes sources from both the left and right: Try it. I find it makes me a better writer and I challenge my own presumptions when I curate multiple perspectives.

    In terms of the content marketing, that is true, we do try and push out more professional idenitities now…but you are now in the full time consultancy business. Content marketing pays the bill. I see no problem with this because your content aligns to your values of open learning

    1. Thanks Greg, I appreciate your kind words – and comments of any kind in this age of social networking!

      I’d definitely encourage you to keep screens out the bedroom. I find that if I need to read something immediately in the morning, if my brain craves stimulation, then Baltasar Gracian’s maxims (which I read on repeat) do the trick!

      Great suggestions about the political mix, and thanks for sharing your Feedly links! I’m trying to enlarge my locus of control and reduce my locus of concern:

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