For/Against

The people who I see making the most progress in community building (at any level) are the ones who can effectively articulate the things that they are working toward, what they're for, and then get other people excited about different ways to make that happen.

The people who I see doing the most damage to community building efforts are the ones who only seem able to talk about the things they are against.

Maybe you recognize these different profiles?

For...

  • Is usually dreaming about ways to make something better
  • Celebrates existing strengths and accomplishments as a foundation to build on
  • Understands possibilities for the future, describes them well
  • Lets their ideas evolve as they get feedback
  • Connects with stakeholders and figures out how to help
  • Engages through questions, observation and collaboration

Against...

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Post Fact

What do you do if you find yourself living in a world where facts no longer matter to most people?

From the New York Times coverage of the historic British vote to leave the European Union:

The British campaign featured assertions and allegations tossed around with little regard to the facts. Both sides played to emotion, and the most common emotion played upon was fear.

Sound familiar?

Sure, it could describe the current U.S. Presidential campaign, but it could also describe myriad other campaigns about the environment and climate change, energy, food and health, poverty, war, immigration, politics, economics, laws and justice...the list goes on.

If there's an issue being debated, there's probably someone out there making an argument that is not based in fact and that plays upon our fears. Unfortunately, those are probably also the most well-funded, successful players in the campaign. Anyone asking for a reasoned, logical, fact-based approach are probably drowned out quickly if they're ever even heard at all.

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Zombie analysis paralysis

How many everyday decisions do you tackle through the filter of "what does this mean for the coming zombie apocalypse?"

I'm worried the number is kind of high for me.

For example, when my eye doctor's office asks me how many sets of contact lenses I want, I don't have a fast answer. I could base it on price, maybe a guess about how long it will be until my prescription might renew or change. Most people do this calculation quickly in their head and respond.

My mind wanders into the territory of "will I be able to see when I am running from the zombies?" If I stockpile too many sets of lenses now, it's possible they'll expire before I can get through them all - doomsday scenarios could be a ways off - but if I don't get enough, I could find myself nearsighted at just the wrong moment, missing the faint silhouette of a brain-thirsty member of the undead off in the distance and losing precious seconds to act.

(The "zombie apocalypse" is of course shorthand for any number of dramatic world-changing events that could leave me and presumably some other humans alive but fighting for survival while deprived of most or all modern conveniences like power, clean water and Prime shipping. Global political/social unrest, catastrophic climate change, accidental nuclear launches, etc. just begin the list of events that could match an actual zombie outbreak in impact, but it helps me focus by summing it all up with "zombies.")

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Blogging insecurities

(In a future post I'll discuss this list and where it fits into my own experience of writing and blogging. For now, I give you a partial list of blogging insecurities as collected from many conversations over the years about what keeps us from hitting "Publish" - please comment to add others you've encountered.)

What if my words doesn't make sense?

What if someone else has already written a better post about this topic?

What if my post is too long?

What if my post is too short?

What if the moment has passed?

Should I update or replace my WordPress theme before writing this?

My TTFB seems high, maybe I should fix that before publishing?

Maybe I need a new keyboard that will help me write better?

What if there's some more important use of my time?

What if I'm not meant to be a writer?

What if I offend someone with my views?

What if I don't challenge or provoke any useful conversation with my views?

What if this post is too personal?

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The End of College?

I found this interview with author Kevin Carey about "The End of College" to be very much worthwhile. He talks about shifting understandings of the value of higher education, the ways in which college replicates privilege, why college is so expensive, and what college might look like in a few decades.

Carey's main prediction is that a handful of very expensive and elite schools will survive in the traditional model while the rest of higher education shifts to online tools and offline experiences that aren't concentrated in a specific location.

Some sort of major shift seems inevitable. As I watch my own alma mater Earlham College wrestle with increasing costs against the backdrop of a highly competitive admissions landscape, I have to wonder if I would spend the money to send my own children to a place like it.

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OMG, Best. Post. Evaaar.

HyperboleThese days it feels like hyperbole has completely taken over the world.

Err, that is...well, let me explain.

There's a lot of information being thrown at us all the time (news, entertainment, advertising, status updates), and a near-constant drive to try to make that information compelling, interesting or just weird enough to stand out from all the rest (think cable news, YouTube videos, all of the people making a living on various forms of marketing, political rhetoric).

It's a bit understandable, then, that in our daily communications we are tempted to exaggerate and embellish things. How else will our commentary about how life-changing this bowl of soup is stand out against all of the other commentary about how earth-shattering that coffee drink is or how vitally important that cute baby animal video is??

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Home is where the branding is

Coffee!When I was eating breakfast at home recently, I took an inventory of the number of corporate brands that were on display to me as I sat at our kitchen counter.

The fridge, oven, toaster, etc. were obvious ones but then I started noticing brand names on things like a pair of speakers, the cookware and the ceiling fan, and the count went up to 15+.

There are probably more I'm missing. And that's before I even open up the pantry to look at food packaging - oh my.

You've probably seen the studies that say the average U.S. resident is exposed to many thousands of advertising/branding messages per day. Sometimes these studies seem a bit exaggerated, but I still think about the core point that my brain is consuming brand and advertising messaging all day long.

As I've gotten older and I feel like my brain is less sponge-like for being able to take in all the information I can throw at it, I've gotten more protective of what I fill it up with and what I use it for.

One way to do that is to not let brands advertise to me in my own home and in the spaces where I generally want the most control over how I feel, what I think about, and what messages I take in.

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