I’ve been reading a bit recently on the subject of LinkedIn endorsements. Various “experts” delivering their wisdom on the how’s and wherefor’s. Paraphrasing, the conventional wisdom is increasingly along the lines, “don’t go crazy, don’t accept every endorsement you’re recommended for if they are not in areas you are trying to promote. Whittle the list down to a short list of those skills crucial to your brand.” And even: “Send a message to the person who recommends you for a less useful skill and ask them to recommend you for one more central to your cause.” Seriously?!
Back when I was just a little chickadee on Twitter, I was ever dutiful, every time someone followed me, I was sure to say: “Thanks for following!” When the volume of followers picked up significantly, thanks to a now defunct application called “Tweetspinner” my sincere thank you was fully automated: “Thanks for following! Thanks for following! Thanks for following!…” ad nauseum.
One of our clients was recently published in a blog article listing the top 100 tech recruiters on twitter. Congratulations to us for a job well done you may say. Well, don’t uncork the champagne just yet. This certainly wasn’t all our own work. It takes dedication on both sides of the coin to create a successful presence in social media.
In social media and technology, we often talk about things as if they are brand spanking new concepts when in fact they’re old as dirt. Speaking of dirt, we were on one of our Sunday walks this past weekend when we happened upon a colourful and odd scene: a plowing competition, some might call a “tractor pull”.
We were way up on a hillside somewhere in the Guildford (Surrey, England) area. We were just about to begin a “six mile” hike – this became a hotly debated topic later as we were nursing (at least I was) tired feet and legs, I’m sure it was at least 8 miles. Anyway, we had a spectacular view of the surrounding countryside from our perch. As we surveyed the area, we picked out a field full of moving tractors of various sizes and descriptions. They were generally running in parallel though sometimes in alternate direction across a field approximately the size of two football pitches. We entertained various theories as to what was going on, the men in the group competing to be the first to provide the definitive explanation – naturally. Someone suggested a tractor pull but we weren’t convinced so we scrambled down the hillside to get a closer look and determine more precisely what the heck was up.
As we got closer the scene took on more purpose and life though we still weren’t sure of the “purpose”. There was the sound of gurgling tractor engines not quite in tune with each other but producing the kind of cacophony that would delight a young child and in some cases brightly painted tractors some of which were clearly of vintage origin, painstakingly restored by their owners.
As the saying goes, “You can take the man out of the boy but you can’t take the boy out of the man”. My two male companions’ (ok, mine too!) eyes lit up with that boyish enthusiasm our wives almost surely dread. Our partners by the way stood knowingly in the background as our “friendly” had begun, there was a race to find the right person to talk to who could describe the proceedings so that one lucky bloke could report back to the group their clever “research findings” – the first person we asked confessed that they had no idea and were just holding on to their brother’s dog.
Well, I won’t say who won the battle for information – ok, I’m sure I was the first to know but that’s really not what’s important in my story here(lol!). In any case, “one” of us confirmed that it was indeed a tractor pull, a contest to see who could plow their plot the best as judged according to a number of categories, i.e., straightness, firmness, amount of rubbish removed, etc.
What struck me the most was not all the in and outs of plowing, the fine points of tractor art, but the idea that at the end of the day, the field owner had for himself quite a large plot of plowed land – for free! Ok, maybe the plowing wasn’t perfect but surely the plot would yield some reasonable percentage of consumable if not marketable crops. No different than any open source platform, Wikipedia or OpenOffice. I could imagine that if the contest were allowed to continue on the same plot for a couple of days, those who plow the best continuing to compete in a process of elimination, by the end of the second day, you would have a plot indistinguishable from the most perfectly plowed piece of farmland. Again, open source programs work the same way, iteration after iteration eventually produces something useful, if not cutting edge.
Having a tractor pull as a formal competition – “gamification” - ensures that there is a result and a result that should meet a minimum standard. But also fascinating to me was the fact that while there is fierce competition between the plowers, they had to work cooperatively with their competitors; while each competitor is working in a small section of the field, they all have to make sure that their rows line up with abutting plots. It’s not necessarily a benefit for them to race ahead if their rows won’t match up with someone starting from an opposite side and corner.
Of course, once we had gotten a “lay of the land”, pun intended, and established the winner of our own, we were soon searching for the next point of interest. But what stayed with me long past was another example that “crowdsourcing”, “open source”, “collaboration”, “gamification”, words us digital folk use with sometimes nauseating frequency, are truly old concepts leveraging new technologies.
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