Blog Image

Nothing is new under the digital sun

I have started this blog under the real and generous sun in Montevideo, Uruguay

This blog is a reflection on my place as an individual in the increasingly digitalized society and life in general. Our places on Earth might be physical or metaphysical, few or many. We are constantly placing ourselves and other people as well as being placed by them. The Internet and related new technology allow us to do it faster, more efficiently but, probably, less thoughtfully...How to use these powerful resources for creating good things: insightful lectures, inspiring texts, long lasting relationships, deeper undestanding of life as it goes on? Those are thoughts that I want to share with my students, colleagues and friends.

Why do we write?

Internet marketing course 2012 Posted on Sun, March 11, 2012 22:27:44

I have been recently reading a great book by Eduardo Galeano, with the title “Open veins of Latin America”. The book starts with the introduction “In defense of the word”, where the author raises a very important question of why one is writing. The related question is how we can make ourselves heard and whom we can reach with our writing.

“One writes out of a need to communicate and to communicate with others, to denounce that which gives pain and to share that which gives happiness.

One writes against one’s solitude and against the solitude of others.

One writes, in reality, for the people whose luck or misfortune one identifies with – the hungry, the sleepless, the rebels, and the wretched of this earth – and the majority of them are illiterate.

How can we make ourselves heard in the midst of a deaf-mute culture?”

Those are some quotes from Galeano’s book and he wrote for his country, Uruguay and the whole Latin America whose story he wanted to change from abandonment to the strong voice of its own.

Not many of us have such grand goals in mind, however, if we consider the recent Kony 2012 narrative, it pursues the noble goal of liberating children, at least it looks like that.

What about less ambitious reasons for writing? Producing course papers, writing blog posts like this one, writing articles to be published (or not), writing diaries, writing posts in Facebook. Do we ever ask ourselves why we open a new Word document or an empty page? Is it necessary to have a special goal in mind when we write?

I have written papers, which I wish I have not even started. They were just written to get published. I have very few things written only because it was impossible not to write, things without a reason, task or deadline. And I think this is how it should be – we should write from our hearts, only when we are convinced that we cannot be silent.

Why do you write?

To blog or not to blog, that is the question after 8/03/12

Internet marketing course 2012 Posted on Mon, March 05, 2012 17:12:53

Finally, after 7 weeks of the course, we are approaching the date when we have to make a decision about our blogs. The last counts will be made soon and after that it is up to you to decide the fate of your blogs. What is a blog if not a conversation between people, both known and unknown? In a physical, off-line world blogging would be similar to gathering together with friends and strangers, on the regular basis, listening to what the hosts have to say, talking and planning the next meeting.

To stop these gatherings would mean that the conversation stops at this particular place but it will, most probably, go on at other, different locations and among different groups of people. What I mean is that any conversation that has happened once leaves traces in people’s souls and mind; it has a life of its own. It has accumulated a certain energy that cannot just disappear but can be transformed into another form.

All that means that, irrespective of what you do with your conversations, they will live further in one way or another. Either you keep them going or somebody else will take care of them. So the actual question is: do I care so much about my conversation with the readers that I want to be an active part of it? If yes, I stay in this room. If not, I let others take over. Both ways are possible and the choice is yours.

The value of the confused state

Internet marketing course 2012 Posted on Wed, February 22, 2012 13:14:35

The value of the confused state

Confusion about the ways to assess the quality of our blogs has been the recurring topic in the class. It has surfaced again during our last lecture and I’ve been thinking about it since that day. We have talked with Sean about this situation and tried to understand the source of confusion. First of all, is the confused state caused by the task itself (creation of a blog with a potential to grow and attract visitors) or the ways in which its outcome is judged (the grading criteria)? Second, what are the consequences of a certain number of students being confused that late in the course (consequences for us and students themselves)? Third and most important, in my opinion, how to deal with confusion in a constructive way?

I will try to come up with some reasonable answers to these questions. I will start from the positive note arguing that confusion is a most natural part of any learning process. Moreover, it is a natural part of any creative process, which our blogging can be clearly identified with.

What is confusion really?

The dictionary provides several definitions. To name a few, beings confusion is feeling or exhibiting an inability to understand something; a disordered state of mind. It is, basically, a partial or, sometimes, even a complete lack of understanding about the (unknown) situation or the preferred course of actions. The perceived inability to control the situation and foresee its outcome makes us confused (bewildered, disoriented, etc).

Most new situations and projects involve periods of confusion felt by many as a discomfort of not knowing something beforehand. In most cases we deal with this feeling by trying to make sense of a new situation by, in the first hand, focusing on things we understand and, by doing so, building the solid ground for new discoveries. This process involves an active search of knowledge, its critical assessment and either its usage to improve our understanding (and lessen confusion) or its abandonment in search for new and more relevant truths.

Confusion is the major vehicle of creation. Picasso understood that better than anyone else. He wrote: “The act of creation is first of all an act of destruction”.

Moreover, feeling completely at ease with a new situation is an act of self-deception: “If you are sure you understand everything that is going on, you are hopelessly confused” [Walter Mondale]

In any new project it is wiser to start with fewer instructions and let things unfold than to begin with the explicitly coherent but inherently flawed set of clear rules. That was exactly the case with our blogging when 1) there were no clear established rules available to us 2) the seemingly relevant rules needed to be tested and modified. A new and untested project like ours required a certain degree of freedom from rules to begin its growth. This is why our goal in the beginning was:

The major task is to make the blog successful and attract traffic to it (measured by specific metrics at the end of the course)

The first measurement parameters mentioned were number of unique visitors while badges were introduced as extra credits. Although arguably contradictory and incomplete, the number of unique visitors makes the growth visible. It has never been introduced as a major assessment criterion. Badging has been dealt with accordingly.

We have arrived at 7 assessment criteria later on in the course and felt that they were really thought through. “Unique visitors” is not even a single criterion but a part of the one.

What all this tells us about the existing state of confused affairs? I would say that those who dealt with confusion in a constructive way focused on the task as such (growing the blog), fine-tuned the tactics when the rules have finally crystallized or, even better, actively influenced the process by suggesting us how to change certain rules (e.g. badging). The constructive critique, which was also timely, has helped us to make the rules more relevant for all. Thank you guys (you know who you are) for that!

Those who stayed confused about the criteria or anything else in the course are still fighting the confusion. I would say to those: stop fighting it! Fighting the confusion only makes it worse. Blaming others (us) won’t help either. Confront it and do something about it.

Some possible steps:

1. Identify what confuses you. Name it.

2. Talk with us or your friends about it.

3. Seek the missing information.

4. Ask: how can I deal with it?

5. Maintain a long term perspective – what would I think about this project in a couple of years?

Allow confusion to be what it should be – the catalyst of creativity!

At the end, being confused was our primary goal with this course!

“What do we want to achieve with this course – Confuse you by questioning things you take for granted!”

The value of setting high goals

Internet marketing course 2012 Posted on Mon, February 06, 2012 01:00:55

Some of you have told me that I set too high expectations in this course, especially in the individual assignment. I wrote back to one student that this was true, although I did not realise it myself at this moment. This is true – I want you to achieve your highest potential in both theoretical and practical parts of this course.

Studies have shown that teachers’ expectations have a profound effect on the academic achievement of students while managers’ expectations influence the productivity of their staff. Managers with high expectations about their employees motivate the people around them to perform well, while those with poor expectations cause their staff to become dependent and unproductive. Throughout the academic and business world, expectations have the power to become self-fulfilling prophecies. To put it simple, you become what you and others believe you to become.

The special value of setting high goals and, by doing so, choosing the hard way is the appreciation of one’s achievement when the goal has been reached.

The quote below and the foillowing text is taken from the inspiring Facebook page My attitude- My life – My rules (The group Share and Inspire knows these guys!)

If everything was easy, nothing would be worth it.”

The things in life that we work the hardest for, will be the things in life that we will remember and cherish the most, while the things in life that come to us with no struggle, will be memories made that we will remember sparingly. Your work ethic is a good indicator of the type of character that you have now and will develop in the future,… and is also a good indicator that a person has reached high levels of maturity, because not everyone agrees with the fact that the things that come easiest arent always worth accepting. It takes a hard worker, a worker who is willing to roll up their sleeves instead of turn up their noses in the face of adversity, to make value out of the things that they know that they must work towards in an effort to make their life, their life, instead of just producing a meaningless one.

I cannot agree more! And you?

About Facebooking and blogging

Internet marketing course 2012 Posted on Mon, January 30, 2012 00:10:41

The second week of the course had two milestones: the seminar about Facebook and the intensified competition of our group bloggers.

The topics discussed at the seminar seem to reveal some typical behaviours that all of us have been engaged in for a long time on-line – stalking and showing off. Several brave and self-critical students dared to call things their real names. Good for you and all of us! I could not stop discussing these behaviours with my friends at dinner the same night and got a lot of input. The alternative explanation we arrived at was the detioration of our socialization skills in general, which makes the supeficial way to communicate our best choice. This means that some of us do not want to communicate off line anymore, or at least not as much as we used to do. This is really scary!

By the way, some people I know and respect have intentionally left the digital communication space and limited it to the occasional e-mails and Skype calls. Back to the physical world. If I’m not mistaken, one group has blogged about several celebrities announcing their digital deaths and collecting money from their fans (spent on good causes) in order to come back. Some of us might consider that soon :))) some might even get rich or at least famous.

The second happening of the week was the intensifying competition for attention, blog awareness and traffic that has caused the intense publishing activity by some groups. I have also experienced the increased amount of news on my private Facebook account from the “be-friended” groups. Still bearable though…but what happens if all decide to be-friend me? Some of your have raised concerns about the ways to earn the publicity, the high number of unique and repeat visitors, and, in that way, to win the competition. Does the noble goal justify all possible means to it? Is it ethical to spam? Is it right to be-friend people to use them as communication channels? What do we win by pushing our context into the throats of our readers/listeners? Do we win in the long run? Or do we lose at the end? Well, if we don’t push our way up, we will, probably, get lower number of visitors but, on the other hand, trust and respect from those few who came freewillingly. I vote for those few…

Well, I would like to hear what you think! Please, share your thoughts with me!

The first week thoughts

Internet marketing course 2012 Posted on Thu, January 19, 2012 12:48:45

Our course is on and running, with a speed that has exceeded our expectations. Today, on Thursday, January 19th, we already have 13 functioning blogs on our course Facebook page. You guys are amasing when you do what you like and in the ways you like!

The active presence of the course on the Facebook has completely erased the boundaries between the classroom and the living room, at least for me, since the intention to go and check what is happening on is too strong! I feel that I also have to keep that pace, if not by posting the exciting videos and pictures then, at least, by some ideas worth sharing with you and, hopefully, some other readers.

My major challenge and dilemma with this course is how to make sense of the technologies that have already changed our ways to communicate, teach, learn, develop relationhips, etc. These technologies, which I’m only starting to learn more about, are extremely powerful and too easy-to-use. By saying that they are TOO easy, I mean that their user-friendliness allows us to do things on-line without questioning them and, probably, even do things we would have refrained from doing off-line (e.g. check on each other’s photos).

Another issue with these technologies is their extreme appeal for action. We are not only engaged in the behaviours that we would have hardly imagined doing off-line but we are also encouraged to act faster and faster. For example, in our course you have to set up your blogs fast to be able to develop them into valuable assets in 8 weeks. Choosing the topic, title, target audience and first content as well as people to work with in a time-span of few hours! The rest of time wil be spent on making good sense of what you have created: personally, in a group and together with your readers.

That sense-making will ideally take place not only at your group meetings on- and off-line but also during our meetings at lectures and seminars. The stuff you are going to read is fragmented, not always nicely framed, repetitive. You will have to package and re-package it on your own and to read it selectively. I’m at your disposal to discuss the ideas we have not mentioned in the class. We can do it here, on the Facebook page and, of course, when we meet.

To finish the today’s reflections:

You can’t think your way into a new way of living; you have to live your way into a new way of thinking.



start tomorrow 16/01/2012

Internet marketing course 2012 Posted on Sun, January 15, 2012 23:02:28

Exciting! Our brand-new course starts tomorrow. Since June 2011, Sean Duffy and I have brainstormed this course as it evolved. Topics have been chosen, articles picked up, frameworks designed. We have mailed back and forth, most recently (for 3 last weeks) between Montevideo in Uruguay and Malmö in Sweden. Many times I wondered whether all that would work at all…But now, we are at the very start, with all resources needed and our enormous motivation to make this course work! This is the first time when I have basically NO idea of how my teaching will go and especiallyhow it will end up. And this is what makes me so thrilled. I know that Sean,probably, feels the same…The stakes are high and the game is on. Good luck, Sean, my students and myself!