Thursday 2 August 2012

How to be yourself at Google Plus by being Useful and Unique by Mike Downes

Monty Roberts Join Up
What is my part in this? It's been a year since I've been at Google Plus. Every day, I ask myself the same question on how I use this platform a little but better each day. So far, after sitting in  more than 1,300 Hangouts and posting more than 6,000 times, all I know is I want to start again.

My bags are packed and I'm ready to go (into the second year). So, what have I accomplished in year one?

In many ways, being brutally honest, absolutely nothing. I can only compare the complete vision in my head to what I ultimately see as a finished item.  As Google+ and Hangouts resemble just a small portion of their potential. I have to give more and more importantly to the people who are the life and soul within it.

Monty Roberts said he goes about each day trying to achieve in 15 mins what most people achieve in ten hours. He was talking about Join-Up and his work in training horses. If you've even seen the Horse Whisperer you will know more about natural horsemanship. More about  later.

Ernest Hemingway
Many would disagree saying I have achieved nothing is unfair. I sit on twenty one thousand followers, a verified tick by my name and more bat phones to high level and intelligent people than I could shake a stick at. I'm involved in many exciting projects that leave me breathless, but all of it leaves me unfulfilled. I could do more.

Will there be a time when we can fly? I would measure this by being able to find what you are looking for by having the ability to use the tools you are given. To achieve this, you have to put in the effort to educate yourself and learn. I've had many discussions with people, who just have not looked in the right places. They haven't even tried.

For example, I shared a question mark [?] to get to a Gmail short cut menu (the post had 282 shares). People were delighted, but why? Maybe it surprised them, maybe it was useful or maybe it was just simple and effective.

Google (and many other people) are giving us, often for free, the chance to carve out a new life. It's now taken almost for granted, that everywhere should have wifi and a cracking 3g signal. Video and Hangouts are  changing the way we communicate. Google wants to make it just like real life - and that's where the trouble starts.

The Writing Hut and Roald Dahl 
I'm in with the in crowd; I go where the in crowd goes. Please don't. I'll say that again, please do not chase someone else's dream. Be yourself and say what you want to say, often from your heart. Do not let anyone influence you. If you have to shut yourself away, close the curtains and sit for away from the world before you find your own words, then so be it.

Many people, have an inbred passion, Google Plus has many of these people already, but for many others, it's hard. For me as the ex teacher, it's like someone copying someone else's work. Don't do it. When I talk to people in Hangouts and they tell me all they do all day is post cr*p and share even more cr*p. I just think - Why? 

When I read advice like using the right title, keywords, identifying social influencers, commenting on their posts, sharing strategically and then create your own posts that fulfil  a target audience - it both nauseates and worries me in equal measure. I think of J K Rowling sat penniless in a Scottish Cafe writing the first Harry Potter book and wonder if she was optimizing the first few chapters. My guess, she was writing from her heart (just like Hemingway, Dahl and Berne without a laptop or wifi in sight).

Another buzzword phrase is Content is King. What does it really mean? Who knows. Can you hang your hat up on it? Nope. I would rephrase as create something useful and unique by being yourself. The web is one place with Google+ as one of the others where passions collide. I like to think of it as the one person who breaks away from the camp fire and goes for a wander. Little did that person know they would find someone else on a pinnacle staring across a valley tentatively raising a hand into a wave to a new found friend.

Eric Berne in simple writing mode
When I'm feeling blue, all I have to do is take a look at you. What I mean by that is giving you the space to think, the time to see literally the wood from the trees. I often think of a forest, some hills and a river that settlers sought as essential to make it their home. I ask myself, if things were real simple without the laws, the confusion and even the electricity - what is the simplest it can be?

Chasing the Muse. I put together a few ideas from what I thought mixed in with the books I've read. For me, Creative Non fiction is something we can all practice. It's just telling a story well. In the context of Google Plus posting, blogging or even short videos, here they are:

•  Art happens when you are not looking
•  Find the human story
•  Pretend we have all the time in the World
•  Take the long large view
•  Start on One Small Corner of Common Ground
•  Challenge is to make it large – significant- without making it long
•  Choose the most interesting point of view
•  Take it to a new level of elegance and emotional honesty. The reader places himself in the story and  measures the experience against the truth of his own life

Nature Boy There was a boy, A very strange enchanted boy, They say he wandered very far, very far Over land and sea. As a teacher, I was asked countless numbers of times why I did it. I never had an answer. There isn't one. The closest I got was to say, It's in my nature. By that I mean, altruism. I suffer the same fate at Google+ .. If someone asks, I will help them. I cannot do it another way. George Orwell wrote the short essay Why I write. In it, he tells how, Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness.

I could compare it to GPS (Google Plus Syndrome) where I've heard of people spending 15 hours a day in hangouts, getting withdrawal symptoms from the +1 button and even spending so much time at plus, they end up deleting their entire account (only to return a few weeks later to say, where'd my followers go!?).

Stand and Deliver, your money or your life. One of the recent mysteries is the trigger happy nature of the Google plus stream. It seems, people are jumping up and down more than a kid on a fun fair trampoline. Usually at the site of a post by Google on a new feature.

Monty Roberts and Queen Elizabeth II
I've honestly lost count on the amount of hangouts I've been in or comments I've responded to where people are moaning, speculating and threatening Google with all sorts of inaccuracies. If these people were served a buffet of sausages and rolls (along with fifty other finger snacks), they would complain how unfair it is that Sausage Rolls were not there. I really find this quite amusing. There is no need for it. However, Google want Hangouts to be just like real life. Guess what, they are getting there .. just like children in the playground falling out and arguing just before Summer Break. To understand more, go visit The Games People Play by Eric Berne.

Join Up. Let me leave you with one story that makes me want to carry on. Sometimes, there are people who arrive in this world and do things a different way. One of those is Monty Roberts. I was fortunate enough to meet him. 

For those who do not know, Monty is an American horse trainer who promotes his techniques of natural horsemanship through Join-Up International. As a child in the 1940s breaking in horses was traditionally violent. Monty found a new way, by working in partnership with each horse by communication and herd behaviour. This was not without risk as crossing his own father often meant beatings and broken bones. Monty did not give up. There is a lesson there for us all.  

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