Here is a nice web app for Twitter built by Alexander Taub and Michael Schonfeld. It’s very simple and straight forward, asking “who’s your MVF” – most valuable follower. You login via Twitter and authorise the app to dig around in your follower list, and after a few moments it tells you which of your followers has the largest following. OK, so it’s not necessarily your most valuable, but your most popular – even still, it’s an interesting question to ask of any audience.
One of the most powerful ways of engaging people, creating change and yes, transforming the world in which we live, is to tell stories. From Homer to Perez Hilton, from the Bible to the Simpsons, stories continue to shape our lives. And at the heart of the story has always been the desire to connect – between the author and the reader, the storyteller and the audience. This strange, sometimes antagonistic bond is as much part of the storytelling tradition as words themselves.
Interestingly, the production and distribution of stories also seems to have come full circle. We started with the bards who would memorise, distribute and share Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey for a few sheckels. One has to ask, “was the fall of Troy really a military victory or a massively successful word of mouth campaign?” It took Heinrich Schliemann centuries to uncover the truth.
Realising that knowledge and power were close bed fellows, the church accumulated vast stores of manuscripts. Cloistered away in abbeys across Europe, monks copied and created, philosophised and imagined – all the while contributing to a precious body of knowledge protected by the fortress-like walls of places like the Vatican Library.
Centuries of work would be swept away with the invention of the printing press, beginning a process which would not just share knowledge but transform our very notion of intelligence. Matching the newly literate population’s thirst for knowledge, whole industries sprang up – schools, printing houses, publishers – and of course, the mass media. Each of these cordoned off a market of their own in an attempt to capitalise on the changes coursing their way through society’s veins. Walls sprang up, money exchanged hands. The knowledge drug had us all hooked.
A century or two on, these walls are also crumbling. In minutes we can create our own blogs and websites, write our own stories and share them with the world. And with sites like Blurb.com, we can take these stories and share in the great literary and social phenomenon of authoring a book.
Last year, Mark Pollard and I, concerned at the mental health and substance abuse issues confronting young men, we reached out to colleagues, friends and family, asking for their stories and their experiences. We pulled it together into a powerful collection of short stories entitled The Perfect Gift for a Man. We published is using the Blurb.com self-publishing platform, donating the money raised to the Inspire Foundation’s Reach Out program.
Projects like this are now much easier for qualifying not-for-profit organisations. Blurb for Good enables citizen philanthropists to create, market and sell books – with a special page in the Blurb bookstore, and access to the BookShow widget (see below).
But how easy is it? I used the Blurb BookSmart software to create a family holiday picture book in about three hours. I had the photos and an idea and I got it done. You can too.
But the best thing about this, for me, is that NFP authors can apply to Blurb to receive an additional contribution from Blurb for every book sold. So, not only do you keep 100% of the profits from the sale of the book, you get access to a secure online shopfront, tools to help you market your book and a little extra cash to help change the world. Sound good? Check out Blurb for Good. Happy book making!
Self publishing is one of the amazing developments of the “social web”. Not only can we simply and easily share insights, analysis, stories, poems, movies, music or any other types of creative work – thanks to applications like Blurb.com, we can also turn these into publications – books, calendars and so on.
I have been involved in a number of collaborations that bridge the digital and offline worlds. There has been the marketing focused Age of Conversation books, my own self publishing efforts around blogging, and most recently, The Perfect Gift for a Man.
The Perfect Gift for a Man was a book that Mark Pollard and I edited and published through Blurb. But when it came to promoting the book, there was nothing that made it easy for us to share the book across the web (we ended up creating our own image based widget). Now, Blurb is trialling a new widget that allows you to embed, share, preview and buy books directly from your blog. I think it’s a huge and much needed improvement. Here it is below:
Malcolm Gladwell has suggested that it takes 10,000 hours of dedication to become an expert. But what exactly is “an expert”? Some definitions suggest that it is to do with specialist skill or knowledge; while others indicate that expertise can only be arrived at through practising (ie doing).
Regardless of whether expertise is achieved through research, thinking or “doing”, there is no doubt that reading plays a major part in the claim to expertise. Of course, one must also be able to communicate what you learned from reading, but think about it – how many books would you read a year? And how many blogs? How much of books and blogs (and for that matter, other sources of knowledge such as podcasts, ebooks, youtube videos etc) contribute to your understanding of your specialist skill? How do you translate it to your professional life – or the practise of your passion?
In 2007, a Washington Post survey indicated that the average American read four books a year. So what happens when you increase your quota of learning? What happens if you read one book a month – or 12 books a year. In five years, the average American will have read 20 books, and you will have read 60.
And according to the Pew Internet Study (July 2008), only 24% of American adults read blogs (only 11% read blogs daily). But I wonder how many blogs does this cover? One? One hundred? Maybe it doesn’t matter. Again, what would happen if you increased your consumption of blogs? If you read blogs, you are already consuming more knowledge (or perhaps gossip, cooking tips, renovation ideas etc) than almost 90% of Americans. But what would happen if you double your effort? What if you also WROTE? Or SHARED? Or REINTERPRETED?
While the figures are interesting, the real point about expertise is that it requires effort. No matter whether you are an expert at ADVISING or DOING or even KNOWING a particular topic, you don’t get anywhere without LEARNING first – and may I add, learning CONTINUOUSLY.
I constantly read books and blogs. I consume all manner of media, but I am drawn to the type of knowledge that I can deploy as a SERVICE to others. And at the moment I am reading or re-reading some outstanding books. I have tagged them using Booktagger.com. I would encourage you to check them out. But for something a little more immediately gratifying, take a spin through my blogroll – it’s all A-grade quality thinking.