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social media [change+camp] that matters


I’ve been attending a number of events lately that have loose and strong connections:

  • Social Media Camp – a conference for the social media industry
  • Victoria Change Camp – an unconference for social innovation put on by Social Innovators Network & volunteers
  • Welcome to the Board – a workshop on board leadership and governance organized by Volunteer Victoria

Social Media Camp

First, I want to talk about Social Media Camp, as it was a pretty huge event with a really broad spectrum of topics in the realm of media, marketing, communications, pop psychology, statistical, technical, platforms, design and more. Myself and the TEDxVictoria group attended with a very gracious invitation from the organizers of the conference. There is pretty clear cross-over between our communities as we are both into technology, the sharing of ideas, and a pretty keen appreciation for design and entertainment. We attended to do outreach, passed on the booth concept, and instead donned our branded t-shirts and roamed around freely with our mailing list signup forms on our iPads/Android Phones/iPhones/laptops. I’m not against booths at all, but there’s a lot to be said for the attendee experience and the natural emergence of good connections through conversations between sessions. We were also there to learn as a group, bat around ideas, debate the merit and value of trends and certain perspectives. For a group of people that work together for fun, this is a very important thing to do. You start getting a sense of how each other think and process things in front of you, have discussions and start sharing brain cells.

Here is what I got from some of my favourite talks:

  • Adrian J. Ebsary – Applying Research into Attention Economics. Sharp talk with some good research – he challenged some traditional notions surrounding social media, including the idea that some of the platforms are set up in a really unhealthy way. People may laugh at Google Plus, but it’s not the place where people erode hours of the lives staring at pictures of themselves and cat images with text over top of them. That place would be Facebook, and it’s a pretty narcissistic place and it is meant to be to retain an audience. There is danger in a constant inward outlook, as the oxymoron might suggest to you, and it is that when you only speak with people that think the same/similar way, you end up with an echo chamber. Growth potential becomes extremely limited. House of mirrors..
  • Janice Mansfield – Janice did a pretty straightforward talk on Google Plus but it was the demonstration of her different use cases that was most encouraging. Most of the material I share on Facebook does not come from Facebook, it comes from Google Reader/RSS and Google Plus, where people create and share original and compelling content. There are huge subject driven communities where really smart people share really great stuff. It is a different experience than other platforms, to be sure. You may end up smarter or more connected with subjects important to you after 15 minutes in this social ecosystem. This was a good reminder that most people I know are underutilizing a tool that could make them smarter on a consistent basis. I heard the criticism that people aren’t on Google Plus because their friends and family aren’t on there, which may be part of the draw. Well, if you’re really into a subject, do you really need to wait for your friends and family to be as well? That would be a very slow way of understanding the world around one’s self..
  • Russel Lolacher & David Hume – This talk was titled “Shifting culture and selling social – how to encourage internal support for new forms of engagement.” Let me distill that for you; this was really about leading organizational change at an enterprise level and generating value through strategic means rather than excessively focussing on the delivery method. There was a lot of honesty in this talk, and like Adrian’s, it was refreshing for that reason. One of the key points was “if you can’t explain value to your stakeholders, you’re lost.” Doesn’t matter if that’s over the phone, in front of a microphone, or through social media. Start with understanding purpose, and the methods will start gaining value after that. If you have got that down, then you can start adding value with some of the tools that social media provides, and you can measure it. Without some analytics and specific indicators, just doing social media for the sake of doing social media is just running around aimlessly.
  • C.C. Chapman – Keynote. C.C. Chapman may have spoken the least about Social Media technology and may have had the most useful message in the whole conference. Sure, develop your voice. Sure, develop your audiences. But if you’ve done this, but don’t have anything meaningful to share, then what have you really developed? A marketing channel for the highest bidder? There are far better ways to do that than the hours you could sink into social media. Find a subject that matters and has meaning to you and get behind that to make the world a better place. Hear hear.

I found it extremely easy to network as the conference’s attendee culture, subject matter, infrastructure and technology worked well together. Hashtags were well utilized and discussion was fast and frequent.

Change Camp

This one has faded from my memory a bit since it was a few weeks ago. I went to learn about how an unconference would work in practice – I’m used to a more top-down approach to curating and objective setting, and it was interesting to see what would emerge from the framework and gathering of people. One of the things I liked was at the beginning, which might explain how the unpredictability of the conference works to the advantage of relevant outcomes. This is taken from Harrison Owen’s Open Space Principles:

  1. Whoever comes are the right people
  2. Whenever it starts is the right time
  3. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
  4. When it’s over it’s over

In particular a very short talk by Ruben Anderson caught my interest, and it was on the topic of systemic problem solving, something I like thinking about (and hopefully I am a part of). I don’t gather this subject is generally well understood or appreciated, but it has a definite effect on everyone.

One of the sessions ended up being about how to break into the culture of change in Victoria. Being from Victoria, I didn’t know that it was difficult to break in – that’s my blind spot. I’ve never found it hard to get involved with causes and movements that mattered to me, but I’m not coming in as someone new. This reminded me that the need to open up spaces to new participants is important for the sake of fresh ideas and innovation at it’s core – by occupying a position in an organization for too long, for example, I may be a part of that problem. It’s a bit tricky to articulate, but I realized that my own movement is important. I know I am not short on having a voice, but from this session I learned that there are still plenty who have some challenges in this department, and getting out of the way is actually something I can do to be productive on a larger scale. I had suspected this from intuition, but actually hearing it from people who were new in the community made it concrete.

Welcome to the Board

Pretty much directly related to the above learning, Welcome to the Board was a workshop put on by an adjunct professor from UVic’s school of public administration in conjunction with Volunteer Victoria. It was about governance, effectiveness, conflict resolution, staffing and sustainability.

Putting in structures for terms of reference, roles, responsibilities, setting up committees and length of time “in office” made for a pretty relevant workshop. Building in set terms for board members means that new blood can enter the organization and a board can systemically fix the problem of being closed off.

I’m not sure how to apply this to committees, not sure if it’s needed, since members can come and go a lot more fluidly within that structure.

There were other learnings in here but I figure the structure and governance of boards, and focusing the purpose committees is something that I can use for many years to come at work and in my volunteer role(s), such as that with TEDxVictoria.

Primal Leadership


Leadership is a topic I gravitated towards in my business degree years ago. I stocked up on leadership electives and applied the concepts broadly in all of my other courses as much as possible, since one of the roots of business is leadership in essence. Whether you’re building a new company, changing the course of an existing one, or maintaining a the existence of an organization through turbulent economic conditions, leadership continues to matter, if not magnify. You can have all the hard skills in the world to run a business, but if you do not understand primal leadership, you’ll be running a business on your own. Possibly with no clients.

One of the best books I read on the topic of leadership wasn’t part of the curriculum at all. This one, Primal Leadership, was handed to me by a friend who travels the world and gives advice to nations looking to improve their health care systems. It’s a book by three authors, one of which you may know because he wrote the book on Emotional Intelligence.

Why should you bother with this book?

Short form: If you’re in a leadership position and you do not have a grip on this subject, you can unwittingly destroy your organization from the inside with ease. I’ve seen business owners annihilate their own organizations first hand because they didn’t understand how their decisions were affecting those around them. Myself, I have also done or said some things that I regret, after having understood this subject better through this book in particular.

Longer form: As a general theme, the focus on transformational development rather than transactional drilling means that the leadership role relates to the environment it exists in, ie the real world, where change is a certainty, and it has an affect on team members not just in energy terms, but also in emotional terms. Being aware of the emotional wellbeing of your team, clients, citizens, as well as yourself requires specific competencies, which we do not all have by default.

Four major concepts are explored through a variety of organizational and environmental lenses in story form and in straight up research-driven reporting:

  • Self-awareness – i.e. emotional self-awareness,accurate self-assessment and self-confidence
  • Self-management – i.e. self-control, transparency, adaptability, achievement, initiative and optimism
  • Social awareness – i.e. empathy, organizational awareness and service
  • Relationship management – i.e. inspiration, influence, development of others, catalyzing change, conflict management, teamwork and collaboration

As you may have guessed while reading that list, these concepts can explode into vast depth in book form.

They do.

This book has oodles of data and stories to explain why this approach matters so much. My opinion is that energy is precious, and we live in an economy of individual good-will, where people only put their best in if they feel they are valued and treated well. When that feeling leaves them, so does the prospect of their best energy, ideas, and ultimately work. Without emotional intelligence, our ability to count the currency of good will is abysmal at best.

With emotional intelligence, less time is spent on:

  • Replacing workers who have quit
  • Diagnosing systemic problems that are actually a failure to demonstrate trust
  • Trying to attract new customers, clients or partners
  • Making apologies to stakeholders
  • Resolving conflicts – though these will always exist – but how we handle the emotions of a conflict have a very direct affect on the duration of the conflict

With primal leadership, more time is spent on:

  • Curating innovations – matching energy from inside to relevance for clients, citizens and partners and adapting to the changing needs of the real world
  • Strategic HR planning – cultivation of the team’s talents into bigger, stronger and trusted roles
  • Having authentic relationships – this might sound fuzzy, but the power of authenticity is easily underrated by those who cannot pull it off. People who are authentic in their everyday lives are more efficient, achieve more, and really are just great people to be around because no one has to guess where they’re coming from. Think of someone you know who is authentic – it’s easy to see why this matters so much in an organizational environment. Especially so in leadership.

There’s quite a bit more that I could talk about, but I feel like I have said enough in this post for now. If you want to chat more about this subject in some sort of specific context, connect with me.


My letter to the publisher of the Nanaimo Daily News

Dear Hugh,

I started off by sending your parent network a letter to let them know what has been published in your paper, specifically the article titled “Educate First Nations to be Modern Citizens.”

While I am not surprised by the overtly racist opinions that still exist in Canada, I am deeply offended by the notion that you see it fit to publish and spread this hateful speech. Are your advertisers aware that their messages appear beside such regrettable material? Do you think they’ll be keen to advertise in the future? But that’s just business, and is the least of my worries.

What about the human cost?

Do you know what an oppressive world looks like? Do you know what an oppressive world feels like? Do you know that so much of oppression happens because of what people believe? And do you know so much of what people believe is based on what they hear from people and publications that they trust? Do you have any idea of how much power you have? Do you have any idea of how deeply you’ve misused it? How can you sleep knowing that you are actually making the world a worse place to live?

I can tell you what an oppressive world looks like. It looks exactly like your newspaper right now.

I sincerely hope you learn something from this.


Update: Nanaimo Daily has pulled the article, though fortunately and unfortunately, it lives on through the Huffington Post.

Update: Nanaimo Daily’s publisher, Hugh Nicholson, has issued an editorial clarification, in which he states “the letter should not have run“:

In the Wednesday edition of the Nanaimo Daily News, a letter to the editor ran from Mr. Dan Olsen, which has caused considerable consternation among some of our readers.

While we would defend Mr. Olsen’s right to hold and express his opinion, the sentiments expressed were entirely his own and in no way reflect the views of the newspaper.

The letter should not have run.
We apologize for any distress this may have caused our readers.

Hugh Nicholson
Division Manager

Stuff I am involved with that you should know about

Here are a bunch of things I am putting energy into and excited about – and I think I owe these things some attention and I could be doing a better job sharing what I’ve been involving myself in – in general.

  1. March 28, 2013 – Full Moon Party at Upstairs – I’m DJing as AFK at this event – lots of great music and surprises of the sleeves of the folks putting it on. Tickets are inexpensive and the night will be quite worth going out for. It’s not a school night – the next day is Good Friday!
  2. April 5th, 2013 – Symphony in the City at Uptown – this night will feature live music from Kytami, a photobooth and an instrument petting zoo as well as food and refreshments. I’ve been involved  in a marketing advisory role as a volunteer member of their Symphony in the City committee. I’m looking forward to this event as it’s for a good cause (fundraising for the Victoria Symphony) and combines great music with night life.
  3. April 6th, 2013 – TEDxVictoria’s Open House – Want to get inside the team that puts on Victoria’s own TEDx event? This is the best place to do it – here you can meet the team, TEDx speakers, mingle and find your own way to make this year’s event the best yet. I’m involved with TEDxVictoria more than ever before, and in many ways, this year is a big one for us. I am involved as a main Organizer and Director of Marketing and Communications. If you haven’t signed up for our eNewsletter yet, it’s the best way to stay in the loop about what we are doing.

That’s all I have time to say right now. Busy times ahead, many months in the making .. one thing leads to another.