Living with an early adopter of new and social media is one of my professional secret weapons. Not so secret anymore given that I'm posting it here.
I'm married to and work in an office adjacent to Brad Rourke. In terms of new media, this is sort of like being in the advanced math class and sitting next to the class star -- it makes you better but it also shows you what's possible that you're not doing. Brad has been blogging since the 1990s, before the term was invented, and now has a popular city blog, a professional blog, and is experimenting with a micro blog focused on philanthropy. He had one of the first MP3 players (a Rio that held four songs), the first digital cameras and iPods, and a Flip video camera long before even the trendsetters buzzed about it. He was Facebooking and Twittering when it was something only "the kids did." Since then he has incorporated Skype and Seesmic. Now he's helping civic organizations use these tools and the big concepts behind them to further their missions.
What all this means for me is that by osmosis I find myself ahead of the game. I'm more likely to know what's out there before many others do and I get to see someone who's very adept at using these tools figure out how to maximize their potential. Using them myself can be another matter. While I'm no technophobe, I'm not a gearhead either. And coming from a print media background I've always had long lead times and many rounds of edits to get everything just right. So, it goes against my natural impulse to put things in writing on the fly in the way that social media outlets require. But I'm learning. Proximity to the early adopter also means that I can get frustrated when my adoption of these tools is less than smooth. I have to ask for help with simple things even as I see the next new tool coming around the bend.
What I'm learning is to focus in on the tools that are right for me right now, expecting that I will add in more as they make sense for my work and goals. For now, that means daily and frequent use of Facebook (where my professional and personal lives meet), Twitter (only professional), microblog posts fed to Twitter and FB, and, new to me -- a short blog for which I prep a few posts at a time and schedule ahead.
When Brad and I first got married we did a lot of mountain biking. It was new to me but I loved it. The hard work, muscle and focus of climbing the big hills was my favorite part as opposed to zooming down the other side and feeling out of control. Brad would sometimes ride behind me on the downhill, urging me to let go and fly faster. Sometimes I did and sometimes I waved him on around me. Ultimately, we arrived at the same place in our own way.
While you may not be married to an early adopter, chances are there are some in your organization. Like the math whiz, get a seat next to them. And if you're the whiz, save a seat for an eager colleague.
Photo by: Flickr user Ian Wilson