Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Six little words

red and white baby girl booties with flower motifsImage by Funky Shapes via Flickr
"For sale: baby shoes, never worn"

Last week Carissa Bub ran a KIN Masterclass on 'Journalism Skills for Knowledge Sharing'. One of the exercises demonstrated the art of succinct story writing (rather than story telling). We were asked to pen a tale of only six words, chosen from a list of only one hundred.

We quickly found that the maxim 'less is more' is perfectly true. What to leave out? What's the narrative? And most importantly, the question every editor asks; 'so what?'

'Lunchtime gossip; wrong friends, no job" was my meagre effort.

My reason for participating was that I intend writing some new KIN case-studies and wanted to learn how to communicate more effectively using the written word. I suppose that should be the typed word.

By the end of the day even those responsible for communicating dry, technical stuff saw how stories can engage rather than just convey. For example, what's the story behind the change in policy?

In case you were wondering, the 'baby shoes' story was written by Ernest Hemingway. When you stop and think about the nuance of those six words, the man was a genius. Have a go yourself and you will see what I mean.

Here are a couple of good websites on storytelling using six words:

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Friday, 21 October 2011

So where was I?

Recent attendees at the KIN 10th anniversary workshop may have noticed that I was not there. This is a somewhat unusual occurrence since the KIN facilitators always attend every quarterly workshop and this one was a biggie. So why wasn't I there and where was I?
Well I was in sunny California attending the first Google Top Contributors Summit.

As you are may be aware, KIN decided last year to migrate their online MemberSpace to Google Sites. To facilitate this migration, I immersed myself in Google Sites to learn as much as possible to ensure we built an online repository that provided KIN members with what they needed. In the early days of this, I found the Google help forum for Sites and asked a few questions. Very soon, I found I was answering more questions than I was asking. One of the side benefits of answering other people's questions - and looking at other people's answers - was that I learnt more about the product. And it became a bit of a hobby. I was enjoying the learning experience and sharing knowledge with other Sites users. I even built my own website to help with answering frequently (and some not so frequently) asked questions. After a few months, I was invited by Google to become part of the Google 'Top Contributors' community. This gave me direct access to a 'Google Guide' for Sites, some moderation 'powers' in the help forum and some advance warning of and exposure to forthcoming changes to Google Sites.

The TC Summit
And then earlier this year, out of the blue, Google decided to invite  all of its Top Contributors (TCs) to a Summit meeting (expenses paid) on September 13/14th, part of which was to be held at their HQ at 'the Googleplex' in Mountain View, California.

Fortunately for me, Gary and Erica agreed that this was too good an opportunity to miss and that they could manage without me at the KIN workshop (and so it proved!)

Day 1 was held at the Santa Clara Marriot (right next door to Yahoo!) and was a full day of presentations and demos by Google employees including Senior VP of Knowledge, Alan Eustace and VP of Global Advertising and Product Operations, Francoise Brougher.

Day 2 was at 'the Plex'. Breakfast on Google's terrace was followed by product group breakout sessions. Naturally enough I attended the 'Docs and Sites' session where we were given demos of things to come. This was probably the most interesting session of the two days for me. Google are notoriously reticent about telling anyone what product developments they are working on so to have sight of what's in the pipeline (and some pure experiments that may never see the light of day) was a real treat. I am pleased to say that I am even more convinced that moving the KIN MemberSpace to Google Sites was the right decision! (Unfortunately I am bound by the same NDA that all TCs have to sign before they are allowed to be TCs, and so I can't tell you what I saw. But it was cool!)

In the afternoon was a tour of Google's campus, a stop at the Google store and a party on the terrace with loads of wine, beer and great food.

The best part about the whole event (apart from the free beer!) was the opportunity to meet and talk with people whom I had only ever interacted with 'on-line', both Googlers and non-Googlers. The level of trust and understanding just sky-rocketed! (Another highlight has to have been experiencing one of Google's 'space toilets'.)
The Googlers I met were all bright, enthusiastic (and so young!) and were plainly enjoying working for Google.

They're already talking about whether they do it again and I sincerely hope they do! (And, of course, that it doesn't clash with another KIN conference)

If you are interested, all the pictures I took at the summit can be seen here, and other photographs I took while I was on holiday with my family on the days either side of the summit are here.

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