Room to Make Mistakes and Change Your Mind

I’ve always been disturbed about political scorekeeping.  John Kerry famously got called a flip flopper for changing his mind about issues.  Isn’t revising your opinion and stance in the presence of new and additional information actually a good thing?  Isn’t this what we call – dare I say it- Thinking?  Particularly if you subscribe to Einstein’s notion that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting different results….

Now, in the New Media world, it seems there’s a bunch of scorekeeping going on.  People expecting perfection and consistancy from each other.  Everything meeting exacting standards (whose standards, I wonder….) but nonetheless, a level of perfection that simply is next to impossible to achieve.

New Media Trade Associations 

For example, there is a thought that maybe people involved in downloadable media should get together and try to set some standards about metrics, rate cards- something that moves independent content creation away from mere hobby and more formally into the rhelm of business.  There’s been a bit of a backlash in response as well.  Here’s how I see it.

1.  If we want to be treated like Independent Business professionals, freelancers, or media moguls, we needto start taking ourselves seriously.  And that means treating ourselves like professionals and not hacks.  It means acting like professionals as well.  If you believe that you can create your own experience and that you teach other people how to treat you, this means upping your game.  This may mean:

  • Finding a quiet place to make or take a phone call, and not always running your business out of Starbucks.
  • Creating a logo and stationary when you need it
  • Setting up a business account at a bank, even if you don’t go through the motions of creating a corporate structure or getting an EIN number for your business
  • Keeping business and personal funds separate, but also being willing to pay yourself out of business assets and accounting for it, just like if you were borrowing money from relatives.
  • Dressing up for business meetings
  • Creating a separate contact line, like through Grand Central, where the service can ring you wherever you are.
  • Establish a separate business website or hosted Blog for your business, with contact information, and maybe even a press kit.  Mommycast has a great one!
  • Have a separate email for business, and get business cards!

These may seem like obvious tips.  But when you are setting up a potential business for consulting or even as a hobby, all of these things will help you to take your business seriously, present yourself as an actual business person to others, and keep you out of trouble with  those pesky people at the IRS.

When you are starting a business or organization, there will be initial meetings.  People will get excited, and want to talk about it to their friends.  They may want to blog about it.   It may be well before you’re ready to launch something out for public critique.  And that can be the worst thing about trying to launch anything new.  Lots of punches before you even get into the ring.  And you know what?  That’s pretty unfair.

Le’ts Let People Work Stuff Out and Solicit Advice Without Piling On

We all have to experiment and talk to other people to get things right.  As PodCamp has grown, for example,  it has changed a bit and had growing pains. Chris Brogan got really nervous about whether the small conference he helped create with Chris Penn would scale up to the 1,300 people that signed up for PodCamp NYC and keep a PodCamp feel at the same time.  In the end, after many discussions with varying degrees of tension, blog posts and more, PodCamp NYC managed to keep Podcamp NYC a Podcamp, even it it had a bit more structure to it than before.  It’s when I coined my favorite phrase- “An Unconference does not mean it needs to be UnProfessional or UnOrganized.”

The nascent attempts to form a Trade Association for new media people may be a good thing, or it may not.  But one thing’s for sure- there’s going to need to be a lot of discussion before anything gets set in stone. Is there a membership fee?  (looks like it…)   What do you get for this fee?  Do you get support, help, access to standard contracts?  Access to something like a rate card, setting standards for the industry, so consultants and businesses a like have some sort of basic expectation to judge Consultant A from Consultant B?  Will this help keep track of people who do and do not know what they’re doing?  Is there going to be some sort of license or badge, like realtors have, or members of the National Restaurant Association have?  Will there be an arm in charge of monitoring legislation in DC and perhaps even lobbying or organizing grass roots political action on behalf of everyone in the association?

All of  these things might be part of the discussion, or they might not.  But I do know you can’t invite everyone to your house for dinner, nor could everyone with a potential interest in this area be invited to initial meetings.  This is not going to evolve overnight but is going to take a long time to work out- something those of us in new media often forget.

We are so used to instant gratification in the form of email, twitter, even plain ‘ol phone calls- seems hard to be patient enough to get any new project off the ground, especially when it is trying to organize a huge bunch of indepepdently minded people who are naturally allergic to anything that seems like “The Man”.  Part of podcasting is like Pirate radio- it’s all been about sticking it to the music licensing agencies.  But that doesn’t mean that all organizations, all lawyers, all contracts are bad.  they are added levels of what can seem like undue formality- but it also serves as the underlying protection of the rights of all parties.  It’s necessary to make sure everyone is treated fairly- independent contractors and businesses contracting for services alike.

So I vote for sitting back a bit more, being patient, and let people try new things.  Whether it’s an association of independent content producers or a foundation looking to spread new media to a wider audience, let’s let cooler heads prevail and show a little patience, kindness and support, shall we?

Transparency has become a really big deal on the web.  I deal with this by acknowledging who I am friends with, whether I am allowed to speak about something or not, what is secret and what is not.  I’m sure I am far from perfect, but I take secrets pretty seriously.  I want to be open with people, but there are times you just can’t, until something pans out or it doesn’t.   It’s like trying to catch a fish- there’s a time to set the hook- too early or too late doesn’t work at all.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Room to Make Mistakes and Change Your Mind

  1. Sitting back and taking a moment to let things flow is a great piece of advice, Whit. I’ve been frustrated a lot of times in the last few days by someone jumping to conclusions. It’s happened A LOT lately. And hey, I jump to them, too.

    Taking even a few deep breaths is good advice all the way around.

    Good post!

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