Do you give content away because you want credit?

I had an interesting exchange on Twitter today. I used the term SoMe as a short way to refer to social media and was instantly informed by Twitter friend @mdurwin that he was grateful that the term he invented was finally catching on.

Whether Michael Durwin did or didn't invent the term SoMe, at least this Tweet defending his claim is amusing

Wow, cool to be the person who came up with “SoMe.” Not that I ever would have known that as I’ve seen the shorthand used by dozens if not hundreds of people on Twitter for a couple of years anyway. When I told Michael that it seemed an odd thing to take credit for, he informed me that it was OK, as he rarely gets acknowledged for his many innovations. I ended our exchange with the suggestion that maybe seeking credit is the last way to actually get it.

Michael may well deserve the credit he never got. But it got me thinking about the motives behind what any of us do in social media.  Sure there are lots of folks screaming for attention.  There’s no shortage of self-promotion and streams that show little or no interaction, even from individuals who claim to know something about the space.

But the folks who seem the most valued by their communities (@benkunz, @stuartfoster, @malbonnington, @thaz7, @mikearauz, @lenkendall, @armano, @jonathanfields, @thebeancast, @ambercadabra, @conversationage, @schneidermike to name but a few who come to mind as I type this) rarely ask for acknowledgment. They just give stuff away. They share advice, post their content for all to access, answer questions, and engage openly with rookies, neophytes, peers and even competitors.

Sure there is a protocol; we try and give a nod to someone whenever we use a quote or find our own thinking inspired by someone else.  But the fact is it’s pretty hard to remember who said what after a while.  Great ideas simply blend into the vernacular.

Made by Many credits Gareth Kay with this line because they know it's attributable to him

As far as I’m concerned, that should be all the credit or praise that any of us ever need. After all, the social community is like a one big bank of ideas. We make deposits.  We make withdrawals. Maybe it comes out even.  Maybe it doesn’t.  But that’s sort of what makes it SoMe so great.

18 comments
ideaswilltravel
ideaswilltravel

Hi Edward, I am a bit late for the discussion. But I think: "The Gift", by Lewis Hyde has some interesting things to say about the difference between commodity and gift exchanges. Gift exchanges create communities, but there can be no rules what you will receive - and when. Commodity exchanges liberate everyone, but they have the power to dissolve communities.

The ideas we give to the web are mostly gifts. So the less you demand recognition, the more you might get it. :-)

jmitchem
jmitchem

When I first got involved with SocMe (thanks Michael) my main concern was intellectual property issues. What was I supposed to share here, if not my ideas? Coming from the advertising world where we locked our files at night (thanks for that reminder, Sally Hogshead) - our ability to develop ideas was the only thing we had that was worth anything. It took a few months of putzing around in these spaces to understand that most people here weren't out to steal your ideas - and so I started interacting like everyone else. Yes, I've seen some of my ideas translated into other posts on far more popular blogs with no credit given, but there's no way to prove that they 'stole' the idea from me. As you know Edward, I believe that nothing is original and that the best we can do is take existing ideas and tweak them in ways to make people consider them differently. That's as creative as we can get.

I'm not about to start handing out free advice to brands here, because that dilutes my value (and frankly would make me look like an ass without any background info to justify the ideas) but as long as we use common sense, things like coining a term such as SocMe is kind of cool. My only recommendation is that when you do things like this, buy the domain. That's proof of ownership.

mdurwin
mdurwin

Thanks for this post Edward. I love being used as a punching bag. Unfortunately it gets me into a defensive posture. Being a punching bag alot will do that.

I don't recall looking for any kind of pat on the back. If I was I'd have my own Wikipedia page. If I was looking for acknowledgment you'd have heard more about the communities I give to on a regular basis. But I enjoy helping, advising and teaching enough that I don't need to make all of my Twitter acquaintances aware of it. Perhaps that's why you're not aware of the communities I share my expertise with. If you knew me better you'd know about the statewide religious organization I educated about social media 2 weeks ago, or the students from my alma mater that I advise, or the former interns I've helped find jobs. I share things on Twitter what I feel people will find interesting. I thought you'd find it interesting that I've used the term SoMe for over 10 years, I didn't think you'd use the opportunity to make me look like a creep. I guess I'm just not as cool as all the people you mentioned above.

While I don't need to brag or beg for acknowledgment for my accomplishments, I'm not ashamed of taking credit for them. I may not have coined the term SoMe but I never saw it used before I got flamed for using it on a BBS to shorten the term social media in a discussion about ASCI porn, my first experience with shared images or "social media". That was in the early 90s. I was lucky that my father was peripherally involved with DARPA, which became ARPA which developed ARPAnet. Once we got past phone modems and had roaring 1200 baud modems I set up my first web page at www.bcn.net/~mdurwin (only hosting providers had domain names back then). I was using geo-targeting and meta data when most people didn't even have email. So yes, I was an early adopter. Look up my papers on scalable vector graphics on the W3C site (or just Google "w3c, SVG, Durwin").

I know our Twitter exchange was just fodder for your post about giving openly through social media without expectation of credit. If you read my blog, you'll see it's jam packed full of marketing statistics, helpful links, information and opinion pieces on the state of the industry. I don't use it to make a fool of someone just to build a dialogue around. And keep in mind that this "space" only "works this way" in the subgroup of your network. It works many ways in many subgroups, most of which neither your or I have even had a peek at. Social media has been around since the 70s. It is generated by millions and millions of people who all have their own opinion how it works if you want ton play in this space.

mbloomstein
mbloomstein

Edward, I watched this discussion transpire on Twitter today but really like what you took from it. Corollary to the idea of creating content and putting it out into the public domain--more or less--is the act of freely mentoring to grow knowledge and nurture others in our space.

Of the folks you cited, you mentioned they share and "engage openly with rookies, neophytes, peers, and even competitors." Rookies and neophytes are some of my favorite people in our industry! Sometimes, I wear that label myself and grow from the wisdom and patience of others. Often, I get to mentor college students or practitioners interested in moving into our industry--or show a colleague how I approached a similar problem, provide feedback on a resume, or talk to an agency interested in growing their user experience practice. This too is the "free content" we should all be contributing. Not with the expectation of credit, but because it is its own reward: mentoring the rookies and neophytes now helps ensure we have experienced, well-groomed colleagues to engage and hire in the future. To your point, we make deposits and withdrawals. But more importantly, we help to shape and grow collective wealth.

GrahamNelson
GrahamNelson

I agree in principle with your post. Unfortunately, the majority who do not ask for acknowledgment in social spaces rarely eat the same humble pie in person. I hate meeting individuals who represent themselves differently in social spaces. I give Durwin credit for consistency...cause, like it or not, you get the same guy online and in person.

JeffShattuck
JeffShattuck

I think the reason I post my thinking is simply that I like a good debate and hope that I can provoke one every now and then. For example, I just posted on my blog about why I think all the discussion around copyright and file sharing misses the bigger poing, which is that people are breaking the law. I think my point of view is right (naturally!) and I'm kind of hoping someone tries to persuade me otherwise. So far, no taker (sigh).

Mom101
Mom101

I love the idea of putting ideas out into the ether for the greater good; it's Utopian even! But I think that's easier to do when you're already established and getting credit overall as whatever big muckety-muck person or guru or influencer you hope to be.

I give Michael a bit of a pass. I don't know too many creative folks who don't want a little nod for their output.

But then again, I also know a lot of creative folks who are quick to take credit for other people's output and ride it for a good long while. Maybe this is where the insecurity begins?

Awesome discussion topic Edward.