The Two Webs: Information or Relationships?

Filed as Features, General on May 29, 2007 6:00 am

About a month ago, I was in a group, planning a panel discussion for an upcoming conference. It had been suggested that people be invited to question whether business bloggers share personal information on their business blogs. Information blogging versus relationship blogging was at the heart of the question.

I imagined the panel and the audience in the conference room. I thought, “It’s not often that people get to see subjects — other than politics and religion — that would be equally as dividing.” Very soon after the planning discussion, I caught myself picturing the panel. I was filled with knowing that circles for the sides of the panel placed in a Venn diagram would hardly touch. It was hard to foresee that folks would be persuaded to be any closer in outlook.

Two very different world views — one informational, one relational. Each point of view defines the experience differently. Static or dynamic, take your pick.

This elephant is standing on the web.

What is a link? Is a link clicks and traffic and Google rankings? Or does a link represent that I know you, that I’ve read your content, that you’re relevant and of value to me? Is a comment conversation or something I can buy or rent?

We’re living in two Internets. It looks much like the companies we find in the world of brick and mortar. One is about places, information, and data. It’s the buildings in which people work. The other is about people, relationships, and conversation. It’s the people who work in those buildings. One is a structure. The other is social.

A blog post yesterday at confused at calcutta reminds me that we have trouble bringing software and people together.

Something about what he said there made me think about the glazed look people used to give me when I first spoke about any aspect of software as a service. To many people, software is a noun and inanimate as well; to many people, service remains a “doing” word and closer to a verb despite being a noun. And this separation of service from software seems to create a whole series of problems in people’s minds.

Reading that, my mind hears the “Cluetrain Manifesto.” I think of the opening of Daniel Pink’s book, “A Whole New Mind.”

The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind — computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBAs who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind — creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers, and meaning maker.

Are you of a new mind? Can you make meaning, create and empathize without revealing something personal?

In the 80 million blogs, maybe you see only the tech blogs, new niches, the tech values being found in databases. Feedburner sold to Google for $100million. Maybe you’ve noticed the wealth of blogs about positivity, personal development, and finding your passion.

Maybe you’re not paying attention.

I’ll put it out there anyway . . . is it about surfing the net or about going deep? If you go deep, are you deeply into information or relationships?

What value has information without relationships?

Liz Strauss writes information about relationships at Successful-Blog.

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  1. The Two Webs: Information or Relationships? | Talk UtopiaMay 29, 2007 at 6:06 am
  2. By Chris Garrett posted on May 29, 2007 at 7:51 am
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    People have different priorities. As a geek I can empathise with those folks who see the technology as not just a means to an end but the end in itself. I can nerd it up over cool gadgets with the best of them :) I can also understand the capitalist side, after all my time is not *always* free gratis though it might sometimes feel that way ;)

    It won’t surprise you to learn though that I think both groups are missing out on a lot if they overlook what really makes this whole thing tick over. People. Relationships. Conversation. It give s the tech purpose and makes more of those crisp dollar bills the make money online folks love so much :)

  3. By Liz Strauss posted on May 29, 2007 at 7:54 am
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    Hi Chris,
    I’m with you we need to put the two together. Information and people . . . tech and process . . . they work so much better together. It’s just as Daniel Pink suggests, we need to look at the world with a WHOLE new mind — right brain AND left.

  4. By Tammy posted on May 29, 2007 at 8:18 am
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    Liz, I’ve been staring at and re-reading this post of yours for a number of minutes now. As usual, you make me think, draw me in, ask me to get clearer about what I think I believe.

    As I tried to answer your question, I came to this: It’s not an either/or. It’s a both/and. Perhaps it’s my mediator’s mind, which calls on me to draw connections between apparent polarizations instead of focusing on the dividing line. Questions that suggest a forced choice are exactly those I tend to reframe to expand options.

    So, I’ll say that the web and blogs are, for me, about both information and relationships. Sometimes I just want information and don’t need or want a new relationship to get some data I want. Most of the blogs I read, though, connect information and relationship more deeply, because I’ll trust the information more when I have either a relationship with the blogger or have been a visitor long enough that it feels like a relationship.

    Both. And when I blog, I’m trying to offer information for those folks who only want some tips and foster relationships with those folks whom I may be able to serve in additional ways.

  5. By Robyn posted on May 29, 2007 at 8:38 am
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    Vygotsky is one of the people who revolutionized education because he claimed learning is social. Since then many prominent educational researchers have found this to be true. Learners could understand and retain information more when ideas and information were discussed with others. Most importantly, educators began to see that little learning took place when a teacher was a “sage on the stage.” Though changes are slow in education, you’ll note they are taking place. My thought is that the internet needs both good information and the exchage of ideas surrounding that information. Thanks for such a thoughtful post on this.

  6. By Liz Strauss posted on May 29, 2007 at 9:17 am
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    Hi Tammy!
    Yea! Yes, both for me too. Relationships get a little sappy without information to explore, don’t they?

    I’ve been thinking on ideas to integrate the two in a more natural way, but as JP’s post shows on “confused in calcutta,” some of it involves changing world views in more places than my own head. :)

    We need to be sensitive to the tendency that we have to separate the two and work toward more integrations instead.

    Don’t imagine that I didn’t spend as much time reading over your response. You make me think too.

  7. By Liz Strauss posted on May 29, 2007 at 9:20 am
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    Hi Robyn,
    Thanks so much for bringing that up!! The history of education stands strong on the need for engagement of all we have for the best processing of information.

    We construct meaning from data in order to learn it. Our construction involves building on what we know,having a purpose for learning, and giving the new information context. People and relationships are such a part of that.

    Other people motivate so much of what we do, learn, and communicate.

  8. By Karen posted on May 29, 2007 at 10:25 am
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    I think Tammy hit it on the head in her comments. For example, there is a new business that I’m thinking about getting involved in and what’s drawing me in more and more is the personality and “personal touch” that is coming through the website that I visit. I’m giving this business more than a second glance as a result of the sharing that the CEO is doing.

  9. Enron - BlogStuffPro.comMay 29, 2007 at 10:29 am
  10. By Mark Silver posted on May 29, 2007 at 10:35 am
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    I agree with a lot of what’s been said- it’s both/and. What Chris wrote really hit it for me.

    It may be obvious, but blogging is just a medium. It’s just another way to do a website. It’s just another way to speak to people.

    I think the personal/conversational is an important way to connect to people, and for me, makes my business more enjoyable. I do most of it through a membership forum I run where the relationships can go very deep, because it’s more contained and not as public, and I’ve begun blogging more recently and seeing the more public conversations that can happen.

    However, the informational is important to. People are suffering. Our businesses are one way that we address the suffering and the help that people need. If we don’t take on the role of helper/facilitator/teacher/expert that we can rightly claim, then we’re not extending our hand to those who need the help.

    It’s not about always being in the teacher/helper role- just where appropriate.

    As a friend of mine Adam Kayce taught me during my healership training: what people want from you is your divinity (the strength, clarity, wisdom, that your heart transmits). But enables them to take it from you is your humanity (imperfection, vulnerability, weakness).

    I’ve found that it’s critical to my business, and to my heart, and to my life, that I hold both.

  11. By Karin H. posted on May 29, 2007 at 10:53 am
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    Hi all

    Can I have both, please? That’s the overall feeling I’m getting more and more from being in (special retail) business. It’s not only on the ‘net’ that people are looking both for information and for conversation (i.e. not being treated as a number – or statistic).
    IMHO a mix of both is the way forward. And the trend is there already (Long Tail comes to mind) – more and more small retail companies are doing great because they have found the right mix. I think we have ;-)

    Karin H. (Keep it Simple Sweetheart, specially in business)

  12. By Bettie posted on May 29, 2007 at 12:30 pm
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    I was reading through the blog, and comments on “The Two Webs…” blog, and it occured to me that this may be the root of all of the lack of work ethic we see in our society today. How many of you think to yourself, on a daily basis, why is this person in that job???

    I’m in my 40’s, and I can tell you that I hear that from many people. So…where are these people with a lack of work ethic coming from?

    I think the root of it is a lack of “relationship” in business today. There’s not much “mentoring” out there, as there is “data transfer”. What I mean is, adults in general are stepping away from the “teacher” role, and expecting kids today to just take the information and do your job! There is very little interaction while they are on the job, so how would they learn to have a work ethic in the first place?

    This is my biggest pet peeve, and I tell my son on a daily basis, “I don’t ever want to see you work with a person like that”. I learned my work ethic from my Mom, and I’m praying that it rubs off on him! Just being laid off from my position, I am dealing with many people from many different venues on a daily basis. I can tell you that my frustration is growing. Why are people with no people skills hired for retail, or people interactive positions? Why are the company owners/executives not hearing, and seeing this? They can’t be seeing/hearing it because if they did, they would correct it right? The one thing my Mom said to me that really stuck with me is, “if you take the responsibility of working with people, you have no right to ruin their day!” What she meant by that is you give everyone the best, and most pleasant, service/job that you can!

    I had updated my resume’, and went online to put it out there on the jobsearch sites. I then saw a new tool to send your resume’ to multiple sites at the same time. I thought this was great! Then, last night I heard on the news that the new way to find a job is by blogging! I found this very interesting, as it is leaning back to the “relationship” aspect of people in business.

    Today, I googled “career blogs”, and found over 83 Million sites to log onto! That’s how I came upon this site. I have to say that I enjoyed reading it, and if we all stop typing, and start talking, we may be able to get back to a world that isn’t so “impersonal”.

    I think it’s time we stopped typing, and started talking. As a manager, I have always thought of myself as a mentor. Someone that is responsible to lead and teach others. That is my responsibility.

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  14. By Liz Strauss posted on May 29, 2007 at 2:24 pm
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    Hi Karen,
    Talking to each other as people makes the information make sense and gives it context. We all want to be involved in something bigger than ourselves.

  15. By Liz Strauss posted on May 29, 2007 at 2:25 pm
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    I’m with you, Mark,
    Leadership is a blending of head and heart. If we listen and put the people first, we’ll know how to use the information.

  16. By Liz Strauss posted on May 29, 2007 at 2:27 pm
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    Hi Karin,
    The right mix — how wonderful to see you use this term that once stood for what kinds of stuff were on the spreadsheet to mean information and relationships!

  17. By Liz Strauss posted on May 29, 2007 at 2:30 pm
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    Bettie, your comment is filled with wisdom and reality. I can only believe your son already knows what you hope he will. I’m with you all of the way. Let me know how I can help.

  18. By Steve Roesler posted on May 30, 2007 at 12:47 am
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    Liz,

    The info/relationship issue strikes at the heart of just about everything. I’m sitting here scrolling my RSS reader while getting ready for a workshop to help a group of executives with their stand-up communication. The issue? Lots of information, no connection with their audiences. As a result, the information doesn’t hit home, either.

    After working in this corporate arena for 30 years the struggle continues: transactions or relationships?

    Whether on the internet or in the meeting room, without meaning it’s just information. And without relationships, it’s very difficult to find the real meaning.

    Keep writing, Liz…

  19. By Liz Strauss posted on May 30, 2007 at 7:55 am
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    H Steve!
    Lots of information, no connection. I used to be like that . . . it was one or the other sometimes. Corporations push us to care about the information because people can SEE it. For example, quality, schedule, budget. When I managed product development, it was a constant adjument to keep folks focused on quality. Why? Because you can’t see it — not deeply, not all of it, and certainly not quickly. But everyone in the building would know if we were late or over budget.

    The same is true for relationships. We need to find a way for people to SEE relationships. Until we can, we’ll always be pushing uphill to get large groups to value them.

    Keep inspiring me, Steve.

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  21. By 月饼 posted on June 1, 2007 at 5:36 pm
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    OH

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