Blogging is.

That headline is from a comment Shel Israel made in conversation with Mark Evans at last night's absolutely outstanding "Third Tuesday" Social Media and PR Meetup, organized by Joe Thornley, Terry Fallis, Joscelyn Smith, Chris Clarke, David Jones, Ed Lee, and friends.

The "Blogging is" point came when Shel was talking about the tipping point for companies trying to figure out what, if anything, they really ought to be doing with blogging. He used a handful of examples from the book he co-wrote with Robert Scoble, Naked Conversations, to illustrate the fact that we're already there - critical mass was achieved some considerable time ago. We already know that blogging can get people hired, get them fired, move the markets, shift perceptions, push products, out idiots, subvert authority, bolster credibility, and drive Googlejuice like you would not believe. If your company isn't already doing something about the blogosphere - what the hell are you waiting for? If nothing else, as Shel pointed out, you should at least be listening.

The other thing last night's event confirmed for me was the feeling I've had for a long time that bloggers are, in general, just wonderful, genuinely interesting people to hang out with. OK, so I'm coming over all hippy drippy, I know - but I can't help it.

Sitting in the crowd at last night's gig, and chatting to all sorts of different people afterwards, just felt so comfortable; so right. I met people I've only previously encountered through their blogs - and instantly felt the kind of easy connection you usually only experience when getting together with old friends. You could dismiss it as a shallow read, perhaps, but several times throughout the night I got that "Hey - I know you, I read your blog" feeling.

Shel made a similar point rather better, when he talked about his upcoming world tour with Rick Segal. Rick and Shel are planning to bounce around the globe in the coming months, in part to help Shel with research for his next book, Global Neighborhoods. Shel remarked that many of the people he expects to meet in his travels are already like old friends to him - people he's only ever met online, by email, or through his blog.

I can't remember the exact words Shel used, but I know exactly what he meant. Geography and the limitations of the physical social world are becoming less relevant. There's another good reason why this stuff is called "social media", I guess.

It was interesting that this part of the discussion between Shel and Mark seemed to naturally lead them into observations on the topic of virtual worlds, with Shel commenting on Second Life: "Some people express themselves better in this kind of environment." - a thought that reminded me (yet again) of something David Weinberger wrote in Small Pieces Loosely Joined:

"...we are rewriting ourselves on the Web, hearing voices we're surprised to find coming from us, saying things we might not have expected. We're meeting people we would never have dreamed of encountering. More important, we're meeting new aspects of ourselves. We're finding out that we can be sappier, more caustic, less patient, more forgiving, angrier, funnier, more driven, less demanding, sexier, and more prudish--sometimes within a single ten-minute stretch online. We're falling into email relationships that, stretching themselves over years, imperceptibly deepen, like furrows worn into a stone hallway by the traffic of slippers. We're falling into groups that sometimes feel like parties and sometimes feel like wars. We're getting to know many more people in many more associations than the physics of the real world permits, and these molecules, no longer bound by the solid earth, have gained both the randomness and the freedom of the air-borne. Even our notion of a self as a continuous body moving through a continuous map of space and time is beginning to seem wrong on the Web."

I find myself coming back to those words, over and over again. It's more than four years since I first read that book, yet the words seem more relevant and resonant every day. Re-reading them now, through the lens of Shel's comments and my own experience of Second Life, I can almost hear the metaverse calling me home.

Jeez. I guess something must have completely flipped my geek bit there. *cough* Where was I...?

Kudos, once again, to Joe Thornley and his team for bringing Shel up here, gathering such a terrific group of people for this inaugural Third Tuesday, and for setting me thinking. They've even chosen to host these things at a pub that serves one of the cleanest pints of Guinness in the city. Outstanding. Can't wait for October's session.

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