The Price and Prize of Social


When I read my friend Howlett’s blog on social enterprise – I had plans to write something on my blog too, but that feeling passed. I am not going to make any generalizations on social – just talking about my own case here. I will come back to the social enterprise topic some time in future.

Compared to many of my friends, I have been a late entrant to the whole social thing. And compared to many of them, I am still a lot less active on social media. Yet, I am way more advanced and active on social media than 99% of people I know. Has it helped me? yes, it has to some degree – both in my career and in my personal life ( and the distinction is lesser between the two today than even 3 years ago). But it has taken a toll too for sure in my personal life.

I started a personal blog around Christmas of 2010 – but became relatively active only about a year ago. I try to blog once a month at least – but have written about 8 posts in some months. Most of my posts have been in and around SAP and BI , but I have also written on politics, economics, food, sports and dogs. Pretty much any topic is fair game for me if there is a strong opinion I have on it.  And when it comes to opinions, I usually only have strong ones – for better or worse 🙂  .

I enjoy blogging as a medium to express my thoughts. And I have an explicit disclaimer that what I say is just personal opinion and not my employer’s opinion. But this does pose some challenges on occasion.

For example – at least partly due to blogging, SAP recognizes me as an influencer. And due to that I get some information earlier than others, and SAP picks up my T&E to attend some of their events, and I appreciate that. I try really hard to keep confidential info as confidential. But on the other hand it does not stop me from criticizing SAP on occasion.  The people who run the SAP influencer program, and senior SAP executives who talk to me have never told me what I should or should not write. But few others – including many friends – at SAP have often told me directly or indirectly that I am spreading too much negativity. I value their friendship – and I feel terrible when I hear this, since that is not my intention.

While I have no great  interest in happy talk  – I do say good things whenever I see it. And at least for HANA – me, John Appleby, Vitaliy, Harald Reiter and a few others do a lot for promoting and clarifying questions on Hana via our presence on twitter and SCN. And while I learn a lot from SAP during my interactions with them – I also pass on feedback from what I see on the field back to them. So hopefully things balance out some how from SAP’s perspective.

On career front, social in general has helped me. A large number of IBMers know me better via twitter and my blog , and it has helped me a lot in maintaining a very valuable network. I get to advise my clients better too since I have access to more people and information now due to social. I have won business in my day job thanks to name recognition from social media. And in general my managers have been quite supportive of me being active on social media. In return, I try hard to make sure there is no impact to my performance at work.

The biggest prize for me is the content I get from people like Jon Reed and Dennis Moore who curate the zillion tweets and blogs and send out high quality information. If it ever becomes a paid service, I would gladly pay for that. I would have never had a chance to get all this information without their feeds.

But for all the Prizes, I have a price to pay.  A day still has only 24 hours – and it means I am in front of a computer (or my phone) longer than I used to. And that takes time away from my family and my hobbies. That is NOT good – and is not sustainable.  So I have cut back on my social presence quite a bit. And I am sure I will overcompensate and will need a lot of time to find a good equilibrium.

If any one has a 12 step plan or something to find that equilibrium, please let me know.

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13 thoughts on “The Price and Prize of Social

  1. Vijay,

    It’s been through your blogs and tweets that i have been knowing you from quite sometime now. So in a way social media has made it possible for all of us to have a viewpoint and share it and have a connect with the larger audience.

    Most of your views of SAP are well received because you interact with lot of SAP real time and potential customers. It’s their concerns and apprehensions that you formulate in your words and put it across.

    I wish you continue writing, probably at a pace which doesn’t hinders with your personal time. And yes, i agree to what Craig has suggested “Find a groove that works for you and get that lap back”, this is something even i am struggling to strike a balance.

    Regards,
    Harshit

  2. Vijay,

    Good stuff.

    I’m glad that you honed in the personal side of social in this piece because that to me is where I am more bullish on social. I am more negative on social in the enterprise context, partially because I think it’s overhyped BS and partially because I think the use cases are much more difficult due to unstructured data integration into contextual processes – something individuals can do much more efficiently than companies, at least for now. Scaling that is what’s hard.

    Social is indeed powerful for the individual but I would hasten to point out the difference between tweeting and blogging. Yes there is an art to tweeting, who knows maybe there is an art to lifestreaming on Facebook as well (an art that eludes me if so). But Im more disillusioned with Twitter and other “instant social” channels by the day as they feel like hyperactive short cuts to an admittedly much more difficult task of finding the time and quietude to create an original blog post or even better a longer piece of unique value. There’s no short cut there.

    For myself, I pull off social for extended breaks (except for my jonerpnewsfeed) not only because of its exhaustion factor and diminishing returns but because I want to protect the time to try to create things that are more unique. Easier said than done. I’m glad you have found a blog style that gives you a way to share some of that with us, your blog is one of the must reads in our space.

    Of course for me part of that is deep listening and that means pulling in my feeds and RSS hacks and then curating it. I got a kick out of you saying I could charge for it. The sharing is the easy part, the harder part is finding the time to cut through the noise. Even with an RSS reader I have easily invested 1,000 hours in tweaking to help me find good stuff fast, it’s not easy. Balance is individual.

    As for the positive/negative stuff, I agree with those who said you have to find your own way. But i’d go further and say that “negative” is ridiculously simplistic. I make an altogether different distinction: 1. page view whoring crud that doesn’t help anyone and 2. more valuable pieces that took more effort, research, thought. Whether the content is positive or negative is much less important to me than the originality and effort behind it. Even a short blog post should be backed up by deep field-level effort, observation, and culminated insights. Otherwise I say don’t bother wasting our time with blogs at all.

    Negative is also a short sighted criticism. I tend to be critical of SAP (and other vendors) more often than not because I see way too much happy talk coming out. And I talk to folks inside of SAP that have heard so much of this kind of happy talk that they have totally lost perspective (for example dismissing the idea that a formidable vendor like Oracle could eventually compete with HANA head to head, or underestimating Workday’s threat to on-premise ERP). That’s not in a company’s best interests. I would hope that we would be judged not by the criticism but by the demonstrated passion for the long term health of the company. I care more about transparency and consistency than anything. If you change your views, fine, but tell us why you were hard on one vendor for a long time and then backed off, etc. That said I do think there is too much worshipping of snark and “who was the biggest badass on Twitter today.” We push back on that sometimes and celebrate that which is good in the world as well. Like the fact that I love SAP’s Run Better commercial. http://www.sap-tv.com/video/#/6500/run-better-english Oh crap that’s a true confession. Or that I linked and aggressively pushed SAP’s fantastic anti-bullying video “It Gets Better” video even though it was in Forbes Advoice. 🙂 https://mail.google.com/mail/ca/#drafts/138897a2336277d6

    It’s cool to think that one of my best friends in the enterprise space came out of reading your blogs though. We all have countless such stories and there’s the real value in “social.”

  3. Very good article and similar to you I think blogging/social media definitely played a role in me becoming a SAP Mentor as well as having SAP recognize me as an influencer both of which have benefits to my SAP career (and customers) but it definitely takes time and effort to do it right.

    I have always been impressed with your delicate balance of positive and critical articles as they are always based on a well informed view with an end goal to represent your customers or make SAP better. It is funny as in the last 2 months I have heard that I am to critical of SAP and that I am to soft on SAP both by people I respect so I can appreciate what a delicate balancing act it can be.

    I try to have clear boundaries to protect my family in that I only blog when I am on the road or traveling and mostly stay off twitter/social media on weekends (although slip up occasionally) I am lucky to have a strong wife who protects the family boundary when the work one try to take a little to much time.

  4. Vijay- Again interesting blog from you. I avow with you on most of the points you have discussed like social media- given benefits to both personal and in career. I have had seen several people whose back ground of education does not come from any World’s famous schools still they became part of SAPinfluencer program. Most of them used social media as a medium for showing their caliber in SAP and they are up to date with market mostly by sitting on their computer and being adequate using social tools. Some times many of us are like frogs in a wheelbarrow. Our thoughts will not be consistent if we do not maintain equilibrium with our life and it’s demands in life. One of my suggestion to make this equilibrium ” do not open your office laptop or Iphone twitter app once after you reach home”.. it’s tough to come out of this addiction but we can try hard to get this done. I do follow this my wife’s suggestion. Be happy and make us happy with your multi-pronged blogs as always.

    Reg
    Siva

    • Thanks Siva

      I can’t seem to keep laptop and phone shut when I am home, but trying hard to keep away from work on weekends. If I don’t set boundaries for work in my life, work will place a boundary where it likes 🙂

  5. Hi Vijay,

    In this blog you contemplate on your blogging and influencing SAP. Seems like a good moment to thank you for all that. I’m an avid reader of your blogs and like the variety of topics. Yes, you have strong opinions but they are usually well funded. I was stunned to read that some people think you spread too much negativity. I’ve read most of your blogs and I can’t say you look like a sourpuss in any of them. Keep up the good work!

    Family IS more important though so good luck in finding a good balance. I think it’s a struggle a lot of like-minded people have to cope with. Everyone agrees that family is important but on the other hand you are passionate in what you do so it’s hard to let go. I expect a blog when you figured it out 😉

    Thanks for all your the work you’ve done. To me you’re a valuable source of information and an inspiration for my online/social endeavours (albeit on a smaller scale (yet)).

    Cheers,

    Roel van den Berge

  6. Keep it up, and certainly keeping saying it how it is! Negative or positive, personally I’ve never found you too much in either direction so keep going!

    The whole balance between positive and negative, home and work, family and friends, hobby and job – there is no solution other than what in the end you are comfortable with – so in the infamous words of “Doc Hudson” – “Find a groove that works for you and get that lap back.” – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0317219/

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