Working out loud week lesson: Ignore the network

I am still reflecting on the experience of the #msloc430 working out loud  week. Yes, this definitely was one of those let’s-just-do-this-and-see-what-happens events. But I am beginning to see lessons.

One lesson is – ignore the network. Or put another way: It’s ok to chat up the fire hydrant.

This is counter-intuitive. But I think it works.

I think you should work out loud without any expectation that anyone in the network cares. Do it only for yourself. Do it because it is a good way to force yourself to articulate your thinking about some work-in-progress effort.

That’s it. At the end of one week, or some other time period you define, you have a narrative that captures your thinking journey.

The counter-intuitive part is that I think this is actually the best way to make working-out-loud valuable to the network.

Here’s why. Let’s say I get energized about jumping in on a working-out-loud event. I post something about what I am working on. And no one responds. So I lose energy. One assumption that I might make as a result: Maybe what I am working on isn’t of interest to anyone.

That could be very wrong. Maybe what I am working on isn’t of interest to anyone at this specific point in time. Or people are interested but at this point in time cannot engage in a conversation. Or maybe some people prefer to engage by lurking.

In each of those cases, I am making a making a faulty assumption because I am expecting the network to do something that I can see, at a specific point in time.

During our working-out-loud experiment I was truly intrigued by several work projects that people first wrote about at the start of the week. Some of those discussion threads did not develop much past the initial post. And that’s too bad. Because I would have liked to have gone back – maybe this week, or next, or whenever – to see how the narrative played out. I may have commented. I may have just read.

But I certainly would have found value.

I also suspect that we too easily work ourselves into overinflated expectations about enterprise social networking and things like working-out-loud. We write with the full expectation that the network will respond. That’s supposed to be the value of the network, right? It gives us something when we give it something.

But I’ve just found that the network is fickle. And I am ok with that.

By definition, serendipity happens by chance. If it were predictable it would be no fun.

Photo by Hector Parayuelos via Flickr

15 thoughts on “Working out loud week lesson: Ignore the network

  1. True, something I learned during this week is
    – Few if nobody watch or read synchronously
    – However practicing make it better. You become more natural, you write faster. Good benefits.
    – All that was recorded is material, contents that you could use later. There is a long tail effect on such content if you can refer to exact sections (this means for videos to jave bookmarks on segments).
    – It’s also a memory for ourselves. Instead of keeping such thoughts inside us, silent and untangible to express them make it half way tangible and they can become objects of reflection
    – I made some enoounters , some connections with people with similar interests and I learned things. My last experience was on starting an LRS for xAPI yesterday:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. {I posted a response to Jeff on Google Plus where I first saw this post. I am reposting here.}

      I could not agree more with this post, Jeff. I just wrote a profile of someone that hammers home the need to stay open to serendipity. Ignoring the network means we need to separate ourselves from the need for near-instant gratification or acknowledgement. Change the perspective of success to the degree with which you are able to let your own light shine without anyone else telling you how bright you are (right now).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Kristen – love the (right now) piece.

        It’s funny. I’ve been thinking about what we might do differently if we did this again. And a lot of what we’ve been thinking about is feature/function things (do we recommend using status updates with tags? blogs for long form thinking when wol? etc.)

        Those are really important. But I think I’d start first by asking everyone to adopt that mindset of just doing something without the expectation of instant gratification.


    2. I’m reflecting on some themes captured in these comments, Bruno. And this one seems to resonate with everyone who has commented: “It’s also a memory for ourselves. Instead of keeping such thoughts inside us, silent and untangible to express them make it half way tangible and they can become objects of reflection.”


  2. This is exactly how i work. My posts, thoughts, interests etc… are meant to be interesting to me. Every time i diverge from that, the work suffers. It’s amazing how many times i forget it. Need to bookmark this post and read it once a month 🙂


    1. Funny. I wrote this to remind myself of the same thing, really (“every time I diverge from that, the work suffers”).

      Not lost on me that there is a connection also to “learning subjectives.” Lurking #rhizo15 because my own teaching load this quarter is keeping me, uh, busy. But will get back to that (yeah, this: ).

      Too interesting to not explore. Thanks mucho for the comment!


  3. I’m because Dave is 😉 You’ve captured so much of the essence of the value of working out loud and the traps of getting invested in an expected response. It really has to serve a value to you, just the act of rethinking of your ideas, actions.

    One more important factor is our ability to recall very well what we are doing now. If I am am writing out loud about a project, everything is at the forefront of my awareness, attention. In 6 months, 18, 3 years, so much of the fidelity and memory resolution (like details in a picture) blur.

    In working out loud on a blog for 12 years, and documenting where I am daily in photos for 6, I can quickly recall what I was working and where for almost every day in that span. It’s not about being some sort of life recorder of everything, but enough to jog memories.

    Because our memory fades. It has to to allow new stuff to take up our attention.

    But its a challenge to advocate this proposition because the payoff is far away.

    And serendipity happens, and its potential increases if you create more opportunity vertices. The flip side is, if you share nothing out loud, then I can guarantee no serendipity like

    A week is just a start 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What’s striking me is the advocating is in the modeling – people like you and Dave, the True Stories of Open Sharing folks, and all the rest. Something like working-out-loud week (or an open course) provides the structure for some people to get started, or to take their open-working to another level.

      But it’s what happens after that, that counts (“a week is just a start”). In our own little community here (around the grad program I teach in), there are a few great people who model open-working – and it’s those folks who model the payoff. And take the time, like you do here, to emphasize the value it brings.

      Funny also about using the same image.

      And there is a beer or two here in Chicago (we never seem to run out) if you’re ever around.


  4. And a double bonus is when I see people using the same creative commons licensed image I have used elsewhere, it’s like an imperceptible head nod to a fellow traveler.


  5. Hi Jeff, I read this a few weeks back, was inspired…but didn’t have a chance to leave a comment. I have since read a couple of other posts on working out loud (seems to be a ‘thing’ at the moment – I guess it’s the influence of WOL week!) by Nigel Young and by Sahana Chattopadhyay.
    i think one of the reasons your post caught my attention was that the thing you describe – about how working out loud may not benefit someone else in the immediate term, ‘at this specific point in time’, its entirely possible someone may find value from it – and either not respond or tell you explicitly – or alternatively, someone may find it at some point after you wrote it. This exact thing happened to me around the time I read your post: Norman Jackson, who publishes an online magazine on learning, personal development & education, stumbled upon a ‘work in progress’ post I wrote 3 months ago, outlining a PLN model I was working on – and asked if he might publish it as part of an issue on PLNs he was doing for the magazine. One of those purely serendipitous moments…but one that was only possible because I’d posted those thoughts publicly, instead of just working on it privately. It’s something I’ve been meaning to write about actually…although I guess ultimately, this comment, is a form of ‘WOL’ – so perhaps I should just past this comment into a blog post!
    thanks for the inspiration as normal : )

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