Recently, I happened on the end of a discussion about Echo Chambers in technology. I don’t presume to know the entire content and context but I’ve heard that discussion many times before. ”Hang around Twitter and develop a PLN and you end up just talking to the same people about the same things with a shark feeding frenzy.”
Even at conferences or places where supposedly like minds meet, there is a danger of this sort of thing. My friend Ron calls it the “A-List” and, in education, you know who are on this list. They stick to their group, never expanding, and then send out Twitter messages “Please drop by and say hi” and then proceed to ignore those who make the attempt .
There’s a real risk (or opportunity, I suppose) to get caught up in that mindset.
But, it doesn’t have to be that way. Even with Twitter, there are millions of people and entities, and a well rounded user, searching all sides to any discussion, should reach out and follow all voices. I will concede that Twitter does represent a certain subset of society. A – they need to have minimal computer skills and be connected to the Internet and B – they need to be curious enough to try it out and get involved in conversations. Fair enough.
If you limit your discussions to that platform, you need to consider alternatives. I had to smile at a recent post by Stephen Hurley, titled “Moving to the Edge” where he talks about the perspective that one gets when they gather the courage and move to a different vantage point. In his case, Stephen talked about a recent stroll that he had at a Nova Scotia town and how a walk out on the rocks gave him a different view. What made me smile was that I had the same conversation with my wife on a recent mini-adventure that we had. I won’t presume to compare Colchester Harbour with Stephen’s Nova Scotia but a walk to the end of the pier and then out to the rocks on the breakwall, reveals an entirely different look of the beautiful community. But it only happens when you take the walk.
The same thing needs to apply with online discussions and followup actions. Limit yourself to a small subset on a single service and you’ll find yourself plopped into the proverbial Echo Chamber. The smart person expands her circles to include voices of all opinion. The conversation shouldn’t be limited to one service. Try to continue it via Facebook or Google+. There are a world of people who have opinion and ideas for innovation.
Is there a danger of limiting yourself to just people using technology? Perhaps – if you need to talk to luddites, there are places to have that discussion but I would suggest that you’re probably not going to make any progress.
You need to make those connections, expand your sphere of contacts, get involved, and learn all that there is to learn. It helps to define and refine the target. Isn’t that the ultimate goal?