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How do you connect – the rise of serendipity

D'Arcy Norman has set up a project which asks the simple question 'How do you connect to people online'. He says we are free to interpret that how we want, and responses can be in any format. He is publishing the open responses as it goes along. Many people have chosen to respond in video format, and here is my offering:

There different ways of interpreting the question, so I gave four answers. There is the purely technical, practical answer – so I connect mainly through twitter and this blog, plus a bunch of other tools. But there is also a set of behaviours associated with connecting, so you do it by linking (and being linked to – I find a lot of people because they link to my blog, and my blog stats tell me this, hey presto, we're connected), commenting (on blogs, or in twitter), responding to requests, cries for help, etc, but really it's about sharing. There is the social element to connecting, so I engage in debates (which can be related to work but might are as often about tv, football, politics), making jokes, giving people answers or experience, and what we might call just chatting. And the fourth way of responding to the question is to think in terms of fundamental principles one operates on which I list as embrace serendipity and be open.

I've probably said lots on the latter, but the serendipity comment can probably bear a little more examination. In an earlier post about Science 2.0 I wondered if scientists struggled with the web 2.0 approach because so much of it was about unpredictability and this went against their scientific training. Serendipity has come to the fore in the socially connected world I believe. It's no longer an eccentric relation at the family gathering, who may give you a great song on the piano but equally may wet their pants and fall asleep at the dinner table. Two things have changed the status of serendipity: the number of connections and the ease of connecting. Now you can rely on serendipity – something will turn up which is relevant, you just don't know what it is. 

Here is Jim Groom also responding to D'Arcy's project, who makes the point that these technologies allow us to 'imbue our work with a sense of personality':

So, how do you connect?


  • Colin Milligan

    Spot on Martin, and delivered engagingly as ever. To me: point three could also be thought of as building ‘trust’ with the other members of your network – strengthening weak ties for the future. This got me thinking about the transience /or otherwise of connecting (which I think is also related to the serendipity point): that the relationships one develops with other individuals with in their network can be easily activated when the need arises (to collaborate) and then can fall dormant again once the motivation to connect has passed.

  • mweller

    Hi Colin – I think that’s a good point about peaks in activity with people, and what’s more you don’t mind. With connections previously you might have felt a bit miffed ‘I haven’t spoken to you in years and suddenly you ring me’. But because the connections are light it doesn’t have this same sense online.

  • Alan Levine

    Oh I love your video style- cant wait to steal that video method (good music too- Shazam nails it as “Dis-Moi” by BB Brunes and I am off to buy it; take that record companies who want to protect everything).
    I’m glad you mentioned serendipty- it is the magic glue of all of this for me ( Sure its great when someone in your network points you to something interesting– but when you stumble on it, when you blindly explore a link that barely hints at the gem behind it… well that gets me going more than caffeine.
    I dont know how you “teach” to use serendipity; I can barely explain it. I find these things often when I am on a link someone sent me, and I poke around a web site if I had not seen it before just to see what they have. I find a lot of these on sidebars, especially blog sites- people put key sites there.
    Another fun activity I do is looking at the links people put in their email footer. Sure its usually their employer, or their blog/twitter/facebook etc, but on a handful of occasions, I have found fascinating web sites that have come from email footers– I would guess for someone to put a link there, it is often something very very special they are passionate about.
    Embrace serendipity… if you can stumble across it.

  • mweller

    @Alan – thanks. Agree about the joy of serendipity. There’s something about the robustness of serendipity as an approach now. Just by hanging around online you will come across good and relevant stuff. I guess the key is to be in the right communities, that’s what we should be ‘teaching’.

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