Networking, trust, and Ecademy

Over the years I have joined and left Ecademy a total of three times now. Each time I have left it has been because I felt uneasy about the overt “networking’ that predominates there. However I know Thomas Power, who runs Ecademy, personally and when he recently invited me to rejoin I accepted.

I then unwittingly became part of an experiment with Autoconnect that Thomas is doing which resulted in me being connected to thousands of Ecademy users, many of whom have responded to this apparent request from me to connect. The result is that I’m now in the top 200 users on Ecademy and have thousands of people who think I want to be connect with them!

I don’t deny that a lot of my business comes from my network, I understand the principle of weak ties allowing connections with people that wouldn’t otherwise be part of my circle of influence, and I fully understand Thomas’s benign intentions in doing this but if I felt uneasy about Ecademy in the past I feel even more so now!

As Stephanie Booth says in a post this morning “All you really need to do is be interested in people. Forget about “networking”.”

This captures the essence of my discomfort. Even in a business context, perhaps particularly in a business context, building a network is for me a natural result of being interested in people and wanting to establish relationships. There may be people within the thousands who are now connected to me on Ecademy with whom I form these sort relationships but it does slightly feel as if we have got off on the wrong foot!

15 thoughts on “Networking, trust, and Ecademy”

  1. What happened to the long tail? Developing slowly, but surely. This sounds like hosting a cocktail party of hundreds. Perhaps everyone has a lovely time, but where are you? Exhausted and drained. I have not tried Ecademy, so perhaps I am unfair, but I do think the concept is the same: maintaining your own balance and sanity as you enter and explore new networks.

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  2. Great post. Couldn’t agree more with Stefanie. When I meet people who are real ‘networkers’, they often seem a bit sad in themselves. After a day of ‘work’, I feel happiest when I’ve spent time with creative thinking people who know how to talk and listen in good measure. Ultimately though, it feels like we manufacture luck in business. There’s no buzz like the chance encounter though!M

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  3. I had the same experience. I joined Ecademy years ago seduced by the combination of online and offline networking but was turned off by people throwing their business cards at me, doing their sales pitch then walking off. I believe in quality rather than quantity when it comes to networking so I left and did not come back. At that time, they had a star system as well with different pricing level which did not appeal.

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  4. Hi Euan: Perhaps I am less trusting you but I left Ecademy and once was enough. This story confirms my sense that Thomas seems to value quantity of connection to the exclusion of quality, and builds systems that reflect that view. He may intend differently but the pattern seems very consistent.

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  5. Euan, these autoconnected people would (by and large) give me the willies, no matter how nice they may be individually and no matter how useful they may be down the road.Every network connection requires:* Some time and energy: who am I to you, who are you to me? (I think we all know how useful/useless very loose connections are — all those business cards from the last cocktail party are so many bookmarks at best.)* Some care in what we do/say/publish: the looser the connection to you, the more your ironies, references, etc. make no sense and thus have a completely different meaning read into them.* Say something about me: in this day and age of the national security state, unchosen connections could lead to our being a "person of interest" (and just try and "prove your innocence" — for that is the stance that would be taken were you to be charged for aided and abetting terrorists, fugitives, etc. — under the circumstances).In Twitter I have deeply restricted the people I am following. I am less restrictive about who follows me — although if someone follows, even asymmetrically, that I don’t want to be associated with, I’ll block them. Am I keeping myself from potential insights, possible friends? Yes — that’s the price tag for trust relationships. The same in Facebook and LinkedIn. (I don’t use other social vehicles any more.)Ecademy’s autoconnections are, in my book, a very bad idea indeed. By all means allow people to approach and ask to be connected. By all means allow them to see a landing page that I control that describes me, to figure out if that connection is desired. Don’t just expand my network willy-nilly.

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  6. Hi EuanAlthough I too have met Thomas and believe he is genuinely trying to encourage a better business community, I am though on the side of those that find it difficult to understand how a large number of weak connections is valuable.I have for many (say ten) years (since pc based email and contact lists started) kept my address book online, and in recent years that has moved to also using LinkedIn primarily to solidify and maintain contact with people that I have met in the physical world. The natural result of this is a contact base of 2500 or so people and about 600 in LinkedIn. And I don’t believe I’ve met many more people than most over the last ten years. And that is a lot of people – and I find I can remember most, and the context and why I might contact them again.So I find I have enough contacts for most purposes, simply through my activities in the physiucal world.I’m not saying there aren’t more useful and maybe better contacts available on eCademy or LinkedIn or elsewhere … its simply that to classify them as MY contacts seems to me pretty pointless when (a) I already have a lot of contacts to manage and (b) I can, if I need a new contact for a specific need, find them through one of the many directories or through searching eCademy, LinkedIn or even Google.Mixing them with MY physical world contacts simply makes it more difficult to findand maintain contact with the people I have met by drowning out their activity and messages.Bob Bradleywww.md2md.co.ukPS Thanks again for the interesting talk to the MD2MD group in July.http://www.md2md.co.uk/july_2009.html

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  7. I gave up on Ecademy some time ago, but haven’t gotten around to leaving. I rarely visit the website, but understand now why I’ve been getting hundreds of connection requests from people I don’t know – and consequently which I ignore. My experience is similar to that of a previous commentator here – Joel – where it just seems people want to throw business card at me in the hope I’ll buy something. Networking for me is where I share an interest with someone and see that is some mutual benefit in sharing knowledge. Ecademy is more like a broadcast system, or perhaps more accurately an internet telesales system. I will continue to ignore all the connection requests that emanate from there and don’t feel at worried that I might be losing out on something that might benefit my business.

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  8. I joined Ecademy in 2000, when Thomas Power was promoting "The Power of the Portals" He has reinvented himsel a couple of times, since then and the community seems to hang together around one or two personality types: life coaches, NLP practitioners, and people who believe in management fads like "Spiral Dynamics". Thomas and Penny are very comfortable in the company of such people, and with Black Star they introduced a premium product that appealed to that personality type, and made the company solvent. I agree with the comments from Joel and Johnnie Moore. Ecademy is filled with people who are interested in themselves, and want me to be interested in them. Which is okay, because I can make up my own mind about them. I did something experimental two months ago and erased all the words from my Ecademy profile. As a result, I now get far more people asking if they can connect to me. That says something, doesn’t it?

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  9. I really appreciate Euan trusting me and going along with the experiment. It must have been a shock. There are some who love Autoconnect and some who hate it. Clearly it’s a Marmite product. This won’t stop me experimenting. I remain convinced the weak ties are more powerful than the strong http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interpersonal_ties "Specifically, more novel information flows to individuals through weak rather than strong ties. Because our close friends tend to move in the same circles that we do, the information they receive overlaps considerably with what we already know. Acquaintances, by contrast, know people that we do not, and thus receive more novel information". Source Wikipedia and Mark Granovetter’s PhD 1973 The Strength of Weak Ties.The people we don’t know I believe are more important than those we do and Autoconnect is like fusion it bashes people into one another to see what happens. It’s a new source of energy just like fusion power. The majority on Ecademy favour Autoconnect so we will go live with it in 2010 with all the necessary opt-outs. More here:http://www.ecademy.com/node.php?id=133286http://www.ecademy.com/node.php?id=133379Thank you once again Euan for taking the risk on "trust me". Imagine when I ask you again?p.s. by 2020 I hope everyone will be connected to everyone else and there will be no barriers to interaction. Judgment, opinion and experience are all getting in the way of opportunity created by random connections in MY opinion.

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  10. The NLP Spiral Dynamics Cultism has always kept me away from it as well. Its also to my mind over controlled when compared with that you can do with free social computing tools with far more control. I’ve given up progressively all memberships and sites that require high maintenance of "opt outs" or don;t give me easy control over who I listen to.

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  11. I’ve also stopped even logging into eCademy long ago. Too many strangers yelling "Let’s Connect!" at me, without knowing who I am. But a bigger reason for me was that most of the useful functions were crippled if I didn’t pay. So it only seemed geared towards people who paid, who were all equally obsessed about "connecting" with anybody and everybody.But I can see Thomas’ point about week ties being possibly more useful than strong ties. Well, maybe. Depends. Depends on for what. If there’s something particular I’m trying to get done, random strangers might not be my best team mates, particularly as they have no commitment to help me do it. For picking up the whiff of something new and different, sure, maybe it would be better to listen to people one isn’t tightly bound to.I also have a vision (somewhat fuzzy) of a future where everybody is connected to everybody else. But I’m pretty sure it won’t be in the form of a flat list of contacts, with everybody having 7 billion people in their address book and blindly blasting commercials out to them. I think the global brain will be woven with actual interest, authentic sharing, maybe synchronicities and serendipities, maybe augmented search for likeminded souls or for generative tension, but not very well with automated linking just for the sake of it.

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  12. Auto Connect is spam pure and simple. I have been getting loads of unsolicited emails from people I don’t know who don’t know me and don’t even care enough to look at my profile. They are just using a software tool in the same way that people use spiders to crawl web sites for email addresses and then send out spam emails.Sadly, I think Thomas and his lovely wife Penny are being influenced by their good friend Roger Hamilton who runs a Ponzi scheme called The XL results Foundation. Mr. Hamilton make a living of sorts out of encouraging the idea of random connections with loads of people who might help you.If you think about it for just a few seconds you can work out for yourself that this is a flawed concept. It goes completely against the tried and tested formula and targeting. How can it possibly be good to waste huge amounts of time and energy briefly touching thousands of people in the hope that one of them might just help you if you are lucky.Alternatively, you could spend a small amount of time targeting people who are obviously well placed to help you and then spend a good amount of time building strong relationships with those few people. I know which one I would prefer.I have heard very strong rumours that ISP’s are considering black listing ecademy. What would that do for all those weak random connections?

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  13. Hello Euan,I thought that I was missing something, perhaps being a little naive not only with Autoconnect but with the number of people that have simply asked to connect with me but have never communicated with me since.Thomas has this vision of everybody being connected to everybody else but what is the use of that? It’s certainly not a manageable network and you can’t get to know everybody. We all have profiles, surely the point of a profile is to see if you have a "connection" with or can help another person. If the end game is simply for everybody to be connected why not automatically connect a new member to everybody when they join… and then what would they do. Perform some searches and look for people that they relate to or could help…Hmmm.Best wishes,Jon

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