Listen and Learn

Once described as “America’s most fascinating outlaw,” Wilson Mizner was a notorious confidence man, raconteur, art forger, gold prospector, entrepreneur and playwright in the early 20th century. He’s not the kind of role model I typically turn to for words of wisdom, but some of his famous sayings are just too good to ignore. They reveal a keen (although criminal) mind and an uncanny ability to size up people and situations.

You’re probably familiar with Mizner’s most-quoted bon mot: “Be nice to people on the way up because you’ll meet the same people on the way down.” I have another favorite, though: “A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while, he knows something.”

Mizner’s witty remark really hit home for me this week as I was doing some research on the Internet. No matter how focused my intention or specific my research objective, invariably my online searching leads me along a meandering journey of discovery instead of a direct route to my desired information destination.

As a passive “listener,” I learn an awful lot from these cyberconversations. Here are a few things I discovered this week that I think you’ll find fascinating too.

Did you know it took only 320 days to go from 35 million blogs to 70 million? Technorati’s most recent quarterly update of the blogosphere also revealed about 120,000 blogs start each day or 1.4 new blogs every second.

I found out where this content is coming from too. The Pew Internet & American Life Project reports 35 percent of Internet-connected adults create content online, and 57 percent of youths 12 to 17 generate their own content to post to the Web.

A podcast posted by Dan Bricklin and featuring a conversation with Motorola Vice President Toby Redshaw told me about how the company’s workforce virally initiated and embraced internal user-generated content.

Three quarters of Motorola’s 69,000 worldwide employees and 8,000 extranet partners participate by posting to 4,433 blogs and 3,300 wikis at least every week. So far, they have posted several thousand FAQs and 28,000 inquiries and responses in 2,400 forums, as well.

Finally, on his blog eLearning Technology, Tony Karrer posted a list of the “Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Blog” — written with a little help from his friends in the learning community. I picked out two of my favorites to pass along:

  • No. 8:  Because this is how you are going to learn in the future.

    • No. 1:  Because your job depends on it.

      These and other entries on the list seem to suggest learning professionals should be engaged in the process of online information creation and sharing, if for no other reason than it is rapidly becoming a powerful force in knowledge acquisition for both individuals and organizations. Using blogs as vehicles for knowledge management initiatives brings significant benefits to an organization. It can add to the sum of knowledge, capture and disseminate news from outside the enterprise and directly contribute to the success of the enterprise.

      After being a good “cyberlistener” for a while, I know more than a little something about blogging, just as Mizner said I would. I also know I agree with Chief Learning Officer magazine columnist Jay Cross, who posted this comment online: “For me, blogs highlight useful information that I may never find on my own — or think to find on my own.”

      Which brings me to another one of my favorite quotations attributed to Mizner: “If you copy from one author, it’s plagiarism. If you copy from two, it’s research.”

      I’d like to suggest a postscript for the 21st century: “If you copy, collaborate and share content with millions, it’s empowering.”

      How about you? Have you harnessed the power of social networking to improve the performance of your organization? I’d like to learn more about your experiences. Please point me to your blog or send me an e-mail at

      Norm Kamikow
      Editor in Chief

    • Filed under: Technology