I think of Gabriela as a “travelling researcher”: Romanian by origin, she spent last few years working in research positions in Germany, Luxembourg and Ireland. At the moment of the interview she works as a research fellow in University of Limerick, studying collaboration in distributed software development. She didn’t know many KM people prior to blogging, except of those she met at the conferences she attended.
She started blogging in 2002, maintaining a project blog; started personal blog in Romanian in 2003 and a work-related blog in English in 2004, after attending a conference where she met other bloggers. She says her network started to change after that conference – she connected with KM bloggers and started to read weblogs intensively, “up to 100 blogs”.
She immediately comments that it is different now – not only there are more potentially interesting weblogs out there, but with new tools appearing her habits changed. She keeps an eye on people via microblogging (Twitter and Jaiku) and other tools, picking up their weblogs once in a while to read in more detail. She gives an example of Jack Vinson, KM blogger she’s never met, but says they are mutually connected on different channels.
She doesn’t worry about missing important stuff – “Trusting people to bring the new, if it’s important it will come back.”
Gabriela tells that the extension of her network via blogging is not KM-only – she got connected to educators, Irish blogosphere, start-up blogs. “It helped me to integrate in this environment. People bring the world to me because they are travelling, for example, developments of social software in the States.” Says how reading Romanian blogs helps her to know what’s happening in Romania.
As she adds later, blogs represent the different interests of their authors – “Most of the times I read them for KM, but find something else”. She told about blogs expanding her knowledge in several directions. For example, she reads German and Friench blogs to maintain her language skills (struggling to read Irish blogs too) or “a bunch of IBMers who blog externally” for her study of the company.
For her, meeting in person and connecting via weblogs are interrelated – she goes to and tries to organise blogger meet-ups to meet with those she knows via weblogs, but also gets to know new bloggers that way.
What blogs are good for, networking-wise
Comparing to Twitter that provides awareness of others’ “travel, readings, connections”, blogs provide more context and reflection. They provide a “sort of business card or a CV”, so “when you meet then you know where to start the conversation”. She tells about checking weblogs to find information about people prior to meeting them. Other weblogs she reads regularly as she is interested in what their authors say or to keep up with friends. She gives an example of former colleagues who are following her weblog to find what is happening in her life, sending emails only when she seems to have a hard time. Amazed of non-bloggers, who are following her “because we are friends”.
Gabriela tells that she blogged only on professional issues in her English weblog, leaving the comments on her personal life for her Romanian weblog, “intentionally trying to keep it separate”. She got a feedback from others who wanted to see more personal details, so she added more personal things to the weblog. At a certain moment she couldn’t blog about work (doing field studies with IBM) as “smallest detail can provoke some damage”, so she wrote about events and trips instead.
She is aware of people using her weblog to find more about her. She gives the example of the job interview for her current job, where her boss knew a lot of things about her from the weblog. However, she says, “I never had a bad experience with exposing myself through my blog. I didn’t fell threatened. I’m a bit annoyed by the fact that social tools are getting more and more aggregated.”
She talks about bloggers she connected to as “permanent support network”, “a sort of fraternity” – “you know you can tap into the knowledge of fellow bloggers without having to provide any details”. Weblogs support collaboration, by helping to discover common interests and shared context that is already there.
When she needs to contact someone “email or twitter is the easiest way”, she would not doing it via the weblog, which is “slower”. “When I don’t need a quick answer and its something related to a blogpost, I leave a comment or write a post myself. If I have a concrete idea and want to put it in practice now, I use other tools”.
She also talks about new tools taking apart some of the information that appeared on the weblog before, for example travel plans that moved to Dopplr. She is concerned about the fragmentation of information about a person that used to be all in a weblog and the need to find and “follow” them when they move part of their activities to other channels.
She tells that meeting a new interesting person usually results in searching for them and connecting on different social networking platforms. “Without being given any details […] people go and see what they can find out there. People Google each other. People connect the missing dots, and find you. After attending an event I usually have ten requests [to connect].”
However, she tells, there is also a problem of different audiences collapsing. She experimented with using Jaiku in her teaching last year, but now the students are following her on other channels as well and picking up all kinds of personal details about her. “These are your students who are judging you in a different way, you have to be aware that they know who you are and where you go.”