Reaping What You Sow: Generosity in the Blogosphere

Steve Rubel has an interesting post about generosity in the blogosphere. It seems that Steve had lunch recently with Keith Ferrazzi, author of the bestselling book Never Eat Alone. Keith made the comment that to build a network (the business and social kind), you have to be generous. That got Steve thinking about the blogosphere and the importance of generosity there.

Steve concluded, and I agree, that the generous bloggers are the most influential. Steve identifies Robert Scoble and Mark Cuban as generous bloggers- blogger who create great content and generously link to others. I’d add Steve (for sure- remember the day he took off to visit with podcasters on a first come, first served basis), Doc Searls and Guy Kawasaki to that list.

All of those guys are flat earth guys who welcome new voices and want to use the blogosphere- and their position in it- for the common good. I won’t get on my soapbox again, other than to say that blogs are nothing more than extensions of our pens and our words. Anyone who isn’t kind and generous on the internet probably isn’t all that kind and generous in real life.

Blogs are like cars- they create a false sense of invincability that releases your inner asshole.

Yet the same forces that make people good networkers in life make them good and influential bloggers in the blogosphere. The reasons why Robert, Steve, Doc and Guy have so many friends in the blogosphere are the same reasons why Keith Ferrazzi became the youngest partner in Deloitte Consulting’s history.

Contrast that to the ones Steve describes thustly:

“Then there are others – and I won’t name them – who are not generous. In fact, even worse, they are grievous. They syndicate snippets rather than publish full text RSS feeds. They don’t credit other bloggers who they clearly steal content from. They are filled with just nasty criticism, rather than a balance of ideas and constructive advice. They focus solely on themselves and not an iota on others.”

I don’t know who Steve is referring to, and it doesn’t matter. But when I think of people who are not generous in the blogosphere, I think of guys like Steve Gillmor who spend much of their time trying to separate themselves from other bloggers- via artificial paradigm shifts and country-club tactics. The greatest irony of 2006 so far was when Steve referred to those who dare to disagree with him as trolls. Most of us think of people who disagree with us as great candidates for a conversation. But that’s just it- inward looking people don’t want conversation.

And then there are the pseudo-intellectuals like Andrew Keen (who is the blogosphere’s version of the party guest who can’t stop talking about how smart he is long enough to notice the PhD’s shaking their heads as the walk away). Or the Nick Carr types whose many thoughtful posts get lost in the flood of Mary, Mary posts made in the name of fame or traffic.

All of those guys are well known. But so is the blustery guy at the party. You know them, but you are not influenced by them.

You are influenced by the people who realize that being generous is a win win proposition.

It’s good for us, and, as it turns out, it’s good for them too.

Something to think about.