Finding your inner Horshack

January 22, 2010 CollabNet VersionOne

Why do some people choose to communicate and participate openly, while others keep their heads down and mind their own business? 

Over 35 years ago, we were introduced to a quirky character in the sitcom, "Welcome Back, Kotter".  His name was Arnold Horshack.  What did Horshack know about the Internet…Linux….Distributed development…Cloud computing?  Nothing, of course (Al Gore had not yet invented the internet as he was still running for his first term in the House!)  But what he did know a lot about was collaboration.

You see, Horshack knew that the first step toward collaboration was participation.  Always the first to enthusiastically raise his hand with the phrase "Oooh-ooh-ooooh Mr. Kotter!", Arnold was the first person willing to participate.  More often than not his answer was not correct, but he contributed to the conversation.  Without his willingness to add a voice would there have been a discussion or debate?  The lesson learned is that participation is the first step to being part of a greater collaboration.  Whether this collaboration involves decoding human DNA, building better code, or just discussing teen life with the rest of the 'sweathogs'…you need to participate. 

Here are 5 simple steps to help you get your voice heard:

  1. Start small by becoming a 'lurker' – it goes without saying that open groups can be a plethora of knowledge.  So, go find one involving an topic that you want to know more about and read what is being posted and shared.
  2. Once you understand what a community or group is all about, contribute something to it – reply to a message or a blog, contribute to a wiki – and be sure to identify who you are when doing so
  3. Create an online profile for yourself in LinkedIn, Facebook, Plaxo or wherever your colleagues or friends are.  Once there, reach out and request connections and references from others.
  4. Tweet your own thoughts – Get setup on Twitter or whatever internal
    company tool you might have like yammer – then submit a tweet. Keep it
    short but interesting, adding links are always a plus.
  5. Write a blog – it may take a few iterations and drafts before you're ready to post it, but once you do you'll be proud of your own accomplishment and will probably find yourself regularly coming up with new topics to write about.

My advice is to go find your inner Horshack and be part of the discussion.

And if you have 10 minutes to kill, go check out Arnold and the gang participating in a debate

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