Over time I’ve found that my PLN has become something less specific than the Wikipedia definition. For me…
- It’s informal and it’s formal
- It’s online and it’s offline
- It’s personal and it’s professional
- It’s not fixed, it’s constantly evolving
- All connections allow some kind of learning to occur
For me, the key to this is as much who I include as much as who I exclude…
- I have capacity limits – I need to be selective based on what I need and can handle
- I trust the network to work – quality is far more important than quantity to me
- I have ethics, standards and values – I won’t compromise those through association
I’m not saying this is the way to create a PLN but it is a way that works well and congruously for me so it could be useful context for others. To elaborate further here are a few examples of where and how I use my PLN.
I’ve found that following anything much over 500 people becomes too noisy for me. I’ve used lists in the past but I find that it sucks out the joy and serendipity of Twitter. Around 500 people also gives me a fantastically rich and broad pool of people I can learn from or reach out to should I need to. That pool is constantly shifting and changing around the edges. It’s both deliberate and serendipitous. It’s part of my PLN.
My sense is that if you have a few hundred (or less) contacts, use Twitter with enough regularity and have a generous and inquiring mindset then you have a PLN ready to go. More importantly a PLN with enough people that you don’t know too well but in all likelihood will help you learn or vice versa.
For me this means I feel confident in saying…
- I can find any subject matter expertise I need within 24 hours
- I can refer any subject matter expertise needs to trusted connections immediately
- I can ask for help, advice, a sanity check, a critical view, challenge, support, etc
- I can provide help, advice, a sanity check, a critical view, challenge, support, etc
I have highly trusted connections on Twitter but I don’t constrain my PLN only to them. I view my Twitter PLN as a wider but still discerning pool of people I’m interested in and would be happy to help if/when they ask. That’s why I follow them.
Blogging & Pulse
My attitude to blogging and LinkedIn’s Pulse has shifted over time and so has my PLN in this space.
I’ve read a lot and followed a lot of people over the years and I now find it far more useful to :
- Read the diverse perspectives of people I don’t interact with elsewhere
- Follow the blogs of people in my network who post infrequently
- Let serendipity do its work
In the past, like lots of people, I regularly read the postings of the better known (or top) bloggers. What I came to find was that their writing didn’t create enough difference to challenge my thinking. “Nodding head syndrome” is not a part of what I need from my PLN in this space. So now I trust that if something they’ve written is important to me then my network will share it with me.
Similarly with my own writing. I write for a purpose but nowadays I put far more trust in my PLN and serendipity to share my writing usefully.
I have to say I’ve found more novel thinking and had more diverse conversations since I adjusted to this PLN approach when it comes to blogs and articles.
Over the Garden Fence
There are other social media channels and even more importantly a world beyond. We all have rich networks of people we can learn from and share with. For me, a particular neighbour of mine is a great example. A very interesting and interested person and a reminder that a chat over the garden fence can provide as much richness of learning as anything on social media. That’s part of my PLN.
Another example is a client who I regularly meet to share and talk about what we’re both learning and the challenges we both face. Reciprocal relationships at work. I always come away from our meetings have learnt something and knowing I can always ask for help when I need it. That’s part of my PLN.
A very good friend of mine is someone I speak to or text most weeks and we share what is happening in our lives, what we’re working on, what we’re reading and more importantly what we’re thinking. Sometimes it turns into brainstorming. Other times coaching. Mostly though it’s friendship. That’s part of my PLN.
I think people and learning are where you find them. Similarly I believe our Personal Learning Networks are where we find them.
In that vein, I haven’t shared particular names or resources in my own PLN. It’s many and it’s diverse. I hope though that the above gives you a sense of my own approach and perhaps some thoughts for you the reader.
As always, if you need something then ask – PLNs are there to be used and tested with real work.
Passing the baton
Unexpectedly, I came to write this post at Ian’s suggestion. I’m glad that I did and it’s made me reflect on people I know well who I think have interesting approaches to their PLNs. However, I think I’d like to pass the baton to someone who is perhaps less known to readers of my blog but I think would have a usefully interesting take on PLNs.
So I’d like to pass the baton to Huw Sayer if he’s up for it
By way of an update, here is the post Huw wrote on 20th August.
Sukh Pabial has also shared his thoughts in a reflective post here.