"Presence not Presents"

…is something my dad used to say all the time when trying to corral the dispersed Willis children into giving up their “way to busy for family” lives for a few days and making a communal trek somewhere for a very untraditional Christmas. We were usually pretty successful in making this holiday a fun one, but that’s neither here nor there, since I’m not going to be talking about any of that in this post. It’s just a nice story.


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Instead, I want to talk about presence as it pertains to recording who you are online. I’m not talking about branding or building reputation here, but rather presence in the most pure expression: participation. As Malcolm Forbes once said, “Presence is more than just being there.”

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Just as a sulky family member at Christmas is worse than an absent one–an online friend who seems uninterested in interacting with you unless it benefits them, worse then someone who abstains from hanging out with you on the interwebs.

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I love when people create a hub for you to look for interactions with them. Some Examples:

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  • My friend, Andrew Hyde, lists very clearly on his site most of the things he’s working on (Startup Weekend, VC Wear) and provides a good bio and links to his profiles on different web services. If you spend 20 minutes on his site, I guarentee you’ll find something to strike up a chat with him about next time you see him.
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  • My friend, Ben Casnocha, has a slightly more “company” version of essentially the same thing. He’s a little more conscious of creating a brand for himself so the site reflects that. At it’s core it’s similar to Andrew’s site, a hub for “all things Ben.” You can find out what he’s thinking about from his blog, find his accounts (twitter, FB, del.icio.us, etc.), even sign up for a newsletter digest he send out (which is very good incidentally).
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  • New Friend, Amit Gupta, will probably serve as inspiration for me in building this site. He hosted smaller projects on his domain, instead of a separate domain. Talk about centralization! Of course, once projects hit a certain size, it needs to be spun out, but while it’s a baby idea – why not let it live at home?
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  • This site now has tons of information about me. Not sifted, carefully chosen and cleared information – but rather a bevy of information about who I am and what I do. So does my Facebook profile.
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So, if real presence is equal to participation — it only makes sense that your online presence should reflect all your participation. I used to think it was a good idea to create a separate corporate web page that can be separated from my personal page and cleaned of any personality so that I can be sure I’m not making the wrong impression, but likely because of that I ended up making no impression at all.

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The alternative is, I can build a hub that is open, inviting, and full of possible talking points that may drive interactions. That’s how I’ve decided to go about it this time around.

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I’ve created this as a web hub, and while it’s not complete, tonight I am working on building a Facebook Hub using pages. Since I use Facebook so frequently, it seemed logical to have an aggregation of data like events, groups, stories, etc. using one of FB’s most robust tools. So here’s my page, it should stay up to date with community projects I’m working on and events I’m putting on. Fan me on Facebook if you want infrequent updates about this stuff.

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I’ll continue to build out both my Facebook page and this website with as much information as possible, until I’m documenting almost all my online participation, as a way of extending my digital hand to you for what might be the start of a beautiful future.

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