Two updates on the pursuit of sustainable communication through digital tools:

1. The folks at The Wealthy Freelancer did a fantastic job linking together freelancers from all over the world – at the same time – for the first annual International Freelancers’ Day. (Their eponymous book is equally fantastic – highly practical, energetic, and encouraging – and I strongly recommend it for any solo professional. Order it through their site and you get some great freebies.) Despite some technical difficulties at the beginning, Ed Gandia, Steve Slaunwhite, Pete Savage, and their team provided valuable free practical advice on developing and growing your solo business (i.e., the Freemium model that has been successful in media lately) and established themselves as the go-to advisors for freelancers, in my mind. Their content was mainly delivered by separate podcasts, scheduled at certain times (but archived so participants could access them for up to a month afterwards), which I thought was an ideal venue, particularly if presenters shuffled in their power point slides within the podcast. A great example of virtual communication at its best – professionals who persevered through technical difficulties (the tools don’t always work perfectly, no matter how far in advance we test them out), who provided several places for attendees to network in real-time (chat, Facebook page, blog) and stayed personally connected, and who provided lots of lasting resources for entrepreneurial empowerment. Bravo!

2. On the opposite end is the publishing industry’s current frenetic focus on the tool (e-readers, enhanced e-books, etc.) and not the content delivered. We’ve all been enamored with the cool new smart phones, iPads, and e-readers as different ways to receive our information and read our books. Yes, I still differentiate between the two experiences – reading books is still a particular, immersive experience for me, one that I can replicate on my Kindle but not so far on my Droid. [This has more to do with the length of books rather than the act of reading per se – I just need to settle in differently when the ideas presented are complicated enough to unfold slowly. Common sense, really.] 

Our friends at Digital Book World have been pointing this out, particularly through Guy LeCharles’ post On Digital Natives, Analog Marketing, and Branding. That said, I also have lots of patience for our friends in production – they need to master these tools, and they don’t need us breathing down their necks while they do so. More important, this current, frenetic focus on the surface tool in the publishing industry shouldn’t distract those of us who “produce content” (formerly known as writers and editors) – valuable content that lasts can only be produced by people who deeply experience tangible life, take lots of time to listen to and dwell deep in ideas, take risks to learn, and aren’t shy about speaking their mind, even when it’s not popular. That’s sustainable communication – words that last, ideas that live. If we don’t produce it, who will?