Monday, June 9, 2008

The Endless Knots Blog

by Jessica Lipnack

Introduction: Today I'm talking about writing and gardening (and you'll see where my blog header comes from) on Jessica Lipnack's Endless Knots, an eclectic blog. (She explains the title here.) Jessica is an intelligent, hard-working, and energetic woman expert in the design of virtual teams and network organizations. She has published a pile of nonfiction books on the subject. She has also written a novel haunted by the ghost of Margaret Fuller, the great 19th-century futurist. Since our friendship began in 2004, we have helped each other in our writing careers and also fought over sensitive topics such as Tibet's relationship with China. We disagree on things and we agree on other things, yet our friendship continues.

I asked Jessica about her motivation for blogging, interesting things that happened to her blog, and the evolution of Endless Knots, and here is what she tells me. – Xujun

I began my writing career as a reporter when I was sixteen, working for a daily newspaper in my hometown, churning out as many as seven or eight articles a day. That experience, gained over four summers, gave me the training to grab facts and turn them into something readable. Shortly after I got the job, the editor gave me a column, which is where I learned how to explore single topics in more depth - and have fun with it.

When I first went online in 1979, I quickly became addicted to posting to online conferences, originally on EIES (housed at the New Jersey Institute of Technology), and then on many other online networks, listservs, and eventually websites. Soon, I found myself posting similar things in multiple places (the reporter in me has the irrepressible urge to share what I see), writing similar emails to multiple people, and wearing out my keyboard with repetitive strokes.

In early 2005, I had a fortunate request. Because I'd written many books about networks, a client who trusted my opinion asked me to attend a conference on the rising phenomenon of social networks and report back on what I'd learned. There, a blogger described his experience with his blog in such compelling terms that by the time I got home, I'd drafted the first post for what would become my blog (a too-long essay, in fact, to be a real post) that I distributed to my network. Then a few months later, I attended Solstice Summer Writers Conference (at your suggestion, for which I'll always be grateful) and realized that this event deserved to be blogged. The writers at the workshop – Dennis Lehane, Roland Merullo, Meg Kearney, Manette Ansay, just to name a few – were fascinating ... and saying things that I thought others would want to hear. Thus was born Endless Knots. And Solstice took! I finished the novel I was working on in nine months in midst of three work trips to Europe.

Some bloggers choose particular topics as their sole focus, a common practice that I regard as absolutely wrong-headed. One of the joys of blogging is that there are no editors pounding on you to stay out of areas where you are just in the infancy of understanding. I'm interested in a lot of seemingly unrelated topics, which means I wander into fields where I'm a complete novice. One brought unexpected gifts. Last December, I did a post about reducing the carbon impact of team meetings, suggesting that "we," meaning anyone reading, develop a checklist to use before traveling endless miles to attend the next face-to-face meeting. The Content Economy, a blog in Sweden written by people I didn't know, picked up on it and drafted a checklist, which a blogger in New Zealand (whom I did know from speaking to his group when I visited there last year) turned into a flow chart, and the whole stream of blogs has been widely referenced on other blogs. So that was a wonderful, practical outcome of a speculative post.

Some other, completely unexpected and unusual things have come from my blog: I was asked to teach "The wisdom of bloggers," a course on blogging for creative writers in an MFA program, have had a number of invitations to talk to executives about the power of new social media, and been asked to write a monthly column for The Industry Standard.

You ask how my blog is evolving: I'm still having fun with it. In a few moments, I'm leaving for a morning meeting with a group of bloggers whom I've invited to join me on a panel this week at a technology conference here in Boston. The panel's topic is "What blogging brings to business." The move from the online world to the real one continues to fascinate me as I meet new people and develop new friendships with others around the world. I deeply believe that by expressing our most fundamental beliefs we build bridges across cultural, political, religious, and ethnic divides that ideologies and fear cannot bring down. Writers bear responsibility for spanning our separateness, especially when so much of the world is fragmenting.


jessica lipnack said...

Thanks so much for posting this, X, and best of luck with your book!

Xujun said...

Thanks much to you too, Jessica!