People Skills for Web Workers (A List Apart)


Illustration by Kevin Cornell

Last week A List Apart magazine published my article, People Skills for Web Workers:

The web touches everything an organization does—marketing to customer service, product development to branding, internal communications to recruitment. This is the era of cross-platform digital services, fast networks, and mobile devices. Sounds like the ideal time to be a person who makes websites. So why do we feel frustrated so often? Why do we experience burnout or depression? What makes it difficult to do work that has meaning, that satisfies us? Two words: people skills. Frequent ALA author Jonathan Kahn explains why they matter, and how improving our people skills will give us tools to facilitate collaboration, creating opportunities to improve our work, our organizations, and maybe even our world.

Read the article.

Telling people what you need is scary

Jonathan Kahn opens #dareconf mini

Photo: Paul Clarke

Just over a year ago I announced an open call for speakers for the first Dare Conference with the strapline, “let’s be brave together.” It was about taking risks, being vulnerable, and becoming an agent of change. I wanted speakers to share their vulnerability on stage instead of presenting the tidy success stories you normally see at conferences. I called it the “hard part” of digital work. My note on the submission form said, “tell us how you failed.” Reading that now, I cringe.

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Break out of the loop of insecurity by experiencing a safe space

Paul Hagan presenting at DareConf 2013

Paul Hagan presenting at DareConf 2013

“I don’t know why I bother. You guys just don’t get it.”

I never said it to their faces, but I might as well have done. I was a web developer for a small design agency who did print work: annual reports, campaigns, branding. They made good money by competing on price for design and marking up production, where clients didn’t notice it. Now they wanted to sell web design in the same way, and the internet was undermining their business model.

They never seemed to listen to me enough. I thought they were dinosaurs. Why couldn’t they see the right way to do things? Why were they always promising the world in pitches? And why did they keep telling me my “communication style” was a problem? (That seemed like an excuse to reject my obviously superior ideas.)

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To change anything you need self-compassion (what we learned at #dareconf)

Jonathan Kahn Opening the Dare Conference

It’s a month since I organised the first Dare Conference about people skills for digital workers (videos, photos, write-ups). As I tweeted at the time, I’ve never made anything I’m as proud of. Although I lost a large amount of money on the event (backstory), most of our choices paid off:

  • People were moved by the talks, saying they’d never seen this level of honesty on stage.
  • People said they’d never felt this comfortable at a conference nor met so many people they want to stay in touch with.
  • Online we had several thousand livestream views and 75k photo views.
  • Some people said #dareconf changed their lives.

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Watch Dare Conference videos and donate for next year

It’s a week after Dare Conference, and I’m still feeling overwhelmed. Three days, 28 speakers, 100 attendees, 8 countries. The strap line is, “people skills for digital workers.” We talked about change, culture, courage, vulnerability, failure, compassion, success… and people were honest in a way I’ve never seen before. #dareconf changed people:

And it can change you too. We’re posting video of the entire event—main stage talks in HD video, breakout stage talks as audio and slides—and we’re asking you to donate £20 to recoup costs so we can return next year. (So far we’ve posted 5 talks from day 1, over 3 hours of content. More soon.)

You can help us make this community sustainable by spreading the word: blog about it, email your friends and colleagues, share the link on social media. And let me know how you respond to the videos. Thank you.

Felicia Pride podcast interview: transmedia storytelling & collaboration

Felicia Pride

In Episode 20 of the Together London Podcast, I talk to Felicia Pride about transmedia storytelling, collaboration, and people skills.

Check out Felicia’s website, her company Pride Collaborative, and follow her on twitter @feliciapride.

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